This week's 'thought' comes to you from an author I've truly come to enjoy -- Gary Thomas. He is best known for his book, 'Sacred Marriage'. This particular excerpt is found in his book, 'Simply Sacred,' a collection of daily readings.
I have thoroughly enjoyed it and would suggest it as a possibility for anyone who may have experienced the frustration of looking a good devotional book. In my humble opinion it is well worth the price should you happen pick one up. This thought is called, 'Supernatural, Not Sentimental Concern.' Enjoy.
"My wife volunteered to work with a week-long camp that reached out to inner-city children from troubled backgrounds. She soon learned what she was up against. Any romantic notions she might have secretly harbored about the week were quickly dispelled when the trainer taught volunteers how to respond to a kid who is biting you. (Just FYI, rather than pull your arm back -- which allows the child's teeth to set -- you should push your arm into the child's mouth until the child stops biting. When the arm is pushed in, it's far more difficult to receive a hurtful bite.)
At the end of camp, I joined my wife for a luncheon given in recognition of the camp workers. One young man received an award for being the most patient in the face of the most abuse. He had been kicked, hit, pummeled, even spit on.
It is important to mention this because some people actually pursue selfless work for selfish reasons. They usually don't last long. That's why Christians who are eager to serve should first do a motivation check. Are you doing this to be loved (or thanked) in return? Are you doing this to save a life? What if the person doesn't want to be saved? What if the addict refuses to quit? What is the crisis pregnancy center client gets pregnant again? Will that make you quit?
Social mercy is based on obedience to God and depends on God's love for his failing children. We cannot maintain or manufacture a false love. Sentimentality won't last until lunchtime in real ministry. Nothing short of God's supernatural care and concern will suffice.
Yet behind this pain is an unparalleled, almost otherworldly pleasure. J. I. Packer once told a class of seminary students, 'As you serve the Lord, you hurt. And as you serve the Lord, your hurt, which feels sometimes like a death experience, gives way to a joy which feels like a resurrection experience. The Lord makes it happen.'
Let's serve well -- for the right reasons with the right motivation."
During my time serving in a program in the Dominican Republic, as well as in my time in Honduras, I was able to witness this -- first in myself and also in others. It was the inner thought or assumption that in serving others they would respond to my help or personal sacrifice with appreciation and gratitude and I would feel good or more fulfilled for having served them.
Yet it didn't take long to realize that one can work their hardest with very few "thank you's" coming back in their direction. Ask most any missionary on the field. In fact, if the desire to be loved, thanked, or appreciated for one's "selfless" service to others is among the primary driving forces behind that service, it's really not 'selfless,' and as Thomas points out, "They usually don't last long." That is, they don't last long unless that death/resurrection experience takes place and the motivation for their service changes.
God must graciously help them -- He must help us -- to realize that our primary motivation must be to do what were doing simply because our Lord and Redeemer has called us to do it. We are to do it for Him, and not what we can get out of it, or we won't do it long.
I believe this is what Jesus meant when in the process of telling Peter to, "feed my sheep," He asks him three times, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" In fact, He repeats it enough times to exasperate Peter! (John 21:15-19)
Why does He do it? To drive home this point: If we serve Jesus' people for any other reason than that we love Him -- if we do it to be loved, admired, looked up to, thanked, appreciated, noticed, recognized, praised, etc. -- then when those things are not forthcoming, or we receive just the opposite (like the gentleman mentioned above) we will tend to become quickly disillusioned, and likely quit or move on from that field of service.
Only if we do it out of love for Christ will we do it regardless of what might come our way (or fail to come our way). It was an appropriate lesson for Peter, who would end up martyred alongside his wife for simply feeding Jesus sheep -- and a lesson we all need to heed as well.
In His Service, Pastor Jeff