Why are some people religious? Why do some get involved in ministries? Why do people work on foreign soil to carry out missionary work?
There are lots of reasons—some valid, some not. We looked at a few possibilities last week: to earn salvation, to appease God, to appear superior among fellow Christians—like, look how great I am to make such sacrifices! (Click on What could motivate someone to be a missionary?)
Certainly we know that missionaries don’t get rich. They don’t retire early with lots of money and financial security.
Rarely do missionaries receive recognition or status, let alone fame.
So what should motivate people to serve as missionaries?
Here’s the setting: Someone asked Jesus to specify the greatest commandment. He answered with an Old Testament teaching:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30, Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
The Message words it this way: “Love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.”
Loving God is the best motivation for whatever we do.
When we know, really know deep down:
- that God is crazy in love with each of us—
- that He’s so wild about us that if He had a refrigerator, He’d put our pictures on it—
- that He is tickled pink when we love Him back—
- that He does a happy dance when we hang out with Him—
—when we begin to comprehend all that,
—and start to grasp the unthinkable cost Jesus paid because God loves us so much,
—when we know all of that not just in our heads but in our hearts, experientially, then our hearts and minds and lives change forever.
We respond with love and gratitude—we love Him back.
And when we love Him back, other things happen. Our perspective changes. Our desires and goals change.
It has to do with what Jesus said next: “The second [most important command] is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no commandments greater than these [two]” (Mark 12:31, Leviticus 19:18).
The love and gratitude we feel toward God inspire us to, in turn, love others.
Our desire, our choice, our interest in helping others is the overflow of our hearts, a natural response to being loved by God and loving Him back—whether our tasks are keeping the family clothed and fed, setting up chairs for Sunday’s church service, running a multi-million-dollar corporation, or working on the mission field.
That’s what 1 John 4:19 means: “We love because He first loved us,” or in the words of The Message, “First we were loved, and now we love. He loved us first.” Again, it’s about the overflow of our hearts, a natural response to being loved by God and loving Him back.
Loving God (the first and greatest commandment) and loving others (the second greatest) should be the motivation, the basis, the springboard that propels and compels a person to work on the mission field.
All the additional and worthy reasons we talked about last week, including:
- teaching missionary kids, or
- evangelizing, or
- working as a church planter, or
- serving as a doctor, nurse, or pilot, or
- working as a Bible translator or literacy specialist,
- and so many others . . . .
. . . all those and more flow from loving God first and foremost. They’re the overflow of our hearts, an intrinsic response to being loved by God and loving Him back.
When we live our lives and serve God that way,
we are lifting up our love, our gratitude,
skills, time, energy, and careers—
as acts of worship.
When God moved me and Dave and our kids to Lomalinda, He placed us among an unusual group of people. Lomalinda's people served God not because of religious rules or obligations. Rather, they knew, from personal experience, what it looks like to love God deeply and serve Him as a natural outcome of that love.
Don’t get me wrong: They were not perfect human beings, not by a long shot. But God had done something to their hearts and, for the most part, they had set aside worldly gain and status in order to serve Him.
When it came to money and material possessions, their lives showed a healthy balance—they wanted just enough to adequately feed and clothe their kids and pay medical expenses. They needed no fancy houses or cars or lifestyles or vacations or large bank accounts.
They weren’t hoping to impress anyone or gain notoriety.
They loved fun and laughter—oh, yes, they did! They enjoyed each other. They honored each other’s commitment to serve God in Colombia. They upheld each other in prayer and in practical ways, coming alongside when needs arose.
Because God lived in their hearts in mighty ways, Lomalinda’s people were set-apart people—they recognized God had special purposes for them to live out: to serve Colombia’s indigenous peoples who were, in many ways, the hungry, the sick, the brokenhearted, the oppressed, the needy that the Bible tells us to serve (Psalm 82:3-4, Isaiah 58:6-7, Isaiah 61:1).
God handed us rich blessings when He sent us
to work alongside such folks.
Our lives were changed forever.