What if all the things I do, though it be what God calls me to do, contributes to no one and nothing beyond God?
Am I a success? Am I serving a useful purpose if I benefit no one beyond God? What if the sermons I preach, the visiting I do, and the devotions I write—all at God’s bidding—encourage and edify no one? Am I wasting my time, since all that I do serves no purpose beyond God Himself?
The Apostles’ Answer
The disciples of Jesus would have thought so. Look at how they reacted to Mary, the sister of Lazarus, when she poured her expensive perfume over Jesus’ head and feet (Matt. 26:6–13; John 12:1–8). They claimed that she had wasted it—since it served no useful purpose beyond Jesus. In fact, Mary had earlier gotten into trouble with her older sister, Martha, for a similar reason. As Martha slaved in the kitchen, preparing a meal for the disciples and Jesus, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet soaking in His every word, giving Him her undivided attention. Martha erupted in anger that Mary had left her proper place to waste her time on Jesus instead of serving a useful purpose preparing dinner (Luke 10:38–42).
The View from Heaven
You know, many classes of angels in heaven (e.g., the four living creatures, Seraphim, and Cherubim) serve no other purpose but to offer praise to God (Isa. 6:2-4; Rev. 4:6-11). God Himself is the exclusive focus of their mission. For them serving God is an end in itself. There is no one in heaven who needs help, salvation, or comfort. No one in heaven is fallen and needs redemption. No one in heaven goes hungry or naked (Rev. 21:3–4; 22:1–5). Therefore, the roles of soul-mender, comforter, or benefactor are quite obsolete in heaven.
Instead, in heaven there is the constant and captivating unveiling of the infinite and eternal God. Can you imagine being an eye witness and having a “front row seat” to an atomic or hydrogen bomb detonation? Or can you envision having an up-close view of a neutron star, pulsar, or magnetar? Such visions would be overpowering to the max. Before such sights you wouldn’t discuss politics or sports. Such topics would be meaningless, even contemptable in the face of such staggering sights. Yet the uninhibited sight of the Almighty exceeds all those visions by a million-fold. What other useful purpose could any being have except to behold, adore, and worship this God?
The View From Earth
Down here, of course, we are surrounded by human need. And it would be a crime to neglect and ignore it. Down here we can demonstrate our love for God by caring for those who are created in His image. Down here we have the inescapable obligation to reach fallen humanity with the Gospel.
But even in the face of intense human need we should never consider worship (the purest form of service to God) as a waste. If my labors down here serve no useful purpose beyond God Himself, I should never view them with contempt. For God is a “worthy end” in Himself. Nothing devoted exclusively to Him is ever wasted.
I would even say that God can use such periods of apparent unproductivity to purify our motives. As God calls us to serve Him—in ways that bring no visible fruit and no praise and recognition from man—we are inevitably driven to God again and again. Being starved of all affirmation and approval from man, we are forced to find it from God alone. We continue in this process of coming to God again and again for validation. As we participate in the process, the motives for our service are purged of desires for worldly recognition and earthly reward.
God used the apparent fruitlessness of missionaries William Carey and Adoniram Judson to purge and purify them. They each labored in their respective countries—India and Burma—for six years before winning a single convert. During those long periods of unproductivity they were constantly driven to their knees, seeking God for affirmation in the face of such fruitlessness. And by the time their ministries began to bear fruit, their inner compass was focused exclusively on the “true magnetic north.” They were serving only to please and honor God.
So don’t be disturbed or unsettled if your sacrificial service bears no visible fruit or seems to have no apparent effects. Don’t be rattled if other people question the validity of your ministry or your life. Zero in on God. Make pleasing Him the focus of your prayers and efforts. Often God must do something in you before He can do something through you. Indeed, the results of your labors may never come during your lifetime. But you can still go to your grave with the assurance that you have been pleasing to God. The ultimate “human outcome” of your efforts on earth will be a surprise that God has in store for you in heaven.
Dear Lord Jesus, You alone can see the motives of my heart. You see the impure desires for self-exaltation and earthly recognition. Yet You love me all the same. Please, dear Lord, do whatever it takes to bring me nearer to Your heart and to purify my motives. Teach me the pure delight of living and serving to please and glorify You. Show me, Lord Jesus, that my highest purpose is to “waste myself” on You. Amen.
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