Keeping our hearts pure as we serve others
Jesus came to serve others, not to be served. Serving others as Jesus did requires deep humility. Would we be willing to obey, for example, if God called us to stoop before a traitor and humbly wash his feet, as Jesus did for Judas Iscariot? Serving others tests our faith and exercises our hearts. How can we keep our attitudes in check so that we serve God’s people with pure and obedient hearts? Here are seven ways.
Mark 10:45 ESV For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
1 Timothy 1:5 ESV The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
1. Do we constantly and joyfully thank God for all things?
The Bible informs us that God’ will is “good, pleasing, and perfect.” With increasing conflict, disasters, and moral decay, it can sometimes feel as if there isn’t much to thank God for. We may encounter unbelieving Christians who complain, grieve, and become fearful, because they doubt that God’s will can be good when their circumstances look so bad.
Romans 12:2 NLT … learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Perhaps we too have been tempted to behave like the unbelieving spies who was sent by Moses to survey the Promised Land, only come back with reports that glorified the giants and physical fortifications (their circumstances), rather than rejoice in the “milk and honey” (God’s will and blessings) that God had prepared for them.
Numbers 13:25,27,30 ESV At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large… But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
A heart that is purified will not be easily shaken by our earthly circumstances, but will focus on God’s will – because that is where the most amazing outcomes are found. In fact, it is when the world becomes darker that the light of Christ in us can shine even more brightly. The greatest testimonies are born out of the most difficult circumstances, not easy ones. We can truly thank God in all circumstances, whether good or bad.
Psalm 16:8 ESV I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Ephesians 5:15-17,20 ESV Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is… giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
2. Do we reject the enemy’s righteous-sounding lies?
Just as God has prepared wonderful breakthroughs in ministry, we can be sure that our enemy, the devil, will also try to obstruct God’s will by planting lies in our hearts. We all need to be alert, stand firm, hold our positions, and not be tempted to give in.
2 Chronicles 20:17 NLT But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
Here are some ways the devil tempts all of us to become afraid or discouraged:
- Accusations: “I have made a mistake in ministry. I am not good enough. (I forget that God’s glory shines through our weaknesses, not through our strengths.)” | 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 ESV God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
- Comparison: “Others seem to have more resources than me. I don’t think I am being fairly treated. (Instead of asking God for help, I become jealous and competitive.)” | Philippians 4:12 ESV Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
- Doubt: “Is this where God has really called me to serve on His behalf? I am not having an easy time. Maybe I made a mistake.” | Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
- Complacency: “I know I ought to serve but let God call someone else.” | Luke 6:46 ESV “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
- Mistaken burdens: “Serving others is so heavy and exhausting (because I have carried God’s burdens on my own shoulders, rather than cast them all back to Him).” | Matthew 11:28-29 ESV Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
- Fear: “What if I offend someone with the truth, even if I speak with great humility and loving tenderness? I won’t risk it (even if this may save their souls. I will be more concerned with my own feelings than God’s feelings for that person.)” | James 5:19-20 ESV My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
- Fleshly weaknesses: “I feel a headache/backache/cold coming on, so I will cancel my serving commitments (rather than trust God that He will make up for my weaknesses and provide in times of need).” | 2 Corinthians 12:10 ESV For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- Frustrations: “Why are things still not improving (based on my expectations)? I might as well give up (rather than trust in God’s timing.) | Galatians 6:9 ESV And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
- Judgements: “I can’t continue to serve because of their behaviour. (I only look superficially at their actions rather than have compassion on their anxieties. I will judge rather than love them.)” | Colossians 3:12-13 ESV Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
- Self-indulgences: “What is the purpose of serving others when people don’t appreciate my efforts?” | Colossians 3:23-24 ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
A pure heart will resist such suggestions from the devil because we will choose to hold on to God’s will and promises. It is in God’s interest to always bring Himself glory and pave the way for His plan to succeed. We can be confident that the end results of our efforts will be “good, pleasing, and perfect” when we obey His will. Let us not forsake what God has already prepared ahead for us.
Isaiah 48:11 NLT I will rescue you for my sake— yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished, and I will not share my glory with idols!
Also, see When to agree or disagree with Satan.
3. Do we resist all negative thoughts about people?
We live in a world that is filled with opinions, most of which are unkind. As followers of Jesus, we too can get caught up with making fun of, labeling, and judging others, just like everyone else. Even mild comments about people are in reality, indirect evaluations of someone’s value and worthiness. How we grieve God when we “bite and devour” one another in our hearts.
Galatians 5:14-15 ESV For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
When we think negatively about someone, we are in fact, glorifying the devil. Rather than praise God for His redemption power, we only see the corruption that the devil has caused in someone’s life and focus on that instead. This will blind us to the loving restorative work God is doing.
A pure heart will always focus our energy on the good and build others up to become more like Jesus.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
4. Do we pour our anxieties and frustrations to God?
Within Christian circles, there can be a tendency to disguise complaints and grumbling with politically correct terms. We may “share” our concerns or “vent” to fellow brothers and sisters-in-Christ as we seek their comfort and support. Yet God knows when we are bad-mouthing others so that we may feel better. This comes from an impure heart.
Philippians 2:14-15 ESV Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
God’s Word calls us to cast our anxieties on Him. In other words, God tells us to take our complaints, frustrations, and worries directly to Him, not to fellow human beings. A pure heart may confidentially seek the wisdom, prayers, and counsel of God-fearing believers, but only after we have cast all our anxieties to God Himself, so that we can talk about other people with neutral feelings and clear minds.
1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Psalm 55:22 ESV Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Also, see Please vent to God, not to people.
5. Do we forgive quickly?
Painful (unhealed) memories, fear, and pride are often the root causes when we are quick to feel hurt, offended or impatient.
A pure heart will be quick to show others grace and forgive them, because any lingering unforgiveness will give Satan plenty of room to divide God’s people.
Here is how the devil commonly outwits those who serve God. First, Satan will bombard us with lots of reasons why we should hold on to our offences or frustrations in self-defence. As we begin to agree with Satan, he will tempt us to feel bitter, angry, or even self-pity. Slowly, we find ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into resentment, and grow more and more distant from God. A ministry becomes divided as we turn against one another.
2 Corinthians 2:10-11 ESV … if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
A pure heart will know to avoid all this because we forgive and reconcile with others quickly, and resist Satan together.
6. Do we resist comparing ourselves with others?
Jesus calls all His followers to follow Him alone. Our focus becomes Jesus, not people.
John 8:12 ESV Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
In the past, we may have nurtured a (bad) habit of comparing ourselves with other people and developed:
- Anxiety: “I can’t be worse off than them. I can’t lose out.” | John 14:27 ESV l Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
- Anger or bitterness: “This is unfair, I deserve what they have too. I feel so upset.” | 1 Timothy 6:6 ESV But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.
- Depression: “I wish I had a better life like what others seem to enjoy. My life is so painful and meaningless.” | Psalm 143:7-8 NLT Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.
- Discouragement: “Why am I worse off? Don’t people care for and love me?” | Joshua 1:9 NIV Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
- Envy and jealousy: “Why do they enjoy better things than me? I don’t like them.” | 1 Corinthians 3:3 NLT for you are still controlled by your sinful nature. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world?
- Pride: “I am always so blessed and do so well compared to others. I am so good and so smart.” | Proverbs 16:5 NIV The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
- Self-righteous: “I am a better Christian than they are.” | Luke 16:15 NLT Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.
As we can see, any form of comparison with other human beings will eventually corrupt our hearts in one way or another.
2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV …But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.
All this should change once we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour. God is the only perfect Role Model and we are to compare ourselves with Jesus, not people. In this way, we are freed from all worldly labels and measurements. The only opinion that really counts is God’s.
Unfortunately, we can bring worldly patterns of comparison into ministry where we compare one another’s spiritual gifts or growth. Where we should be praising God for the work He has prepared specifically for us to do, we start to grow discontent, even silently grumbling against God in our hearts. This darkens our hearts.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
A pure heart, on the other hand, will be faithful over a little or much. We will not compare ourselves with others but with Jesus alone, so we become more like Him rather than the world.
Matthew 25:21 ESV His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
Also, see When comparisons become sinful.
7. Do we schedule time to rest with God?
There is a deep yearning for fulfilment built into our hearts that can only God can quench.
John 4:13-14 ESV Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
This world, however, will tempt us to fill our schedules with many things outside of God, often through the use of:
- Lies about God: “What’s the point of spending time with God? He doesn’t listen or respond anyway.” | Psalm 145:19-20 NLT He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. The LORD protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked.
- Guilt: “If I don’t do this, I may displease other people. (I will make them the master of my heart, rather than God.)” | Romans 8:1 ESV There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
- Fear: “I need to do this to feel more secure / not be left out. (I haven’t asked God to free me from my fears yet.)” | Psalm 34:4 ESV I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
- Fleshly amusements: “This is so entertaining. I need to relax and escape stress (by setting my mind on fleshly things, rather than going to God to experience His love and peace).” | Romans 8:6,8 ESV For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Yet it is only when we quiet ourselves before God, our Maker, that our souls will find true rest and salvation. When our bodies are worn out by activity, our spiritual vitality also suffer. Weakened by activity, we will succumb to Satan’s attacks more easily because we have not made time to rest and receive God’s strength and restoration.
Isaiah 30:15 ESV For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,
Lamentations 3:24-26 ESV “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
A pure heart will resist all temptations to fill up our schedule with worldly activities and simply sit in the Father’s presence through prayer and fasting, and reading God’s Word. We can trust our Heavenly Father, who is always faithful and good, to meet our every desire and help us in all that we need to serve Him.
Psalm 37:3-7 NLT Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.
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