Who are you doing this for?
Let everyone be devoted to fulfil the work God has given them to do with excellence, and their joy will be in doing what's right and being themselves, and not in being affirmed by others. Every believer is ultimately responsible for his or her own conscience. [Galatians 6:4-5]
I wonder if you are familiar with the quote, "You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time"? There is some confusion as to where this quote originated, but wherever it came from the salient point is that it is quite impossible to please everyone. If we take it as red that we cannot please everyone, we are left with the question who should we be seeking to please? Perhaps another way of asking this is, 'who am I doing this for?'
I have been reflecting recently on the words of the Apostle Paul in writing to the church at Galatia (which has been brought alive through my purchase of The Passion translation). Ultimately those of us in ministry should be doing what we are doing as a result of a ‘call' on our lives; we are doing this for God. Whilst theologically we would all undoubtedly agree with this I think it wise from time to time to stand back and examine our motives, asking the question ‘is the reason that I am doing this particular ministry because God has called me to do it, or is it because of my own need to be needed?'
I think if we are honest, there is an element in each of us that needs to be needed and I don't think this can be every fully overcome. All of us need a sense that we're OK or more than OK and that we are making a difference; it is hardwired into our humanity and downloaded into our DNA. While we might not be able to change this or re-wire our brains, I do believe that recognising and identifying our driving force is an essential part of spiritual maturity. Admitting that there are times when motives are mixed is not an issue, as I believe God works through our fallenness. It is far more worrying in my personal view, to live in denial and suggest we are only ‘doing it for the Lord' as invariably this leads to either burn out or moral failure.
I have a spiritual director whom I share with on a regular basis and who I can confess from time to time my need to be affirmed by others. It is in these conversations that we then tend to drill down into the much more in-depth topic of ‘being who God has called me to be', rather than trying to be someone else to gain approval. For me, this is the crucial point that Paul is making to the church in Galatia in this part of his letter.
God has designed our lives with purpose, preparing in advance work for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Sometimes this work looks different from what we or others expect, and this can result in us falling into the trap of trying to please others to gain their affirmation. If we fill all our ministry with pleasing others, while we may initially receive their approval, we will drift further and further from our calling and perhaps even from God himself. So, may I encourage you this month to have an open and honest conversation with a trusted ‘other' about your motives for ministry; and to focus on being who God has called you to be. This I am sure we be pleasing to your heavenly Father and far more fulfilling to your ministry.