Summary: Revision of earlier sermon, done for Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church, Washington, DC. Spiritual weariness comes when we see obligation instead of privilege, or when we see no results from our efforts. But God in Christ will bring ultimate victory.
Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church, Washington, DC, February 6, 2005
Last May our son got married. He and his bride passed out little bottles of soap instead of the traditional rice, so we all celebrated at the end of the wedding by blowing bubbles. Well, my daughter’s child, a little less than two years old, enjoying her uncle’s wedding, ran all over the place trying to catch soap bubbles. But you know what happened; every one of those bubbles vanished just before she could get it. I should have thought that would be totally frustrating; but she kept at it, on and on, grasping at bursting bubbles.
I’m a little more than two years old, and I’ve learned over the years that it does not matter how hard I work at things: they will not get done. There are many things that are immensely frustrating, because I finish them, but they won’t stay finished. Do you know what I mean? The kinds of jobs that you do and almost immediately you have to do them again?
Weeding a garden, for example. I spend a good-sized chunk of every summer pulling up unwanted plants. Frankly, I would have thought that if it’s green, it’s good to have, but she who is the mistress of the plantation says, “No, the weeds have to go.” And so up they come, yes ma’am, yes ma’am, three bags full. When it is all done, I feel such a sense of accomplishment. But I go out the next morning to admire the results of my labors, and what do I inevitably see? More weeds! Saucy little creatures, poking their impertinent heads up through the mulch. Weeding is a hopeless task that won’t stay done.
Or feeding the household. That too is a never-ending task. Because he whose hunger pangs you satisfied last night wants to know tonight, “What’s for dinner?” Even Jesus found out after He had fed the five thousand that they came back the next day for another miracle! You know the feeling. One day my mother set her laundry basket down on the steps and announced, “I don’t want to do this any more.” Turns out she didn’t mean just the laundry. She didn’t want to do laundry, she didn’t want to do cooking, she didn’t want to do dusting, none of it, not any more. She and my dad moved to a retirement home. Why? Largely because household chores won’t stay done. They keep coming back.
How do you feel when you think about that? Tired? Frustrated? I think the word is “weary”. Weary is a few steps deeper than tired. Not just tired, not just pooped, but weary, bone weary, exhausted. Because you’re not sure you’ve really accomplished anything that will last.
Not let’s take this to another level. What about church? Is church like that for you? Are you weary of church? Church just keeps on going, Sunday after Sunday, sermon after sermon, prayer after prayer, and what does it all mean? Oh, when I get to heaven, I am going to ask the Lord if it was really necessary to put a Sunday into every single week! Pastors get tired too. Pastors get weary of church.
Years ago I was a fill-in church organist. One of the places I went regularly was a church where the organ was behind a carved wooden screen. I could sit at the organ bench and see what the minister was doing even when others could not. Each Sunday, when it came time for the pastor to lead the prayers, I could see him go to the altar and heave a great sigh (whew!), sinking to his knees to pray! It sure looked as though for him, church was a great big tiresome burden!
Is that you? Are you weary of church? And is there a way out of being weary with church? I think there is. John will help us.I
Notice first that John tells us that we won’t get weary if we live out of a response to love and not out of obligation. When you do something because somebody loves you, then you won’t get weary. But if it is just a job – if it is merely an obligation – then it won’t be long before it’s a heavy chore and a painful burden. John reminds us it doesn’t have to be that way:
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
That interests me. God’s commandments are not burdensome. It is not wearying to serve God – when? When you know that God loves you. When you do something in response to love and not out of obligation, it is not a burden.