What Motivates You?
word count: 928 read time: ~3 minutes
As I now write this article, the Christmas season is upon us and it seems like just when life was busy enough it has become all the more busy. In a time when we are to focus on the Savior’s birth, we all too often find ourselves frantically running around making preparations. Many of us become busybodies, like Martha, when the spirit of the season is to make us all into worshippers, like Mary. (Luke 10:40,41)
The Lord has been putting his finger on my own heart recently and challenging me to evaluate the motives that drive me to do what I do. More often than not, I find myself busy with life doing the next thing without deeply considering the motives that drive me. While in reality behind every course of action lies some inner motive. At times we do things out of habit, but even our habits were once formed out of motivations of times past.
So as I thought this through, I came up with a list of some good and bad motives that drive me. Let’s call it my naughty and nice list for the sake of the season. Here are just a few:
Motivated by Anger
Anger can be a powerful motivator. In fact, being angry produces a certain amount of physical energy and fire that is rivaled by other emotions. Surprisingly, you can be angry for good or bad reasons and therefore produce fruit of the same kind.
In the Old Testament, we see King Saul being motivated by his anger towards young David to the point of wanting to kill him. (1 Samuel 18:8). Saul of the New Testament, later to be known as the Apostle Paul, was also an angry man who breathed out murderous threats against the disciples before his conversion. (Acts 9:1)
Jesus in his godly anger, turned over the moneychangers tables. He was furious that the house of God, which was meant for prayer, had become a place of unscrupulous business
Motivated by Fear
Fear is one of the most common motivators we see in our society today. It can be masked behind other words like worry, concern, stress or anxiety. At the root of each of these emotions resides the fear of other people or of the future. Abraham lied about his wife on two separate occasions because he feared man and the consequences of telling the truth. (Genesis 12:12, 20:2) Noah on the other hand, was motivated by godly fear to build the ark and save his household. (Hebrews 11:7) The Bible is clear that the fear of God will produce wise decisions, while the fear of man will only become a snare to our soul. (Proverbs 1:7, 29:25)
Motivated by Passion (or Lust)
A life lived without passion would be dry and calloused. Yet our passions when not centered around goodness and godliness become selfish and self-serving. Samson was a pretty passionate man. He probably had more testosterone than three or four men combined. Yet his passion for women only caused him heartache and pain. I like the wise counsel of King Lemuel’s mother in the book of Proverbs when she says, “Do not give your strength to women, Nor your ways to that which destroys kings.” (Proverbs 31:3) In other words, yielding to passion for the opposite sex or any other pleasure can ultimately work for our destruction.
We can however be passionate in a good way for the things of God. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Pursue love and earnestly desire spiritual gifts.” (1 Corinthians 14:1) The words earnestly desire come from a Greek word that means “to be zealous for, to burn with desire, to pursue ardently or earnestly”. God wants us to passionately pursue his gifts!
Motivated by Guilt
Jesus came to liberate us from guilt and condemnation. (Romans 8:1) Sadly however, many of our acts of service towards God or others are motivated by a guilt that plagues us. We think in terms of what we should do or not do instead of simply doing what is right. Driven by the fear of condemnation and guilt we find ourselves partaking in activities, that may look good externally, but with motives that are impure. Judas was a man plagued by guilt. After feeling the guilt of betraying Jesus, Judas returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. When they expressed no appreciation or loyalty to him, his guilty conscience drove him to take his own life. (Matthew 27:3-5) Be warned, being motivated by guilt can be deadly!
Instead of operating out of guilt, the Lord wants us to move out of a sense of godly conviction. The Apostle Paul preached Christ out of sincere conviction, yet he realized that many preached the gospel with impure motives. (Philippians 1:15-18)
Motivated by Love
So what is the right motive for a Christian? The ultimate motive that the Lord desires to cultivate in the hearts of his children is love. It was love that motivated God to send his Son Jesus to the earth. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8) It was love that motivated Jesus to give his life for us. (John 10:17-18) It was love that motivated God to send his Spirit to live inside of us. (John 16:7) It is now love that compels us to live our lives in a way that pleases the Lord. (2 Cor 5:14) When you live by love you can do no harm. (Romans 13:10)
“Lord, may the deepest motivation of my heart be the desire to love You and love others, in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
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