What Motivates Us to Serve Jesus and Others?

Pastor Phil Andrukaitis, December 4, 2023

The Apostle Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians

 General Theme: Living Righteously While Waiting Patiently for Jesus to Return

Sermon Title: What motivates us to serve Jesus and others?

Sermon Text: First Thessalonians 2:3-6

Subject: Ministry motives

Complement:  When God’s servants have proven themselves through fiery trials, they are entrusted with the gospel, revealing godly motives.

Big Idea: Proven saints are entrusted with the gospel.

Overview & Review

I.          Spiritual leaders prove their concern for the church. (1:1a)

II.        Spiritual leaders provide care for the church. (1:1bc)

III.       Spiritual leaders pray for the church. (1:2-10)

IV.       Spiritual leaders pattern a life of loving service. (2:1- 3:13)

            A.         By evangelizing lost sinners with the saving gospel  (2:1-16)      

1st Question: How should Christians conduct themselves before condemned sinners?  (2:1-12)  

  • with a godly testimony (1-2)                          
  • with godly motives (3-6)                                Today’s Focus
  • with a godly mindset (7-9)
  • with godly mien (10-12)

2nd Question:  How do Christians recognize converted sinners? (2:13-16)

            B.         By edifying separated saints with loving concern (2:17 – 3:5)

            C.        By encouraging spiritual saints with hope and prayer (3:6-10)


Author William Manchester, who returned to his unit on Okinawa after receiving a wound that earned him a Purple Heart, eloquently describes the psychology of commitment in his book Goodbye Darkness:

“And then, in one of those great thundering jolts in which a man’s real motives are revealed to him in an electrifying vision, I understand, at last, why I jumped hospital that Sunday 35 years ago, and, in violation of orders, returned to the front and almost certain death.  It was an act of love.  Those men on the line were my family, my home…. They had never let me down, and I couldn’t do it to them.  I had to be with them rather than to let them die and me live with the knowledge that I might have saved them.  Men, I now knew, do not fight for flag or country, for the Marine Corps or glory or any other abstraction.  They fight for one another.” [1]

Transitional Thoughts

Just as Manchester identified his motive, to fight for his fellow Marines because of his love for them, is our motive to serve God and others founded on our desire to love and please Him?  Moreover, will we fight for one another (or fight against one another) as the powers of darkness continually commit sorties against the church?

The Bible has much to say about our motives, especially when it comes to serving God.  What is a motive?  A motive is the underlying reason for any action we undertake.  It is the “why” behind what we do.

Often, we may think to ourselves that our motives are pure; however, the LORD evaluates our motives (Proverbs 16:2) because our hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked:  Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9).  That is why the LORD searches and tests our hearts.  God knows that if our motives and habits are left unchecked, our lifestyle and ministry will bring reproach to His name and hinder the gospel ministry.

There are times when our motives are selfish and times when “pride, anger, revenge, a sense of entitlement, or a desire for approval can all be catalysts for our actions.”[2]  For example, did you know…

  • …Christians have presented their offerings for the wrong reasons (2nd Corinthians 9:7)
  • …Christians have preached the gospel for selfish ambitions (Philippians 1:17)?
  • …Christians have practiced publicly their righteousness for the wrong reasons (Matthew 6:1)
  • …Christians have prayed for the wrong reasons (James 4:3)?

Therefore, is it any wonder that the Lord Jesus may not be impressed with some of our ministries, especially when our motives are impure?  I believe Jesus is more interested about our motives than our actions.  Why?  Our motives reveal the deepest recesses of our soul, impacting our love and intimacy with Jesus.  Jesus wants each of us to totally surrender our heart and soul to Him.  Such total surrender brings much pleasure to God.

Last week we examined the idea that “our conduct impacts a person’s response to the gospel.”  Today, let us consider the following idea:  This “model church” exhibited effective evangelism because proven saints with godly motives were entrusted with the gospel.

As we unpack the text before us, take note of Paul’s statement: “We speak not to please man, but to please God Who tests us” (1st Thessalonians 2:4b).  In other words, when the believer’s ultimate desire is to please Christ and not others, expect God to “test” [scrutinize] our motives. 

Therefore, here are three godly motives that stir the hearts of proven saints, entrusted with the gospel.

I.         They please Christ because He is our focus (Philippians 1:12-18).

II.        They preach Christ because He is our Gospel(1st Thessalonians 2:3-4).

III.      They protect their hearts unto Christ because He is our witness (1st Thessalonians 2:5-6).

Proven saints are entrusted with the gospel.

The first godly motive that stirs the hearts of proven saints is…

I.         They please Christ because He is our focus (1st Thessalonians 2:2; Philippians 1:12-18).

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know,
we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict.”
(1st Thessalonians 2:2)

            This motive [to please Christ because He is our focus] was deeply rooted in the hearts of Paul and his mission team.  Although they were shamefully treated in Philippi, their focus remained on Christ, which enabled them to bring the gospel to the Philippians.

            Read Philippians 1:12-18.  Paul and the mission team were able to live above the challenging and troubling circumstances of life because they focused not on their suffering and shameful treatment but on Christ   (Acts 16:12-40; 1st Thessalonians 2:2).  

            How were they able to remain focused?  They had Jesus as their model.  Jesus also lived above the circumstances of life as He sensed the weight of our sin and the weariness of the human body while doing His Father’s will.  Jesus knew poverty, humility, grief and sorrow, the pressure of temptations, betrayal and abandonment by His closest disciples and even by God the Father as Jesus was crucified for our sins. He Who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become righteous in Him (2nd Corinthians 5:21).

            Nevertheless, Jesus lived above the circumstances of life to bring salvation to sinners because He loves   the Father and delights in doing the Father’s will.  In addition, Jesus loves sinners, as demonstrated by being crucified for our sins.

            Therefore, Jesus also calls believers to live above the circumstances of life, especially when it comes to fulfilling our ministry.  But how?  God shows us the way.  While time does not allow us to unfold this passage from Paul’s letter to the Philippians (Philippians 1:12-18), here are three principles to remember:

  • Focus on Christ, not the circumstances of life.
  • Focus on God’s sovereignty, not the will of man.
  • Focus on divine results, not personal pain.

Proven saints are entrusted with the gospel.

The second godly motive that stirs the hearts of proven saints is…

II.        They preach Christ because He is our Gospel(1st Thessalonians 2:3-4).

“For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceived,

but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel,
so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
(1st Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Knowing that Christ had directed and empowered the mission team, Paul’s defense of the mission team’s integrity was designed to protect the Thessalonian Church from being undermined by doubt. 

Paul’s “appeal” paraklēsis (Strong’s #3874) was an urgent cry, as he comforted and confronted the Thessalonians with the Person of Jesus Christ. 

Pardon the idiom, but Paul did not “force the gospel down someone’s throat”; he simply trusted the Holy Spirit to transform the lives of sinners as the gospel was proclaimed and patiently explained (Romans 1:16; 2nd Timothy 2:24-26)

Know this:  While there are many worldly messages that influence our minds, the gospel is the only message capable of transforming the soul and lives of sinners.

As God the Father draws sinners to Christ (John 6:44), the preaching of the gospel of Christ, which leads to salvation, DOES NOT come from

  • “error” planē (Strong’s #4106). 

            This word issometimes translated “deceit,” which carries the idea of wandering off the right path. It appears that Paul’s critics had accused him and the mission team of teaching error, perhaps even heresy.  Therefore, when we teach or preach to others, be sure that everything is grounded in the whole counsel of Scripture.

  • “impurity” akatharsia (Strong’s #167)

            This word has the idea of “something is unclean.”  In the context of this passage, this word refers to an evil doctrine combined with the pagan religious practices, often involving sexual practices.  Again, it appears that Paul’s critics were accusing him of seeking converts for sexual favors [MacArthur]. 

            However, in the broader context of Paul’s ministry, he did not preach with any impure motives like personal ambition, pride, greed, or popularity residing in his heart.

  • “an attempt to deceive” dolos (Strong’s #1388). 

            Paul did not make any empty promises with the idea of getting people to make a decision (for the purpose of increasing membership roles).  When Paul preached the gospel, he did not attempt to employ deceptive methods or a strategy; rather Paul was sincere, upright, and careful as to how he presented the breath of God.  Read Hebrews 4:12.

“For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the   thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Remember, our words have an everlasting effect upon others.  Should we make it our aim to please people, we lose our capacity to please God.  Conversely, when it is our only aim to please God and to speak His Word in love, God will provide us the capacity to minister effectively to others.  “Pleasing people stems from wrong motives such as fear of rejection, desire for approval, power, praise…and pleasing people occurs when we are seeking to meet our needs by our own strategies” to protect or defend ourselves.[3]

The preaching of the gospel of Christ, which leads to salvation, IS GIVEN TO THE BELIEVER who harbors godly motives in his heart for these three reasons…

  • …Believers are approved by God. 

            Like Paul, we to can be “approved” “tested” dokimazō (Strong’s # 1381) by God.  In other words, when God scrutinizes the motives of His servants and their motives “pass His test,” God gives His servants opportunities and responsibilities to teach and preach the gospel. 

  • …Believers have been entrusted with the gospel of God. 

            As with Paul, God has “entrusted” pisteuō (Strong’s #4100) to all of us the gospel, but to others, God has set them apart to proclaim and teach the gospel.  Therefore, when we have been tested beyond our breaking point and have learned to lean upon God’s arm and not rely on our own strength, only then will we ever know and experience God’s authority and power to impact lives and establish churches.

  • …Believers are constantly tested by God. 

            While there are several tests before entering any ministry, it doesn’t mean that God stops examining us.  God is always watching our lives and testing our motives because they have a way of becoming corrupt and crippling His ministry through us. 

            God is more concerned about our ministries and lifestyles than we.  He knows all about our sinful motives and habits, and left unchecked, they will ruin our names, ministries, and bring reproach to the name and work of Christ.  That is why our hearts must always be open to the scrutiny of God.

            I further believe God brings test after test upon those who serve Him.  His tests are designed to purify our ministries; to bring to light those issues of the heart that we hide in darkness.  

Proven saints are entrusted with the gospel.

Thus far, we have considered two of three godly motives that stirs the hearts of proven saints:

I.         They please Christ because He is our focus (Philippians 1:12-18).

II.        They preach Christ because He is our Gospel(1st Thessalonians 2:3-4).

And the third godly motive that stirs the hearts of proven saints is…

III.      They protect their hearts unto Christ because He is our witness (1st Thessalonians 2:5-6a).

“For we never came with words of flattery,
as you know, nor with a pretext for greed – God is witness.

Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others,
though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.”
(1st Thessalonians 2:5-6)

As Paul wraps up his focus on the motive behind their gospel ministry with these words, listen to Proverbs 4:23-26.

            “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.  Put away from you a deceitful mouth and put perverse lips far from you.  Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.  Ponder the path of your feet and let all your ways be established.”

Like Paul, when we bring the gospel to others, protect [guard] your heart against these three specific areas:

  • Avoid flattering words [smooth talking] to make a favorable impression.
  • Avoid pretending to be poor to gain financial blessings from others.
  • Avoid using the honored position of pastor/preacher to obtain glory from others.

Why?  God is our witness.  In other words, God is watching us.  He is our Spectator. 

Michael Hyatt noted three reasons why we are to guard our hearts:[4]

1.         Our hearts are extremely valuable in the eyes of God.

2.         Our hearts are the source of everything we do.

3.         Our hearts are constantly under attack.

Proven saints are entrusted with the gospel.

Concluding Thoughts and Applications

I like this cartoon illustration as reveals hidden motives within our hearts. 

In his book, Making Sense of the Ministry, Warren Wiersbe described the essence of true ministry:[5]

  • The foundation of ministry is character.
  • The nature of ministry is service.
  • The motive for ministry is love.
  • The measure of ministry is sacrifice.
  • The authority of ministry is submission.
  • The purpose of ministry is the glory of God.
  • The tools of ministry are the Word of God and prayer.
  • The privilege of ministry is growth.
  • The power of ministry is the Holy Spirit.
  • And the model for ministry is Jesus Christ.


1.         Pleasing Christ:  As I have been observing this church family, why are many of you are “hanging in there” with this church?  What is your motive:  Love?  Duty?  Pride?  Tradition?  Other?  If you believe your motive is pleasing to Jesus, no matter how challenging the circumstances for your church and its outreach, stay focused on Christ.  Don’t give up.  Pray passionately.  Wait on the Lord.

            From the daily devotional Our Daily Bread [November 10, 2018], the writer reminds us that like Moses, who was given the task by God to lead the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, was also assured of God’s presence!  “I will be with you.”  See Exodus 3.  Bill Crowder provided further insight: 

              For the enslaved Israelites, part of the reality of God’s presence was evidenced in His awareness of what they were suffering.  In Exodus 3:7 we read, “The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because    of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.’ ” 

            This should be encouraging to us as well.  In our own seasons of struggle and pain, knowing that God is intimately aware of our suffering is the first step in trusting Him for the help   and strength we need to endure.  Not only does He see the struggle of His people, He moves to act on our behalf.  In an ultimate sense, this is the same compassion that fueled the cross—He knows the depths of our brokenness and, in Christ, has provided a way of rescue.

            Here are several areas for which we are to pray and praise God:

  • Thank God for His protective hand upon this church and for the future pastoral search committee.
  • Thank God for the ministry opportunities that are before BBBC.
  • Thank God for the upcoming trials that stir our hearts to focus on Jesus.
  • Thank God for the individual and personal outreach that each of you do.
  • God’s Prese

2.         Preaching Christ:  The gospel of Christ has been entrusted first and most importantly to the church [every local church in Christ].  Therefore, BBBC has the responsibility to share the gospel with others. Therefore, are you comfortable and confident to share the good news of Christ with others?  Would you like some help in this area? 


3.         Protecting our hearts unto Christ.  Are there certain issues that trip you up from time to time? Do you have a soulmate that comes alongside of you and prays with you and for you?  We all need a soulmate.

Proven saints are entrusted with the gospel.

[1] Jim Collins, “The Power of Catalytic Mechanisms,” Harvard Business Review (July-August 1999), [doc online]; https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2004/june/15386.html, accessed 2018, Nov. 5.

[2] God Questions, What does the Bible say about motives? [doc online]; https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-motives.html, accessed 2018, Nov. 5.

[3] J. Hampton Keathley, III, A Compelling Example for Ministry, [doc online]; https://bible.org/seriespage/4-compelling-example-ministry-1-thess-21-12, accessed 2018, Nov.6.

[4] Michael Hyatt, Your Most Important Leadership Tool, [doc online]; https://michaelhyatt.com/three-reasons-why-you-must-guard-your-heart/, accessed 2018, Nov. 10.

[5] Warren Wiersbe, True Ministry, [doc online]; https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1999/december/12148.html, accessed 2018, Nov. 5.

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