At the Proper Time We Will Reap
J. R. Miller
"Let us not become weary in well doing--for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
Sometimes we are inclined to be discouraged in our Christian life and work. We ask, "Is it worthwhile to be holy, to keep God's commandments? What profit is there in godliness? Is it worthwhile to deny ourselves—in order to do good to others, to serve them? What comes of it all?"
Many of us are apt to have moods in which these questions press upon us with painful stress. It is well that we look into the matter—that we may be assured that it is worthwhile to do good, that there is profit in it.
There is an inspired word which says, "Let us not become weary in well doing, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." What is meant by "well doing"? It is doing right, obeying God's commands, fashioning our lives after the pattern revealed by Him in His word. It is not easy to do good. It costs us many a battle. A life of well doing, implies a continual crucifying of SELF. Evil inclinations must be restrained. Sinful desires must be curbed. The will must be yielded to God's will. The whole life must be brought into subjection to a law which is spiritual and heavenly.
"Does it pay?" is the question. There are many people who do not put their lives under this law of God, who go on in the ways of self-indulgence. They put no curb on their evil inclinations. They let no divine command interfere with the exercise of their own sinful desires. As we look at these people, it seems to us perhaps, that they are happier than we are. They appear to get more out of life, than we do. It seems to us that we are denying ourselves, sacrificing our comfort, and cutting off our right hands—for nothing! Sin seems to have the advantage. Worldliness appears to pay the best. Virtue seems dreary and costly and lonesome. It does not have the good time that self-indulgence has. And sometimes we do get weary in well doing—because there appears to be no profit in it.
"Well doing" means also the doing of good to others. We are taught that if we are Christians, we must not live for ourselves. Love is the essence of the new life, and love is doing, giving, sacrificing—for the sake of others. Instead of trying to get out of the world all we can for ourselves—we are to give the world all we can possibly give it of blessing and good.
It is easy to see that such a life is not natural, and that is not in harmony with human feelings and tastes. Naturally we care for ourselves and for our own benefit and comfort. We do not incline to put ourselves out, to sacrifice our own convenience, to serve others. We might do it for one we love deeply—but the gospel requires us to love and serve, with all our capacity for serving—those who are not among our congenial friends—and even our enemies! An enemy who needs us—we must serve. Even the most debased human life that we find in our path—we must touch with our healing love, and help with the hands that have been given to Christ. We are required to hold our lives and all that we have—at the call of love and of human need. We
are to bear one another's burdens. We are to have sympathy with all sorrow and need, to be ever touched with a sense of the world's forlorn condition. This law of Christian love puts us down among men—just as Christ Himself was among men. He kept nothing back—for Himself. He never thought a thought nor breathed a breath—for Himself. He poured out the blessing of His holy life without limit—on everyone who came near Him, at last giving His very life-blood for the saving of sinful man.
That is what "well doing" means. And it is no wonder that some people stop and ask, "Is it worthwhile?" It is very natural for us to raise the question, whether the giving of all—is the best way to gain all; whether living altogether for others—is the way to make the most of our own lives, as we are required to do. We look at Christ, for example, and think of His rich, noble, blessed life. Never in any other human soul, were there such treasures of manhood stored, as in His. His was the sweetest, gentlest spirit—that ever looked out of human eyes! Never in any other mind—were there such intellectual powers; and never in any other heart—were there such depths and heights and breadths and lengths of love—as in His.
What did He do with His rich life? He turned away from the paths in which the world's great men had walked—and devoted Himself to the one work of doing good to others. He gave all He had to this work. He emptied Himself and made Himself poor—that others might be made rich. He exhausted His own strength—that the weak might be made strong. He poured out His own life-blood—that the dead might live.
Is that the best that Christ could have done with His wondrous life? His own friends thought not. They thought that He had thrown away His life.
Take those who are following in Christ's footsteps. A young American girl, having finished her college courses, came out with high honors. She had a keen mind, good social position, influential friends, a beautiful and happy home. Just then there came a call for missionary teachers to go to the South to work among the poor and needy. This young girl heard the call—and gave herself to this service. For two or three years she lived among the poor, teaching them, helping them, telling them too—of Christ. Then one day she contracted one of the deadly diseases rampant in the ghettos where she served her Lord—and soon she died among the impoverished, with no mother's hand to smooth her hair, or cool her fevered brow, or soothe her pain; with no mother's lips to kiss her before her earth's last farewell.
They brought her body back and buried it among her friends—but on almost every tongue was the sad complaint, "She had wasted her beautiful life. It ought to have been kept and used for service in more gentle, refined ways. It was too rich a life to be poured out in such costly ministry!" So they talked beside her coffin. But was that sweet life wasted? Could she have done anything better with it?
To all these questions, there comes as an answer—the promise that "at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." It is not in vain that we continue our well doing, that we obey God's commandments, that we devote our lives in self-sacrificing service to others, for Christ's sake. What seems to be loss—is gain. The godly man may seem to have more trouble than his ungodly neighbor. His business may not appear to prosper as well. His ventures may fail. His faithfulness may bring him enmity from others, and even persecution.
But life's accounts are not always settled at once. Harvest does not immediately follow sowing. It is so in nature. There are days and months when the seed seems to have perished. Afterward, however, it yields fruit. It is the same in spiritual life. For a time, there may seem to be no blessing in well doing. But in the end, righteousness succeeds. "The one who sows to please the Spirit—from the Spirit will reap eternal life!" Galatians 6:8
Every kindness we do to another in the name of Christ—is the sowing of a good seed unto the Spirit. Every deed of love, every act of unselfishness, every self-denial; all the things we do to help, to comfort, or to bless others—are seeds which we sow to please the Spirit. "At the proper time we will reap a harvest!" For the present, it may not appear that any good or blessing comes from the act of love—or the word of kindness spoken. But the seed does not perish; it has in it an immortal germ.
The world about us is full of needs. One said the other day—that everything he was interested in, every piece of Christian work, every institution, was needing money. We all find it so. On every hand are calls for help. Either we must shut up our heart—or always be giving and doing. We dare not shut up our heart—that would mean moral and spiritual death. So we must always be giving and doing. We can keep nothing long, for ourselves. No sooner is it in our hands—than we are asked to give it out again—because the Lord has need of it in some other life, to meet some need of one of His little ones, or to do some work of love for Him. But we need never fear that anything—the smallest thing we do for another, with love for Christ in our heart—can fail of blessing.
Says one: "When men do anything for God—the very least thing—they never know where it will end, nor what amount of good it will do for Him. Love's secret, therefore, is to be always doing things for God, and not to mind because they are only little things."
Another says, "Oh, it is great, and there is no other greatness—to make some Christian work more fruitful, better, more worthy; to make some human heart a little wiser, stronger, happier, more blessed, less accursed."
We never know how little benefactions of ours—may bless a life and stay in it as a blessing forever! We know not, how even a small word may bless a life. We should always keep our heart and hands ready for whatever little ministry we may have an opportunity to render. The least word of good cheer—may start a song in a heart which shall sing on forever. The good may drop unconsciously from your lip and hand—and you may never think of it again, and yet it shall not be lost. It carries in it the life of God, and is immortal.
There is a difference in the way various people give—though the gift or favor or act—be precisely the same. One gives the help only; the other gives part of himself in the help. There are some very beautiful flowers that have no fragrance—but how much more a flower means—which has in it perfume as well as loveliness! We should give ourselves with our gifts. We should let part of our own lives—flow out with every deed of kindness we do.
Love is the fragrance of the flowers of the heart, and what we do in love—love for Christ and love for man—shall never be lost. The world will be richer and better for even the smallest deeds of Christlike love. We may not reap the harvest in this world—but beyond the skies, we shall gather the sheaves in our bosom! So then, though our lives are imperfect and evil, and our work is marred with sin—we know that the Master will accept the humblest thing we do for Him. He will cleanse our work and use it, even though it is only a fragment, in the building up of His kingdom!