Last night I was finishing off the dishes before going to bed. It had been a long day. I had worked for 8 hours and had some follow-up work to do. My children also returned from camp so it was great to spend time with them. I also spent some time trying to teach my two youngest children how to ride their bikes in 33 degree (celsius) weather. Needless to say the dishes were the low priority.
My wife is nine months pregnant and is finding it hard to do anything so she had slipped into bed. As I also contemplated bed I surveyed the kitchen and wrestled with the idea of washing the dishes. I was tired but at the same time I did not want my wife waking up to the discouragement of cleaning the kitchen. With the motivation of love I turned my back on my bed and set upon cleaning the kitchen.
I was on my fourth and last drainer load of dishes when my wife emerged from the bedroom. Apparently the kitchen light woke her. She looked exhausted but she saw what I was doing and grabbed a dish towel to join me on my last bit of dishes. I am always glad when my wife and I work together, side by side to finish our goals, but at that moment I felt robbed.
I felt robbed from the glory of completing this entire task on my own. It was a service offered in love and I was glad to do it. What kept me going to finish the task was the delight I knew it would bring to my wife but now I would be unable to say that I had completed this on my own so she wouldn't have to.
Maybe you know what I am talking about. Not everyone does.
I sometimes feel that way about the things I do for Jesus. I enjoy a challenge, putting my hand to something that is bigger than I am. I find great joy in offering up a sacrifice of time and effort to my King. I imagine his voice as I hear those words "Well done". I don't think anything will ever compare to hearing those words from Jesus.
Some people look at that and they misunderstand. They think it is about earning our way to salvation or trying to bribe God with our behaviour. It has nothing to do with any of that. Our salvation is by the grace of God, the work of the cross and can never be earned by us. It is a gift, freely offered and freely received. But such gifts provoke things in people.
The blessing of salvation provokes such a deep sense of love and gratitude for the giver that we gladly pledge our life to the King. We want to spend all of our days serving him, not to earn anything, but to bring him delight, to bless our God. I have no interest in receiving anything from Jesus other than what he has already given and to hear those incredible words from his lips.
It is the same thing that had Paul face and overcome all of his challenges. It is how he took on tasks that were beyond him and why he never backed down from anything. Paul was a driven man however he was not driven by ambition but instead by love.
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul was explaining to them that he had every right to their financial support. He was an apostle and as an apostle they owed him but he would not accept such support from them. In fact, he would rather die than accept such support because this was part of his act of service to his King. What a joy it was for him to earn his own way by the work of his hands so he could preach the good news with no cost to those who would hear it. Paul says:
"If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it." (1 Corinthians 9:17-18)
Some will understand this and some will not. Some will know what it is to do something beyond the sense of duty, with a desire for nothing more than expressing love. Some will understand why I refused my wife's help last night and gently returned her to bed. It was nothing more than to complete the task of love I had set my heart to do.
It is a joy to serve the Lord in hard times and with challenges beyond me. It is a pleasure to set upon a difficult task, overcoming great obstacles and beating the odds knowing it is something I do in love for my King. I understand Paul when he says:
"I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:15-16)
Compelled indeed. So do not judge another man's work. His motivation may be beyond your own understanding. Check your on motivation for the things you do and press on my friends! Press on in your service to our King! And may your motivation become something greater than duty.