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Why simply doing good things is not necessarily pleasing to God

The illuminating truth behind the way we need to serve.
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The illuminating truth behind the way we need to serve.

I recently had an opportunity to help out with a job at our local church. As someone with a disability there are lots of things I can’t do, so finding a task I could do, and which contributed to Gods work and doing good to others was special and I was genuinely glad to do it.

At least that was how it started. As I got to work, people weren’t responding in the way I wanted them to, and the whole thing was taking far more time and energy than I expected.

The result, quite naturally, was stress. Becoming frustrated because other people’s shortcomings were preventing me doing a good job.

What else could I do?

I knew that this frustration, this impatience wasn’t right. But what else could I do? I thought about it. Maybe people were very busy, maybe they were overwhelmed with work, maybe there were good reasons. With this logic a degree of calm returned. But it didn’t resolve the situation; it just kept a lid on it, ready to boil over again at the next stressor – the next time things didn’t go according to my plan.

I was working on the project closely with my younger brother. Having grown up with him I know his weaknesses almost as well as my own. I know he gets as frustrated as I do when people don’t do what is needed.

But as we worked I didn’t see frustration. I didn’t see irritation and impatience. Instead I saw peace. Not ‘sitting back and doing nothing’ – but an active peace that got things done without causing upset. The effect of his attitude was far better than the effect of mine. No taste of frustration. No demands or pressurising people. Just getting on with the job to the best of his ability.

Watching him I remembered Colossians 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

Doing things in a way that pleased God

That is what my little brother was doing. Although we were working on exactly the same task, I was simply trying to complete the task. But his focus was on doing it in a way that pleased God. He chose not to agree with the thoughts of irritation and to be patient instead. He chose not to go with his natural inclination to nag people and tell them they were not doing well enough – instead asking with respect and thankfulness. He made sure that his behaviour was right before God and everything else fell into place.

Completing the task on time would please people – and many of them wouldn’t even realise how impatient I’d been. But a task done in frustration and impatience cannot please God.

It was my demands, my pride, and my wanting to be seen as good at this task that were causing my unrest. The problem wasn’t “the others.” It’s true that “the others” gave me the chance to get annoyed and frustrated, but what I did with that opportunity was down to my choices.

I can choose to give up my self-centred way of thinking and choose to follow Jesus instead – changing my attitude so that what I do isn’t just good on the outside, but is truly pleasing to God.

Is that really possible? Absolutely. I know because I have seen it in my younger brother.

And, by God’s grace, it will become reality in my life too.

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