Have you ever felt like a hypocrite – not because of your actions but because of your thoughts? It’s the kind of thing that’s easy to conceal from everyone except God and yourself. It’s happened to me a lot over the years. One of those times really stands out… and it involved serving.
Good friends of ours were putting on a ministry event that we felt was important. I casually mentioned to them that I would be willing to help if they needed it… and they took me up on my offer. I soon found that my role would be very important to them and the long-term goals they had in view.
The event was being held in the southern US during the winter… not a bad thing when you live in northern Minnesota. In fact, there were a number of positives about taking the trip. But when it came time to work on the travel and lodging arrangements, I began to realize that this was going to be costly. I had assumed my friends would be taking care of these things, but I was wrong. And it wasn’t my best moment when I realized it.
All sorts of thoughts began to swirl around in my mind. Foremost was the fact that I was coming to work, not to take in the event. There was quite a price tag for participants and we were not in a financial position to spend lots of money. I was willing to offer a week of my time and expertise, but if it cost much more than that, the pleasure of helping would quickly morph into pain. What made matters worse was my impression that they could easily afford to bring me down and take care of me while I was there. To be honest, I felt taken advantage of and was bothered by the whole thing.
Enter my conscience. What was the matter with me? I was the one who volunteered to help… and I did so without conditions. Why was I complaining in my heart? Could it be that my motives weren’t what they should be? Was I willing to help on the basis of how it might benefit me? I’m embarrassed to think about it.
Being aware of this conflict in my heart, I didn’t want dishonor the Lord. I wanted to serve well… and the Lord blessed. As it turned out, there was eternal value to what we were involved in. Some great things took place, and it was rich to be a part of it. As I look back on it, I believe that the Lord wanted me there… not just to serve, but to learn.
There’s nothing wrong with counting the cost, and frankly, I shouldn’t have been so presumptuous. We need to be good stewards of the resources that God has given us. But when we’ve committed ourselves to something that God is in, we should serve with all our heart… as unto the Lord. By it’s very nature there’s a price tag associated with serving. There’s also some wonderful benefits if we serve well. This is what I’m getting at… when we put our hand to the plow to help someone else, it’s not time to lament, whine, or brood over what it may cost us. It’s time to serve the Lord… and to serve Him with gladness (Ps 100:2).
God is concerned not only with what we’re doing, but how and why we’re doing it. It’s a matter of character, and character is very important to Him. Jesus is the perfect example of serving despite what it cost Him. We read in His word: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (NKJV)
Jesus is our role model. He set the standard for serving. The task He was called to cost Him more than we can imagine. But He did it humbly and willingly. God calls us to have the same mind as Him. What a challenge! I want to approach the opportunities that God gives me just as my Savior did… selflessly. But I know myself. This is something I can only do in God’s strength. And when I do, my thoughts, desires, and actions will be without hypocrisy when serving costs more than I expected.
Some lessons in this:
- Count the cost before committing
- Check my motives/attitude before the Lord
- If the Lord is leading me to serve, then I should serve willingly – no matter what the cost
- Serve the Lord – not others
- Allow the difficulties we face while serving to remind us of why we are there