FORT WORTH, Texas – Can you think of the last time you gave in to something you know you shouldn’t have? What causes you to lose heart, give up on doing good, and give into temptation even when you know it is wrong?
Consider Galatians 6:9: “Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.” I love this verse because of the promise it offers: In God’s time, the proper time, the harvest or the benefits of doing good will come. The results are not up to us; they are in God’s hands. We are just called to be obedient. Paul was writing to a group of Christians, and he knew that they may be tempted to give up and stop being obedient to God. He was warning them against this temptation.
I have spent some time the last couple of months meditating on what causes me to grow weary and to want to stop being obedient. Now when I say weary, I am not talking about being physically tired because of lack of sleep or something like that. The word Paul uses for “grow weary” in the Greek actually means “giving into evil.” This is a kind of spiritual weariness that causes you to want to give up on doing good and give into sin. One source even suggests this word means “losing heart and becoming a coward” because you are essentially giving up on doing what you know is right.
Ever been there? Me too. I know the good I am supposed to do, yet there are times I willingly choose to sin. That crushes and grieves me! I have become a coward because doing the good thing, doing the God thing, is too hard or the payoff isn’t immediate enough. Or, frankly, sometimes my character is just plain weak. I remember a time when I thought it would just be easier to lie rather than face the consequences of my sin, just compounding sin upon sin.
Paul understood this struggle, so he wasn’t writing to the Galatians as someone who didn’t understand the temptation or struggle. Paul faced his own struggle with doing good. In Romans 7:14-25 he talked about the spiritual battle that raged in his own life (and that rages in each of our lives), and he said in verse 19, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”
As I have been thinking about what has caused me to give into sin in the past, I have noticed several recurring patterns and symptoms. I have come up with a five-letter acrostic using the word “weary” to help us talk about those things that may cause you and me to be spiritually weary and tempted to give into evil:
Here, I actually do mean physical weariness because the truth is that there are times when I am physically tired and give in to sin more easily. If I get worn out and don’t take time for real rest, I find myself getting really impatient and short-tempered with people. Adequate sleep, along with eating properly and getting exercise, actually helps me in this. I also have found that real rest doesn’t necessarily come from inactivity – just vegging out on the couch for a couple hours in front of the TV doesn’t usually solve my problem. In some cases, it makes it worse if I end up watching junk.
Evangelism is lacking
Our one purpose for remaining on this earth after we have been saved is to go and tell other people about how to be saved and how to live the Christian life (Matthew 28:19-20). When I am sharing my faith regularly, it has a positive, energizing impact on my walk with the Lord. However, the reverse is also true; when I am not sharing my faith regularly, this is often an indication of my own spiritual weakness and weariness.
Actions replace time with God
This is the top contributor to spiritual weariness in my life. Doing ministry is never a substitute for spending time alone with God, reading His Word. In fact, there are many instances in the Bible when people were going through the motions, yet their hearts were far from God (Isaiah 29:13; Hosea 6:6). If I consider those times when I have really struggled with sin (even while being actively involved in ministry), the one common denominator is that I was not regularly spending time in God’s Word. Now, that doesn’t mean that when I do spend time with the Lord, all my temptations cease. What happens, though, is that God’s Word gives me strength to resist giving into evil (Psalm 119:11). God’s Word turns me into a courageous conqueror over sin instead of a coward who loses heart and gives into sin (Romans 8:37).
Relationships aren’t refreshing
We aren’t supposed to live the Christian life as lone rangers, yet I have done this at times. I may surround myself with people who aren’t encouraging me to run the race with endurance. I even may distance myself from my “iron sharpens iron” friends who keep me accountable. I avoid the very people who could help me not to grow weary! Over and over, Paul talked about how certain believers helped “refresh” him in his walk, literally reinvigorating him to keep doing good (Romans 15:32; 2 Timothy 1:16; Philemon 1:7). This doesn’t mean you should only surround yourself with believers, of course, because we are called to evangelize the lost. But it does mean that you need people in your life who challenge you to keep doing good, even when it is hard.
Yeast is influencing
In Galatians 5:9, Paul used a baking illustration and warned the believers that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. He was specifically talking about the impact that wrong beliefs could have on their whole life. So, by yeast, I am referring to anything that influences or infects my life. Some yeast that has negatively influenced my own life has been taking in the world’s influence through binging on TV or movies, my own wrong motives, wrong beliefs, and even unconfessed sin. When I have allowed any of those things in my life, it has caused me to grow weary. The Bible encourages us to lay aside those things which easily trip us up and cause us to sin, and instead fix our eyes on Jesus. The author of Hebrews says if we will do that, then we “will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
What about you? Be honest with yourself. What causes you to grow spiritually weary? Are there patterns that need to change so you will not be tempted to give into evil? It is not enough for us to just identify destructive symptoms, habits or patterns; we must then do something about it.
Let’s not be those Christians who act like we have it all together while we silently wallow in our sin. Find someone who will hold you accountable and encourage you and build you up to continue to do the good you know you ought to do (Hebrews 3:13, 10:24).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Candi Finch serves as assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and is nearing the end of her Ph.D. studying systematic theology. This column first appeared at BiblicalWoman.org, a blog of Southwestern Seminary.)