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Paul J. Bucknell
(For study questions and more get the Old Testament Digital Library.)
The reason we make good, though perhaps hard, decisions is to reap the benefits from them, but sometimes those benefits are far from being realized.
At times, we get so blind sighted by emotions–sometimes our own and sometimes other people’s bad emotions–that we cannot even see one good thing from all our past devotion. As parents we might think, “Have I ever heard my child genuinely say, “Thank you”? Or at work, “All I hear is more demands from my boss. He doesn’t appreciate anything that I do for him.”
It is impossible to force seeds to grow. They grow with time and hope. If we in frustration stomp on the plant, it probably will not survive! Impatience with the process can ruin things in minutes. Some spouses do this by yelling out, “I wish I never married you.” Or when stewing in your anger stirred up from another crazy demand from your boss, you yell out, “I quit.”
Quickly stepping out of our commitments is typically a foolish thing to do. We might escape some problem but other worse ones creep in.
Our belittlement can in a moment crush the spirit of another like our spouse, child or rejected friend, and it can sharply end what one had earlier been developing: a promising marriage, family or friendship.
Those faithful commitment that formed that friendship or brought you to work for the last three years were good. One might not find the results you want at that particular moment in life but we need to realize that is okay (I’ll shortly explain why). We can pause and note our frustrations but don’t toss aside those basic commitments we have made in our lives.
As we planted those seeds of hope, we spend our lives nurturing those plants until they reach harvest (or we are no longer around). No one might seem to notice but your faithfulness is always appreciated, most of all by God. God counts all our good works.
Jesus rebuked the Ephesus church because it loss its first love and was not doing the deeds it had earlier done: “Do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you” (Rev 2:5). Jesus encouraged the church at Thyatira because they were keeping up the good works, “I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first” (Rev 2:19).
But bad decisions like divorce abruptly end our commitments that are needed to form strong marriages, families and good friendships. Curses and bitterness can quickly reverse much good that has been done.
Discouragement doesn’t mean that we have done something wrong nor should we conclude a good deed brings no benefit. There are evils that can come about in our lives. Job knows this. The whole book of Job revealed how his commitment to God and family resulted in great rewards (Job 1:8), but at one point they were stripped away from him. This can happen to even the best of the saints.
At different periods in life our work will look forgotten and irrelevant, but it never is. Satan will haunt us with thoughts, “What a waste of time. You’re a fool.” He is trying to move us from our godly commitments in life. God, however, always pays close attention to the good we do and in a timely way rewards us. Yes, we are looking now to be rewarded, but remember how God at times delays rewarding people like Joseph (Genesis 36-50).
Please do not draw the conclusion that God has forgotten you or your works! The opposite is true. The Lord is giving you opportunity to use your faith to continue expressing your kind service.
Anyone can serve when a big reward looms immediately ahead, but God looks carefully at our hearts and wants to see whether we would take the same action and attitude for the purpose of pleasing Him. God will reward good deeds but in timely ways so not to distract us from gaining the great rewards that He desires to give to us.
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting” (Ps 126:5)!
God’s Word encourages us to do good things not because of the immediacy of reward but because of a longterm commitment to God and others. We do the right thing because we seek to please God. A seed does not grow up overnight nor does our well-intentioned act or word necessarily bring immediate help. That is okay. We should expect time delays.
We could get an evil person to do a good thing with an immediate reward. Sure, but that doesn’t change him. More important is the repetition of good decisions and reaffirming one’s commitment to that kind of life. That makes us good persons (though definitely not perfect ones!)–a person who regularly carries out kind and good actions toward others. Good people are sensitive to the needs of others.
They go out of their way to prioritize the needs of others over their own. A Christian should be full of good works due to the new and loving heart that God gave him or her.
Peter says, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pe 2:12).
The days of joyful shouting will come. Christians repeatedly say and do the right things because we know it is the right thing to say or do even when it does not bring that immediate change we would hope it to. We have a longterm perspective–a higher goal–of being a godly person, that is, a person who consistently makes good decisions to please God.
“Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (6).
Do you remember the initial work of the sower? That’s right, he or she is tired-out by planting a big bag of seeds in the field. Farmers do this on a regular routine, but God is teaching us here that this is symbolic of life. God is stating that hard work is well worth it but one needs to remember that one will not typically see immediate rewards. But because our Sovereign God oversees the process, He always makes sure good deeds are at the right time properly rewarded.
The farmer started with seeds but ends up with sheaves. He does not just have a a bag of grains in his hand but a whole field of grain and must bind the grain plants together to dry them which will in the end produce bushels and bushels of grain. In other words, the work the farmer sets himself to do will literally multiply itself–but time was needed.
These kind of life situations happen all the time. Even as I write this article, how do I know it will bring help to anyone? Can I easily test it? No. I need to first write, edit and publish the article in hope that someone will read it and be blessed by it! I need to do my hard work first. My hope and the hope of every writer is that it will bring reward. In this case I hope God will use it to bring determination in the heart of some discouraged readers to continue doing the right thing even when discouraged.
People should refuse to make rash decisions steering them away from their basic life commitments but instead focus on continuing to do good deeds, and although unseen by most or all, God will Pin His time literally richly bless and bring a blessing to all.
God’s powerful hand makes these seeds grow in such a way that the outcome will become greater than the effort put in. This is the hope behind all the volunteer hours parents, couples, church member, neighbors, etc., give as well as those getting paid at work. Our attitudes and consistency always makes a significant difference.
Two times the “joyful shouting” is mentioned in these two verses. They highlight the great contrast between the hard labor and delightful reward. The great joy only comes after a noticeable delay. Jesus said in the Parable of the Sower, “And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Lu 8:15).
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).