Things aren’t always what they appear to be! I remember many years ago, when I was employed as a church youth worker, a summers day when some of the youth group had gathered in my front room for a prayer meeting. A couple of guys had arrived a little late and out of breath but we thought nothing of it until, a few moments later, there was a knock at the door. To my suprise I was greeted by a couple of policemen! They asked me if I had seen two teenage boys who came running this way, as they believed they were carrying a stolen car radio. I was, as you can imagine, shocked and quickly went to fetch these young hooligans! When confronted in my kitchen by the police and asked to produce the aforementioned car stereo the taller of the two young men held out his large black bible – not at all what the police officers were expecting a teenager to be running about with! Sometimes how we interpret a situation can actually be quite different from the reality. And that is true even before we even get to the topic of motives.
Motives are funny old things aren’t they? The same outward action can come from several different postures of the heart. We might do the right thing but our hearts are filled with resentment and bitterness about it, or we might completely fail, and our actions land way off the mark, but our intentions may have been a desire to love, help and serve. I am certain that, when this life is over and we get to see Jesus face to face, we will discover that His interest has been far more focussed on why we do what we do rather than on what it is we are doing!
“…For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks athe outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7
I don’t know about you but for me it is rarely as simple as good or bad motives! Honestly, my heart is usually filled with a whole tangled up, complicated jumble of mixed motivations, some of which are genuine, some are even selfless, while at the same time some are fear induced or downright self-seeking. The heart can be a complicated place – even when I start out with good intent it can become derailed by pride or fear of man. I think that is why I love David’s humble prayer at the end of psalm 139 so much;
“Search me, Oh God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” v23-24
Even our hearts and motives need to come under the Lordship of Jesus!
Jumping back into the book of Joshua we find that the two and a half tribes have only been gone about five minutes before a misunderstanding erupts and the people of Israel are threatening to go to war against them! The tribes of Reuben, Gad and demi-Manasseh build themselves a humongous altar and the rest of God’s people freak out, presuming they have already forsaken the Lord. They are seriously upset, mostly because they are scared that God will send judgement on them all (which speaks somewhat about their own motives hey? Self-preservation rather than concern for their brothers backsliding!). They send Phineas to have a word with them, but after he has given them a little bit of a lecture, about rebellion and judgement and such, the cousins respond and I love their defence;
“The Mighty One, God the Lord! The Mighty One, God the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day….may the Lord himself call us to account.”Joshua 22:22-23
It turns out that their motives were not to turn away from God but to build themselves an enourmous, in-your-face reminder of who and whose they were. They wanted to be able to show their kids and grandkids this monument and tell them the stories of their history and heritage. Their hearts were far from demolishing their connection to Israel’s God, they were in fact building themselves a bridge to make their access easier. Fortunately Israel hear their defence, are reassured and call off the war. Isn’t it a comfort though that when misunderstanding is quick and easy between us humans, that God, the Mighty One, knows our hearts and motives? He sees and knows us even when we are completely misinterpreted, judged and disqualified. Injustice is a bitter pill to swallow but He alone is our judge and one day all our motives will be brought into the light. In the meantime we must keep communicating, keep forgiving, keep showing grace. I think the other side of this same coin is worth mentioning here too – as easy as it is to take comfort in God knowing our good motives when others might miss them, and how uncomfortable it might be to know that our wrong motives are also visable to Him, we are also capable of judging those around us! We also jump to conclusions based purely on our own perspective of other people’s actions. We are not God and we do not know! We are as capable as the Israelites of misunderstanding someone else’s heart and starting a war. This is why we need Him to lead our hearts just like David prayed.
So dear friends my prayer this week is for my own heart to be transparent before Him and that He would continue to gently untangle and refine my motives with His beautiful grace. And I’m also praying He would help me to see others how He does – that I’d wear grace filled goggles so that I am quick to forgive misunderstandings and generous in thinking the best of other people’s hearts. I hope you will pray that too. Thanks so much for taking the time to read. Have a wonderful week, love Rach x