Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Danger of Pride

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When I serve others with just my own steam, my own willpower, my own effort, it wears me out. But if I serve according to the promptings of God’s Spirit, by the leading of God’s Spirit—I’m available when He wants me to serve, to do what He wants me to do, and I do it by God’s grace—there is strength.

Leslie: It’s Thursday, June 28, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

If you missed any of yesterday’s program, I hope you’ll catch up at ReviveOurHearts.com. Hear some potential pitfalls that servants have to watch for. Nancy’s going to pick up on this theme in a series called Developing a Servant’s Heart.

Nancy: Well, we’ve been dialoguing in the last session and again in this one about some of the potential pitfalls of servanthood. There are some great rewards and joys and blessings that go with being a servant, but there are also some dangers that we need to watch out for.

We talked about the danger of losing perspective of why we’re serving and who we’re serving. That can lead to being discouraged. Then we talked about the danger of serving, going through the motions, but without a servant’s heart. I think it’s easy for us as women to do that. We go through the motions. We do what’s expected of us; we fulfill our responsibilities, but we lose the joy because we don’t have a servant’s heart. We’re not motivated by love for God and for others.

And then speaking of motives, we talked about the danger of being driven by a desire for praise, for applause, for recognition. We asked ourselves in the last session, “Would we serve as readily if no one could see what we were doing, if no one knew, if no one recognized us, if no one thanked us, would we serve?”

We’re called to have a servant’s heart that is motivated just by love for Christ. And then we can serve in secret even if no one else knows, and know that God who sees in secret will reward us openly.

I want to touch today on a few other potential pitfalls of serving. Let me share with you some of these pitfalls, and then I have some friends here with me in the studio today who are going to interact with me and perhaps help me see some illustrations and applications for our own lives as women.

But here’s a basic danger of servanthood, and that’s the whole attitude of pride. We kind of touched on that in the area of motives; but pride, comparison. Do you ever find yourself thinking how much more you’re doing than others around you? "That person sure isn’t pulling her weight." 

Maybe you’re both working in the women’s ministry or you’re both involved in some project at work, and you’re thinking, “I am killing myself. I am working so hard to meet this deadline, to finish this project to help the boss get done. And my coworker here, my colleague or this other member of my family or this other member of the church, they aren’t pulling their weight. They aren’t carrying their load. They aren’t doing their share.”

It’s pride that causes me to be concerned about whether others are fulfilling their responsibility rather than just focusing on whether I’m doing what God has called me to do. We focus on how much more we’re doing than others, how much harder we’re working.

This can happen in a marriage. It can happen in a family. You think of how much greater sacrifice you’re making than your mate.  When things get tight or tense at home, isn't it easy to pull out that weapon? "I'm the one working my fingers to the bone around this place! How many dishes have you done recently? How many times have you taken the kids? I've taken the kids the last number of times to ball practice. I've been up the last sixteen nights in a row with that baby who's awake during the night."

We start comparing how much more we are doing; how much more we are sacrificing in our homes or in our ministry or in the local church. That’s a pitfall, a pitfall of pride. If I have a humble heart, all I care about is serving. And I’m not going to be concerned about comparing myself to others and how they’re doing or not doing.

And then the pitfall of conditional service. That has to do with wanting to pick who we’ll serve, when we’ll serve, and how we’ll serve. "I'll serve, but let me pick the conditions. Let me pick the types of service I want." And you know in a church or in a ministry, there are some people who will do some jobs, but not this job. And it’s not just a matter of they weren’t called to do this job or they’re not gifted for this job. They just don’t want to. They don’t have a heart to serve. It’s conditional service.

I read one writer who said, “We must see the difference between choosing to serve and choosing to be a servant.” Big difference there.

This author said,

When we chose to serve, we are still in charge. We decide whom we will serve and when we will serve. And if we are in charge, we will worry a great deal about anyone stepping on us, that is, taking charge over us. But when we choose to be a servant . . .  [Not just saying, "I’ll do some good things around here; I’m willing to be servant."]

When we choose to be a servant, we give up the right to be in charge. There’s great freedom in this. If we voluntarily choose to be taken advantage of, then we cannot be manipulated. When we choose to be a servant, we surrender the right to decide when we will serve. We become available and vulnerable.

That’s the kind of servant that’s needed in your home. That’s the kind of servant that’s needed in your church, in your workplace, in your relationships: servants who don’t put conditions on their service. “I’m willing to serve 24/7. I’m willing to give, to spend, and to be spent on your behalf.” That’s a servant’s heart.

And then here’s a pitfall or a danger that perhaps all of us have experienced. If I could summarize it in one word, I would just say “weariness.” Weariness: just exhaustion, tiredness. And you come to the point, some of you moms, some of you in a particular responsibility at work or in your church where you feel, “I just can’t do anymore. I just can’t keep going. I’m exhausted.”

We could do a whole session on this. We won’t, so I want to just touch on it. But I think one of the reasons we get weary sometimes—it’s not just physical weariness; sometimes it’s the weariness of feeling like we’re serving, but we’re not seeing any fruit.

And isn’t that true as a mom? You feel like you’re giving and giving and giving and giving, but you don’t see the fruit in the short-term. Parenting is a long-haul act of service. It’s easy to get weary in well doing when you’re not seeing results, when you’re not seeing the fruit of your labors.

I think that’s why the apostle Paul said to the Galatians in chapter 6, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9). Don’t give up.

There are times when serving in Revive Our Hearts is wearying for me. There are times when I feel like I can’t pour out more. There are times for you in your church or in your family or your workplace when you serve, and you say, “I just can’t do anymore. I want to give up.” But the apostle Paul says, “Don’t grow weary in doing good, because in God’s time, in due season, you will reap. There will be fruit for your labors if you don’t give up.”

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Now is the time when we have an opportunity to serve. Let’s do it while we have the opportunity.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, he’s talking about those who would compare themselves, which apostles did more, which ones were the truest apostles. And Paul says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me ” (1 Cor. 15:10).

When I serve others with just my own steam, my own willpower, my own effort, it wears me out. But if I serve according to the promptings of God’s Spirit, by the leading of God’s Spirit—I’m available when He wants me to serve, to do what He wants me to do, and I do it by God’s grace—there is strength, there's enabling, there's ability to do that.

God can give us supernatural strength that we could never have on our own whether it’s in your home, in your workplace, or for me in Revive Our Hearts. God has supernatural grace available to us to serve.

And I love that phrase in 1 Peter chapter 4 where the apostle says, “If you’re going to serve, do it by the strength that God supplies” (1 Pet. 4:11 paraphrased). Do it by the strength that God supplies.

I can't tell you how often I say, "God, I don't have the strength to go on." But He reminds me, "I will give you strength, My strength, to do whatever it is that I have called you to do." You can count on that in the place where you serve. If you are serving according to God's will and God's leading, there is strength that God supplies, sufficient to that task.

And then there is the pitfall of resentment. There are so many things that can fuel this when you’re serving. It’s easy to become resentful, as we said a moment ago, when others aren’t pulling their weight, when they aren’t serving. So comparison will always get us in trouble—who’s doing more, who’s doing most, who’s doing best.

Sometimes we can become resentful over all there is to do. Sometimes in our tasks as women, there seems to be never ending. There’s always more. There’s always another meal to fix. There’s always another day to go to work. There’s always another day to get that child up and ready for school. There’s always another day of home schooling. And sometimes it can be overwhelming just how much there is to do in serving.

We can become resentful of the very people God has sent us to serve. We can become resentful when we’re not recognized or appreciated or thanked. We build up these expectations. “If I’m going to serve, the least is I can expect that someone would say ‘thank you.’” And as moms, it’s important to teach your children to say thank you. But there will be times when no one even notices what you did, nobody even appreciates it.

A friend was saying to me recently . . . She did that whole, awful job of cleaning out the grout on her bathroom floor. She spent hours working on this. If you've done it before, you know it takes hours. It is a thankless task. She said, "I don't even know if my husband will notice." Chances are, nine husband out of ten, or maybe ninety-nine out of one hundred will not notice that you cleaned out the grout in the tile on the bathroom floor. But when you do things like that over and over and nobody notices, it is easy to become resentful. I'm not saying my friend was, but it can happen to any of us. 

That’s the danger with having expectations for our service, and that’s why our expectations need to be yielded to the Lord. Someone in our ministry has said over the years—it’s always convicting when I hear this—the true test of a servant’s heart is how you respond when you’re treated like a servant.

Isn’t that true? We don’t mind serving as long as we say, “I chose to serve. I’m planning to serve. This is how I want to serve. I’m serving you. Does everybody notice I’m serving you?” But the true test of a servant is when you didn’t ask to serve, when you didn’t volunteer to serve, and someone treats you like a servant.

Do you become resentful, or do you consider it a privilege to fulfill your purpose in life, which is to be a servant of God and of His people?

Leslie: Wow. What incredible perspective on how to truly be a servant. Nancy Leigh DeMoss isn’t finished, but what we’ve heard already is going to have a big effect on how I tackle the work in front of me today. That message from Nancy is part of a series called, Developing a Servant’s Heart.

To get a copy of this series on CD, call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com and look for the series, Developing a Servant's Heart.

Nobody knows what servanthood is more than a mom. Nancy talked with some moms after recording this series on servanthood about what it means to be a servant at home. We'll hear from Holly Elliff, Kim Wagner. And we'll remember Kathy Helvey, who went home to be with the Lord a couple of years ago. We miss Kathy, who was a servant until the end of her life. She began the conversation with talking about the ways God called Kathy to serve her daughter.

Kathy Helvey: This verse particularly, “Do not grow weary in doing well”—sometimes I just wish it wasn’t there.

But the truth of it is: I know God has put that in there for a reason because He says, “In due season; in time we will reap if we do not give up.” I have to continually remind myself that Stephanie was given to us with her autism from the Lord. It was from His hand that Stephanie came into our lives, and He knows best.

And this life, when we really think about eternity, which I can’t grasp as a human, but we know it goes on forever and ever. And some day we are going to see Stephanie as she was meant to be. And I can’t wait. And that is going to be forever and ever and ever. So this life is just a blink; that’s all it is. Even though it’s forever for me because it’s all I know.

But when I can get that perspective, and I wish I could have it every day, 24/7. I lose it so easily. But when I get it, there’s a real joy that I can experience. There’s something to look forward to. This is worthwhile. I am going to keep at it. I am going to keep trusting God to do the best that I can do as her mom, to trust Him that she will be who she was meant to be for all the days that we have her that were in His mind when she was conceived.

Nancy: Do any of you ladies—or am I the only one—ever struggle with resenting the demands of ongoing servanthood in the areas God has called you to?

Holly Elliff: Oh, I definitely think there are days when, I don’t know if I would use the word resent as much as I just get ready to retire. I told Nancy the other day, I said, “I would like to retire Martha for a while, just so tired. We had a bunch of company at our house. I think there are some people who serve because they really have the gift of service, and they have a servant’s heart, and they love that.

There are other people who serve because it’s a choice, and they know it’s the right thing to do. I am that type of servant. So if I am Martha too long without escape somewhere, I could come to potentially be—I hate to use the word resent—but not appreciate that role any longer.

Kathy: Well, talking about resentment here, being really honest. This is coming at it at another angle. But sometimes I fall very easily into having a pity party being the mom with the special needs child when all of my friends have normal children. I hear them talking about these little piddily things like, “Sally has to have glasses,” and “Oh what are we going to do? Susan didn’t get to be a cheerleader.” And I’m going, “You’ve got normal children. There is nothing you should be complaining about.” So I can fall very easily into resenting even the best of friends. I

The psalm that means more to me than ever is Psalm 18: "I will trust in Your unfailing love. My heart is going to rejoice in Your salvation because You are going to come and save us out of this, and I'm going to sing a new song because You have been good to me" (paraphrased).

My husband is so good at reminding me to give people the freedom to fail. "Give people the freedom to be who they are." Another way he puts it is, "Kathy, just give people the freedom to sin. God gives you that freedom to be right where you're at, so why don't you give people the freedom to be where they're at.

I catch myself often, often, often, and there are a multitude of reasons, but a lot of times it's that critical spirit. Where does that come from? Insecurity as a woman, pride—that's the biggest one and has so many different facets. Out of that, I find myself not accepting others, when really it is, "Take the log out of your own eye before you try to take the speck out of somone else's eye." If I can remember that.

I don't know what that person is going through. I can only see the outer shell, but God knows their heart. He knows exactly what they've been through, what they are going through, and why, and what He's doing in their life because of it. Who am I? It just pulls me up—though not often enough.

Holly: I think, too, as you realize it, God is giving them grace for their life. You are responsible to get to God for grace for your life. The verse that Nancy shared in 1 Peter, that we serve with the strength that God supplies. That's a key to me. 

If I'm not getting my strength from God Himself; if I'm comparing myself with other people; if I'm expecting other people to meet my needs rather than God Himself to provide what I need to serve, then I will be disappointed

Kathy: As Nancy talked about all these things on servanthood, as I listened I got through and thought, “I don’t know if I have ever really served the way I’m supposed to.”

NancyWith the right heart.

Kathy: With the right heart. As I really thought about all of this today, I thought, “Lord, You’ve got a long way to go.” But the perspective that Nancy brought on all of this as she so well does every time, it’s a soul-searching thing to ask yourself, “Have I really ever served from a servant heart the way God wants?”

Holly: The question in that poem: "If no one else knew, if no one else ever saw, would I be the one there washing someone's feet." It's a really good perspective question.

Kim: For me as a pastor’s wife, several years ago I caught myself checking out my motives of why am I doing what I’m doing. Am I doing it because I’m a pastor’s wife, or am I doing it because I’m a believer?

And that is a question that I try and ask myself frequently. I live with Colossians 1:28 and 29 as my compelling verses in life where Paul explained what his purpose was, why he labored, and that’s to see others to come to maturity in Christ.

He says, “For this reason I labor.” And I think to keep our perspective, it’s so important to remember as we’re serving, it’s not the service. It’s not the ministry. It is number one that God be glorified out of love for Him because we love Him so much we want others to get in on His love. And so loving Him we are desiring to see others conformed to His image. That’s the purpose. That’s why we’re doing ministry.

Leslie Basham: That’s Kim Wagner talking with Nancy about being a true servant. Holly Elliff joined the conversation, and so did Kathy Helvey. When Kathy was talking about eternity during that recording session, we had no idea that she was going to experience the joys of heaven so soon. Kathy went home to be with the Lord in 2010. She was a servant to her family and to those around her to the end of her days. It's a reminder of how important it is to serve for as long as God has us on this earth.

Today's conversation is part of a series called Developing a Servant’s Heart. If you heard something that struck you about serving with the right attitude, I hope you'll follow up on that topic. At ReviveOurHearts.com you can follow up on that topic for this series so far. You can also get the series on CD.

I hope you'll read the book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss called, Surrender: The Heart God Controls. The book will help you say, "Yes, Lord" to any circumstance He calls you to. We'll send you Surrender when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for it by calling 1-800-569-5959 or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Next time hear about the true reward for being a servant. Nancy will wrap up the series tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.