Marathons are among the most grueling endurance races. A participant’s heart and lungs must be in peak shape, his joints and muscles able to endure the stress of running 33,000 steps, his mind strong enough to push through even when his body wants to quit.
Those willing to tackle the grueling 26.2 miles endure blistered feet, the loss of toenails, skin abrasions, back and joint pain, muscle strains and cramping, and dehydration. In some circumstances—especially if a runner did not train properly—participants can suffer crippling fatigue before complete muscle collapse and failure. They describe it as their brains telling their bodies to move but their limbs failing to comply. Every ounce of their energy is spent, and they are too exhausted to carry on.
Something similar can happen to Christians. Runners along the road to salvation will face fatigue, making each additional step toward the Kingdom of God more difficult. If not careful, they can begin to fade. Exhaustion can have crippling effects and eventually lead to behavior that was unthinkable during early conversion.
After so many “miles,” it can become easier to skip Church socials or head home right after Sabbath services, foregoing the potluck meal. You could start looking to someone else to volunteer for the local fundraiser or for others to participate in this year’s Spokesman Club or ladies activity. “I need a break. I put in my time—other people need to step up,” you may reason.
While you used to have the energy to engage others in the congregation, you may now spend time with the same people or, worse, with hardly anyone at all.
“I am too tired to be in the choir or to help with ushering at the Feast this year—someone else can do it this time,” you tell yourself. However, “this time” eventually becomes “every time.”
As with running in an actual marathon, life as a Christian is arduous. It is not easy to go against the grain of society and be hated by the world (John 15:19). We must constantly wrestle against spiritual forces that can sap our energy (Eph. 6:12).
In addition, much of Christianity is an uphill marathon. The apostle Paul said we must “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). The word “patience” means “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). Not only are Christians to run a difficult path—they must also remain positive in a negative world.
As a follower of Christ, the path is not easy (Matt. 7:13-14). A Christian must be mentally strong enough to deny himself and have the stamina to take up his cross daily and follow the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10). His heart must endure giving up family and friends if necessary and bear long with tremendous personal sacrifice (Luke 14:26-27).
The challenge only increases as we get closer to the finish line of salvation.
Realize what will happen if you wallow in destructive attitudes. Before long, you could find yourself on the verge of collapse and in danger of falling completely out of the race toward eternal life.
Paul also cautioned about the tendency toward spiritual fatigue. He knew things get tough. Notice: “But you, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (II Thes. 3:13). His warning to God’s people was straightforward and unmistakable.
“Weary in well doing” is a somewhat peculiar phrase. What does it mean?
First, recognize that Paul tells brethren to avoid it. Merely having God’s Spirit is not enough to inoculate us from this condition.
The relationship between “weary” and “well doing” is important. The word weary means “to be weak” or “to fail.” The Greek word can also be translated as “faint.” The word is not mysterious—it just means to be tired. Paul curiously ties this feeling to “well doing,” which means to do well.
How can someone get tired of doing well? The answer is simple. Doing well—doing the things we know we are supposed to do—takes work!
Faith without works is dead (Jms. 2:20). If we are unwilling to demonstrate faith through actions, then our so-called faith is no more than a rotting corpse (vs. 26)! We must bring life to our faith by doing something.
Yet any activity sustained over an extended period can cause fatigue. “Doing well” is no exception. Without the proper focus, prayer, Bible study, serving brethren, helping with Sabbath services, volunteering and fellowshipping can cause us to grow tired.
Fitting these godly requirements into an increasingly busy life can be hard. This age seems to move ever faster, making it seem impossible to keep up. It can feel like we never have enough time to get everything done. The internet and other forms of technology bombard us with information. More is expected of us at work and at home. On top of this, more is expected of us as Christians at the end of the age. A “little flock” must do the Work that a group much larger did in decades past.
Additionally, God has exponentially expanded our understanding of the gospel. It has taken significant effort to relearn elements of God’s plan for mankind, on top of everything else we must do. The sheer volume of new information we learned along with the rigors of life has caused some to distance themselves from fellowshipping, serving, attending socials, and other activities so they could study and pray more.
This should not be! Prayer and study are important, but they are not the whole of Christianity.
To experience the wonderful events to come in the immediate future, we must do more, not less. Yes, it takes effort to attend to what God requires as well as manage our lives. But we cannot take a break from being a “doer of the work” (Jms. 1:25) and a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1).
No one said Christianity was going to be easy, nor should it be—the reward is eternal life and membership in the God Family. Either you believe this, or you do not.
Paul, in another reference to running a race, said we must “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). Being a Christian takes work—it is a “high calling” for a select few individuals. Grasp this: Only a tiny number of the tens of billions who have ever lived receive such an invitation!
So how do we avoid spiritual exhaustion and increase our stamina as we approach the finish line?
By going to the ultimate source for spiritual energy: “Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father…comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work” (II Thes. 2:16-17).
Both the Father and Christ promised to establish or strengthen us in all we say and—most importantly—do. God is the source of “good works.” We cannot display the love of God without His Spirit. If we need help with doing more, we must turn to Him. He recognizes that from time to time we need an energy boost for good works, and He is willing to provide it.
We can do “all things through Christ which strengthens” us (Phil. 4:13)—including overcoming weariness and maintaining our “well doing.”
Created for Works
Human nature, which is Satan’s nature, is inherently selfish. By continuing to do good works, you become like a salmon swimming upstream—you are going against the current of the modern age.
Often, we have to sacrifice our own wants and desires to serve and “do those things that are pleasing in God’s sight” (I John 3:22). Repeatedly putting other people and duties before satisfying your own needs is naturally uncomfortable and can become wearisome.
But this only happens if you lose sight of the big picture.
It becomes more difficult to feel motivated to fellowship with elderly brethren if you do not see that doing so helps them avoid loneliness and helps you learn important life lessons. You can lose sight of the fact that participating in Spokesman Club prepares your brothers in Christ, and you, for leadership. You can become so self-involved that you forget that volunteering to plant a garden for the Church or helping a member to move saves them significant funds that can go directly into doing the Work. Bible study can become a chore if you fail to see it as a vital link to the mind of God and the foundation of all knowledge.
If we allow our focus to be on self and all we are “missing out on” by serving and sacrificing for others, we will grow tired of doing it. We can come to believe that our problems and needs are greater than those of others.
If you find yourself falling into this mindset, remember Paul’s encouragement to the Hebrews: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be wearied and faint in your minds” (12:1, 3).
Paul said that if you start to feel weary, remember your brothers around you and those who came before you, and all the difficulties they endured. Doing so can not only help you put your challenges into perspective but can provoke God’s Spirit of love and outgoing concern inside of you to do more to help those whose needs are greater than yours. Godly love suffers long (I Cor. 13:4) and can help us push through any fatigue we may begin to feel.
When we focus on the big picture instead of ourselves, it sets us up to receive a boost from God so we can do what He requires.
Even more, the Father created us for good works. Notice: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). He planned and then created us to serve and benefit each other!
Consider the emphasis God gives “good works” in one short book of the Bible. We are instructed about good works—meaning “beautiful or virtuous toil”—multiple times in Titus:
- Be “zealous of good works” (2:14). We do this by showing enthusiasm, diligence and passion in serving others.
- We must also develop a “pattern of good works” (vs. 7). The word “pattern” is associated with casting a die or using a stamp. Both produce an identical mold or impression every time. Christians must repeatedly leave the same impression of performing good works.
- Finally, we are to “maintain good works” (3:8, 14). The word for maintain can mean to “preside over” or “practice” good works. Presiding over good works means we are overseeing them. They should be under our control and we should direct them toward others. Practicing good works means they are habitual.
God has much more to say about good works. He wants His children to serve and be there for one another. This will be critical in the coming days as the age grows darker. To qualify for authoritative seats in God’s government, we must remain focused on others. If we are not performing good works now, why would Christ reward us with an eternal future of serving others later?
Specific Ways to Be Involved
As a man “thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Meditating on good works and their value will ultimately drive you to do them.
One way to ensure we maintain good works is to set priorities. People tend to make time for things that are most important to them. If fellowship is valuable to you, then you will find the time to attend a Church social or to stick around for the potluck. If knowledge of God’s Word is important in your life, then you will find the energy to wake up earlier in the morning to study or find time during the week to review a sermon.
What keeps people from doing such things is allowing the cares of this life and short-term problems to become more important. Prioritizing these short-term issues can cloud our long-term vision.
Another way to be about good works is to put others first. Remember Paul’s words to the Philippians: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (2:3-4).
Consider volunteering at the next fundraiser on Sunday or helping out with the choir or stage crew during the Feast. While these take time you could otherwise spend on yourself, realize how much of a benefit your actions would be to the overall effort. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”
When only a few are willing to serve, it makes accomplishing the goal that much more difficult. Expecting others to do everything is not only unfair to them, it also makes it more likely they will become weary! We should care enough about our fellow brethren to avoid burdening them with more work than necessary.
To gauge your actions, ask yourself, What if everyone approached this situation the way I do? If you are one that tends to volunteer and serve others, then the answer to this question would be positive. If you are one who never or rarely helps out, consider where the Church would be if everyone did the same.
A piece of advice is to wake up every morning and ask, “Who can I serve today?” At the end of the day, ask how you did. This will help you focus on good works and serving others.
Understand, however, that we must be balanced to perform good works over a long period of time. Either ditch—doing no works or doing too much too fast—is dangerous. Some have tried to juggle too many activities, and like a shooting star they burn bright, burn hot…and soon burn out!
Remember how Martha was caught up in her service when Jesus came to visit (Luke 10:38-42). She was so distracted by “much serving” that she overlooked the importance of listening to Christ when He was speaking. She was focused on the wrong things. Being balanced requires us to evaluate our individual circumstances and truly determine how much we can reasonably do while staying on top of life’s responsibilities and our spiritual requirements. Realize, however, that human nature will almost always make you want to do less than you should.
If your work schedule does not allow you to participate in a Church social, offer to help with purchasing supplies or organizing the event. If you are unable to commit to choir rehearsal every morning during the Feast due to family obligations, volunteer to help clear the hall in the afternoons. Be willing to serve and be creative. Though you may not be able to do as much as you might have wanted to, there is no excuse for doing absolutely nothing.
Also, do not be afraid to cut things out of your personal life if you are finding that you are too busy. Regrettably, the first things some cut from their schedules when they get too busy is Bible study, prayer and service. These should be your priorities! Instead, cut back on non-essentials such as watching television or surfing the internet. Be a good steward of your time.
Overall, the key to maintaining good works is to keep your spiritual energy at high levels. We must stay close to God by asking Him every day for more of His Spirit. He promised to rejuvenate us and ensure our spiritual reserves remain high.
We Are in This Together
All of God’s people are susceptible to spiritual fatigue, regardless of how long they have been in the Church. If not properly addressed, a Christian could forfeit the commitment he made during baptism and fail to cross the finish line.
Even well-trained runners face fatigue. What sets successful ones apart is they are better at anticipating this pain. They also realize pain is more mental than physical. The mind creates the desire to quit often long before your muscles cease to work.
Similarly, Christians must anticipate the “heavy breathing” that will come. Trials and difficulties are inevitable (Ecc. 7:14). The key to pushing through is to realize they are temporary and to continue moving.
Of course, the body has limits. Runners do know when they are nearing muscle collapse. That is why they change pace if necessary—allowing them to slowly recover while continuing to progress. But quitting will get them nowhere!
Christians must never falter. Even moving a bit more slowly to “catch your breath” still ensures you are moving forward. But quitting altogether assures you will never reach the goal.
An antidote to weariness is to perform good works. By helping others, we are also serving God. Christ said, “Inasmuch as you have done [good works] unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me” (Matt. 25:40).
Remind yourself of some of the simple good works Christ was referring to in verses 35-36.
Here is how we can guarantee we will make it to the finish line: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering…And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works…exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:23-25).
This can seem overwhelming—just as looking at the entire 26.2 miles in front of you during a marathon race.
But runners have tactics that keep them from feeling overwhelmed. One is called the 10/10/10 rule.
Run club coach Jes Woods in New York City summarized it: “run the first 10 miles with your head, the next 10 miles with your training, and the last 10K [6.2 miles] with your heart.”
Christians can adopt a similar approach by breaking up their spiritual race into smaller goals and accomplishments. Instead of, “Someday I will make it to the Kingdom,” you can think, “Today I will pray and study and do my best with this day’s time.” Or, “I will work hard this week and enjoy the Sabbath.”
If you feel yourself growing tired, focus on each day as it comes to not get overwhelmed due to the challenges or long stretch of track in front of you. Remember Christ’s exhortation to take “no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matt. 6:34). Take joy in the victories you have each day and look forward with hope to the next one.
You can also push through from year to year by setting goals for the Feast of Tabernacles. Though your goals will be different, you feel a sense of accomplishment when you reach each of these “checkpoints” en route to the finish line. It will sustain your motivation more so than simply seeing an entire life ahead of you—although we made the promise to stick to God’s Way for however long we have!
We all have a job to do. We are responsible not only for ourselves but for our fellow brethren. As we see our goal getting closer, we must perform and provoke—incite, stir, encourage, urge!—each other to perform good works more than ever.
Realize that the world will one day look back on your righteous actions and glorify God (I Pet. 2:12). He wants us to get out and do things, not just read about them. As Romans 2:13 states, it is the “doers” who will be justified!
There is precious little time left. If you are weary, seek God—He will strengthen you. He will provide the energy you need.
Lastly, keep your eyes on a major reason you are toiling now—the incredible reward that is coming soon. Allow Galatians 6:9 to propel you forward: “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”