For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
— 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12
What was the apostle Paul’s top priority in life and in ministry? It was to love God and to please Him first. Paul loved people, but his first responsibility was toward the Lord — to love, to obey, and to do that which was pleasing to Him.
We’ve looked at the importance of having the right motives in ministry, and I discussed at length what Paul’s motives for ministry were not. Paul wasn’t motivated by an insatiable desire to get richer and richer and richer. Neither was he motivated by a desire to be popular with people and to receive the accolades of men. The desire for riches and the praise and adulation of others didn’t move Paul or influence his behavior and actions. The apostle Paul simply wasn’t interested in fame or glory.
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So what did Paul want? He wanted to please God.
An inordinate desire for money and fame is a snare that has enslaved many God-called ministers of the Gospel who allowed themselves to be sidetracked and their faith shipwrecked because they became errant in their hearts concerning their motives for ministry. But Paul labored to keep his heart’s motives pure and his relationship with God as his highest priority.
It’s very important that we establish our priorities as believers — and especially as ministers of the Gospel — because anyone can say he’s putting God first and claim to have the right motives in ministry. But not everyone can actually make this claim before God, as Paul did, with God as his witness.
In First Thessalonians 2:4,5,10, Paul wrote, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness… Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”
Notice in these verses that Paul makes the following statements:
- “Not as pleasing men, but rather God, who tries our hearts” (v. 4).
- “At no time did we use flattery, as you know” (v. 5).
- “God is a witness” (v. 5).
- “You are witnesses, and so is God of how we behaved ourselves with you” (v. 10).
What was Paul saying? He was saying, “You know it — and God knows it. You are all our witnesses that we behaved ourselves as holy, just, and blameless among you.”
Let’s look again at the phrase “…God is witness” in verse 5. That word “witness” is translated from the Greek word martus, which was the very word you would use to describe a witness on the witness stand in a court of law.
What do we know about a witness who is sworn in by an officer of the court to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”? By an oath the witness makes before God, that person must tell the truth! So Paul was saying, in effect, “You know that this is true. If you could put even God on a witness stand and ‘swear Him in,’ He would say the exact same thing about my motives in ministry.”
That’s what Paul said in verse 5. Then in verse 6, he also made it clear that he wasn’t in the ministry for fame or glory — or for the praise and adulation of men.
Paul was no doubt answering allegations against him as a minister of the Gospel. You need to know that there will be times when your own motives will be questioned as well.
Each one of us must examine our hearts so thoroughly that we can answer boldly and confidently, as Paul did, and lay every allegation to rest with the truth. Paul didn’t defend his ministry with words that he only wished were true. Instead, he defended his life and ministry before God and man — as if both were witnesses on a witness stand, sworn in to tell the full, complete truth about Paul’s motives and desires concerning ministry and those he ministered to.
If God were to take the witness stand to testify about you, what would He say? What would be the witness of God about you? It’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? But you can determine today that you are going to do all you possibly can each day of your life to keep your heart pure.
As I reach the end of this Sparkling Gem today, I feel compelled to examine my own heart to make sure my motivations are God-pleasing and that I am truly people-loving. Why don’t you join me in making a self-evaluation of these crucial issues of the heart?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I want my heart to be aligned with Your heart so I can confidently lay to rest any allegation against the truth. Holy Spirit, I ask You to help me evaluate myself to see where I stand on these issues of motivations and priorities that are so vitally important to You and to Your Church. I want my heart to be clear and clean about how I see and treat people. If there are areas where I need to change, I ask You to reveal them to me. Help me as I step forward to make things the way they ought to be.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess and acknowledge that God not only observes what I say and do, but also He takes note of the intent and motivations of my heart. I am open to correction, therefore, I hear and obey the Holy Spirit when He speaks to me about changes I need to make in my life. And when the Holy Spirit speaks to me, He gives me the will and the power to make the changes He requires of me. My goal is to love God, to please Him first, and to keep my heart pure so that if God took the witness stand to testify about me, He would be able to say that I am walking worthily of His call upon me and that I am doing it by the power of His Spirit instead of the vain energy of my flesh. I establish my priorities as a believer in such a way that God Himself can testify that I pursue Him and His will for my life with all my heart, soul, and strength.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you say your chief goal in life is to please the Lord, or are you motivated to please people to influence what they think about you?
- If God took the witness stand to truthfully witness about you, what would He testify about you, your character, and your desire to please Him above all others?
- Is there any area of your life that is out of sync with your desire to please God above all else? Is there some other person or goal that means more to you than pleasing the Lord? If something comes to mind, recognize that today the Holy Spirit is calling you to lay that area of your life on the altar and fully surrender it to God.