“I Never Get Tired”
Dwight A. Moody, preaching
The words made famous by Paul Robeson tell one story: “I gets weary and sick of trying, I’m tired of living and scared of dying ….” It is the lament of the slave working long, hard hours under the whip of the white man. Such is the sad refrain of so many around the world even today: people who have no choice of their labor or of the conditions of their work. Many even in these United States, weary of work and tired of living.
How different is the situation with the great apostle Paul! He writes from his jail cell, “I never get tired.” He is talking about his coaching those new disciples in Philippi. Over and over again he tells them to trust God, to give thanks, to follow Jesus, to forgive others, and here, especially, to rejoice! “I never get tired of telling you to rejoice.” Later in this short letter, he writes, “Again, I say rejoice!”
Sometimes we say to employees, to children, to athletes or musicians: “If I have to tell you one more time …” That is a sign of exasperation, of getting tired of teaching and coaching. I’ve felt like that many times; but Paul begins this section of this wonderful letter with this striking assertion, “I never get tired.”
This statement is the beginning of a string of short, sharp declarations of what is important to Paul. Let me quote them, as they are translated in the New Living Bible.
“I never get tired,” chapter three, verse one.
“I consider it trash,” chapter three, verse seven.
“I want to know Christ,” chapter three verse ten.
“I press on,” chapter three, verses 12, and again in verse 14.
“I love you,” chapter four, verse one.
“I praise the Lord,” chapter four, verse ten.
“I can do all things,” chapter four, verse 13.
“I have all I need,” chapter four, verse 18.
These eight statements, taken together, constitute what we might call today, a testimony. If we fill out the sentences a bit and read them together, we will hear Paul, the great lion of God, describe his attitude toward life, faith, and God.
“I never get tired of talking about Jesus. I consider all my prior religious stuff nothing but trash. I want to know Jesus Christ and live in the power of his resurrection. Because of that, I press on to be what God has called me to be. I love you, my brothers and sisters in the Lord. I praise the Lord for our partnership in gospel work. Because God strengthens me, I can do all things God desires. And for now, I have all I need.”
Isn’t that a terrific testimony? It is short. It is positive. It is centered on Jesus the risen Lord. It affirms others. It pulls us into the richness and the beauty of his spiritual life.
What makes this more special are the circumstances in which Paul was living, writing, and testifying at the time. He had been arrested, again, and thrown in prison. He was dependent on friends to provide his food, bring him news, take dictation for his letters, and keep him company. Paul had no permanent home, and he does not appear to have been married. Although some have speculated that it was because he was married that he traveled so much. He never mentions any brothers or sisters, a mother or a father, aunts or uncles or cousins.
Paul had a great testimony.
What kind of testimony do you have? Can you repeat these words of Paul as your own? Do they describe your spirit, your attitude, you disposition? Do they describe the person you want to be?
Or is your attitude more like this:
“I am tried of having to do so much of the work. So much of what I have been doing is really worthless. I know Jesus Christ, I guess, but I don’t feel any of the resurrection power. I am trying to be what God wants, but frankly I am tired of some of the Christians I have to work with and listen to. I’m not so sure about this partnership we call church. I try to be a spiritual person, but I don’t think I measure up. And I look around and think of all we need: more people, more volunteers, more money, more time.”
A first step toward a richer, deeper spiritual life is to start where Paul started. Let him be our guide, our coach. He writes, “I never get tired …” He is describing his attitude toward teaching the way of Christ, of calling them to joy, of leading those first believers in Philippi to celebrate what they have, not bemoan what they do not have.
The one thing we all can have is joy. Paul calls us to do what we en-joy! To keep doing things that bring us joy. He says it like this, Rejoice! But translating it like that makes it sound too religious, too churchy, too spiritual! Paul is not telling us to be in a better mood, to raise our hands and shout to God, to perform some expected religious ritual. He is not looking at disheartened or disgruntled people and saying, “You better get joyful or else!”
No, he is testifying, “I never get tired of coaching you in your walk with Jesus. That brings me a lot of joy.”
So, I ask you the question: what brings you joy? What habit, or pastime, or task makes you happy? About what can you say, “I never get tired of doing that!” This is the key to the spiritual life: embracing those things that bring you joy!
I made of list of things that make me happy, things that never tire me out. Do you have a list like this?
I never get tired of listening to music, especially if it is Tchaikovsky, or a church choir, or John Prine!
I never get tired of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I never get tired of watching Seinfeld, even when I know exactly what is about to be said.
I never get tired of reading, especially history, or historical fiction, or even the news.
I never get tired of eating ice cream.
I never get tired of being out in the sunshine, whether working in the yard, or walking on the beach, or such sitting on the porch and feeling the warmth.
I never get tired of having lunch with a friend.
I never get tired of writing: can be a letter, a sermon, a commentary, a book.
I never get tired of being recognized for something good I have done, in public or in private, with a card, a letter, a phone call.
I never get tired of being on the road again, to visit some new or familiar place.
Keeping these things in my life makes me a happier person, makes me a joyful person, makes me easier to get along with.
I have some things I never tire of; what about you? Maybe you can use the sermon card today to make your list. Maybe you can talk about this over lunch today. Maybe you can tell your spouse, your children, your mom what makes you happy.
Maybe playing baseball or working a puzzle. Maybe planting a garden or swimming laps. Maybe hosting a luncheon or watching a movie. Maybe reading poetry or caring for your grandkids.
What makes you happy? About what can you say, “I never get tired of …?
Paul found his sweet spot. He spent a long time looking for it. I will preach about that next week when I pick up his statement, “I now consider it all trash.” But today, my message for you is this: find the things about which you can say, “I never get tired” and work them into your life.
Many of us spend a long time looking elsewhere for the source of true joy. Paul found it in coaching others in their walk with the Lord. Your sweet spot of living may not be religious, but it will certainly be spiritual, because it will nourish your spirit. In that sense, all of us need to be less religious and more spiritual.
Some of you may need to pull back from your religious duties in order to be a more spiritual person.
Some of you may need to embrace a religious practice in order to find the center of our spiritual life. Each of us has our own path, and sometimes those paths cross in a group, a team, a choir, a congregation.
You may say, “Teaching children about the life of Jesus brings me great joy.”
You may say, “Singing in the gospel choir brings me great joy.”
You may say, “Serving hungry people a hot meal around a table brings me great joy.”
You may say, “Giving my money to a talented student go on a mission trip brings me great joy.”
You may say, “Opening my home for a Bible study with my friends brings me great joy.”
In 2013, my dad died 65 years after finding his source of joy in life. He graduated from the university with a degree in mathematics and started a career in high school teaching. But somewhere along the way he changed courses and took a new direction. He embraced what today we call the ministry, or what I like to call gospel work.
My dad George Thomas Moody died at the age of 90. He and I were very close friends. I admired him greatly, and he continues to inspire me. I preached his funeral sermon and wrote the obituary that appeared in the paper. This is the way I concluded that public description of him: “The family requests that generous memorial gift be given to one of these three funds, the Church in Murray, the Seminary in Kentucky, and a Christian fellowship in California. More than that, we urge all who knew him to honor his life by practicing kindness to everyone, telling someone about Jesus and his love, and organizing people for a good and godly purpose.”
I want to emphasize that last one: organizing people for a good and godly purpose!
These three gospel practices brought much joy to my dad. He would say today, if he were called upon to give a testimony, “I never get tired of being kind to strangers, of telling people about Jesus, and organizing people for a good and godly purpose.” We still need those gifts today.
Find what it is that brings joy to your soul, and God will give you the gift of never getting tired of it.