It is very possible to do good things, and to work on becoming a better person… and it all to be from selfish motives.
You could be trying to be loving and helpful and good at what you do, but your intention might be that others will love you for it, or that you will become famous because of it.
I realised recently that my goal in losing weight was largely selfish, to look good in photos! And my secondary goal was to please my husband, not that he asked me to or anything! But the Bible says:
‘Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God’ 1Cor 10:31
So our goal in EVERYTHING should be God’s glory – and quite honestly that really wasn’t too much behind my weight loss! It was there to some extent, in that I wanted to make sure I was a healthy BMI so that I could serve longer and better. But in my day to day decisions I was thinking more about losing weight for myself than for God.
That also affects what I do - if I diet for myself I drink diet Coke because it tastes good and is sugar free. If I diet for God I try not to drink very much of it because I'm conscious of all the unnatural stuff in there that could do all kinds of weird things to me in time and make me less effective.
Jerry Bridges says: ‘We should commit ourselves to doing everything we do, not in the way that might seem to bring us the most gain or best accomplish our personal objective, but in the way that will be most pleasing to God.’
My conclusion from all of this is that we need to think about our motives. Why are we doing what we do? Are we working hard to get fame and wealth, or to glorify God? Are we fighting to stop things like gossip, anger, and lust in our lives because they inconvenience us and make people think less of us or because we want to please God?
I'm not saying we shouldn't ever think of ourselves either - because sometimes it is glorifying God to think of ourselves, like when we need to get enough rest and refreshment to be able to serve God better. But our end motive should be God's glory.
I think as long as we are on this earth we are going to have some sinful motives intertwined with the good ones, so it’s not worth getting upset and feeling guilty about it. But I do think it is good to think these things through, because if we see a wrong motive then we can try to do something about it by thinking, ‘What would please God?’
I am trying to change my dieting motive around by stopping when I am faced with something like chocolate (I love chocolate!) and thinking, ‘Will this glorify God? Will this help me long-term to serve Him better? Will it help me function well in the short term?’ And of course if I have already decided not to eat any chocolate that day then if I give in I will be feeding the flesh and making it harder for me to exert self-control next time.
One day a long time ago, I was feeling like Martha: worried and troubled about many things. Suddenly it dawned on me that it is all really incredibly simple. I just needed to think about pleasing God. And that’s it! Everything else will then fall into place, or not be worth worrying about! I so clearly remember that moment, even the street I was walking down, because immediately my soul became so peaceful.
That’s why I titled this blog ‘Living To Please God’ - because that is what I aim to live for. I just need to remind myself of that quite often!!