Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
I’ve found people get real quiet when you start to talk about motives. In my years of preaching, I’ve noticed this time and time again—the hooting and hollering starts to recede, and the atmosphere gets a little more somber. In fact, some people even start to make this face; it’s like this “semi-naseous-cause-I-know-God’s-dealing-with-me” look.
I can make the same face, too, when God starts to dig around in my heart. I’ll never forget when the verse above, Philippians 2:3, came alive to me in a fresh way: “let nothing be done for selfish ambition or vainglory” (King James Version)… man, my heart sank down to my stomach as a thought flashed across my mind: “I think everything I do is out of selfish ambition and vainglory!”. It was a pretty sobering moment.
Why is it so uncomfortable for God to deal with our motives? I mean, even for us who love God and want to give Him our best, it’s something we can run away from. I think the answer is found in Proverbs 16:2, which says, “the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes”. In other words, we humans have this tendency to assume the very best about our motivations for things. So when God exposes something in our hearts, it can feel like we’re having the rug pulled out from under us, so to speak.
The verse goes on to say, “but the Lord weighs the heart”. I believe this means if you follow God, He’s gonna lead you in ways that will expose and test what’s in your heart—that’s just what He does. Not for His sake (He already knows), but for yours. Through His Word or trials (or both), He will bring junk to the surface, so you can deal with it. Not to shame you, but because He loves you and wants you to grow.
The truth is, God wants to bless you, and to entrust you with the precious things of His Kingdom. He has good things planned for your future—next levels of influence, wisdom, promotion, more resources, more favor, more open doors—but He knows you need the right heart to handle such blessings. Deuteronomy 8:16 reveals to us that He purifies our hearts, bringing us through the wilderness, so that He “may do us good in the end”. (emphasis mine) You need to know God has a “good end” in mind for you. This is the way of God Most High—-He gives beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and double for our former shame.
Is God dealing with you about something in your life? Has He led you into a time of testing? Don’t be discouraged. Take heart. God is treating you like His very own son or daughter. (Hebrews 12:5-11) Jesus Himself said to one of the churches in Revelation, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline”. (Revelations 3:19) He is not doing this to destroy you, but to do you good in the end. God has good things already lined up in your future; all your days have been written in His book. What He promised you will come to pass. But remember, it takes a steady hand to hold a full cup. He’s getting you ready. Trust Him.