Check Your Motives Often

Ministry Expectations—Part 3

“Ministry Expectations” is a teaching series comprising principles from the book of 1 Timothy. In discovering the expectations God had for Timothy and the church at Ephesus, we uncover the expectations He has placed upon us as well. Read part 1, Faithfulness in Ministry, and part 2, Be Committed to Bible Preaching and Teaching.

One teacher astutely commented that the duty of a Christian is to do God's will, in God's way, with the right heart motive. I don't think that any of us are naïve enough to believe that one’s motives are not important. Somebody might foolishly say, “As long as the job gets done, I don't really care how it’s done!” But that somebody certainly is not the Lord!

“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned. From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling. Desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm” (1 Timothy 1:5–7).

Timothy was surrounded by people who were clamoring for the ministry spotlight. Ostensibly they were doing a good thing—teaching the very law of God. But in actuality, they burned with an ambition for positional titles in order to be admired by others. Their deceitful hearts and their misunderstanding of God's truth caused their words to become little more than meaningless sounds—vain jangling.

Modern ministry is full of duplicitous types like these. With no real regard for God or their would-be followers, they merchandise the ministry for their own benefit, whether that is money, power, admiration, or a combination of all three. I'm sure that we all shrink back a bit at the televangelist's spiel. Closer to home, we've probably interacted with people like this in our very own churches. Closer yet, if we are painfully honest, even our own motives tend to degenerate quickly unless we guard and govern them by the regular application of God's Word.

Paul made it quite clear that the end—the purpose—of the commandment is charity. Charity of course is God’s agape love, a love that is selfless and entirely concerned with the wellbeing of another. Its description is among the most well known verses in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:1–13). A preaching and teaching ministry that does not emphasize, educate, and encourage listeners to a life of charity is an exercise in futility. Keep in mind that Jesus encapsulated all truth in the context of its value to enable us to love God and love each other (Matthew 22:37–38).

Consider the three checkpoints for our motives: a pure heart, a good conscience, and unfeigned faith. At all times we must strive to serve God with a pure heart—with no ulterior or self-serving motives. Our conscience should affirm our service, not accuse it. God has given us the wonderful gift of a conscience that we might have an inner sense of right and wrong. In fact, believers have the double benefit of a Holy Spirit-enlivened conscience (see Romans 9:1–3). Our faithful service to God must be unfeigned—rendered with no trace of hypocrisy. Simply stated, we need to be genuine, betraying no signs of the increasing plasticity we readily see in so many modern ministries.

Bear in mind that often the hardest person to scrutinize is that person you see in the mirror. Like King David we all seem to see clearly the sin of the hypothetical sheep stealer, and see cloudily the deep and destructive sin plaguing our own lives. In better days David's heart sought the inspection and cleansing of God's Spirit.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24a).

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

Improper motives rob from us the joy of serving the Lord in our local churches. They also filch from us any potential rewards that the Lord may offer for our service. Perhaps most dangerously of all, they tend to expose themselves to those with whom and for whom we serve, thereby damaging our credibility and influence, and discouraging their commitment to the Lord as well.

A proper motive ennobles every good deed we perform, no matter how small it is! It sets its sight upon the Lord Himself and refuses to be dissuaded by the cheap and temporary motives of men or materialism.

“Not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6).


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