How strange it is that service unto the Lord would be a thing that causes grief. Or rather, how fitting it is for us to grieve that we cannot better serve the Lord.
I do not mean to say that we grieve because our service is not good enough to earn His favor. We do not grieve because of goodwill lost on account of imperfect service rendered. No, that is a righteousness of works – a detestable thing.
No, the grief grows out of a heart broken at my imperfection; my inability to honor God with brighter and more pure praise. It comes from a restless longing to be free from the contamination of sin. Oh for the day when my service to God is not glistening with the slick sheen of pride! Oh for the day when my sinful wretchedness no longer hinders my attempt to serve in a manner worthy of the gospel!
This is, perhaps, a fine line to walk. We do not trust in the goodness of our service to earn God’s favor, but because we have tasted God’s limitless favor undeservingly, we desire that our service might be a worthy offering as much as possible. And, finding that the effort fails even our own inspection; that there is imperfection evident at the most cursory glance – oh the heartbreaking woe of it!
It is like a young boy preparing a cake for his mother’s birthday. He works diligently all afternoon to have it ready for when she comes home. However, being rather short and clumsy, he spills the flour here; drops an egg there. Without knowing it, he misses an ingredient or two, or mistakenly adds one which should not be there. Minutes before his mother walks in the door, the finishing touches are being put on the hot cake which has only just come out of the oven. The boy is so very excited to give the gift to the mother he loves. He hears her key turn in the lock, then the swift opening of the door and his mother’s voice. He picks up the cake, and runs out the kitchen door into the foyer. But alas! He trips on the door jamb, the cake flies, and spreads across the floor like a dropped pillowcase full of jelly. His eyes well up with large tears, and as his mother pulls him close he cries all the harder. Why? Mother has not scolded him. Mother has not spoken harshly with him. Though the eager boy has made a hearty mess of things – flour on the counter; egg on the floor; the over left on with the door open; and sugarless cake splattered on the floor – the mother’s heart loves him deeply. The boy knows this, and seeing his effort to do something for his mother end in catastrophe, he is broken hearted.
Grief for imperfect service to our precious savior Jesus is like this. It is not precisely the same – no, we are not clumsy children left to our own devices while the master of the universe is out of the house; nor can we ever, by our imperfection, impede or deter God’s sovereign plan. Nevertheless, we can (and should! I might add) recognize that our best attempts are yet tainted by our fallenness.
We are imperfect servants of a Perfect Lord. And though we are aware that our Father does not require perfection of us, and indeed has declared us perfect in Christ who was perfect on our behalf, we still long for perfection. We long to offer perfect sacrifices. We long to honor our King with gifts into which we have truly put the full love of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We long to perfectly reflect the image of His perfection! Not because we want more favor. Not because we think our reward will be better. Never because we desire anything better from God because of it.
But because He is worth it!