When Serving Brought Out the Worst in Me

Written by Dominique Gonzaga, Philippines

Growing up in church, I was actively involved in church activities at a young age. As a youth, I served as a Sunday school teacher as well as a musician in the worship team. From a young age, I knew that God had blessed me with gifts so that I could bless others. But head knowledge proved to be insufficient in my case, and God had to teach me the hard way.

It all started when my best friend and I became song leaders simultaneously in our church’s music ministry. During practice sessions, we would both try to sing louder than the other person whenever it came to the high notes in the songs. Gradually, this unspoken competition manifested itself in the form of tension—both in the room and also in our friendship. I wanted to sing louder and better than her.

My pride and desire for praise continued to show up in ugly ways. I began to notice the mistakes and weaknesses of everyone in the band. During practices, I would get annoyed whenever someone sang off-key or played a wrong chord. I would sometimes even point out their mistakes in front of everyone else. But when others tried to give me feedback about my singing, I simply brushed their comments aside, thinking that they were either unsupportive or jealous.

One day, my best friend confronted me. She told me she had noticed how aloof and proud I had become. She said I had been focusing on my own strength and had failed to give my Creator credit for it.

My immediate reaction was to deny her allegations. I tried to justify myself, saying that God had given me these talents and gifts, and I deserved the recognition for using them well. But at the back of my mind, I knew that all she said was true.

Later on, I was looking through some old college photos. I was suddenly reminded about one of the tips of photography: focus on one thing in order to get a sharp image; everything else would be blurred out.

That’s when everything clicked. I had been doing exactly that—but I had chosen the wrong subject. Instead of focusing on God, I had put the focus on myself. I served in ministry only because I wanted the praises of men. It felt good to be noticed and to be praised by the people around me whenever I sang. But as a result, everything—other people, even God—had been relegated to the background.

I had made service all about myself, by striving to be noticed and known. I realized that I needed to change the way I served God. I had been so caught up with my pride and all that I could do that I had forgotten to glorify God for being the giver of these gifts. As a result, my relationship with Him and the people around me spiralled downhill.

I decided to make things right and asked God for a renewed and pure heart to serve Him again. It was hard at first to acknowledge my mistakes and sins (Psalm 32:5), and ask God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9). There were also many times that I wanted to take the easy way out by quitting service altogether. But I realized that would not please God.

So I pressed on, by the grace of God, working on my humility and refocusing my life and ministry on God. I learned to appreciate the talents others had and help others who were struggling with the same issue I faced. I learned to wholeheartedly declare that God alone deserves all the praise and glory whenever I receive praise or compliments.

Today, I am still struggling with humility but I know that God continues to work in me. If you, like me, are struggling with pride, I pray that God will grant you a heart that is willing to serve Him humbly and wholeheartedly. May our attitudes bring glory to God and point others to Him alone.

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