What Motivates You to Serve God?
Context: 2 Kings 22:1-23:30
For many of us who consider ourselves as God's servants, have we ever taken time to ponder about the driving motivation for our service to God? Does this motivation originate from a true love for God?
Surprisingly, many people serve God not solely because they love him for who he is, but mainly because of the gifts and incentives they expect to receive from God.
In contrast, a person who has a true love for God worships and serves God solely because of who God is. Such a person will continue to love and and serve God not being basically motivated by the blessings he expects to receive from God, but mainly motivated by the revelation that comes from the knowledge of God's character. Consequently, this person will always cleave to God with unwavering devotion even if God chooses to give him nothing in this life. This is how a true love for God manifests itself.
Sadly, however, this form of true love for God is increasingly becoming rare among God's people. As a matter of fact, most Christians today love, serve and even give to God not out of a true love for God, but in order to "activate" a blessing from God. They serve or give with the underlying motive of getting in return "a break through" which is usually in the form of a well-paying job, an acquisition of visas for travelling abroad, business contacts, promotion at workplaces, success in examination, marriage, and other gifts associated with health, wealth and prosperity. They sow a ‘seed’ not out of a pure love for God, but mainly as an investment into God’s Kingdom for quick returns. Such people do not have a true love for God. They love the gifts more than the gift-giver.
A Challenging Example of Josiah's True Love for God
I want to bring to your attention the example of Josiah in 2 Kings chapters 22-23 which I believe should greatly challenge our lives and lead us to re-examine our love for God and our motivations for serving him.
In 2 Kings 23, Scripture records a sweeping reformation in Judah under king Josiah. The previous kings had been very wicked and had introduced widespread paganism in the country which had lasted for nearly 50 years. God had become furious about the great wickedness in the land and had pronounced judgement on the whole nation. In perhaps trying to discover how soon this judgement would strike and if there was any hope of averting it, Josiah, in 2 Kings 22:11-14 sends messengers to the prophetess Huldah to inquire about this matter. In response to the kings inquiry, Huldah gives a prophesy in which she clearly indicates that there was no hope. God was going to bring disaster on the nation and there was no way of averting it! In a message from the Lord that the prophetess Huldah sends back to Josiah in 2 Kings 22:15-16, she says,
God had determined not to forgive this nation and its residents because of their great wickedness.
It is evident here that from the very beginning, Josiah was told and assured that God was going to bring a terrible judgement against his nation and the inferno of God's rage was not going to be quenched even by Josiah's great devotion to God! So Josiah was quite aware from the very start that even his reformation endeavours that he was intending to carry out throughout the country would be an exercise in futility and would not lift the sentence of judgment that God had pronounced on Judah. The heat of God's anger was so great that no amount of repentance or reform could avert it!
In spite of this dark and hopeless situation, however, Josiah continued in his unwavering obedience and great devotion to God. He even went a head and carried out a massive reformation of the nation in 2 Kings 23. And in so doing, he showed a diligence unmatched by any king before or after him.
But why? One may wonder! Why would Josiah continue on with this whole-hearted devotion and faithful service to God when there was no incentive or blessing to expect at the end of it all except judgement from the Almighty? Why didn't Josiah declare that there was no point in the reformation since it would not save Judah anyway. Why did he instead decide to go ahead with this reformation which was more like an exercise in futility?
Well, here is the answer. Josiah chose to do so for the sake of the honor and righteousness of the Lord because he loved God solely for who he is and not because of what he did. The Lord has a right to be served, even if our service does not bring about our deliverance from trouble.
God may not answer our prayers or grant our deepest longings. The suffering in our lives and the problems in our country may continue unabated! But in spite of all this, we need to continue worshiping and serving God without wavering and diligently keeping his commandments though it may not resolve personal problems, bring economic success, or relieve emotional distress.
Josiah's devotion to God was amazing and so great that the author of 2 Kings awarded him this accolade in 2 Kings 23:25 "Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him"
We can see without any shadow of doubt that Josiah had a true love for God. Although his nation was expecting nothing but trouble and a desperate time of judgement that was not going to be averted, Josiah nevertheless continued to love and serve God faithfully. Josiah loved God solely because of who he is and not because of what he was expecting to get from God.
Do You Have a True Love for God?
What are your real motivations for loving and serving God? Do you love God for who he is (for his character and attributes)? Or do you love and serve God because of what you expect to get from him in this life? Can you continue to serve God faithfully and wholeheartedly if he refuses to heal your beloved relative and let's him or her to die a horrible death and in miserable pain? Can you love and serve God faithfully if he leaves you languishing in great poverty or buried deep in debt? Can you love God wholeheartedly and serve him faithfully if he does not give you someone to marry? If, for example, you have been praying to God for a husband or wife to marry through out your life and God let's you grow old as an unmarried man or woman with no child to look to as a heir, would you still trust God and obey him? Wouldn't you become impatient and decide to take things in your own hands and try to devise your own solutions — willing even to sin in this process of trying to get what you want?
A love for God that depends on God's actions and grows strong or weak basing on what God does or fails to do in our lives is not true love. True love worships and serves God without wavering not because of what God does but because of who God is.
Satan is Glad When he Sees God's People Without a True Love for God
Satan is so happy when he sees those who claim to be God's people only loving God not for who he is, but because of what they can get from God. In his debate with God over his view of Job, this was the main point that Satan gladly presented that ultimately sparked off the trials of Job. In Job 1:9-11, we see Satan talking to God about his servant Job in this manner: “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.”
In essence, Satan was saying, "God, do you think Job loves you solely because of who you are? No! Job loves the gifts you give him more than you the gift-giver. He is like a mercenary. You pay him with gifts and he responds with love and devotion to you. Try to take away these gifts you have given to Job and see what will happen. Job will not love you or serve you any more. He will curse you instead!"
But as you and I know from the rest of the story, this assessment of Satan regarding Job was wrong! When everything he valued was taken away from Job in just a single day, Job did not cease to love, worship or serve God. He did not curse God as Satan had claimed. Instead, he worshiped God in Job 1:21 saying, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." And in Job 13:15, Job continues on to say that "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him".
Job loved God for who he is and not because of the gifts and incentives he had received or was expecting to receive from God. He had a true love for God. He loved the gift-giver more than the gifts.
How Then Should We Love God?
We should love God for who he is and and continue to serve him with unwavering devotion even when he gives us nothing or chooses to take away our health or wealth like he did in the case of Job. And like Job, we should be willing to say that "though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Our love for God ought to be like that of the three friends of Daniel who wholeheartedly loved God solely for who he is and were determined to continue with their unwavering devotion to him even if he chose not to deliver them from trouble. As an expression of their true love for God, they were able to say to king Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:16-18 that
We should love God for who he is and not for what we expect him to do for us. Even in the midst of a great disaster, we should be willing to express in our words and works our wholehearted service and unwavering devotion to God. We should be willing to say like Josiah that even though nothing is to be expected except terrible times of judgement and great calamity, yet I will love the Lord with all heart my heart, with all my soul and with all my strength like Josiah did in 2 Kings 23:25.
Christ, a Better than Josiah is Here; Look to Him!
We have already noted that inspite of his true love for God and whole hearted obedience and service to the Lord, Josiah failed to turn away God's wrath that he had pronounced on Judah.
Additionally, although Scripture informs us in 2 Kings 23:25 that there was no king like Josiah either before or after him who turned to the Lord with all his heart, soul, and strength, according to all the law of Moses; yet, the Bible also makes it clear that Josiah was not perfect.
In 2 Kings 23:29 we are told that Josiah came to a very untimely end and got killed at a pre-mature age of 39 while meddling in a battle that had nothing to do with him. In this battle that Josiah needlessly decided to meddle in, the Assyrians were fighting the Babylonians. Pharaoh Necco of Egypt opted to go and help Assyria in fighting the Babylonians because Assyria and Egypt had made an alliance to fight Babylon which was threatening to become a dominant world power.
Josiah shouldn't have involved himself in this battle because in Proverbs 26:17, Scripture warns that meddling in strife that does not belong to us can have tragic results and declares that "like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not his own." However, without due cause, this Josiah, king of Judah poroudly acted like Amaziah in 2 Chronicles 25:17-24. He ignored the wise advice that was given him by Pharoah Necco and decided to fight Egypt — a nation that was far more powerful than he and this cost him his life!
Surprisingly, Josiah engaged in this battle without even considering to send a messager to a prophet to inquire from the Lord about this matter like he had done earlier on in 2 Kings 22:11-14 when the book of the law was discovered. Josiah's faith wavered here and it is likely that he needlessly involved himself in this battle with Egypt in order to seek the favour of the king of Babylon.
When Pharaoh Necco (the king of Egypt) saw that Josiah had come to fight him, we are told in 2 Chronicles 35:21-22 that he sent messengers to warn him saying,
It is surprising to note here that God spoke through a pagan king, but Josiah would not listen probably wrongly assuming that this Egyptian Pharaoh, being a pegan king, could not be part of God's larger plan. He proudly engaged an enemy who was too great for him without due cause and without even consulting God.
Here at the end of his life, Scripture portrays Josiah as a backsliden man who seemed at this point to be relying more on the Babylonians favour as his source of hope. Consequently, he failed to listen to God and did not inquire from the Lord or seek for his favour before engaging in a war that led to his death.
From this tragic act of Josiah, we are made to see that no man on earth is perfect. Even Josiah himself, the man who is commended in the Bible as the best of kings failed to live a perfect life.
Six centuries later, our Lord Jesus Christ, a descendant of Josiah, came here on earth and lived better life than that Josiah. Unlike Josiah whose obedience faltered at the end of his life, Christ's obedience was perfect. Even when he was facing the greatest tradgedy in the history of human suffering — the tradgedy of being abandoned by the Father as he was being punished for our sins on the cross of Calvary, Christ remained totally obedient. As an expression of this total obedience, he prayed to the Father in Matthew 26:39 saying, "Not my will, but your will be done." Christ had a true love for God. Even though he knew that his obedience would not ease his present suffering, he obeyed nevertheless. Because of his perfect obedience in both dying in our place as the ultimate passover lamb and in his rising from the dead, we who have believed in him now have eternal life and the power to live a life of obedience and godliness with a true love for God.
We have already seen that Josiah's faith and obedience wavered at the end of his life. More so, his godly leadership and reforming efforts may seem to have changed the people's outward behaviour; but inwardly, they totally failed to tranform their hearts because after his death, these same people returned back to their idolatry and gross wickedness. Josiah's obedience and faithfulness to God also failed to lift the wrath of God and to turn away his judgement for the sins of Judah. All these facts must certainly compell us to think of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Unlike Josiah who failed to turn away God's wrath against his people, our Lord Jesus is the perfect king who has accomplished what Josiah could not do. Through his death on the cross, Jesus has been able to turn away the wrath of God for our sins. On that cross, God's judgement fell on Christ and, in doing so, exhausted itself. There is now no judgment remaining for those who embrace Christ as their Lord and personal Saviour. Because of Christ's payment for our sins on the cross of Calvary, God is able to forgive even the worst of sinners. He can forgive even the most wicked people like Manneseh, if they will humble themselves and repent just like the way wicked Manasseh repented and was forgiven in 2 Chronicles 33:11-13,15-16.
Also, unlike Josiah whose work of reformation failed to transform the people's heart, Christ's redemptive work on the cross has not only been able avert God's judgement for our sins but it has also made us new creatures in Christ, totally transformed our lives, and give us new hearts.
The book of Ezekiel mentions the concept of a "new heart" several times. In Ezekiel 36:26, God says, " I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." Furthermore, God says in Ezekiel 11:19, that "I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh." This promise was ultimately fulfilled through Jesus' death and resurrection. When we are saved, we receive this new heart and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, enabling us to know God, to live for Him, to renounce all the ungodly motivations and to love God trully for who he is and not for the gifts and incentives we expect to receive from him.
Will you humble yourself before our Lord Jesus Christ, confess your sins and all the ungodly motivations for serving him? If you do, you will received his gracious forgiveness. On the otherhand, if you are not saved and you refuse to turn to Christ in repentance and faith for the forgivenes of your sins, then a judgement in hell that is far worse than Judah's exile in Babylon is the only thing you can expect! Confessing our sins and turning to God in sincerity and in truth is the only way of finding forgiveness.
Josiah's life provides us with a wonderful example of humility and obedience. But in spite of his wonderful life, we should lift our eyes from Josiah and fix them instead on Christ who has exemplified a perfect picture of incomparable humility, total obedience and a true love for God than Josiah.