Re:MARKS

What Is Your “Why”?

I have an odd question for you. It is one that has been haunting me lately. It can be summed up in one tiny little word, but the ramifications are huge. My question is, “Why?” It affects every aspect of following Christ. For example, why do you share your faith? Why do you give? Why do you attend church? Why do you teach Sunday School? Why do you lead worship? Why do you sin? What is your “Why”?

Recently I was at a fast food restaurant getting an evening meal. Earlier in the day I had been working on clearing out the garage, and I was worn out. I slid into a seat in the corner of the dining room and set my tray of food on the table. As I ate, I quietly looked around the room. The restaurant was empty except for one other customer. One of the employees was wiping down the tables. As she wiped the table next to me, I told her how much I appreciated her service to me that evening. It was a simple thing to do, and her face lit up when I spoke to her. She thanked me for noticing. I did notice her. I had been watching her as she worked. Her face looked tired, and her gray hair suggested she was old enough to be my mother. I wondered what had happened in her world that had led her to get this job at this time in her life. As I watched her work, I felt something stir inside me, a longing I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I looked over at the other customer a few tables across from me. From the corner of my eye, I watched him as he ate, and again, something stirred inside me. I felt compassion for him, even though I didn’t know him. I wondered if he had any relationship with God. I wondered if he knew that God loved him.

I watched the workers at the counter going about their jobs, and again, a melancholy emotion stirred inside me. By this point I was starting to wonder what was going on with me. Why was I feeling these emotions when I looked at these folks? I took a sip of my drink and pondered the question for a moment.

For some reason, I loved these people even though I didn’t even know them. I cared about their situations. I cared about the events in their lives that led them to this moment.

Those feelings were still bothering me as I left the restaurant and turned left onto the road back to my home. As I drove in the darkness, I couldn’t shake the feelings I had felt in that dining room. It occurred to me that for some reason, I just loved those people. I wondered if they had any relationship with God. I wondered if they knew that God created them so that they could know him personally. I realized that I saw them differently because I loved them.

Then I thought about my life and ministry, and this is where the simple question began to mess with my mind. Why do I preach? Do I preach because I like the way it feels to be in the flow of the Holy Spirit? Or do I preach because I love people so much that I have to preach, because if I don’t preach they may not understand that God loves them and wants to have a relationship with them? Can you see the subtle difference between the two answers? One response is motivated by how it makes me feel, the other is motivated by how I already feel toward others.

I am reminded of a verse in the Bible. It is likely the first verse you ever learned as a child. It says this, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). Tucked away in this short verse is the answer to the “Why” question. The reason God gave his son for us was because he loves us. God’s love for his creation was so great that he was willing to give up the life of his own son for our benefit. The “Why” was love, and it changed everything.

Now think back to the questions I posed in the opening paragraph.

Why do you share your faith? Do you do it because you think that is what a good Christian is supposed to do? Do you share your faith only as part of a visitation program at your church? Or do you share your faith because you love people so much, and you realize that if you don’t share with them, they may never know that God loves them and wants a relationship with them?

Why do you give? Do you give because you think that is what a good Christian is supposed to do? Do you hope people will notice your generosity? Or do you give because you love people so much that you want to share with them all that God has given to you?

Why do you attend church? Do you attend church because you think that is what a good Christian is supposed to do? Or do you attend church because you love the body of Christ, and you can’t wait to be able to spend time with those you love?

Why do you teach Sunday School? Do you teach Sunday School because no one else would volunteer, and you felt obligated to do it? Or do you teach because you love those kids so much, and you want them to understand how much God loves them as well?

Why do you lead worship? Do you lead worship because you like to be seen or heard? Do you want people to hear how great you can sing? Or do you lead worship because you love God with all your heart, and you want others to experience his presence in their lives as well?

Why do you sin? Is it because you love your sin more than you love God?

The reason the “why” matters is that it checks our motives. Our service should be motivated by our love. Whenever we serve, but we do not love, we are not really very godly after all. To be godly is to be like God. Remember, God loved the world, and then he gave his son.

I’m considering those around me in a new way now. I’m seeing people differently. I’m looking at them through a lens of love. I see past their imperfections, and I see a man or woman whom God created and loved. I love them too, and I’ll do whatever it takes for them to know God. Why? Because I love them.

This morning I did a little grocery shopping. As the cashier rang up my items, I said to him, “Thank you for your service to me this morning, I really appreciate it.” Suddenly he stopped everything and froze still, his gaze staring off into space. Then he turned his head and looked at me. For an awkward moment we just looked at each other, and then he said, “No one has ever thanked me before.” Again he paused, and then finally he finished, “I didn’t know how to respond.”

I smiled. That simple act of love had stopped him in his tracks. For me, it was a simple act of gratitude born out of love. I genuinely appreciated his service to me, and because I loved him, I wanted him to know it. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again: everything changes when you love someone.

So, my friend, what is your “Why”?

This article was originally published in the June 2015 Newsletter.

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