The Matter of Motivation


     In all endeavors and in all areas of life there must be motivation or accomplishment and success will be lacking, religion is no exception. Of course, the view that some have of service to God would not require any motivation. I refer to the religious thinking and teaching that "one has nothing one must do in service to God, God has done it all through the cross." The scriptures are replete with teaching to the contrary. Paul succinctly wrote:

     "6: Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: 8: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, 9: Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; 10: But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: 11: For there is no respect of persons with God" (Rom. 2).

     The inspired statement made by Paul clearly establishes man will be judged by his deeds. The question that we raise is what is the motivation or impetus for these deeds? In our simple study of motivation, we shall notice some key words, the words "by," "for," and "because." These words suggest the source of action for the performance of certain acts, acts, as we shall see, that are vital in living the life of the Christian. In our study, we particularly want to notice the action and the force behind the doing of the action.

    The case of unity. Religious people are often terribly divided. They speak and teach differently and their actions are fragmented. What is the answer for all this fragmentation and how can unity be effected?

     "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Cor. 1: 10).

     Consider the action: speaking the same thing and being perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgment. Would not it be wonderful if all Christians were truly united? Even in a broad sense, can you imagine the whole religious world suddenly without denominationalism and dividing creeds and all simply Christians? We must, first, appreciate the fact that unity is not simply an idealic thought but an actual commandment. Notice the impetus: "…by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (all emphasis throughout mine, dm). The motivation for all Christians being one is Jesus' authority. The fact that Christians recognize the authority that Jesus possesses and the fact that he has commanded unity ought to effect such unity and serve as powerful stimulus to do just what the Lord commands.

     The state of consecration or holiness. The people of God are to be a holy and separate people, making a statement as to their belief in and connection to Christ by their manner of life.

     "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12: 1).

     Consider the action: bodies offered to God as a living sacrifice. God does not desire of the Christian the matter of an animal offering, but rather God wants a living sacrifice, the sacrifice of our bodies in service to him. Fornication, debauchery of all types, and the abuse of the body are precluded in this "offering" climate. However, what is the required powerful motivation for effecting this sacrifice? The answer is, "by the mercies of God." When we reflect on the mercy, goodness, and or tender compassion of God, such should cause us to want to offer our bodies a living sacrifice in His service and not just expend our bodies in the commission of sin and the satisfaction of sensual desires. How can we destroy our bodies, the bodies that belong to God in secular pollution in view of all that God has so compassionately done for mankind?

     The case of spiritual growth. It has been well said that the Christian is either going forward in spiritual growth or he is regressing in the absence of such progress.

     "5: And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6: And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7: And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8: For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9: But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10: Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (2 Pet. 1).

     Faith serves as the foundation and on this foundation there is to be added virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love, Peter taught. Such constitutes the required action of the passage. What is the motivation for thus spiritually growing? "…for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall" (vs. 10). The argument, "it does not say one will fall if one does not grow" is really unworthy of comment. Unless the Christians wants to fall away from Christ, the Christian will grow, this is powerful stimulus! (2 Pet. 2: 20-22.)

     The circumstance of perseverance. Many commence the walk of the Christian but soon fall away. The Parable of the Sower seems to have as one object the teaching of the fact of apostasy (Matt. 13: 1-8, 18-23). Consider the teaching of the scriptures:

     "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not" (Gal. 6: 9).

     The action is not giving up or becoming faint hearted. Notice the reason for not giving up: "…for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." This life is short, when fully considered. The pain, heartache, and disappointment are really short lived. However, eternality is indescribably long. Not only are Christians facing eternality, but eternity with God in the blissful paradise of heaven (Rev. 20-22). Jesus said, "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven…" (Matt. 5: 12).

     The privilege of loving God. God's love for mankind is incapable of being fully demonstrated or explained (Jn. 3: 16). Love, true love, is an intelligent emotion that is hard to produce on the part of man. Biblical love entails appreciation and the desire to seek the best for the one thus loved. Consider the scripture:

     "18. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment, he that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us" (I Jn. 4: 18, 19).

     The command and action is love of God. The impetus is, "we love him, because he first loved us." How can we fail to love a God who has done so much for us, even to the giving of his only begotten son (Jn. 3: 16)? Moreover, this giving was done when man was so undeserving (Rom. 5: 6-8).

     The situation of spiritual alertness. It appears many walk about totally incognizant to their surroundings. The word says:

     "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet. 5: 8).

     The enjoined action is clarity of mind and watchfulness. How is the spiritually alert mind to be accomplished? The Christian is to be spiritually aware "because…the devil…walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." The devil is here presented as the most ferocious of beasts, a roaring lion. The devil wants to devour and destroy and he will, if the Christian is not alert. This knowledge of the devil and the desire to avoid spiritual destruction can and should serve as the motivation to avoid the devil.

     Beloved, we could continue to notice instances of a command and the supplied motivation (cp. Eph. 5: 16; Heb. 12: 28, 29). However, the point is that while God manifestly requires certain things, he has also supplied the drive for man effecting what God has required. It should also be noticed and appreciated that God's commandments are not burdensome, providing we love God (I Jn. 5: 3). Also, the motivation that God has supplied is not cheap and tawdry. For instance, instead of using food to attract and keep people, Jesus rebuked them for following him out of physical motivation (Jn. 6: 26, 27). Alas, the desire of many today is physical and even carnal. Churches and preachers, unlike Jesus, have sought to capitalize on this propensity of man to be actuated by the physical by offering all kinds of secular appeals. "Come ride our church bus and perhaps under your seat will be the five dollar bill," we hear. Such "offers" as, "Make plans to attend church with us, especially in view of the fellowship meal we shall have" should be viewed as repulsive to any spiritually minded person! God's motivation is not only spiritual, but it is also substantive and results in quality and enduring serve to him, not just whimsical and momentary shallow service.