The throwback 1998 Sprite commercial comes to mind as I reflect on our special guest speaker this past Sunday: Huldah Buntain.
Huldah and her late husband, Rev. Dr. Mark Buntain traveled to India in 1954 to serve the country of Calcutta. What began as a one year commitment would turn into a lifetime of missionary service to Calcutta and its surrounding states. Together, they established a holistic inner-city and outreach ministry consisting of more than 200 schools with 32,000 children, including a blind school, 900 churches, 5 bible schools, daily street and school feeding programs for 25,000, a nursing school and a full general Mercy Hospital that has treated 2.2 million people and provided free care to 880,000 patients.
Over the past 60 years and since her husband’s death, Huldah has continued to faithfully serve the people of India, also travelling extensively around the world raising funds for projects under the Calcutta Ministries.
What struck me the most about Ms. Buntain, however, was not the quantity of her years of untiring service, but rather the motivation by which she served those years.
I recall one of her statements that highlight this:
“It’s not how much you do. It’s how much love you put into what you do.”
Later she would add, “Doing does not count unless love motivates it.”
It was clear to see that Huldah wasn’t motivated by service, alone. No, something much more drove this woman. Something outside of herself compelled her to do what she did. It was love. But as she continued to share, there was something even deeper that began to surface.
“If I don’t have the love of Christ, it will have been for nothing…”
Huldah would go on to reveal that the love of Jesus is at the root of what she’s done all these years.
This resonated with me, simply because I spend most of my time serving others. Whether it is at Apria Healthcare providing durable medical equipment to patients or at Gracepointe with our community there, I spend a great portion of my life in service. This leaves me to answer my own question sitting at the top of this week’s post: What is my motivation?
Is it the love of Christ? Am I living in the love of Christ? Am I aware of the love of Christ and how it makes its way into the seconds and minutes of my day?
I’m a firm believer that our passion without God’s passion actively fueling us is a recipe for exhaustion.
In other words, if we’re not primarily motivated by God’s delight over us as His children and what motivatedHim to go to the cross in the first place, how far can we expect to go without losing (or even lessening) in our motivation for not only doing good, but serving and loving well? Sure, we can go hard in our own ability and sincerity for a little while, but at our core, there must be something outside of us that motivates us. Left to myself–left to Ben, I’m so prone to return to a self-serving lifestyle, desiring other things more.
I know you may be asking the question: “So Ben, what about all those who are doing great acts of service all over the world, just out of the kindness of their heart–apart from any religious purposes whatsoever? Is that completely pointless?”
I think about theologian, Matthew Henry’s spin on 1 Timothy 4:8, where he says (paraphrased): “Outward acts of self-denial are of some value, but godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
There is an eternal component to a life of knowing and serving with Jesus (John 17:3). God promises that the decisions we make now in choosing to experience and exemplify his love will last forever.
There’s also a life-giving component that Jesus promises to those who follow and serve with Him.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:27-30 MSG)
While Jesus asks us to make company with Him, keep company Him, and even work with him, he promises a real element of rest and grace in the process, two things that are so-often lacking in our own pursuit to bring justice and “make things right.” Leaning on the Greater One’s power and strength, however, makes this possible for all of us.
What I’ve noticed in my own experience, is that when I’m not actively receiving fresh revelation of God’s great love for me, it is difficult (and many times, near impossible) to love others in a serving way. There’s both a powerful and a peaceful element to receiving the truth that God loves us as we are, as a good Father, in the moment, in spite of our brokenness and weakness. And when I understand this in gradually greater ways, I’m then motivated to love Him with my life, and in turn, serve others as an overflowing result.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15)
This is what the life of Huldah Buntain exhibits for me.
What about you?
What is your motivation for doing good and serving others? What is your motivation for living your life?
Let this be your prayer today:
God, help me to understand what motivates you. Help me to see that it’s love, a love greater than me. Help me to receive that love in a new way today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Ephesians 3:17-19 (ESV) …that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.