Never Tire of Doing What Is Right
Never Tire of Doing What Is Right
Martin Luther King said, ‘On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question, “Is it right?”
‘The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of convenience, but where they stand in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy.’
Doing what is right in difficult situations in the workplace is a huge challenge. In his book, God at Work, Ken Costa writes, ‘There are right and wrong choices… all the invented terms such as “inappropriate” and “counterproductive” are efforts to avoid the simple ethical fact that there is a right and wrong course of action.’
When facing a difficult pastoral situation those of us in the leadership of the church need to remind ourselves that the first question we have to ask is, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ And only then move to the second question, ‘What is the most pastoral way to do it?’
Of course, none of us gets it right all the time. We all make mistakes. As Ken Costa writes, ‘We only grow in wisdom if we learn from our mistakes. Siegmund Warburg (Ken’s first boss) said on this subject: “Some name it disappointment and become poorer, others name it experience and become richer.”’
In today’s New Testament passage, Paul writes to the Thessalonians, ‘Never tire of doing what is right’ (2 Thessalonians 3:13). Jesus did not go for the easy or popular solution, but he always did the right thing. This is an important principle that runs throughout the entire Bible.
Doing right is very practicalProverbs 25:1-10
Doing what is right means getting rid of everything that is not right in our lives: ‘Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith; remove the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness’ (vv.4–5). Here are some practical examples of what living righteously looks like:
- Act with humility
You do not need to push yourself forward. The right thing to do is to act with humility: ‘Don’t work yourself into the spotlight; don’t push your way into the place of prominence. It’s better to be promoted to a place of honour than face humiliation by being demoted’ (vv.6–7, MSG).
This is exactly the point that Jesus expounded in one of his parables (Luke 14:8–11).
- Always assume the best
‘Don’t jump to conclusions – there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw’ (Proverbs 25:8, MSG).
- Never betray a confidence
Do the right thing in relation to your neighbour. Do not go hastily to court (v.8). If you do end up in court, always do and say the right thing. ‘In the heat of an argument, don’t betray confidences’ (v.9, MSG).
Lord, help us in our church community to get rid of the dross in our hearts, to act with humility towards one another and to seek always to do the right thing.
Doing right spreads the message2 Thessalonians 3:1-18
Paul’s overriding concern was that the gospel should get out to as many people as quickly as possible – that it would ‘simply take off and race through the country to a ground-swell of response’ (v.1, MSG).
For this to happen, he prays that they will continue to do the right things: ‘We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command’ (v.4). He tells them, ‘you ought to follow our example’ (v.7). Paul lived in such a way that provided ‘a model for you to follow’ (v.9). He urges, ‘never tire of doing what is right’ (v.13).
- Pray for your leaders
Leaders need your prayers: ‘And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one’ (vv.2–3).
- Follow the way of love
Paul prays, ‘May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love’ (v.5a).
- Never give up
He prays that the Lord will direct their hearts into God’s love and ‘Christ’s perseverance’ (v.5).
It’s not enough to do the right thing occasionally or when you feel like it. Persist, endure and continue all the way to the end.
- Pull your weight
Do not do anything to bring the gospel into disrepute. Do not sit idly and watch life pass by. Paul sets an example of hard work: ‘We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone... we simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious’ (vv.7–9, MSG).
We are to exercise discipline. If people are not doing the right thing they should not be regarded as enemies but warned as brothers and sisters (v.15).
Lord, give me wisdom and perseverance so that I may always do the right thing. May the peace and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all (vv.16,18).
The Spirit helps you to do rightJeremiah 31:15-32:25
In one of the greatest prophecies of the Old Testament, Jeremiah foresees the new covenant (31:31). The new covenant will be different from the old one (v.32).
‘“This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbour,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”’ (vv.33–34).
These few verses are alluded to again and again in the New Testament (see, for instance, Luke 22:20; 2 Corinthians 3:5–18 and Hebrews 8:8–12). They highlight a series of wonderful promises about this ‘new covenant’, which pointed forward to Jesus:
- God forgives your failure to do the right things
This new covenant was made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ. At the last supper, before he was crucified, ‘he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you”’ (Luke 22:20).
The new covenant between God and humans that Jeremiah spoke about enables you to be in right relationship with God. It came about through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.
All of your sins have been forgiven, ‘the slate wiped clean’ (Jeremiah 31:34, MSG), through the blood of Christ. As Joyce Meyer says, ‘Whatever your sin or failure, you need to confess it to God and then let it go. Stop punishing yourself for something that is in the past. Refuse to remember something God has chosen to forget.’
- God’s Spirit helps you to do the right thing
We have the extraordinary privilege of living in the age of the Spirit. God’s law is not simply written on tablets of stone. Rather, God works in you, by his Spirit, to give you a passion to please him (‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts,’ v.33b), and to give you the experience of a personal relationship with him (‘I will be their God and they will be my people,’ v.33c). We can all know the Lord (v.34).
God calls you to do the right thing even when it’s not easy. Doing what is right does not necessarily lead to an easy life. Jeremiah was shut up in jail in the royal palace. Zedekiah locked him up for choosing to do the right thing (32:1–3).
We see another example of Jeremiah doing the right thing in spite of the circumstances (vv.6–8). God tells him to buy a field, even though the Babylonians were about to take over Jerusalem. The field itself would become utterly worthless. But Jeremiah was not concerned about money. Doing the right thing is more important than financial gain or the likelihood of success.
Jeremiah’s obedience in doing the right thing was remembered for all time. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that the purchase of the ‘potter’s field’ with the money paid to Judas for his betrayal of Jesus was a fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophetic action (Matthew 27:5–10).
Lord, help me to do the right thing regardless of circumstances. Thank you that the past is forgiven and forgotten. Thank you that I can know you. Thank you that you have put your Spirit into my heart. Guide me to do the right thing today and into the future.
‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’
It is not that God has a bad memory (like me). But God chooses to forget our sins when we confess them and ask for forgiveness. The enemy tries to remind us of them. But we, also, have to choose to forget them… and to forget other people's sins as well!
Verse of the Day
‘… never tire of doing what is right’ (2 Thessalonians 3:13b).
Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2018), p.1199
Ken Costa, God at Work (Alpha International, 2013), pp.69–70, 85.
Martin Luther King, 6 February 1968, Washington DC, quoted in Gordon Brown, Courage – Eight Portraits (Bloomsbury, 2008) p.113.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.