As I have gotten older, I’ve learned to be suspicious of anything offering a fast, easy, and good result. Such promises frequently appear in advertisements and online click-bait articles: “I lost 50 lbs. on this diet plan in just six weeks!;” “Killer tips from young entrepreneur who made 500K in just three years;” or “My kids used to meltdown all the time until I learned this simple trick.” These statements seem too good to be true—which, of course, they are. If there is anything helpful at all in these articles, it will likely be some variant of a long-known truth: “If you are willing to make sacrifices and persevere through difficulty, you can obtain a reward.”
It would be great if our world were one of quick fixes: you plant a seed and the next day you have a beautifully blooming flower, or you discipline your rebellious child just one time and he is ever after obedient and respectful. But that is not our world. For creation, God ordained that good results will usually take time. Also, because of God’s curse on the world due to man’s sin, good results will usually require toil, pain, and perseverance (Gen 3:17-19). Survival and blessing can still be had in this world—which is a great grace of God!—but they are obtained under a general principle of sowing and reaping: if you sow in hard work and wisdom, then you will reap a blessing; but if you sow in laziness and folly, then you will reap a curse. To say it concisely: reward comes after wise work. And consider for how many areas of life this truth applies: health, business, parenting, marriage, church, personal holiness, and more!
However, as I said to you in the Sunday sermon, responding wisely to this basic reality of our world requires a humble heart. A person must accept both that God has a right to arrange the world according to his wisdom and that a person needs no more for contentment than whatever God chooses to give. The covetous people of the world, of course, arrogantly refuse to submit to God’s cause and effect principle and demand good results without wise sowing and no bad results from foolish sowing. But we Christians should be different. Christians should not only be marked by patient perseverance to sow and reap well in this passing life but also to sow and reap well to life eternal (Gal 6:7-9). Christians should expect that every sinful temptation will be a choice between immediate gratification and deeper long-term gratification and choose accordingly. Christians should also expect that blessing, even in sanctification, comes not by short spiritual sprinting but by long and faithful jogging (Heb 12:1). Above all, Christians should expect that, whatever blessing comes in this life, Christ will reward Christians in a fuller and greater way in his coming kingdom (Heb 11:6, 13-16).
Ecclesiastes 7:8-9, The end of a matter is better than its beginning;
Patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.
Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
Questions to Consider:
1. Why does a drive for immediate rather than delayed gratification so often lead to sin and self-harm? Consider Prov 1:8-19; 6:6-11, 20-35.
2. Does a person always reap what he sows in this life? What would Solomon say from Ecclesiastes?
3. Where are you looking for quick fixes in your life where you should instead be applying wisdom, hard work, and self-control?