Finding The Right Motivation

Everyone is looking for motivation. Parents wonder how to motivate their kids to work hard at school. Employers offer bonuses to motivate their staff to meet productivity goals. We make bets with friends to help motivate us to lose weight. A coach sets goals to motivate the team to work hard in the off-season program.

Motivation is important because we know that without it we won’t excel or improve in any area of our life. Sure we might continue to go through the motions but our heart won’t be in it and our performance will suffer.

The same is true when it comes to our walk with God. Without the proper motivation, the Christian life can easily descend into duty and drudgery. And when that happens, our faith suffers.

So what should motivate us to obey God and walk with him? Some obey hoping to receive God’s blessings: “If I obey God, then things will go well for me.” Others obey out of fear: “God might do something terrible to me or my family if I don’t live the way he wants me to live.” Still others are motivated by the approval of their peers: “I want to be seen as the best Christian in my small group.”

The problem is that these motivations are more self-centered than God-centered. They treat God as if he were merely a stepping-stone to the good life, using him as a means to get what we really want: a comfortable life or the recognition of others. And while these motivations may affect our behavior, they won’t change our heart, which is where our walk with God resides.

As you read through the Bible, you begin to see the prominent role that God’s promises play in the Christian life. Nowhere is that seen more clearly then in Hebrews 11 where we are told that Abraham “by faith…was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10) and that “By faith Moses…considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24, 26).

One time a group of Pharisees asked Jesus what works God requires. Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). So you might say that the proper motivation to live the Christian life is to believe that God’s promises are true and that he will meet your soul’s deepest longings.

The more we believe that Jesus is our satisfaction, the less appealing sexual immorality will be. The more that we believe that he is our security, the less inclined we will be to seek our security in people or savings or career. The more we believe that Jesus is our future reward, the more motivated we will be to live a life of sacrifice and service. In other words, the more we really do believe the promises of God in the gospel, the more we really will walk with God.

The truth is that we are all a lot like the man described in Mark 9. When he approached Jesus asking for his son to be healed, Jesus responded by asking him whether he believed. The man was very honest when he said, “I do believe. Help me with my unbelief.” Every Christian can identify with that statement because at every moment in our lives we are all somewhere on that continuum between belief and unbelief. Our daily prayer should be to ask God to increase our belief in him and his promises.

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