Serving God Or People: Which Is It?

By Ryan Shaw

What is our primary motivator for involvement in the great commission?

Multitudes of factors play a role in believers becoming activated in the great commission. Not all of them are helpful or healthy. And some of them can actually be a great spiritual hindrance over time.

Motives are important to the Lord. The reasons we do something are as important as what we do. Are we seeking to fulfill ourselves, meet our own needs or gain a name through our work?

A very common motivation for involvement in cross-cultural mission is the sheer needs of the world. We see the poverty, warfare, refugees, disease, tsunamis, slavery, trafficking and more and our hearts are moved. This is right, yet secondary.

Our primary motivation must not be the needs of people but our wholehearted desire to obey Jesus and align our lives according to His will! This primary motivation has often been superseded by the secondary motivation, bringing great harm.

It is unfortunate that many of our organizational brochures and presentations go to great lengths to pull on our heart strings through images of the poor and destitute. Even as ministries we often minimize the highest priority by focusing on the secondary priority.

God loves the poor and is absolutely committed to seeing true believers serving and loving people who are in need. Yet, biblically, this is never to be our primary motivation.

Instead we are primarily motivated by bringing great glory to Jesus through obediently following Him and welcoming Him to fill our dead hearts with His own love for others.

Our life’s mandate is to daily grow in loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Out of this ever-flowing fountain of love, we are moved with His compassion for others. We step out, filled with His love, to serve people and their needs.

Serving out of the motive of obeying Jesus produces a pure love. It is His love, not our own. This is very different from the ‘soulish’ love produced by human sympathy for people and their needs.

The world doesn’t need believers motivated by human compassion. They need believers committed to the highest levels of obedience to God, who allows the Holy Spirit to fill them with His empowering and be the true hands and feet of Jesus.

The sooner we come to the conclusion that people don’t need us, the better. People need Jesus and He has chosen to meet their needs through a bride who is abandoned to Him in surrendered love.

Serving people out of Jesus’ love fills our hearts with deep satisfaction, while trying to serve them from our own reservoir of human strength, leaves us disillusioned and burnt out. We may be successful for a season but not for the long haul of a lifetime of surrendered service.

God has called His people to participate with Him in the fulfillment of the great commission. This is His will! We do so because we long to be obedient to the Living God and partner with Him in His eternal plans.

We are here to serve and obey God, not people. In the outworking of this obedience, we inevitably serve people, but this serving has its source from a very different place then when we simply set out to serve people.

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