Can We Enjoy Serving Christ?
Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words they deceive innocent people.
Several years ago, I was struggling to define more clearly my sense of calling. I had been serving the Lord as a pastor for many years. I loved most of my pastoral work, but felt especially fulfilled when I was studying, teaching, and writing about God’s truth in Scripture and its implications for our lives. I found myself less enamored with some of the administrative duties associated with pastoral ministry, tasks for which my personality and gifting were not ideally suited. I wondered if God might be calling me to a new focus for my pastoral ministry, one that used my gifts and talents more effectively. (At the time, I never imagined I’d be leaving parish ministry and coming to Laity Lodge. But that story must wait for another time.)
Yet I seriously questioned my motivations. Verses like Romans 16:18 challenged me to consider why I wanted to spend more time with some pastoral tasks than with others. Was I responding to God’s call? Or was I serving my own personal interests, to use the language of verse 18? Was I unwilling to take up my cross and follow Jesus, even if that cross, for me, meant managing budgets and writing reports, rather than communicating God’s Word? Did I have any right to believe that I should enjoy serving Christ?
On Monday I’ll seek to answer this question more directly. Today I want to pay close attention to the language of Romans 16:18. When Paul criticizes certain people as not serving Christ but instead serving “their own personal interests,” he uses the Greek word koilia. Literally, this word referred to the digestive system. Figuratively, it denoted one’s base desires. The self-serving ministers whom Paul criticizes were not taking delight in being used by God for his work. Rather, they were using ministry as a means of gaining fleshly pleasures, perhaps power or glory or money.
All of us who serve the Lord must, with God’s help, scrutinize our hearts, because all of us have mixed motives. Our Christian service should be first and foremost for the Lord. Yet Romans 16:18 does not negate the possibility of feeling joy in serving Christ. I’ll say more about this in Monday’s reflection.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What motivates you to serve the Lord . . . really? In what ways does ministry give you pleasure? Do you think it’s right for people to enjoy serving Christ? Why or why not?
PRAYER: O Lord, I’m only too aware of how much my own selfish desires guide my life, including my service to you. Forgive me for the times when I have let my baser nature impact my ministry.
Help me, Lord, to serve you with pure motives. Help me to be willing to endure difficulty, even suffering and sacrifice, for the sake of your kingdom. Give me wisdom to sort out my motivations, so that I might root out anything that is contrary to your purposes.
Give me wisdom to know when it’s right to enjoy serving you. Shape my soul so that I might find greatest joy in your work. Amen.