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Motives for Serving God

Greetings All,

     This week's 'thought' comes to you from Marcia Hornok, writer, editor and pastor's wife.  It has to do with our motives for serving God and is applicable to the life of any believer.  In reading it I felt it was wise, relevant, and spot on -- so I share it with you.  It is taken from the most current "Voice" magazine, Jan-Feb. 2014.  Enjoy!

     "Human nature craves recognition and reward.  I like having my articles published, seeing the room full in my Ladies Bible Study, and hearing people thank my husband for his sermons. But is that my motive for serving God? What do I deserve as a result of walking by faith for several decades? What did our biblical relatives, listed in Hebrews 11, receive for their faithfulness?

     The chapter clearly indicates their eternal reward (vv. 13-16, 26, 39-40). They were approved of God (vv. 2, 5, 16, 39).  But did that include earthly rewards as well? The chapter lists some of the things those who lived by faith received on earth. They 'conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead raised to life again.' So far so good.

     But the list continues. 'Some men were tortured, not accepting release...and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheep skins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated... They wandered in deserts, mountains, caves and holes in the ground (vv. 33-38).

     Such was the reward of walking by faith and pleasing God. Some had their loved ones brought back to life; some watched their loved ones tortured to death. Living by faith can lead to totally opposite outcomes in this life.

     Faith does not guarantee earthly credentials, credits, or accomplishments. These heroes and heroines of faith believed God's promises even though they never came to pass in their lifetimes (v. 39). They concentrated on pleasing God, not on being successful or effective (vv. 5-6). Enduring whatever came their way, they remained faithful to the end because their eyes were set on the invisible, future reward of the heavenly city whose architect and builder is God (v. 10)... 

     Too often, I have expected temporal rewards for living right, serving God, and enduring trials. I have measured my success (and that of others) by visible, countable results. Instead, I need to live for eternity and God's approval there, not for earth and human affirmation here.

     God will look for my usefulness, not my effectiveness. And I can only be useful when I'm dependent upon Him, abiding in His fellowship (John 15:5). Even though God does bless and reward us in this life, I must not expect that, or set my hopes on it. To do so results in either arrogance (over what I have) or anger (over what I don't have). My motive for pleasing God cannot be what I will get out of it. I live by faith, not to gain God's favor, but because I have God's favor. We endure to the end, not to get what we want, but to give God what He deserves.

     Walking by faith means trusting God with the results as we labor together. I plant and/or water; He gives (or does not give) the increase (I Cor. 3:7-9). I should concentrate on my responsibility, not His. Then, someday, when faith becomes sight, I will bow before Him, utterly unworthy of His promised rewards."

     In a culture so focused on numbers, and getting results, and achieving great things, and being successful, it is helpful to remember that God never calls us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful and endure to the end. And He calls us to such faithfulness even though we may be entirely unable to point to huge numbers, significant results, or noteworthy success (as measured by earthly standards).

     As our passage from Hebrews 11 points out, some of the most blessed of God's faithful servants -- people "of whom the world was not worthy" -- had nothing to show for their faithful service to Christ except persecution, suffering, poverty, homelessness, and eventual (and sometimes extremely painful) martyrdom.

     I know.  Not a good selling point from a worldly perspective.  But then again, we don't win people to Christ by our salesmanship. God does so as His Spirit exerts the powerful influences of His calling, regenerating, and converting grace.

     My part is to remain faithful -- to Him, His Word, and my duty of seed-planting or watering. Then I must simply leave the rest to Him.  And when all is said and done, our "reward" is ultimately the fact that we had the blessed privilege and opportunity of serving our gracious Redeemer and being even the smallest part of His redemptive plan for the ages.

Grace to you as you seek to remain steadfast, Pastor Jeff