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Gerbils are pretty funny and they're extremely predictable. At least, the one our kids had as a pet sure was. When I checked in on him in his little cage upstairs, he was almost always doing the same thing - the wheel. There he was, just chugging away, running on his gerbil wheel. If you went back a few hours later - the wheel. If I had spoken "Gerbilese," I would have pointed out that even though he was expending a lot of energy, he wasn't going anywhere. But I think I know what his response would be. He would just run faster on the wheel that was going nowhere!
These next few moments are dedicated to a special group of people - really busy Christians. Many of whom are, unknowingly, spiritual gerbils running faster and faster on a wheel, but often really not going anywhere because they're doing a lot of the right things for a lot of the wrong reasons.
The right reason to be serving is plainly spelled out in our word for today from the Word of God, where Jesus asks what is probably the most important question He ever asked. After Peter's triple denial of his Lord and Jesus' resurrection from the dead, Jesus calls him aside for a man-to-man talk in John 21, beginning in verse 15. And there's the question.
"Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon...do you truly love Me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love You.' Jesus said, 'Feed My lambs.'" Jesus goes on to ask His question a second time, and then again. "Jesus said, 'Simon...do you love Me?' Peter said, 'Lord...You know that I love You.' Jesus said, 'Feed My sheep.'"
Jesus didn't ask, "Why did you fail Me?" or "Will you work for Me?" All He wanted to know was "Do you love Me?" That's all He wants to know from you - do you love Him? Notice that the assignment, "Feed My sheep," comes only after Jesus is sure, and Peter is sure, that he's doing it for love.
Which leads to the inevitable question about your spiritual service. What are you doing it for? Basically, there are three reasons people do Christian things: duty, recognition, or love. And the first two don't count. Maybe you've been busy for God mostly out of a sense of duty. That's why you're easily frustrated, often depleted, and way too stressed. It's a spiritual gerbil wheel, isn't it? You're Martha, fulfilling all your responsibilities, but you're neglecting your relationship with Jesus. And the relationship matters way more to Jesus than the responsibilities.
Maybe you're doing it for recognition - Gerbil wheel. Not to mention glory-stealing; using what only God should be getting glory for to get glory for yourself. Doing the work of the Lord for duty or for recognition is inevitably going to feel hollow, unsatisfying, exhausting, and frustrating, because you're supposed to be doing it as an overflow of your love for Jesus.
And chances are good it used to be, it was because you loved Him. But now what's supposed to be a joy has become a gerbil wheel because your reasons for doing it got mixed up. Maybe it's time to say, "Jesus, I repent of doing the right things for the wrong reasons. I just want to spend the time with You that I need to spend to fall in love with You again." When you do, then all your spiritual service becomes simply loving Jesus in front of people. It's all for Him! And then the results don't matter...the recognition doesn't matter, just as long as you know Jesus is smiling.
The longer you do it for yourself, the more miserable it grows. But the longer you do it for Jesus, the sweeter He grows.
Learn three secrets to loving what you do from Ron Hutchcraft's message, "How to Love Your Job No Matter What." This complimentary CD provides new perspective on how your boss, your pay, and your hard work can help you love your job.