Part Four: Motive is Key
Too many Christians are serving their local churches with little or no joy. In my previous posts, I’ve pointed out that actually, Jesus wants us to serve happily, as well as 2 reasons we lose our joy - serving outside our gifts, and not getting rest. Here is my third and final theory behind our joyless service.
We’ve forgotten why we do what we do. Rather than trudging through the muddy waters of our many wrong motivations, I think it would be more helpful to remind us of the good motives for serving. I say “remind” because I think we already know them. But, sometimes I need a good pep talk to shake me out of my doldrums and get me aligned again with the heart of God. And what is the heart of God?
Love. Love motivated God to serve us, and love should motivate us to serve God and others. That’s it. Sermon over. Let’s all go home and eat lunch and watch football. It really is that simple….in theory! In practice, though, it’s a whole other story. I’ll be working on this love thing until the day I die. Why is it so stinking hard to serve people out of love? The four letter word for today is self. Self-protection, self-absorption, self-fulfillment, self-promotion, yada yada yada. I can’t even love my kids without self creeping in. Did I make them a good dinner because I love them or because I want to feel like a good mom? Proverbs 20:5 says,
“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
We should constantly be asking God for a flashlight into this deep well of our motivations, and the bucket to draw them out. I know I’ll never have 100% pure motives for serving, but I pray that as I grow closer to Him, and He reveals my heart to me, the percentage of self will become less and less.
The other reason it is tough to serve people from a motive of love is that they’re people. People are prickly. People sneeze on you and make you sick. People don’t say thank you. People feel entitled. People are grumpy and temperamental. People aren’t Jesus. But, Jesus said, “When you serve the least of these, you are serving me.” I think I need to write that phrase with a Sharpie on my kids’ foreheads some days. Do people always deserve our love? Nope. But neither do we deserve the love of Christ, and he lavishes it upon us. Let us remember that we show gratitude and love for Jesus when we serve one of his creatures, made in his image. It’s like Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:14,
“The love of Christ compels us…”
Another thing that will help us maintain our joy in serving is to remember that we are part of a bigger picture. Like the cathedral masons of old, we may only be laying bricks in a foundation that will support the towering edifice in years to come, but we are part of the master plan. And our contribution is vital. We can get caught up in the drudgery and details and thanklessness of our roles, and think that we are invisible, but we are not. God sees, and part of faithful service is having the faith that God is using our bricks to build his kingdom.
The thing about all the stuff I just wrote is that there is a danger of adding to your guilt plate. If you got convicted reading about serving out of love, but haven’t read my previous posts about serving within your gifts or taking frequent breaks, go back and read them. It may be that you are having to work up an unnatural amount of love because you really are not suited for that ministry, or you haven’t had a break in years. On the flip side, some of you use this argument for not serving. “I don’t have a natural love for x group of people, so I’m not going to serve them, because that would be unauthentic.” To be sure, God does use our natural inclinations to guide us to the areas he wants us to serve. However, sometimes he calls us to serve people and then amazingly he supplies the love we need. It takes Holy Spirit discernment to know which pill to swallow.
In my next post, I’ll discuss how the Church can do a better job of making sure joyful and service are not mutually exclusive terms.