One of the most discouraging things in life, to me, is when fellow workers either don’t follow through on their commitments, or complain about how hard it is to do things I work very hard at being cheerfully faithful at. I begin to think, “Am I a big geek because I keep at this thing they have decided isn’t worth the trouble?” And then I begin to doubt, without their contributions, if the thing will be successful? And then I fear failing because I can’t do everything by myself! Fear equals no courage. No courage equals discouragement. I lose the bold determination that I started with. I want to quit too.
I don’t feel like doing the same ministry week after week. I get worn down with surprise circumstances. I would rather be relaxing or hanging out with friends. My kids are just as rowdy, destructive and full-time as everyone else’s. Money is tight and stresses me out, too. My family has to bend around ministry complications to accommodate the service I’ve committed to, and it wears them down as well. I struggle with a bad attitude that builds up until I welcome any excuse to call in sick.
It is in times like this that the only reasonable thing to do is re-focus. Today, my sight-shift comes from 2 Thessalonians 3:11-13.
Paul is warning Christians who aren’t at work. They are idle, not turning a profit with their time. He plays on the words and says that they aren’t busy, they are busybodies. In the Greek, it says something more like: they don’t work, they work-around. These are the type of people that seem to be busy, but when you take a close look at their schedule, they aren’t really doing much at all! Their life is full of drama, but nothing of worth. They piddle with this and that, waste time worrying about what they have to do, but never actually getting around to doing it. They become a burden to others who have to pick up the slack and bail them out time after time because of this non-working business of an idler.
Paul says elsewhere that the reason he built tents while he preached among them (the Thessalonians) was so that he wouldn’t be idle and make others take care of him. He didn’t want to be a burden on those around him. I can truthfully say, I understand Paul’s sentiment. And what strong sentiment! He says to mark the idler, warn him and even to stay away from him.
I know a person who quits is not necessarily a person who is idle. There are many reasons for discontinuing a job. But, the resulting burden is similar. It makes more work for those who don’t give up. And not just tangible work. There is the intangible mental work to be done battling discouragement.
And to this, Paul speaks words of courage: “And as for you, dear siblings, never tire of doing what is right.” I’m sure Paul experienced the inconvenience and frustration of fellow workers quitting on him, and with these words its as if he is saying to me, “I know what it feels like when folks abandon the cause, but you are on the right course. Up and at ’em girl!”
And with that, I am roused to courageously endure.