Thoughts On Motivation
Remember Richard McAfee's teaching the first night? When he spoke about having a "listening heart," and on the "flow of life from God":
Father -> Our spirit v / v Son / Our soul v / v Spirit - Our body
The attitude of our heart is central to this flow from God to us. We either let it in, or shut it out. That is, we either listen or don't listen.
I want to pick up on this theme and look at it from another side, using different words: What motivates us, minute to minute, as we live out the fine details of life.
2 Tim 1:7 --- "For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (KJV)
--- "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline." (NIV)
Whether we think about it or not, every decision we make and action we take has a motive behind it. Although the word "motive" has a bad connotation associated with it, the fact remains that we are always motivated by something. Behind every action there is some feeling or belief, or a reaction to something, which spurs our action.
God has given us a spirit "of power, of love, and of a sound mind." What are we doing with that gift? We're either using it, or ignoring it. This applies to deciding whether to eat that second dessert or not, as well as deciding if we should go to war if the Government asks for volunteers.
In Psalm 51:10, David wrote:
"Create in me a clean heart, Oh God; and renew a right spirit within me."
David was concerned about right motives, and I believe we should be concerned about them too. David also realized that it's an on-going effort. He said, "...renew a right spirit..."
As we live our lives minute to minute, it's very important that we work from a perspective of positive motivation. St. Paul said that he was "constrained by the love of Christ" (2 Cor 5:14). In other words, he didn't seek to bring the gentiles into Christ's kingdom out of fear or pride. Rather he sought to see the gentiles saved because of his knowledge of Christ's love; both Jesus love for Paul, and his love for the gentiles.
Let's apply this to everyday life. In the past I've grown my beard because I didn't like to shave. I didn't grow it because I wanted it, but simply because I didn't like shaving. As a result, having a beard due to not wanting to shave would eventually be out-weighed by the dislike of having a beard. i.e. I'd rather shave once a day than have a beard all day.
We also see a similar thing in people who become Christians because they don't want to go to hell. Unless these people find a positive reason to stay on Christ's way, they will eventually fall away. Being a Christian is not easy, and if we aren't strongly motivated to keep at it, we won't!
Or another example: When I'm driving, if I don't speed because I'm afraid of getting caught, then my desire for speed will soon over-rule my fear.
St. Paul is after us, time and time again, to act out of love. To put aside the lust, greed, and pride, the ways of the flesh, and instead act with compassion, kindness, humility... (c.f. Col 3:1-17) We always want to apply this idea to the big moral decisions in our lives. But, it applies to little things too; like growing beards, or driving too fast.
Either Christ is Lord of All, or lord of nothing. We are not called to question His authority, but rather to search out our hearts and confess to Him the weakness we find there. For, in our weakness He is strong.
So, I exhort you: As you go into every situation; examine your motives; where is your heart at? As you decide to eat that second dessert; as you respond in kind to a nasty salesman; as you help your boss with something; look at what's in your heart. I don't believe God expects what you find will be pure. But we need to be in reality about what's there, and then ask Him to cleanse us.
Just so that we don't put ourselves under condemnation let's take a look at Jesus Disciples. Even the Disciples had mixed motives sometimes. After they had walked with him for a couple of years they still had the gall to wonder who would sit at his right hand (c.f. Matt. 20:20-22); plus they put their mother up to do the asking! So we shouldn't condemn ourselves when we find mixed motives. We want to serve the Lord, just as the Disciples did. As well, we have many of the same faults the disciples had.
Fortunately we are not alone in our walk with God. We have one another for help and support. However, we have to make use of the brothers and sisters around us. So, not only should we examine our ourselves, but when we're unsure how to discern what's in our hearts or what to do with what we find there, we need to reach out to those God has placed around us. We are a body with many members. Each one serves a function. Each one is to somehow be a blessing to us.