Serving Others: Why Do You Do It?

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

Why do you do it? What motivates you?

Suffering is everywhere in our world. We can barely turn on our television or devices or read a newspaper, book or magazine article without being jarred by learning about someone else or another community suffering. It is worldwide and our solutions at times seem to only touch the surface. And in part, that is true.

If a key motivating factor is missing from our desire to serve, alleviate suffering and render justice, our approach and solutions will fall short.

You may be socially aware (having a sense of concern or responsibility for the problems and injustices of society), which is great. You may be even more socially aware and more “woke” than others. That’s great too. And yet, that is not enough. It falls short of God’s intentions for truly rendering aid to the needs of people beyond their physical needs and alleviating their physical, mental or emotional suffering.

In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gives us our direction and instructions to truly make those suffering whole:

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

If we are not first motivated by a love for God, and then a love for neighbor, our efforts will be surface.

As we as individuals, through our businesses, groups, organizations or ministries serve in various facets determined to make great change, we would do well to invite the key player to lead our plans: God, and a love for God. This intentional action and focus allows us to be part of the redemptive transformation for people God intends —beyond simply meeting their temporal needs.

serving man soup photo credit Green Mangos Catering

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

An excerpt from the book, A Missional Life (2013), written by 14 authors and published by the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, challenges us to further discern our motivations for serving others:

“Are you motivated by a general need to do something or do you desire to see the knowledge of God’s glory cover the earth, “as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)?

How you answer that question will largely determine whether you are focused on being a disciple of Christ acting on his behalf for the good of others, or if you are merely acting and rebelling; whether you are truly missional or merely have a social conscience; whether you are living for Christ or for yourself.”

Introspection

While it is good to think about and feel compassion for the suffering happening in our world, have you done so with an eye toward Christ Jesus? With an eye to see, ears to hear and a heart attuned to catch God’s biblical vision of how He desires for you to respond as His ambassador? As His hands and feet? Are you serving for yourself or serving Him? Why do you do it? What motivates you? Are you connected to God’s eternal plan or simply your strategic plan? Are we giving them bread for their body and for their soul — food that will sustain them beyond today?

We are imperfect beings and often self-centered (sometimes unintentionally) so we need a better motivation to do what is good; a more perfect motivation to truly do work with results that will last.

Heavenly Father, help us to have the mind of Your Son Jesus Christ in all that we do, even as we seek to alleviate suffering in our world. May we serve as the hands and feet of Christ as we address the physical, emotional, mental and temporal needs of those you place in our path as well as their eternal and redemptive needs. May we offer Your bread that will truly sustain them.

In Jesus’ Name we pray and ask this,

Amen

Nicole

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Sometimes We Lament

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

It’s taken me more than a week to pray on and write this blog post…and it still may not hit all the right notes. Though I hope you can relate to the message’s tone and tenor. I trust that the message is one you can relate to, feeling the pang of each event in your spirit. With each event, the pangs seem to intensify.

Sometimes I lament in my spirit. I lament over the wickedness in our world and how mankind continues to grieve and offend our gracious God.

Murdering spirits. Shootings. Young people being slain in our streets. In our schools. In our parks. Slayings. No regard for human life. Bombings. Wars. Abortions. When will it stop? When will justice come?

Sometimes we lament.

Domestic violence. Sex trafficking. Perversion. Grown men (including men of the cloth) and women attracted to children and teens. Unnatural attractions. Rampant, horrific sexual abuse, sexual violence and harassment. Persecutions for faith. Prejudicies. Myriad injustices. A culture, society and world that is hostile toward God and seemingly bent on continuing this way.

Sometimes we lament.

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Addictions. A bondage hastening unto death.

Sometimes we lament.

Corruption and wickedness enacted, enjoyed and exposed on every level, throughout our various institutions that were designed to be trusted and lawful.

Sometimes we lament.

Satan, demons, and the wicked proclivities behind it all.

Sometimes we lament.

The ungodly thoughts that we slay in our own hearts and minds. We pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” from Psalm 51:10.

Sometimes we lament.

Recently, I felt such a grief in my spirit as I have at times before, that I expressed this to a dear sister in Christ. She too has experienced this. For those of us who love the Lord and who have prayed to know the Lord’s heart, you’ve likely felt this burden. But I trust that God’s tears are far greater.

Since when God created man, He has known what resides in man’s heart. It’s dark and ugly. Jeremiah 17:9 reads “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Ecclesiastes 7:29 reads, “This only have I found: God made man upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes.”

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Scheming. Planning. Self-seeking. Plotting how they can next satisfy their flesh, their appetites and selfish ambition. And yet, amid their plotting, our compassionate, loving and merciful God —  our God of great forbearance — awakens offenders morning, after morning, after morning, allowing them to return to their plotting. Some are aware of what pleases and displeases God but do what they want anyway, without regard for how their choices offend a holy God. Others are simply blind to the truth. Those spiritually destitute and without the Holy Spirit continue to pursue evil. They despise the truth, despise righteousness and seem all the more thrilled to ride their way to hell, drink in hand.

How long, how wide, how deep is our Savior’s love, His patience and kindness toward us?! The stench of wickedness has reached His nostrils! Creation is groaning. The earth remembers it’s slain. We’re daily witnessing the consequences of evil. Yet, God continues to strive with mankind, for now. He pursues and pursues us. His love is amazing to me. I’ve often admitted that if I were God, I would have annihilated mankind a long time ago. Fortunately, His plans are better than mine.

In ways far beyond my comprehension, God still loves. Throughout the bible, we see God’s love displayed for people amid their repeated and blatant disobedience. Many of the Old Testament prophets lamented over the people’s disobedience. Jeremiah is sometimes referred to as “the weeping prophet,” grieved that his warnings of God’s judgment pronounced to the people of Judah were constantly disregarded as they worshiped worthless idols. Stubborn and rebellious hearts. They should have all been destroyed! But in Jeremiah 5:18, Jeremiah speaks the LORD’s words that He “will not destroy them completely.” This also caused Jeremiah to grieve because he knew of the Lord’s great compassion — and that his words of warning would be looked upon foolishly by the people of Judah if the Lord withheld His wrath.

Moses often prayed for the Israelites in their disobedience as they built idols and altars to worship false gods. As I wrote in this article “Should I Not Care About These Too?” about God’s instruction to Jonah to warn the Ninevites of their impending destruction if they did not repent, Jonah became angry at the Lord for His compassion toward these wayward people.

1But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2He prayed to the LORD, “O, LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.” In verse 4, the LORD replies, “Have you any right to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-2,4)

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Today, God, in His great mercy, continues to send His People to pray for, warn and instruct those walking in spiritual blindness on paths of destruction. We lament knowing that some will choose to remain blind, disobedient and will ultimately perish. However, in our lamenting, we should also be encouraged. There is power in the prayers of the lamenting  — even those said without audible words but uttered in deep groans. There is promise in our pleas. God indeed sees, hears and answers prayers. He hears His remnant crying out and petitioning on behalf of the lost. If those who are far way from Him should see the error of their ways and desire Him, He is willing to save.

Heavenly Father, thank you. I don’t understand how you love us so. Your lovingkindess is beyond comprehension. Your grace, unfathomable. Your mercies are new every morning. Even those who rejected You yesterday can become your forever sons and daughters today if they truly repent and choose Your Son Jesus. As we lament over the condition of our world, Your love, Your grace, Your victory and Your great plan of salvation out shines the backdrop of wickedness. We will boldly and lovingly continue to share the Good News hoping that others may hear and turn to You. Even against the backdrop of the darkest of times, our confidence in what You will accomplish will not be slackened. Amen.

Nicole