Do I Serve to Please Others, Myself, or God?

I shut the cover on my laptop after facilitating a zoom webinar. Was I good enough? Did I say the right thing? They must really think I’m stupid. That was surely a waste of their time. I hope they still like me.

The Holy Spirit quickly asked me the same question posed by the apostle Paul:

Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!

Galatians 1:10

I know that God has called me to sincerely and deeply love others and help them as I have been helped. However, sometimes I minister to fill my own empty places. Even after many years of mentoring and teaching others, I regularly need to evaluate my motives for serving.

Am I serving to please others? To please myself because serving meets my need to be needed? Or to please God?

These differences can be subtle so I ask myself some tough questions:

  • Am I getting strokes by participating in this ministry?
  • Do I need to be recognized for what I do?
  • Do I feel a failure if I haven’t given great advice?
  • Do I seek only dynamic or dramatic ways to minister?
  • Do I always have to be “spiritual” and talk about “spiritual” things?
  • Do I always have to be upbeat and happy?
  • Do I hide my real self in front of my mentees?
  • Do I need to be everybody’s friend?
  • Do I need to be liked by everyone?
  • Is my self-image wrapped up in this program?

I also consider what emotions and feelings rise in me when another shares their deep needs and hurts.

  • Do I feel the need to fix them? Mother them? Adopt them? Take care of them? Correct them? Put them in their place? Give them advice?
  • Does it make me flashback to my childhood and cause me to weep, not for them, but for my own unresolved hurt?

If I answer “yes” to many of these questions, it is time for some self-reflection and confession. Approaching my ministry this way can harm the one I desire to help. Instead I want to model healthy relationships and appropriate boundaries to those I serve.

While we acknowledge that we won’t have pure motives all the time, let’s constantly examine ourselves so that we focus on serving the Lord, not ourselves, and pleasing him, not others. We all have blocks or hurdles to overcome due to holes left in our lives as we grew up, false messages that we internalized, and different ways we were hurt. Begin to pray and journal your responses to the above questions. Ask the Holy Spirit, our counselor, to help you do the work necessary for healing and growth. Ask him to fill you with himself so that you do not expect your ministry to fill you.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, my counselor. I need your help to accurately evaluate myself. You know the thoughts and intents of my heart so I ask you to reveal them to me today as I examine my motives for serving you in my sphere of influence. Show me the path to walk so that I please only you.

Eva has been teaching and mentoring women for over thirty-five years. Her experience as a missionary kid in Papua New Guinea, cross-cultural worker in Indonesia, women’s ministry director, and Bible College adjunct professor adds a global dimension to her study of Scripture and the stories she tells. Through her blog, Pondered Treasures, and her book, Favored Blessed Pierced: A Fresh Look at Mary of Nazareth, Eva invites readers to slow down, reflect, and practically apply God’s word to life. Currently she and her husband live in Richardson, Texas and promote the well-being of global workers in a church planting mission agency. A graduate of Baylor University, she also has a Master of Christian Education from Columbia International University in Columbia, S.C. Crafting (specifically macramé) and spending time with her two sons and a daughter-in-law rejuvenates her soul.

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