Do you ever forget the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ of life? Oh, it is so easy to do all the right things for all the wrong reasons, isn’t it? I served faithfully in a certain situation but what I had done was overlooked or ignored. For a few moments I allowed resentment to take charge. “Well, if that is the way they want to treat me, then forget it. Let them handle their own situation.” As my disappointment subsided, the Holy Spirit whispered gently – “Jerry, for whom did you do it in the first place?” Realization of my sin drove me immediately to confession and to prayer. Jesus is the ‘why,’ not appreciation, not recognition, not monetary reward.
True service is about giving ourselves away without thought of cost, recognition, or reward. Especially in ministry we must always keep this truth front and center in our mind – It is never about ‘me!‘ Jesus teaches us that “whatever we do for the least, we do for Him.” If we teach that Sunday School class, make meals for the sick, preach excellent and inspiring sermons, or give sacrificially but only to gain affirmation, or feel a sense of fulfillment, or just to ‘be somebody’ in the big wide world; we will miss out on the true blessing of God’s reward. What we did, allegedly, “for the Lord,” no matter how well done, will be corrupted and the fruit spoiled by our prideful motive. Like the Pharisees so roundly condemned by Jesus, pride will turn us into hypocrites who look great on the surface but who are full of ugliness inside!
Barnabas was very influential in the early years of the development of Christianity. The Bible describes him with these glowing words… “a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.” (Acts 11:24, NLT) This leader heard about a man named Saul who had been very hostile to Christians. Paul was saved by Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, and yet he could not find acceptance by Christians. And, no wonder. They were frightened by his reputation. What if his ‘conversion’ was just a ruse to get inside the group so he could arrest or kill more of them? But, Barnabas discerned the reality of Paul’s transformation. So, he went and found Saul (later renamed Paul) and introduced him to the Church. For the next few years, it was always “Barnabas and Paul.” But, the mentor found his gifts eclipsed by those of his student. It shifted to “Paul and Barnabas.” After a few years, Barnabas slipped into obscurity and Paul went on to be well-known throughout the Church! But, there is no evidence that Barnabas ever resented this. He served His Savior and knew the joy of being faithful in his own place, without pride.
- Do you wonder what would have happened if Barnabas had gone to see Paul, recognized the man’s greater gifts and tremendous abilities, and thought “if I help him, he will steal my position!”?
- What if he saw Paul’s potential to become greater and decided that he didn’t want the ‘competition?’
Thankfully, good ole’ Barney didn’t see his ‘service’ to the Church as a means of building his reputation, feeling good about himself, or gaining a place where he could be recognized in this world.
Our word from the Word is a story that Jesus told about service that wrecks prideful motives. As you read it, if you realize that your service has even a grain of pride, of self-serving, of concern for reputation or reward, ask the Lord for forgiveness and for the Spirit’s help in developing true humility. “He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.
“When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about!
What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Luke 14:7-11, The Message)
Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heav’n, to earth come down.
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling,
All Thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, Thou art all compassion;
Pure unbounded love Thou art!
Visit us with Thy salvation,
Enter ev’ry trembling heart.
Finish then Thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee!
Changed from glory into glory,
‘Til in heaven we take our place.
Till we cast our crowns before Thee
Lost in wonder love and praise.
Charles Wesley | John Zundel