You’ve seen it happen. Many a leader begins a ministry with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy, an utter dependence on God. The challenges of those early days are approached with a spiritual posture face down before God, crying out for His grace and wisdom. Every challenge is immediately brought to the Lord. Issues are bathed in prayer. R. A. Torrey once wrote, “To talk with God means to live in God’s presence and in conscious communication with Him, to live in the real and constant companionship of God.” Counsel from others is humbly sought and carefully evaluated. The teachable spirit that results is exactly what God honors. Others sense that selfless motive. Churches are planted. Souls are saved. The brethren mature. Reproduction takes place. Growth occurs. The ministry is effective for God. Motive in ministry. But in time, with subtlety, the selfless, utter dependence on God is chipped away by the lust of external measures of effectiveness. Selflessness is replaced in time by self-reliance. More and more, challenges that come along are cast in the perspective of reoccurrences of past events. Decisions are replays of prior courses of action, and Who provided that original insight is all too often forgotten. The dependence on God is replaced by an independence of self. Motive in ministry.
It happens! It happens even to the best of us. It happened to Solomon. He began with a perspective of God and self that was right on target. He began with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy: “I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in” (I Kings 3:7). In utter dependency on God, Solomon cried out and asked, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: For who is able to judge this thy so great a people?” (I Kings 3:9). On God’s heart is what is on your heart, and such a pure motive as Solomon’s pleased the Lord. So He gave wisdom of such depth that it was unlike any that had ever or would ever exist. When Solomon prayed in dedication of God’s temple, he exhorted his people and himself to faithfulness, “…That all the people of the earth may know that the Lord is God, and that there is none else” (I Kings 8:60). Solomon’s ministry prospered and grew to enormous proportions.
But Solomon’s motives began to erode. On the heels of spending seven and one-half years building God’s house, Solomon spent thirteen years building his own (I Kings 6:38 and 7:1). When the Queen of Sheba came to visit him to see firsthand the incredible claims she had heard, what Solomon did is revealing: he showed her his wisdom, his palace, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the number of his cupbearers and his extensive offerings made to the Lord. The Queen of Sheba did not see the glory of God, she saw the glory of Solomon. Solomon’s priority was on outward appearances as opposed to the condition of his inner heart. Despite God’s command to the contrary, Solomon kept a thousand women (I Kings 11:3), and soon his heart was turned away to other gods: to Ashtoreth, to Chemosh, to Molech. The result: God removed Solomon’s kingdom from him (I Kings 11:9). Motive in ministry.
Where am I in this battle? Am I beginning to lean on my own understanding? Has the focus on my own limitations and need for God grown blurred? Has my desperate, utter dependence on God and His power shifted to a prideful self-reliance? Do I have an Ashtoreth, a Chemosh or a Molech in my life?
Eroding motives in ministry. Where are you in this battle, my friend? It never happens quickly. The evil one is too wise for that. Far more progressive and far more subtle, it sneaks up on us inch by inch and yard by yard till one day our self-reliant pride has put scales on our eyes. We can no longer see the slippery slope we are on or the shift that is occurring. I once preached in an Australian mission church planted twenty-five years prior. The hosting missionary praised God that thirty-five people came! I thought a lot about the faithful, steadfast journey that dear brother had most assuredly taken. That he was unmovable is clearly a testimony to the purity of his motive in ministry.
May God keep us in constant touch with the Author and Provider of our ministry upon Whom we are so completely dependent.
Motive in ministry. What is yours?