A lot of times it is easy to feel like you can give and give and give and never see the results of your efforts. There are those people in life that you have prayed for over and over for years and yet have never seen any change in them. You have given of your time, energy, and even money to invest in someone, believing their life will be changed and they'll become devoted believers but it just doesn't seem to pan out.
I think anyone who is trying to reach others for God and certainly those in vocational ministry know that kind of discouragement. I've felt it plenty of times! It's so sad to believe for someone and stand beside them through so much only to watch them walk out the door and away from God indefinitely. It is also difficult to observe people that seem to be on the right track take dozens of steps backwards. There can often be a painful tinge of resentment in those moments. What about everything I invested? What about all that effort? But before you sink too far into that pit, allow me to encourage you.
I think the first problem that we face is in the very way that we think. We take this idea of loving and supporting someone and express it with the word investment. Investment is an expenditure with the expectation of return/profit. It is a dark day when we look at love as a currency made for us to circulate through our relationships like stock traders. We don't love someone so that we can get some kind of return. If you love someone based on what you can get out of it, you're only loving yourself indirectly. Interestingly enough, the Bible doesn't use strictly financial terms to explain the kind of life that gives, believes, prays, supports, and encourages. This life of doing good is not compared to a bank, but rather a field. No economics here, just good ole' agriculture.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:9-10
There's a slight yet extremely important distinction between this idea of sowing and reaping versus our business model of investment and return. Return on investment is about new profit, but harvest is about new life. An investor can bask in the glory of a whopping check, but a good farmer cannot take all or even most of the credit for new crop. As farmers we understand that even though we tend to and watch over the growing harvest we cannot claim it as ours alone. God is the one who brings harvest and we are merely used by Him to bring it forth.
Enough analogy, let's have some real talk. You've got people in your life that you are praying for, believing for, and giving your all to support. When they stray or seem to get worse, it is so tempting to pull away like a scared day trader selling her plummeting stock investment. But a farmer doesn't dig up seeds just because they aren't growing. He just continues planting and waiting. It's the waiting that so many of us fail at. That's why Galatians says not to grow weary as we do good, because it often takes time to see any kind of result. Margaret Feinberg puts it this way: Harvest cannot happen apart from waiting.
You have a promise. If you do not give up, you will see harvest at the right time. I am writing this to let you know that I have seen some pretty empty fields in my life, but I have also seen God bring amazing new life out of the most unassuming people. It's always breathtaking when He does. When that time comes you realize that it is so much bigger than just the product of your efforts. You see, our thing is sowing, His thing is harvest. So do your part and love without limits and let Him take care of the rest. When that moment comes, He will be glorified and you'll be proud to say that you where a small part of that process. I know I sure am.
Don't give up. It's gonna be worth it.