Playing For an Audience of One

Even if “ministry” is not the way we put bread on our table, part of following Messiah’s lead requires that we view all our activities as being nothing less than an expression of worship. This holistic perspective affirms that we do all that we do because He is all that He is (cf. Col. 3:17). And this theocentric focus is entirely appropriate given the revelation of God’s character in His works of creation, redemption, and empowerment. Yet in the busy and messy crucible of life, when it comes to our so-called “secular” and non-secular pursuits, we often fail to ask ourselves the fundamental question, “Why do we do what we do?”

If someone locked us in a room and gave us sodium pentothal or some other concoction designed to weaken our defenses and dredge the truth out of us, and if we were asked point blank; “What’s the real-deal bottom-line motivation that makes you willing to expend effort to try and accomplish something?” How would we respond? Would we come clean, or would we equivocate in a socially acceptable but disingenuous manner?

Truth be told, even in our most altruistic moments, we’re simply unable to completely escape the self-aggrandizing clutches of our Adamic sin baggage. And so noble intentions get tainted by sinful motives. Nevertheless, God uses imperfect people to accomplish His perfect will.

However, one day soon Jesus will look directly into the eyes of those who belong to Him and fairly, thoroughly, impartially, and graciously review their conduct, service, words, thoughts, and even motives for the purpose of withholding or bestowing spiritual rewards; rewards which will include positions of responsibility and authority in the Kingdom to come. This happens at the Bema, the Judgment Seat of Messiah (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). And so the fact that believers can earn spiritual rewards for the future becomes a key motivation for godly living in the present. And an often neglected component of godly living in the present is our interior thought life; the part of us only fully known by the One who has complete knowledge of all things both actual and possible.

Now given the centrality of the human heart in relation to this critical issue of why we do what we do (cf. Prov. 4:23), what does it look like to play for an audience of One? Well essentially, playing for an audience of One means that you’re more concerned with God being pleased than with people being impressed! And while that’s easy to say it’s often hard to do. We all like being liked and hate being hated. And part of our Divine design is a legitimate need for human affirmation and encouragement. But when encouragement and affirmation from others becomes the goal of our efforts instead of a possible result of our efforts, we get into trouble because we’ve crossed a line that says, “It’s really more about me than God.” And usually this kind of anthropocentric shift is subtle and insidious. So we have to regularly take a look at our core motivations by doing some honest spiritual inventory. And that involves asking questions like, “What’s the payoff here? What am I hoping to achieve?” And it’s also at this point that we do well to remember these words from Paul: Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Messiah (Col. 3:23-24).

When our worth and value doesn’t fluctuate according to the fickle whims of fellow flawed human beings, within the uniqueness that is us, we’re able to enjoyably strive for excellence not because we insecurely crave approval and recognition, or because we’re in competition with someone, or because we’re comparing ourselves to someone else; rather we do what we do because contentedly, with a sense of purpose, and as an expression of worship, we’ve been set free to play for an audience of One.

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