What Motivates You to Serve God?
“You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.”—MARK 12:30.
1, 2. What thrilling things are being accomplished in connection with the preaching work?
THE true value of an automobile is not determined solely by its appearance. A coat of paint may enhance its exterior, and a sleek design may attract a potential buyer; but of far greater importance are the things that are not readily seen—the engine that propels the vehicle, along with all the other devices that control it.
2 It is similar with a Christian’s service to God. Jehovah’s Witnesses abound in godly works. Each year, more than a billion hours are spent preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. Furthermore, millions of Bible studies are conducted, and those being baptized number into the hundreds of thousands. If you are a proclaimer of the good news, you have had a share—even if seemingly small—in these thrilling statistics. And you can be assured that “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”—Hebrews 6:10.
3. What besides works should be of vital concern to Christians, and why?
3 However, the true value of our service—collectively or individually—is not measured solely in numbers. As Samuel was told, “mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Yes, it is what we are on the inside that counts with God. Granted, works are essential. Deeds of godly devotion adorn the teaching of Jehovah and attract potential disciples. (Matthew 5:14-16; Titus 2:10; 2 Peter 3:11) Yet, our works do not tell the whole story. The resurrected Jesus had cause for concern regarding the congregation at Ephesus—despite their record of good works. “I know your deeds,” he told them. “Nevertheless, I hold this against you, that you have left the love you had at first.”—Revelation 2:1-4.
4. (a) In what way could our service to God become like a dutiful ritual? (b) Why is there a need for self-examination?
4 A danger exists. Over a period of time, our service to God could become like a dutiful ritual. One Christian woman described it this way: “I would go out in service, go to meetings, study, pray—but I did it all on automatic control, never feeling anything.” Of course, God’s servants are to be commended when they exert themselves despite feeling “thrown down” or “laid low.” (2 Corinthians 4:9; 7:6) Nevertheless, when our Christian routine falls into a rut, we need to peer inside at the engine, as it were. Even the best of automobiles need periodic maintenance; similarly, all Christians need to make regular self-examination. (2 Corinthians 13:5) Others can see our works, but they cannot discern what drives our actions. Each of us, therefore, should be concerned with the question: ‘What motivates me to serve God?’
Obstacles to Proper Motivation
5. What command did Jesus say was first of all?
5 When asked which of the laws given to Israel was first of all, Jesus quoted a command that focused, not on outer appearance, but on inner motive: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.” (Mark 12:28-30) Jesus thus identified what should be the driving force behind our service to God—love.
6, 7. (a) In what way has Satan insidiously attacked the family circle, and why? (2 Corinthians 2:11) (b) How can upbringing affect one’s attitude toward divine authority?
6 Satan wants to impede our ability to cultivate the vital quality of love. To accomplish this, one method he has employed is to attack the family circle. Why? Because this is where our first and most enduring impressions about love are formed. Satan well knows the Biblical principle that what is learned in childhood can be of value in adulthood. (Proverbs 22:6) He insidiously attempts to distort our concept of love at an early age. As “god of this system of things,” Satan sees his purposes well served when many grow up in homes that are not havens of love but battlegrounds of bitterness, wrath, and abusive speech.—2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 4:31, 32; 6:4, footnote; Colossians 3:21.
7 The book Making Your Family Life Happy observed that the way a father handles his parental role “can have a marked effect on his children’s later attitude toward authority, both human and divine.”* One Christian man who was raised under the heavy hand of a harsh father admits: “For me, obeying Jehovah is easy; loving him is much more difficult.” Of course, obedience is vital, for in God’s eyes “to obey is better than a sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22) But what can help us to move beyond mere obedience and cultivate love for Jehovah as the motivating force behind our worship?
“The Love the Christ Has Compels Us”
8, 9. How should Jesus’ ransom sacrifice stir our love for Jehovah?
8 The greatest stimulus to cultivating wholehearted love for Jehovah is an appreciation for Jesus Christ’s ransom sacrifice. “By this the love of God was made manifest in our case, because God sent forth his only-begotten Son into the world that we might gain life through him.” (1 John 4:9) Once we understand and appreciate it, this act of love elicits a reaction of love. “We love, because [Jehovah] first loved us.”—1 John 4:19.
9 Jesus willingly accepted his assignment to serve as man’s Savior. “By this we have come to know love, because that one surrendered his soul for us.” (1 John 3:16; John 15:13) Jesus’ self-sacrificing love should evoke an appreciative response in us. To illustrate: Suppose you had been rescued from drowning. Could you just go home, dry off, and forget about it? Of course not! You would feel indebted to the person who rescued you. After all, you owe that person your life. Do we owe Jehovah God and Jesus Christ any less? Without the ransom, each of us would drown, as it were, in sin and death. Instead, because of this great act of love, we have the prospect of living forever on a paradise earth.—Romans 5:12, 18; 1 Peter 2:24.
10. (a) How can we make the ransom something personal? (b) How does the love Christ has compel us?
10 Meditate on the ransom. Take it personally, as did Paul: “Indeed, the life that I now live in flesh I live by the faith that is toward the Son of God, who loved me and handed himself over for me.” (Galatians 2:20) Such reflection will kindle heartfelt motivation, for Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “The love the Christ has compels us, because . . . he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised up.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15) The Jerusalem Bible says that Christ’s love “overwhelms us.” When we contemplate Christ’s love, we are compelled, deeply moved, even overwhelmed. It touches our hearts and moves us to action. As J. B. Phillips’ translation paraphrases it, “the very spring of our actions is the love of Christ.” Any other type of motivation will not produce lasting fruitage in us, as shown by the example of the Pharisees.
“Watch Out for the Leaven of the Pharisees”
11. Describe the Pharisees’ attitude toward religious works.
11 The Pharisees took all the life out of worship of God. Instead of stressing love for God, they emphasized works as the measuring stick for spirituality. Their preoccupation with detailed rules made them appear righteous on the outside, but inside they were “full of dead men’s bones and of every sort of uncleanness.”—Matthew 23:27.
12. After Jesus cured a man, how did the Pharisees show themselves to be insensible at heart?
12 On one occasion Jesus compassionately cured a man whose hand was dried up. How happy this man must have been to experience the instantaneous healing of an ailment that undoubtedly caused much physical and emotional discomfort! Yet, the Pharisees did not rejoice with him. Instead, they nitpicked over a technicality—that Jesus had rendered aid on the Sabbath. Preoccupied with their technical interpretation of the Law, the Pharisees completely missed the spirit of the Law. No wonder Jesus was “thoroughly grieved at the insensibility of their hearts”! (Mark 3:1-5) Furthermore, he warned his disciples: “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6) Their actions and attitudes are exposed in the Bible for our benefit.
13. What lesson is there for us in the example of the Pharisees?
13 The example of the Pharisees teaches us that we need to have a reasonable view of works. Indeed, works are vital, for “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) However, imperfect humans have a tendency to judge others by what they do rather than by what they are. At times, we may even judge ourselves this way. We may become obsessed with performance, as if this were the sole criterion of our spirituality. We could forget the importance of examining our motives. (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:12.) We might become rigid legalists who “strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel,” obeying the letter of the law while violating its intent.—Matthew 23:24.
14. How were the Pharisees like an unclean cup or dish?
14 What the Pharisees did not comprehend is that if a person truly loves Jehovah, acts of godly devotion will follow naturally. Spirituality flows from the inside to the outside. Jesus strongly denounced the Pharisees for their erroneous thinking in this regard, saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of plunder and immoderateness. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside of it also may become clean.”—Matthew 23:25, 26.
15. Cite examples showing that Jesus looks beyond appearances.
15 The outer appearance of a cup, a dish, or even a building reveals only so much. Jesus’ disciples were awestruck by the beauty of Jerusalem’s temple, which Jesus called “a cave of robbers” because of what was going on inside. (Mark 11:17; 13:1) What was true of the temple is true of millions of professed Christians, as the record of Christendom shows. Jesus said that he would judge some who performed “powerful works” in his name to be “workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22, 23) In stark contrast, he said of a widow who contributed an almost negligible amount of money at the temple: “This poor widow dropped in more than all those dropping money into the treasury chests . . . She, out of her want, dropped in all of what she had, her whole living.” (Mark 12:41-44) Inconsistent judgments? Not at all. In both situations, Jesus reflected Jehovah’s view. (John 8:16) He saw the motives behind the works and judged accordingly.
“Each One According to His Own Ability”
16. Why do we not need always to compare our activity with that of another Christian?
16 If our motives are proper, there is no need constantly to make comparisons. For example, little good is accomplished by competitively striving to spend the same amount of time in the ministry that another Christian does or to match that one’s accomplishments in preaching. Jesus said to love Jehovah with your whole heart, mind, soul, and strength—not someone else’s. Each person’s abilities, stamina, and circumstances differ. If your situation permits, love will motivate you to spend much time in the ministry—perhaps even as a full-time pioneer minister. If you are battling an illness, however, the time you spend in the ministry may be less than you would wish. Do not be discouraged. Faithfulness to God is not measured in hours. Having pure motives, you will have reason for joy. Paul wrote: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”—Galatians 6:4.
17. In your own words, briefly relate the parable of the talents.
17 Consider Jesus’ parable of the talents, as recorded at Matthew 25:14-30. A man who was about to travel abroad summoned his slaves and committed his belongings to them. “To one he gave five talents, to another two, to still another one, to each one according to his own ability.” When the master returned to settle accounts with his slaves, what did he find? The slave who had been given five talents gained five talents more. Similarly, the slave who had been given two talents gained two talents more. The slave who had been given one talent buried it in the ground and did nothing to increase his master’s wealth. What was the master’s assessment of the situation?
18, 19. (a) Why did the master not compare the slave given two talents with the slave given five talents? (b) What does the parable of the talents teach us about commendation and comparisons? (c) Why was the third slave judged adversely?
18 First, let us consider the slaves who were given five and two talents respectively. To each of these slaves, the master said: “Well done, good and faithful slave!” Would he have said this to the slave with five talents if that one had gained only two? Unlikely! On the other hand, he did not say to the slave who gained two talents: ‘Why did you not gain five? Why, look at your fellow slave and how much he gained for me!’ No, the compassionate master, who pictured Jesus, did not make comparisons. He assigned the talents “to each one according to his own ability,” and he expected nothing more back than what each one could give. Both slaves got equal commendation, for both worked whole-souled for their master. All of us can learn from this.
19 Of course, the third slave was not commended. In fact, he was thrown into the darkness outside. Having received but one talent, he would not have been expected to produce as much as the slave with five talents. He, though, did not even try! His adverse judgment was ultimately because of his “wicked and sluggish” heart attitude, which betrayed a lack of love for the master.
20. How does Jehovah view our limitations?
20 Jehovah expects each of us to love him with our whole strength, yet how heartwarming it is that “he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust”! (Psalm 103:14) Proverbs 21:2 says that “Jehovah is making an estimate of hearts”—not of statistics. He understands any limitations over which we have no control, whether they are financial, physical, emotional, or otherwise. (Isaiah 63:9) At the same time, he expects us to make the most of all the resources that we may have. Jehovah is perfect, but when dealing with his imperfect worshipers, he is not a perfectionist. He is neither unreasonable in his dealings nor unrealistic in his expectations.
21. If our service to God is motivated by love, what good results will follow?
21 Loving Jehovah with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength is “worth far more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33) If we are motivated by love, then we will do all we can in God’s service. Peter wrote that if godly qualities, including love, “exist in you and overflow, they will prevent you from being either inactive or unfruitful regarding the accurate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—2 Peter 1:8.
Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
◻ What should be the driving force behind our service to God?
◻ How does the love of Christ compel us to serve Jehovah?
◻ What preoccupation of the Pharisees must we avoid?
◻ Why is it unwise to keep comparing our service with that of another Christian?
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The abilities, stamina, and circumstances of individuals differ