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Tried And Tired?
November 19, 1995

ISAIAH 65:17-25, 2 THESSALONIANS 3:6-13

A counselor asked a woman he was counseling to write ten sentences, each beginning with "I am..." Here's how she began: "I am a poor mother. I am a disappointment to my parents. I am overweight. I am unhappy. I am divorced." The counselor said, "I didn't ask you to name bad things about yourself. Now write ten good things." This time she wrote, "I try to be a good mother. I try to keep a clean house. I try..." She still couldn't come up with positive "I am" statements, but slipped into "I try" statements which were sneaky ways of condemning herself again.

Let's eliminate the word "try" from our vocabulary! Try is a weak word. There's a world of difference between try and do, between "I will try" and "I will do" . Which one would you hire? The one who affirms, "Yes, I will do the job." Or, the one who says, "I will try to do the job." Which one is more likely to succeed? The one who says, "I will get an A in math." Or, the one who says, "I will try to get an A in math." Which team is more likely to win? The one who says, "We are going to win." Or, the team who says, "We will try to win."

Perhaps one reason we get tired is because we try too hard, because we are trying instead of doing. In the Epistle lesson today, after Paul reprimands those who think Jesus is coming immediately, so they don't need to do any work, Paul tells his people in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, Do not be weary in doing what is right. I don't know about you, but I must admit I sometimes get weary. Perhaps we get weary because we sometimes don't have a positive attitude with the will to succeed, but are merely trying to do what is required. There is a world of difference between positively believing that we will succeed, and trying to succeed. Paul did not tell us to try to do what is right. Paul said to do what is right.

Now, how do we do without getting weary? I read an ad for a minister in the Christian Century magazine. No, I'm not looking for a church. United Methodist churches do not advertise; you take what you get! What struck me about the ad was the job description of the minister they are seeking. They want "a Christ-oriented, motivated leader with vision to nurture the spiritual growth of our church family." I like that. My job is not just to get the apportionments paid, to end the year in the black. My job is not necessarily to keep everyone happy. My job is to nurture the spiritual growth of our church family.

It is spiritual growth that keeps us doing without getting weary. A plant grows by sending its roots down into the earth, looking for nourishment, looking for water. A tree with a deep root system is firm and secure. Remember the spiritual? Like a tree planted by the water, I shall not be moved. What amazes me is the redwood tree. The tall, giant redwood tree has a very shallow root system. The tree can stand up because its roots are intertwined with root systems of other redwood trees. They hold each other up. What a rich image! You and I are spiritually strong when we send our roots deep into the Lord, and intertwine our roots with our Christian sisters and brothers, the community of faith, the body of Christ.

Picture yourself standing on ground that is quaking and shaking, with a hurricane raging at the same time as the earthquake. Trees are bending. The weaker trees are toppling over. Picture the stress, turmoil, problems of your life attacking you, trying to knock you over, pull you out of the ground so you go with the wind at the mercy of the elements, blowing to and fro at the mercy of your life's turmoils. But, you are standing firmly rooted. Your roots are deeply embedded in the Lord's soil. Your roots are intertwined with the rest of us, and you stand firmly in the face of the storms. You will not be moved.

The same image applies to congregations. Our church has been through a great deal of turmoil and stress these last several years. Lesser, more superficial congregations might have wavered, floundered, and even toppled. But, a church that is growing spiritually, a church that has its roots tapped deeply into the Lord through prayer can withstand stress, storms, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

In the Old Testament lesson today, Isaiah comforted his people who were homesick for their land. They had been literally uprooted from their homes, their family, their country. They had been physically moved to Babylon where they sat down by the river and wept, and asked, "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" But, they kept their faith. They were deeply rooted and intertwined. Isaiah encouraged them, (65:18) Be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating. In spite of it all, in all circumstances, rejoice and give thanks. The teacher asked the class what they were thankful for this Thanksgiving. A little boy answered, "I am thankful I'm not a turkey." Give thanks, trust in what God is creating, in what God is doing in your life and in our midst. And, Isaiah promises, they who rejoice and trust (65:23) shall not labor in vain. They will do what is right. They shall not get weary. And, their work will succeed.

I am impressed and grateful for all the workers of our congregation. The amount of person hours given is phenomenal--teaching Sunday School, working with youth, singing in choir, ushering, greeting, estate sales, the 65th Bazaar, visiting homes for the Leap in Faith Campaign, redoing the courtyard, digging in the front yard repairing pipes and laying a new sprinkler system, painting, committee work, on and on. Let's not get weary. Let's remind ourselves of our motivation. Do not be weary in doing what is right, because God never wearies of us. Often, Dennis the menace has excellent theology. One cartoon shows Dennis and his little friend, Joey, leaving Mrs. Wilson's house with their hands full of cookies.

Joey says, "I wonder what we did to deserve this."

Dennis answers, "Look, Joey, Mrs. Wilson gives us cookies not because we're nice, but because she's nice."

We are all recipients of God's cookies, of God's grace, of God's forgiveness and salvation, not because we're nice, not because we deserve it, but because God's nice!

Likewise, we do what is right, we work, not because the recipient of our actions is nice, or even appreciative. Perhaps, what we do is not even recognized, much less appreciated. But, we do what is right, and are not weary in doing what is right, because God first loves us, and blesses us abundantly. We do what is right out of gratitude to God for all we have received. We do what is right because there is a need, not because of what we receive in return.

Chad was a shy, quiet boy. Day after day, his mother agonized when she watched the children coming home from school. While they laughed and talked to each other and hung onto each other, Chad always lagged behind--alone. One day, Chad came home and told his mother that he would like to make valentines for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. She thought, "I wish he wouldn't do that! They never include him in anything." Nevertheless, she decided she would go along with her son. So she purchased the paper and glue and crayons, and for three weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made 35 valentines. Valentine's Day dawned, and Chad was beside himself with excitement as he started out for school. That afternoon, Chad's mother placed cookies and milk on the table. Then she looked out the window and saw the children coming home from school. There they came, laughing and having the best time. And, as always, there was Chad in the rear, alone. His arms were empty. Obviously, he had not received any valentines, and she fully expected him to break into tears when he got inside. She choked back her own tears, saying as he came in, "Mommy has some cookies and milk for you." But he hardly heard her words. He just marched right on by, his face aglow. And all he could say was, "Not a one. Not a one." Her heart sank. And then, he added: "I didn't forget a one, Mommy. Not a single one."

Chad knew the gospel. Chad knew God's way. Do good to those who ignore you. Chad didn't just try, he did it. He made valentines for everyone. Do good, not because you expect any returns, but because it is the right thing to do, and because God has done good things for you. With thanksgiving, do not be weary in doing what is right.

© 1995 Douglas I. Norris