Motive For Serving God

1 Kings 18:21

There have been some people who have merely drifted into our churches.
They have been reared in homes where everyone belongs to the church.
It was taken for granted that upon approaching adolescence they would become members.
So, following the tradition, they have done so.

If they are questioned about their faith, they will simply answer that they are Baptists
because their parents were, and they are church members for the same reason.
In other words, they have drifted into the church without ever having met God face-to-face
in a personal experience.
So they serve God, if it can be called service, just because it is the thing to do.

Religion to with these people is just a matter of habit.
Going to church was established as a habit as a child, and the custom still continues
because habits are difficult to break.
These are the people who for some reason or other miss a few Sundays,
and then have no desire to return to church.
Their habit is broken.

These are those who must be visited frequently by the pastor, and begged by a visitation committee to return.
Their motive for service must be applied from without.
They are like a trailer which must be pulled up by a car.
There is no self-locomotion.
They are like the child who must be made to study because there is no inner love for learning.

Service for Reward – Job 1:1-12

Satan accused Job of serving God because of what he was getting from God.
Job had discovered that it paid to serve God, and he had become the most wealthy man in the East.
God had put a hedge around Job, and protected him in his house from all evil.

Because of this, Satan argued with his characteristic disregard for truth.
He expressed his opinion that if all of God's blessings were taken from Job,
that he would curse God to His face.
God was going to prove that Job's faithfulness was not from such a motive,
so He permitted Satan to remove Job's wealth, his children, and his health.
Job stood the test, and has become an example for all of us in difficult times.

However, the faith of many today would not stand such a test.
They are serving God because of the reward they expect to get.
Every reasonable, thinking person wants to go to heaven.
What a wonderful place it will be!
But is that reason enough for a person to serve God?

The reward of those who have given themselves to Christ is eternal life,
but is that the reward or the motive for service?
Could a person call that losing his life?
If one loses his life just so he can gain a reward, has he ever really lost it? (See Matthew 16:25)

To the person who follows Christ, there is also ample reward in this life.
The Christian's life has a happiness that God gives to every one of His children.
But do we serve Christ just so we can be happy?

That may be part of the reason, but that in itself it is only a small indication of a true knowledge
of the Christian experience.
The person who serves God only for the reward is similar to that of a girl who marries a man
only because of the money that he can give her.

If we serve God only for reward, and then when we are denied the material blessings of life,
we may lose our faith in and our loyalty to God.
Just so, many have come to doubt the goodness or even the reality of God.

We need the faith of the three Hebrew young men who, when faced with the alternative
of renouncing God or being cast into the fiery furnace, replied with unwavering conviction:
"If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy god's
." (Daniel 3:17-18.

Service from Fear – Numbers 22-25; 31:8-16

Balaam is an ancient example of a man who served God basically because of a fear of Him.
When the group from Moab came to buy his curses against Israel, Balaam took the matter to God.
Learning that God intended to bless the Israelites, Balaam gave his reply to the Moabites:
"The Lord refuseth to give me leave to go with you." (Numbers 22:13)

At first glance the reply seems that of a faithful prophet, but more careful reading
reveals the truth of the situation.
He was really saying, "I want to go; I would like to go, but I dare not go. God will not let me go."

Such an attitude toward God usually results in an effort to escape punishment,
and still follow one's fundamental desires.
Balaam finally became the Judas of the Old Testament.
He was slain by the Israelites for his treachery.

So the person who serves God from fear alone will think that he has escaped the judgments
of the Lord only to discover what he fears most is upon him.

If a person serves God simply from fear, he denies himself the greatest privileges of the Christian life
which is peace of mind and heart.
To desire the pleasures of the world but avoid them for fear of punishment from God
will bring constant conflicts into a person's soul.

It would be far better to learn to love to do the will and way of God, and find one's chief delight
in the pleasures provided by Him.
And then we are at peace with God, our fellow men, and with ourselves.

To serve God from fear is to misunderstand the whole being and purpose of God.
If God is our Father, He is most concerned with what brings happiness to His children.
He gains no pleasure in seeing His beloved children live in fear from His helping hand,
but He really longs for us to place our hand trustingly in His, and to follow Him wherever He leads,
knowing not only that the way of the cross leads home, but also that along that way
his rod and his staff will protect us.

The Approval of Fellow Men – Matthews 6:1-5

The heart of Jesus went out to those caught in the tangled web of their sin -- knowing their need of God,
but unable to find their way to Him.
But Jesus had no sympathy for the hypocrites -- those who pretended to know God,
but who were actually serving only to be seen of men.

Jesus said, "They have their reward" (Matthew 6:2)

All they desire is the approval of men.
So, they have received that, but they need not expect any further acknowledgment from God.

The charge of hypocrisy is often hurled at the leaders of churches today, but seldom with real cause.
Our longing for approval has taken on more refined ways of expression.
We really desire to do the will of God, but the approval of the world also means so much to us.
It is easier to work for God where everyone can see us than in a place where we are unappreciated
and forgotten.

It is so much easier to be a teacher of a Sunday school class – the center of the pupil's attention,
than to be one who quietly visits the forsaken and forgotten with words of cheer and comfort.

It has almost come to pass in America that in order to be a respectable citizen
a person must belong to some church.
How he lives is another question.
But if he does not belong to a church, he is the immediate target of the preachers sermons and visits,
and has his name on their prayer list.

Faced with such a predicament, more people than we realize will just throw up their hands
and join the church, simply to avoid the constant bother.
Their attitude is "Might as well get it over with."

With no real experience of salvation through Christ, this person gives in to the preacher's questions.
He is baptized, and continues to be the same sort of man that he was before.
But in the words of Jesus, "The last state of that man is worse than the first." (Matthew 12:45)

By Love Compelled – 2 Corinthians 5:14a

In writing to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul gives us the motive that every Christian
should have in his or her heart.
That motive is that "The love of Christ grips us."

The expression literally means "holds us together," and is best rendered by
"grips us so as to compel us to action."
This love he speaks of is the love of Christ for us.
When we think of what Christ has done for us, we are so gripped by it so much that we give Him
all of our love and devotion and service.

Love is the only adequate motive for Christian service.
We love Him because He first loved us.
So we do not need to be urged.
We do not strive to please our fellow man.
We seek always the will of God, and without thought of reward, give ourselves unreservedly
to our Lord and Savior who we truly love.

During World War II, an Army chaplain was assigned to the paratroop division.
Every time they went to battle there was always a full quota of men.
Very few of them ever came back alive.
And those who did were usually maimed – crippled for life.

One day the minister asked the commander the secret of his success with his men.
He immediately replied, "When the men first come to me, and they are all volunteers,
I tell them this, 'Men, it is not necessary that you be spared,
but it is necessary that you complete your mission
.'"

Unconsciously, that commander had caught the spirit of Christianity.
There is just one thing necessary for the Christian, and that is to complete the mission
for which God has sent us into the world.
Forgetting self, we must give ourselves unreservedly to the cause to which God has called us.

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White