As a former high school coach, I’ve stood on the sidelines as one of my stars began to struggle. This is a helpless feeling to watch a gifted athlete completely lose their confidence. Sometimes a benching helps but most of the time this only worsens a crumbling situation. Meanwhile, in the classroom, there are plenty of hopeless students who are easy to give up on. Yet, as the apostle Paul once said in a first century epistles “don’t give up on struggling people.”
I am sending him back to you in [a]his own person, [and it is like sending] my very heart. 13 I would have chosen to keep him with me, in order that he might minister to my needs in your stead during my imprisonment for the Gospel’s sake, Philemon 1:12-13.
This portion of Paul’s letter was inspired by his relationship with a man named Onesimus. Paul served as the spiritual father of Onesimus, leading him in prayer to faith in Christ. While specific details aren’t included, at one point in his life Onesimus was unprofitable. This term doesn’t refer to his financial status. Rather, Paul is eluding to his spiritual condition as a lack of maturity stunted his growth. Despite this phase of disobedience, Paul doesn’t give up on him.
For he who sows to his own flesh (lower nature, sensuality) will from the flesh reap decay and ruin and destruction, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. 10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [[i]morally] to all people [not only [j]being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:8-10.
In another letter to the Church at Galatia, Paul reveals a spiritual reality, “you reap what you sow.” Struggling people tend to be their own worst enemy, as poor choices result in self destruction. Whether you’re a coach, friend or parent, seeing someone whom you love struggle can be heart breaking. Nonetheless, don’t lose heart or grow weary for fighting for what is good and right. If you stand by their side by bathing this person in prayer, faith will prevail.
by Jay Mankus