Probably the worst enemy of enthusiasm is time. Human beings have a remarkable and sad capacity for getting tired of wonderful things. Almost every one of you can think of something you were enthusiastic about recently, but now the joy is faded. Your first day of vacation on the coast the sunset was breathtaking and made you so happy you could sing. But by the end of your stay you hardly noticed it any more. Vacationers get tired of sunsets, millionaires get tired of money, kids gets tired of toys, and Christians get tired of doing good. At first the excitement of teaching that Sunday School class was strong, but now you have grown weary of well-doing. The thrill is gone. At first you felt clean and strong in the Holy Spirit as you drove the van, taught the Lao English, led the small group, visited the newcomers, started reading the Bible, worked in the emergency shelter . . . but now you have grown weary in well-doing. The inner power and joy have seeped away. It’s a chore. You’ve lost heart.
Eternal Life and Death in the Balance
But Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” It doesn’t mean, of course, that you can never stop one job and start another. If you ask what the well-doing is that we must not tire of, probably the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. is the best answer: don’t grow weary of being patient and kind and good and faithful and gentle and self-controlled. Don’t grow weary of manifesting your peace and joy in all kinds of acts of love to your neighbors and associates and family. In short, don’t lose heart in spending yourself through love, because if you do, the works of the flesh take over, and Paul says in 5:21, “Those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom.” Or, as Paul says in 6:8, if you stop sowing to the Spirit and sow to your own flesh, you will not reap eternal life, but eternal corruption.
This is very controversial. Let it sink in. What is at stake in this text is eternal life; not merely sanctification, but also final salvation. Whether you go to heaven or whether you go to hell depends in some way on whether you grow weary in well-doing or not. The text is addressed to the church. Listen carefully, and note how the thought moves from verse 8 to verse 9: “He who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not (therefore!) grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” You will reap eternal life, if you sow to the Spirit, that is, if you don’t grow weary in well-doing. Because of texts like these I understand my role as a pastor-teacher to be not merely a means to your sanctification, but also a means to your salvation. This text is written to help bring the saints of Galatia to final salvation, eternal life. Therefore, a sermon from this text to the saints at Bethlehem should also aim to help bring you to final salvation or eternal life.
This view of preaching is widely rejected both in our Conference and throughout Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. I got a letter last year from a retired Conference pastor which closed like this: “In conclusion: We find, then, that a pastor’s ministry is limited to a believer’s state and not his standing. Therefore, our security and deliverance from the penal consequences of sin do not in any way have a relationship to a pastor’s preaching.” Over against that extremely widespread view of preaching, I appeal to your own insight into Galatians 6:8 and 9. Should I, as your pastor-teacher, deliver to you Paul’s message? Should I speak to you the way the apostle spoke to the churches of Galatia? Is not the “corruption” of verse 8 the final penal consequence of sin? Is not “eternal life” in verse 8 the freedom from this consequence of sin? And is not our experience of the one or the other dependent in some way on whether we sow to the Spirit and don’t grow weary in well-doing? And if so, ought not a pastor believe that his message from this text may be the divinely appointed means of causing God’s children to persevere to the end in well-doing and so inherit eternal life?
My goal in life is to be a faithful teacher of God’s Word for the good of his people and the glory of his name. I don’t see how I could be faithful to this text and not tell you that if you grow weary in well-doing and lose heart, you will not reap eternal life. If you forsake the Spirit and rely on the flesh, you will reap corruption.