“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”14
In six days God created the entirety of the world. The birds of the sky, the depths of the ocean, the heights of the mountains, the plants and animals that sustain human life, and later humans themselves were imagined into being and created by an all-powerful God. He demonstrated His justice by sending out a flood to rid the world of unrighteousness and demonstrated His faithfulness and love in saving Noah and his family. He led millions of slaves out from under the hand of oppression in Egypt and parted the waters of the Red Sea. He established a nation, punished a nation, and rescued a nation over and over again. He showed Himself the master planner and ultimate lover in sending His son to save those whom He loves and to restore all things unto Himself. All of nature proclaims who He is and His invisible attributes are made known to all in what surrounds us. The efforts of kings and philosophers to blot out His name have not prevailed. And He has established the largest, longest-lasting kingdom the world has ever seen.
This is a God who surely deserves all the glory.
And your motivation as a short-term missionary is to, above all, give Him the praise and glory due His name. Every other right motivation finds its place under the supremacy of this concept or will come from your commitment to fulfill the same.
Jesus, who is one with God the Father, understood this well. The Gospel of John particularly emphasizes Jesus’ deity and oneness with the Father, and it is this that drives His dependency on the Father in all things and serves as the motivation to do the Father’s will in all circumstances. John 5:30 says, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (emphasis added). Jesus’ ministry was marked by a deep connection with the will of the Father. All of His teachings and healings on earth were derived from this dependency and desire to fulfill the heart of the Father.
If this was the driving force behind Jesus’ ministry, should it not also be that which motivates you in the ministry you are about to begin in Cambodia? To bring glory to God in the work being done should be the primary focus. It isn’t about you, or even about the people you serve or are working with. It is about giving the praise to the one who enables you to do this ministry, who is the very reason for this ministry, who brings redemption and salvation and healing to the world.
Paul made this clear in his letter to the Colossians. “Whatever you do, in word or deed,” he says, “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”15 This point is expanded upon later in Colossians when Paul describes what the behavior of slaves ought to be before their masters. “Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 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 Jesus Christ.”16
This is not necessarily a support of slavery, but rather it is an exhortation to people to live lives that are glorifying to the Lord in whatever circumstance they happen to be in. As slaves, you can imagine this might be quite difficult. But Paul encourages them that their work is not done unto man, but should rather be done to the Lord, to glorify Him and point to Him in all ways. As Ephesians 6 points out, we are slaves to Christ.
Glorifying God on the mission field need not only be demonstrated in the specific works of the ministry. It is to be done in all circumstances, whether you are providing medical care, shoveling dirt, serving a meal, or in the way you respond to being sick and having to stay back in your hotel.
Doing work first and foremost to the Lord is what keeps us on track. It prevents things like pride, self-service, and other wrong motivations from creeping in as we focus on the one who deserves and has called us to our labor in the first place. We find our purpose in the Lord, and thus it makes sense to glorify Him in everything we do. In our labors and efforts there is a certain comfort and clarity of direction too, when we find our true purpose in serving God. Pressures of man, fear, insecurity and disappointment all come under the submission of someone greater.
It is from this place of praise and worship unto the Lord that other motivations find root. Service and ministry are the ways in which we demonstrate our ultimate desire to glorify the Lord. As John 15:18 says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” Indeed, we demonstrate who we are and whom we serve by our love17 and the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control18 flow from our devotion to the Lord.
Our desire for adventure, to feel as if we are doing something good for others, and to love other people must come from our willingness and core desire to serve and glorify God, from whom all things flow and find their meaning.
Identifying if this truly is your primary motivation can be difficult. Sometimes other motivations cloud our clarity of understanding. Ask yourself the following questions to help you understand what lies within your own heart:
- How would I respond if I didn’t get to do the kind of ministry I was expecting or hoping to do?
- What if no one sees the work that I will do or I myself don’t see the fruit of my labor?
- Do I often find myself striving in my own efforts, or do I more often depend on the Father?
14 Gen. 1:1-3, NKJV
15 Col. 3:17, ESV
16 Col 3: 22-24, ESV
17 John 13:35, 1 John 4:18
18 Gal. 5:22-23