Galatians 6:9 – Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (NIV).
Our culture has created a need for almost instant gratification. If you want almost anything now, it can be accessed almost immediately through the Internet. Convenience services have taken over to the point that we barely need to leave the house unless we want to. Between deliveries for everyday items, groceries, and dining out, you could comfortably sit and wait in your house for someone else to do the work for you.
I remember before the Internet, we would have to wait and watch the news every night to see what was going on in the world. If I wanted up-to-date sports scores, I would have to call a 1-800 number and wait through all the scores until I heard the one I wanted. Research in school actually required going to a library and not finding what you wanted in .003 seconds on a Google search. Newspapers were effectively today’s Internet browsing. When I wanted to read the Bible, I had to open a physical Bible and did not have the option to access it on my Smartphone.
Now, this is not a post for or against the use of technology; it has improved our lives in many ways far beyond what I alluded to. We have access to more knowledge and connection with other people than we ever had before. Despite this fact, as a culture, we seem to be less connected on a personal level with people and more confused by what truth really is.
Technology has created a need for instant gratification; we don’t want to wait in lines, we don’t want to wait on the phone, we get very frustrated in traffic, we become frustrated when our technology fails us… and we don’t want to wait on God.
2 Peter 3:8 tells us that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (NIV). God is not confined by time. Praying without receiving an immediate answer can seem like God is not hearing us. Doing what is right without an immediate reward can make us question whether it was “worth it.”
Let’s take a look at Joseph, starting in Genesis 38. Now Joseph was kind of a bragger; he just loved to tell his many brothers about his dreams of reigning over them or show off his new robe that his father got only for him. Granted, Jacob did not help the situation by playing favorites. This led to Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. God had a plan for Joseph despite him being sold into slavery.
Verse 2 tells us that “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and lived in the house of his Egyptian master.” Joseph was soon seduced by his master’s wife. Joseph resisted her, and he did not want to “sin against God” as Joseph put it. She lied about him resisting her, and Joseph was put into prison. Did Joseph do the right thing? Yes, but what was his immediate reward? Prison.
Now I can’t speak for Joseph, but if I was put in prison for doing the right thing, for following God’s commandments, for living my life with integrity, I would have some serious questions with God about what was going on in His plan for me. To be fair, God’s people throughout history have faced persecution for standing up for God, and many have been martyred for their faith. Hebrews 11 states the heroes of faith “were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Their reward was delayed, but they were faithful to God despite their circumstance.
Now, back to Joseph. “Some time” had passed in prison, and God used Joseph to interpret the dreams of a cupbearer and baker. Joseph had to be encouraged by the fact that God revealed the dreams to him and that there was hope. However, the cupbearer was released and forgot about Joseph. Now, two years later, (41:1)… Let’s just stop there. Two years. How long do two years seem to you? Imagine you pray about something right now but God takes two years to answer (maybe longer). Once again, if I were Joseph, I might have all but given up praying, losing hope in the darkness of a prison.
Now, you might know the rest of the story; God was faithful to Joseph, allowed him to interpret the Pharaoh’s dream, and put him in a high position where he was able to save his family and the Israelites from famine. Joseph later told his brothers, “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on Earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Gen. 45:7).
Joseph was able to look at his whole situation and see the big picture. Despite his slavery and years in prison, God was working His master plan in Joseph’s life, which affected many around him and saved the nation. If we are not put in a physical prison, God may be putting us in a metaphorical one to test whether or not we can endure it and trust Him.
Our need for instant gratification needs to be put in check with God’s timing. The actions we take today, the “good deeds,” if you will, do not always get rewarded immediately. Things like volunteering, tithing, praying for someone else, witnessing, feeding the homeless, and spending time reading the Bible are all well and good but oftentimes produce little to no immediate reward. We need to check our motivation and see if we expect anything else. Indeed, Jesus said in our first verse in Galatians to not become weary of doing good, for in the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
What is the proper time? Only God knows. The challenges we face, the adversity we encounter, and the hardships of life are often God’s way of testing our endurance, perfecting our will to align with His, and working out a master plan that we will often not see on this side of eternity. We need to use discernment against any message out there speaking to “do this to get this.” The message of the Bible is not one of prosperity but one of joy in knowing who we serve and where our reward really is.
Discerning Reflection – How have I acted where I expected a reward or recognition for something good I have done? How do I react when I do not get an answer to prayer; do I persevere?
Prayer – God, help me understand Your ways are not mine. Help me trust in You and Your timing. May I be a part of Your plan, and help me not expect an instant reward for anything I do in Your name.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on discerning-dad.com
Featured image by Paul Hanaoka