How to Avoid the Spiritual Dangers of Service
- Monday, October 14, 2013
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Peter Greer and Anna Haggard's book, The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good (Bethany House, 2013).
Doing good work to serve God is a noble cause. But, ironically, serving God can actually be spiritually dangerous if you go about in the wrong ways.
Too many well-meaning Christians have fallen victim to burnout, pride, moral lapses, ruined relationships, and disillusionment while working hard on service that God led them to undertake. You don’t have to be one of them. When you learn how to love God and serve well, your work in God’s kingdom will lead to healthy results rather than unhealthy ones.
Here’s how you can avoid the spiritual dangers of service:
Check your motives. Why do you really want to serve God? Is it because of what you can get it out of it, or is it simply a way to respond to God’s love? Trying to earn God’s love or blessings through service will backfire, because the focus is a selfish one. But if you’re motivated by expressing love back to God, God will work through you to bring about great results from your service.
Avoid giving leftovers to loved ones. Give more time and energy to your relationships with family and friends than you do to your service work, since relationships are ultimately more important than the work you do. Set boundaries around your work schedule – focusing only on what’s most important and what you do best – so you still have plenty of time and energy left to invest in your relationships.
Avoid doing instead of being. Shift your focus from what you’re doing to the kind of person you’re becoming. Remember that the reason why you’re serving in the first place is to grow closer to Jesus, and that Jesus is much more concerned about who you are than He is about what you do. Rely on the Holy Spirit to work through you to do service, rather than trying to do it on your own – and in the process, you’ll grow as a person.
Avoid justifying minor moral lapses for a good cause. If you allow yourself to justify small sins (such as embellishing the facts when telling a story or misrepresenting how you’ve spent money), you can easily move up to larger sins because you’ll start to believe that you’re above the rules and deserve guilty pleasures because of all the sacrifices you’ve made for a good cause. Make a daily habit of confessing and repenting of small moral lapses and asking God to deliver you from temptation.
Avoid using the wrong measuring stick to define success. God’s perspective on success is far different from the world’s perspective on it. Don’t get caught up in the delusion that you’re successful simply because you happen to reach more people or raise more funds than others. You’re a true success only when you’re doing your best to be faithful to God and when you’re developing a more holy character as you serve – whether or not you seem to be successful to other people.
Avoid friendship superficiality. Invest in some deep friendships with people you can trust, who will love you enough to challenge you when you’re making wrong decisions, and who will hold you accountable and encourage you to live faithfully.
Avoid elevating the sacred over the secular. Realize that every type of job is equally important in God’s kingdom, so God isn’t somehow more pleased with you if you’re involved in full-time Christian ministry than if you’re working in a secular job. Feel free to serve God in whichever aspect of society you’re most gifted to serve.
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