Our family recently endured the greatest loss of our lives when my precious Daddy died. We have truly learned that God's grace is sufficient for our times of trial and the life of Christ in us has indeed been our strength. But as a result of something that happened in the midst of that great trial, God has taught me a beautiful lesson about more than just my deep love for my Daddy. He has also taught me about my deep love for Him.
On the morning after Daddy's death, we faced the horrible task of choosing his clothes to take to the funeral home. My mother selected his suit, shirt, and tie and draped them across the edge of the bed. Realizing that this task was almost more than she could bear, I offered my help. She left the room and told me to get his black shoes out of his closet and place them with the clothes.
When I looked down to the floor of his closet where he kept his shoes, my eyes fell upon an old wooden box that held his shoe shining equipment and waxes. On the top of the box was an inclined shelf where he had propped his foot for years in order to shine his shoes. As soon as I saw the box, my mind was flooded with pleasant memories of the Sunday mornings of my childhood. I remembered that my Daddy never put on a suit without shining his shoes. One of the greatest highlights of my life as a child was when he would allow me to shine his shoes for him. I remembered feeling so needed and so "grown up" when Daddy would let me shine his shoes.
That memory was a blessing on such a sad morning and I quickly thanked God for it. I pulled his black shoes off the rack and placed them next to his suit and in so doing I noticed that they were scuffed and dull. I realized how very sick my daddy must have been to let his shoes get in that condition. I knew what I had to do. I had to shine my daddy's shoes for him again. No one would see them so their condition really didn't matter, but I knew that my daddy would not want to wear a suit without his shoes shined perfectly. So with great love in my broken heart, I removed the wooden shoe shine box from the closet and began to shine his shoes. As I did, my teardrops fell on the top of the shoe and mixed with the dark polish as I rubbed. I literally shined his shoes with my tears.
At that moment, God reminded me of an account in Luke 7:36-38 of a woman who performed a similar task of love for Jesus. He came into a Pharisee's home and reclined at his table. A woman who was well known for her sinful lifestyle saw his dirty feet that were probably cracked and ragged from his journey and she reacted as I did when I saw my Daddy's scuffed shoes. She immediately knew what she had to do. She fell to her knees, weeping because of her great love for Him, and her tears fell onto his feet. She washed his feet with her tears, wiped them with her own hair, and poured expensive perfume on them. A few verses later the Bible records how Jesus explained to the skeptics who questioned her motives that she had acted in such a way because she loved Him and appreciated Him so much. She hadn't done this humble act of service to receive anything back from it. It was simply because she loved Him and she was so grateful for what He had done in her life.
I just thought that God had given me a wonderful experience that allowed me the great privilege of honoring my Daddy until a couple of weeks later. My husband and I attended a Bible study in which the leader taught about our service to God. He explained that maintaining our acceptance in Christ was no more based on our works than our salvation was in the first place. We could never do enough to earn, to deserve, or to maintain our salvation and our position of holiness before Him. It is all based on our receiving what Jesus Christ did for us. We both knew those facts already, but a question arose. If God's grace maintains our salvation and our perfection in Christ, whether we do acts of service in obedience to Him or not, then how do we as teachers and preachers motivate Christians to serve? The Bible study leader answered our question correctly. Christians should be motivated to serve God out of their great love for Him alone. Their acts of service should simply be the overflow of their relationship with Jesus and their love for Him that grows stronger and stronger as they get to know Him better. No other reason for service is needed.
As I pondered those thoughts over the next few days, I questioned God about my motives for serving Him. Were they pure? Were they totally based on my love for Him? How could I know the difference in the times when I was serving Him out of love and when I was serving Him out of a supposed obligation to serve or to get something in return from Him?
God answered me quickly by reminding me of the morning I shined my Daddy's shoes for his funeral. No one asked me to do that. In fact, I didn't know at the time that God would lead me to share this story, so as far as I knew that day, no one would ever even know that I had done it. I wouldn't get any glory or any credit for it. Yet, I wanted to do it with all of my heart. God showed me that when I serve Him with the same attitude as that with which I shined my Daddy's shoes, I was serving Him with the right motivation. I was serving Him only because of my love for Him. That is the only reason I need for serving God and the only motive for service that meets His approval.
God taught me one more lesson through this experience. I remembered that when I was a child, Daddy would sometimes ask me to shine His shoes. There were days that I asked him to let me shine them and those were wonderful, but the days that he asked me to shine them were awesome. I felt that he trusted me and that he thought I was capable of doing an important task. It brought me incredible joy as a child. Looking back now, I realize that he didn't "need" for me to shine his shoes. In fact, he probably shined them all over again after I finished and left the room. But he asked me to shine them for two reasons. He knew what joy it gave me and he wanted to be able to reward me for doing it. He was as motivated by his love for me as I was by my love for him.
God taught me by that remembrance that it is the same way with Him. He doesn't "need" for me to do anything for Him. He is God Almighty, the Creator of everything. He could just whisper and it would be done. But He gives me the privilege of serving Him for the same reasons that my daddy had in letting me serve him. He allows me to be involved in His kingdom's work because of His great love for me. He knows what joy it will bring me. He is as motivated by His love for me as I am by my love for Him. What a wonderful, loving God we serve!
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