November 21, 2017

Right and Wrong Motives in the Ministry

Jerry Sivnksty

FrontLine • March/April 2008

Image result for diotrephesThe American College Dictionary defines motive as “something that prompts a person to act in a certain way or that determines volition; an incentive. The goal or object of one’s actions.” Every child of God must seriously weigh his motives in serving the Lord. There are many examples in Scripture of individuals who had wrong motives. In 3 John 9, 10 we read,

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

Here is a man in the Bible who craved preeminence over other believers. He was a dictator in his dealings with people— he cast many out of the church and would not receive them. He is the prime example of an egotist.

Recently, a man told me of a church that has been without a pastor for over a year because one man in that church is controlling the calling of a new pastor. What is his motive? The same as Diotrophes! He wants to have preeminence over the church.

Many years ago, I stayed with a dear elderly lady in a southern state during a week of meetings in her church. The people affectionately called her “Aunt Duck,” and she was quite a feisty lady. She was in her late seventies and rode a large version of a tricycle. She would pull up beside the cars of teenagers and call out, “You want to race me to the next light?”

She told me the story of her brother who always did things in the church for human recognition. One Sunday morning the pastor made an announcement that there was an urgent financial need. Aunt Duck said that her brother jumped up in front of the congregation, pulled out a fifty dollar bill, began waving it in front of everyone, and said, “I will give fifty dollars for that need!” Aunt Duck said she was so embarrassed that she slid all the way down in her pew. When they got home she said to him, “Do you know what I’m going to do to you when you’re lying in your casket? I’m going to put a big sign in your dead hands that says, ‘I came into this world empty and I am leaving it empty!’”

The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:12, 13, “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest.” Each one of us can build upon Christ with either good works or works that are good for nothing. The wood, hay, and stubble are works that are good for nothing— serving the Lord for preeminence, human recognition, and man’s applause. I cannot judge a person’s motives because I cannot see his heart, but the Lord can! First Samuel 16:7 says, “For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” The gold, silver and precious stones mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3:12 are works rendered unto the Lord out pure motives of love, submission, and obedience to God’s Word.

My heart was deeply stirred when I talked with Pastor and Mrs. John Herniman down in Orangeburg, South Carolina. They were missionaries in Africa for many years. They had three daughters, two of whom contracted malaria and died. Several years later, the Hernimans had to leave the field because of health problems. One day as I was in their home I was full of questions after I heard of the death of their two daughters. Their third daughter, Esther, was sixteen by this time. I turned to Mrs. Herniman and asked, “How could you stay in Africa after the death of your two daughters, knowing that Esther also could have contracted malaria and died? What kept you there?” Mrs. Herniman smiled, and tears glistened in her eyes as she quoted 2 Corinthians 5:14: “For the love of Christ constraineth us.” No human may remember the sacrifice of this dear lady in Africa, but the Lord does. He knew that her motive was one of sincere love for Him.

In one of our meetings I met a young man who recently had been saved. He told me how he had read the entire New Testament as well as Psalms and Proverbs. He was overwhelmed with the privilege of being saved. He looked at me and said, “You know, I would count it an honor if I could just sweep floors for the Lord!” I was touched by the sincerity of this young man. There was no pretense, no false piety — he simply wanted to serve his Savior.

It would be well for all of us to examine our lives and evaluate our motives in serving the Lord. Are we trying to impress people? Are we trying to build a name? Are we trying to manipulate people to see what we can get out of them? In our preaching, are we trying to create an atmosphere by playing on people’s emotions? Are we giving invitations with the motive of boasting over decisions? Do we want the spotlight on us?

No one can answer these questions except you. You have to examine your own motives. Paul said in Galatians 6:14, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”


Evangelist Jerry Sivnksty may be contacted at PO Box 141, Starr, SC 29684.

(Originally published in FrontLine • March/April 2008. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.)


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