It’s an expression so trite that it rarely carries any meaning to those to whom it’s expressed. “Keep up the good work.”
However, if the phrase is delivered from a close friend who looks deeply into your eyes, clasps your hand, and then utters those words, one is more apt to earnestly take them to heart as encouragement.
Do you have such a person in your life? One that you can count on for encouragement, reproof, and simply the oft-needed, gentle kick-in-the-pants to keep on keeping on?
While studying in Beth Moore’s Stepping Up Bible study, I was struck by the connection between a verse in Galatians, one in Hebrews and Psalm 126…
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6.9)
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6.10)
Those who sow in tears
will reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with him. (Psalm 126.5-6)
Consider the following phrases and apply them like balm to a worn soul:
- do not become weary
- reap a harvest
- do not give up
These phrases come from the heart of One who loves us deeply. They are especially applicable (and are intended) for the ministry-burdened believer in Christ. Perhaps that’s you. I know it’s me.
The scriptures here address specifically the person who is earnestly seeking to follow God but is tired. Exhausted. Perhaps even picked on or underappreciated. It’s written for those who are pouring themselves out for the cause of Christ and perhaps are seeing a disproportionate harvest. Much seed planted. One plant coming up… Know what I mean?
In reflecting on the truths above, I wonder how many tears we’ve shed – not for ourselves – but that the purpose and mission of God is not being extended through our lives. Particularly in the Psalms verses, the implication is that we will be carrying seeds. Are we? Or are we carrying grudges, selfish desires, etc.?
When you compare the seeds mentioned in the Psalms to the ones mentioned in Luke 8, it’s extremely exciting to consider that there are great promises for those who seek to plant the Word of God into the lives of others! This echoes the spirit of the encouragement found in Galatians and Hebrews.
These keep up the good work words are not mere platitudes but magnificent promises to the Christ-follower who is honestly seeking to witness and work for the kingdom of God.
Bringing in a harvest is not couch work, that’s for sure. It’s a long, difficult process. Yet, we’re assured repeatedly in the Bible that those who apply their lives to the things of God as their first priority will see (emphatically!) the results. It may not be when we want to see them, as Hebrews 6.11-12 makes clear:
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.
Faith and patience are needed. That’s an understatement. Also, I don’t particularly like the words, “at the proper time” in Galatians. However, in faith, I will be patient and believe that God’s proper time is sweeter in its fulfillment than my “urgent” need at the moment.
One last thought… the analogy of farming is sublime. Consider for a moment what your life would look like if there was never any wait for what you wanted. Consider what God would be like if He ran around fulfilling your every desire and momentary wish.
Would you be motivated at all to become a person of deep character? Would you be motivated to become a person of inner holiness and conviction? One who can stand in the tough, uncertain times?
I know I wouldn’t.
That’s when it becomes clear that delayed gratification, hard work, trials, sufferings and uncertainty that is allowed and introduced into our lives by the Lord accomplish for us something that is eternally more rewarding than if we were allowed to create our own spiritual development schedule. We would simply never choose a life of beauty and holiness. We’re too lazy, and we’d be too busy sending God off on errands.
So… it may be difficult, hard and seemingly unappreciated, but our earnest efforts (and sometimes discipline) in following Christ are producing in us “a harvest of righteousness and peace.”
So… keep up the good work.