Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Right Stuff

It seems like I am getting bounced on every side the past few days about motives. Sunday afternoon Pastor Johnson spoke about worshipping for the wrong reasons. Not long before, I was speaking with a friend about a similar thing. My friend was saying about how in his past he has been one who greatly desired the spotlight and praise of others and how he is now fearful of doing things and being motivated by that desire and not the desire to glorify God. This week I am working on reading and recording the book of Matthew for my Mom on CD. In doing my reading and studying, I am struck by the life of Jesus. To my knowledge there is never. . . ever. . . ever any hint of Jesus doing anything for a less than holy and pure motive. We have four independent records of His life and never even a wisp of an indication that for three and a half years that He ever acted upon any selfish or sinful desire.

To be honest with you I'm not sure that I can go three and a half waking hours without acting on an ungodly motive. Our days are filled with desires and motivations each pulling and tugging at us in every different direction. Some of these desires are good, some bad. . . some we act upon, most we don't. Maybe that's horribly obvious to everyone else, but I don't usually think about it in that way.

At any given moment, I have different desires, many many different things motivating me, pulling me in different directions. Right now, my ear hurts and I want to escape that. I'm hungry and I would like nothing better than a big chocolate bar or a deliciously greasy Ally-Oops bacon/double cheeseburger and a pile of very salty fries, topped off with one of their thick chocolate shakes slathered with whipped cream and a cherry on top, while I'm dreaming I want the waitress to have to use two hands to carry that milkshake container to the table. . . The grapefruit and banana sitting here on my desk are a ways down the list, but I am also motivated by a desire to avoid going on insulin shots and to do that I must lose more weight. . . so I'm pulled, motivated in another direction. . . the banana and grapefruit are looking better and better. I would love nothing more than to just take off and spend the afternoon knee-deep in muck taking butterfly pictures in a swamp, but the thought of my mortgage company and various other financial obligations motivate me to stay here at work for the rest of the afternoon. . . I feel almost a compulsion, a rising within me, a very strong push to say the things in my head, in my heart. I am desiring to communicate with you therefore I am writing. . . typing during my lunch hour. What is the motivation there?

Since I awoke this morning the pressure has been building. As I drove to work, thoughts kept popping into my head, things I need to say. Today it finds its release a lunchtime, at other times it is in the middle of the night. I get up out of bed with ideas flowing from my head, driving Jackie a little crazy. I must write but what is my motivation for writing? Like my friend, who I was speaking with, I too in the past have been greatly motivated by a desire for, a craving for recognition and praise. And likewise, similar to my friend, I have struggled with measuring my own motivation for my actions. A little voice at times speaks to me, tells me that I'm just doing, whatever you name it: writing, taking pictures, worshipping, testifying, praying, any act of kindness or giving for the recognition and thanks that I will receive and not for pure and Godly reasons.

When this little voice of self doubt first started speaking to me, a number of years ago, at times it actually handcuffed me into doing nothing. I felt it preferable to do nothing, rather than to take the risk that my motive was less than what it should be. For a time, I would not testify for fear that people would think that I was just wanting the spotlight and attention for myself and not to give glory to God. I felt self-conscious worshipping. I was sure that people thought that I was doing it just to show off. My fear of the disdain and/or rejection of others was the my first thought, but then I began to wonder if these imaginarily critical people were right? I know that I have those seeds within me. Maybe those unknown, faceless people of my dreams were correct? I was spiraling into permanent paralysis. . .

How do I tell? Motive surely is important. Almost any action can be Godly or sinful depending on the motive behind it. That is not to say that there are not some things that are always wrong. Much of the world would have you think otherwise, but not every action can be justified by supposedly pure motives, but almost any action that on the surface of it appears to be Godly and righteous can be tainted and thereby made sinful by impure motives:

Luke 18:10-14
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

It is certain that praying is usually an honorable activity, but praying with the wrong motive is not. Over and over Jesus with different examples and parables emphasized that giving, keeping the Sabbath, worship, etc. were all goodly Godly and wonderful things. . . if done with the correct motive. An incorrect motive would corrupt them all.

I ask again, "How do I tell, by what motive I am acting?" I ran across this little passage by Thomas Kempis in his classic devotional book Imitation of Christ chapter XX paragraph 2. a few years ago:

No man safely goeth abroad who loveth not to rest at home.
No man safely talketh but he who loveth to hold his peace.
No man safely ruleth but he who loveth to be subject.
No man safely commandeth but he who loveth to obey.

This little book is a small treasure that I found at Goodwill. The original was written some 75 years before Columbus discovered America. The copy I found at GW was published somewhere about 1860. It is an awesome little book. (At the used book rack at GoodWill. . . Thank you LORD!!!) Anyway, when thinking about this today I found this little passage to be very encouraging to me.

I believe that everyone has the seeds of vanity and pride and self-glory within them. Some undoubtedly more than others, but to an extent I believe we all must be ware of those pitfalls. Having them within us and being aware of them is surely less of a danger than denying that they are there at all. As Pastor spoke Sunday, worship is dangerous. It exposes you in many ways, smimlarly as does teaching and preaching.

Maybe this is too philosophical, but I wonder if maybe one of the first crucial steps in becoming a good preacher, is to lose the love of preaching. . . Am I drawing too fine a line here? Maybe if I slightly modify the words of Mr. Kempis:

No man safely preaches but he who hath learned to love to hold his peace.

I think if we are healthy that we all have self-doubts. A sure way to fall, is to never examine the trail you are on for pitfalls and roots. I think it is important for us to always be examining our motives for unpure leanings. I don't mean to say that I'm some wizened old man who has been doing this for decades, but I can remember back when I first began going to the jail and maybe for a couple of years after that, how I sat in many meetings there wishing that I were speaking that night and what I might talk about or how I might differently present the topic.

Rather than allowing myself to be ministered to and listening to the Word of God, I would spend my time minstering to my own love of preaching. I think with time has come a greater maturity and without doubt a more godly perspective. There are times when the urge. . . a message. . . comes upon me so strongly I feel like I am going to explode and when that occurs God always provides an opportunity to speak whether it be to one or to a roomful. That is the way He is. He isn't going to give you something to say without also giving you someone to say it to.

I've wandered a long ways away from where I started down this little road, but to bring it back home, I used to question myself and as I said, at times I would keep quiet in my doubt as to my motives. That though, is a victory for the enemy. God has given us abilities, testimonies and a heart for Him that needs to worship and sing praises to Him. If I allow myself to be intimidated by the imagined criticisms of others, if I sit muzzled and handcuffed by my doubts and fears, that is a victory for the dark one. Though I recognize and am very much aware that I have those seeds within me. . . (there is always a grain of truth in the evil ones questions or logic, but it is not to be forgotten that he without fail is the father of lies). . .

I do not worship, or testify, or speak in order that I might collect praises or recognition. . .

I do those things in spite of my questions. . .in the face of my fears . . .and in victory over my self-doubts. . . .

God is so good!!!

I love you Lord. . .


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

aren't kempis's words so inspiring? i ran across some of his writings at http://www.gitananda.org/unity/index.php