Being Right By Doing Good
Let us not grow weary or become discouraged in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap, if we do not give in. So then, while we [as individual believers] have the opportunity, let us do good to all people [not only being helpful, but also doing that which promotes their spiritual well-being], and especially [be a blessing] to those of the household of faith (born-again believers).
Galatians 6: 9-10
We sometimes hear someone cynically say, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Occasionally, there’s a measure of truth in the statement. When we try to do the right thing, it can backfire and get people upset with us. But our good deeds never backfire with God. We have the promise that He always rewards us for doing the right thing when we help others.
“Doing good” is an exceptionally broad category. We do good when we notice something positive in a person’s life and affirm it, when we take time to listen, when we love someone enough to speak the truth and confront him or her about a sin, when we set aside our agenda to offer a helping hand, and countless other ways. Paul said we should do these things “as we have opportunity” which is all day every day!
Paul also identifies the priority of doing good to those in God’s family. The world is watching to see if we really love one another. If they see that we genuinely support one another with actions, not just lip service, they may become convinced that faith in Christ makes a difference.
And it does.
We must first be made good before we can do good. We must first be made just before our works can please God.
Most of us know Charles Dickens’ story Scrooge. It’s the story of a cynical miser who believed that doing good deeds was just for the weak and foolish. He felt that those who engaged in helping others were those who were used and taken advantage of. In his world, the strong, self-centered and selfish were at the top of the stack. For him the increasing accumulation of wealth and possessions, never mind that they weren’t enjoyed, was the ultimate goal. The attraction of this story is that it is one of redemption. At the end, Scrooge realizes that people, relationships, and friendships were the most valuable things one could have. Moving from a bitter, cynical person, he becomes someone who invests himself into the lives of those around him.
Paul encourages us to not become “weary in well-doing.” It’s easy to become tired of doing what is right and godly, especially when we observe that those who choose wrong and ungodly practices seem to prosper while we struggle. We can observe in our world that speaking truth often marks us as unkind and uncaring people, so we are tempted to remain silent. We observe that honesty and integrity often are no longer character traits sought after. Even the church has moved to being “seeker friendly,” a phrase that says that our goal is to make everyone comfortable rather than convicted. The Galatians lived in a time and a world that majored in doing evil and practicing ungodly behaviors. In Galatians 5, Paul gives us a contrast between those who give way to the “flesh”-our sin nature- and those who “walk in the Spirit.”
“But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts]. For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature; for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do. But if you are guided and led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the Law. Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites. If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another.”
Galatians 5: 16-26
From the moment you become saved, you enter into a constant battle. The old sin nature that resided in us and controlled us doesn’t give in and give way easily. It will exercise its power at every opportunity and it doesn’t play fair. It seeks out our places of weakness and searches for our vulnerabilities, it recruits the help of the devil and the world so that it can regain control. It majors in selfish, self-centered, and unrighteous actions and justifies them by convincing us that we deserve the best in life. But thankfully we aren’t helpless for when we confessed our sins and invited Christ to be our Savior and Lord, He gave us a Helper-the Holy Spirit- who works in us and produces His fruit that is the poison pill for our old sin nature.
Choosing to constantly do good is a tiring process and we can become weary, so Paul encourages us to keep on doing good things. In his words of encouragement, he reminds us that we shouldn’t give in to the pressure to cease doing good for at the right time we will reap the reward for our work. You and I may never be paraded across a stage and be given recognition or awarded some prize for doing good. We might even suffer in this life for doing good-Jesus did- but one thing’s for sure, when we stand before Jesus we will receive the crown of righteousness and we will receive our reward for doing good in this life.
Our greatest motivation for doing good is that we live to please God. Our goal as Christians is to hear Him say, “We’ll done, good and faithful servant….”
One of our heroes in the New Testament is a man named Stephen. His love for the people of Israel compelled him to witness to them that the Messiah- the Savior had come and died for them so they could have eternal life. He also did many good deeds as God worked through him to touch, heal, and bless many. Because he chose to to good, he incurred the disfavor of the religious leaders who tried and convicted him of blasphemy. Sentenced to death by stoning, he was carried out of the city and as the stones rained down upon him battering his life from him, he kept doing good. Luke writes these words:
“Now when they heard this [accusation and understood its implication], they were cut to the heart, and they began grinding their teeth [in rage] at him. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit and led by Him, gazed into heaven and saw the glory [the great splendor and majesty] of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened up [in welcome] and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and together rushed at him [considering him guilty of blasphemy]. Then they drove him out of the city and began stoning him; and the witnesses placed their outer robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They continued stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!” Then falling on his knees [in worship], he cried out loudly, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them [do not charge them]!” When he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].”
Acts 7: 54-60
I seriously doubt that any of us will ever find ourselves in such a place but we will find ourselves at times feeling like we’re being punished for doing good, but let’s just keep doing good anyway for someday, God Himself who takes notice, will honor our faithful acts of goodness. In his last breath, Stephen continued to do good. I know of no greater deed of doing good that comes close much less exceeds the act of giving forgiveness to those who are mistreating us and in Stephen’s case, forgiving those who were taking his life violently. I believe that this act of goodness was the beginning of Paul’s conversion for while he might argue theology, he had no defense against goodness. Those around us may be able to deflect our words of witness but they have no shield to keep at bay our doing good.
So not only in this season, but all year long, let us continue to do good and may the Holy Spirit strengthen and refresh us so that we will not become weary. Paul reminds us that if we won’t give in, there will come the day when we will reap from what we have sown. Maybe we won’t have a Paul in our harvest, but we just might have a family member or friend or work place acquaintance that receives Christ because they observed our work of goodness.
Dr. John Thompson