It was 2007 and I was in a very rural part of the southernmost state of Mexico: Chiapas. My dad and I had been in the car all day (or, at least, what seemed like all day), had preached at two churches, and spent time with the Christians in each place. Finally, the sun had set, and we arrived where we were finally going to be able to lay down and sleep before another eventful day. The brother there told us he knew of an individual who wanted to study the Bible. Eyes half-open, we agreed to study with this man and, by 11 PM, we were heading to the closest river, so he could be baptized. While we were getting into the backseat of the car, my dad said, “Remember what Paul said: ‘Do not grow weary while doing good.’”
At that moment, I felt like I had been punched in the gut (although I didn’t have much of one then). Here I was focusing on how exhausted I was without realizing what a wonderful scene was about to unfold: a new brother in Christ! But while I certainly needed an attitude adjustment then, I’m not so sure this was the exact message Paul shared with the Christians in Galatia (Galatians 6:9).
The Greek word that is translated “grow weary” in Galatians is also translated “lose heart” in other verses and is most closely related to the idea of becoming discouraged. Paul isn’t teaching that we shouldn’t be physically tired when doing good. (How have you felt changing a newborn’s diaper at 2 AM?) He is, however, teaching that we shouldn’t become discouraged as a result of doing good. And isn’t that more relevant to us anyway?
Have you ever done something good and become discouraged as a result of it? Maybe you studied the Bible with someone and they didn’t believe it. Did you get discouraged? Maybe you helped someone financially only to discover that you were being taken advantage of. Did you get discouraged? Maybe you taught a Bible class and, instead of a shared interest in and appreciation for truth, you were met with criticism. Did you get discouraged? Maybe you gave someone your love and trust, only to have both violated. Did you get discouraged? I want to share three reminders to help you when you feel discouraged from doing good.
Reassess your motive. Many times, discouragement from doing good comes from an improper motive. If, after doing good, we ask ourselves, “Who noticed?” or “Why didn’t anyone compliment me on the good job I did?” we need to reassess why we did good in the first place. Consider what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:1-4 regarding giving to the needy. His emphasis is on doing good in secret and not for the praise of others. Our motive, contrary to what the world teaches, must be love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). We can do all the good we can, but if we have a self-serving motive, we forfeit the reward from our Father and “gain nothing” (Matthew 6:1; 1 Corinthians 13:3).
Don’t complain. It is easy to complain when we feel discouraged. We express our frustration with others’ behavior and, if we’re not careful, wade into the treacherous waters of speculation and gossip. We act the way Elijah did in 1 Kings 19 when he was facing severe persecution at the hand of Jezebel. We say things like, “I have done all this good for you, Lord, so why am I be treated so badly?” Aside from the simple prohibition against complaining in verses like 1 Corinthians 10:10 and Philippians 2:14, complaining is pernicious in that we choose to emphasize the negative over the positive. This is certainly not how Jesus behaved and cannot be how we behave (Isaiah 53:7; John 23:26-49).
Do good. The most damaging result of feeling discouraged comes when we throw up our arms and give up doing anything good in the future. We say, “If this is how I’m going to feel for doing good, I might as well do nothing.” Can you imagine how Satan feels when we reach that conclusion? What about God? Paul taught that our reward from God will come “if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). Nowhere in the Bible do we receive permission to give up doing good because we feel down or discouraged. Doing good is, paradoxically, the best way to overcome discouragement. Paul makes this very point in verse 10 of Galatians 6: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
So, my final encouragement for you is to not lose heart, but to get busy doing good for the Lord. There is plenty of work to do and you are needed in that work. Yes, even you.