Devotion for the Week...
I have a small garden. There's my strawberry bed, which I planted a couple of years after we moved into the house and which consistently produces beautiful strawberries each summer. This year I planted a couple of small containers with spinach, basil and oregano, so it will be interesting to see how they do. I plan to plant tomatoes and peppers as soon as the risk of frost is finally past. My most interesting experiment this year is a bag designed for growing potatoes. I had never heard of it until this year, but my plants are growing vigorously, so I hope to be eating homegrown potatoes in a couple of months.
Even this small a garden requires work, of course. My strawberry bed collects leaves in the fall that need to be cleared out in the spring. There are weeds to be dealt with, especially this year when the birch tree in the yard has shed a prodigious number of seed pods unlike any other year. And everything needs to be watered. Depending on the weather, I may not have to water very often, especially in the spring, but sometimes I have to water every morning. Since I haven't yet bought a hose, that means lugging a watering can back and forth from the faucet, which takes 20 minutes or so altogether.
For the most part, I enjoy the work. I enjoy having something to do outside, and I enjoy watching the progress of the various plants. Sometimes, though, I'm tired and just don't want to spend the time. Of course, if I neglect the work in the garden, there's a good chance it will affect my harvest, especially if I neglect it for longer than a day or two.
Galatians 6:9 says, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Obviously, Paul isn't talking about a harvest of strawberries, or tomatoes, or spinach. He isn't talking about pulling weeds and watering, either. It is a simple reminder that doing good will bring about good results, but only if we keep at it and don't give up.
There are so many different ways of 'doing good' that there is no way I could write a full list of them. Here are just a few to give you an idea: patiently and lovingly caring for children or the elderly or the sick; showing kindness to those who deserve it least, but need it most; encouraging those in difficult circumstances; praying for others; helping neighbors; being a shoulder to cry on...I'm sure you could add many other ways of 'doing good' to this list.
Unfortunately, there are some things about the harvest Paul writes about that make it hard to keep doing good and not give up. First of all, we don't know when we will reap the harvest. I know that if I keep working in my strawberry bed, then sometime near the end of July or early August, I'll be eating gorgeous, perfect strawberries still warm from the sun. If you're persistently being kind to someone who is persistently negative, though, you have no idea if or when that person will change their attitude. It can be hard, in such circumstances, to keep at it and not get tired of being kind.
Second, we have no idea what the harvest will be. To keep the example of being kind to someone negative, the harvest may be a change in the other person's attitude which results in a beautiful friendship. Or maybe the person will remain stubbornly negative, but someone else, who sees your persistent kindness, will be affected in some way. We have no idea what will come of our actions. Our job is to be faithful, and leave the results with God. That's not always easy, so it helps to be reminded that there will be a harvest of some sort, and that we should not become weary.
And third, the harvest may not be the one we're hoping for. This one is linked to our not knowing what the harvest will be, but it's not quite the same. See, there are some situations where we may be doing good and what comes of it doesn't matter a whole lot to us. There are other situations, though, where we are most definitely hoping for a particular outcome. We may be praying for someone to leave a life of drugs, or for someone to be healed. Or maybe that negative person is someone we have to deal with every day and we're really hoping our kindness will result in that relationship being easier. Whatever the case may be, we can't control the outcome of our doing good. Even so, we can be sure that whatever the harvest may be, God is in control.
The work may not always be easy, and we may neglect it at times, but doing good is always worthwhile, especially if a God-designed harvest will be the result of our efforts.