In almost everything we do, we do it out of motivation. We might not be aware of it all the time, but motivation is there at the back of our actions. Take for example, the sensation of hunger motivates us to eat, and thirst motivates us to drink.
What about snacking? Oftentimes when we snack, it is not out of hunger but more of pleasure. In fact, pleasure and pain are widely recognised as the two prime motivations. Now let’s consider our motivation to do right.
In the final week of His ministry here, the Lord publicly condemned the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy. Among the harsh words used by the Lord, He said to them:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Mat 23:14-15).
What evangelistic zeal these scribes and Pharisees displayed! They would travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte. Thatputs us in an embarrassing spot, doesn’t it? Why, we might not go over to our next door neighbour to invite him/her to church.
What spiritual maturity these scribes and Pharisees displayed! They could make long prayers! Isn’t this a way we gauge a brother’s spiritual maturity, by how long or eloquently he can pray? Have we ever asked: is an acceptable prayer necessarily a long prayer, and is a long prayer necessarily an acceptable prayer?
The problem with the scribes and Pharisees was their motivation. Their starting point was all wrong. They were not doing these things in service and devotion to God, but to self.
Paul points out the motivation of Demas for abandoning the apostle and the work of the Lord. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica” (2Ti 4:10).
So let’s consider our motivation to do right.Do we reason with ourselves sometimes that we will serve only when we have the opportunity, or when it is convenient for us to do so?
There is so much going on in our lives right now. Making time and opportunity to serve the Lord is getting increasingly more challenging. So much is in competition with God, demanding our time.
Obeying God does not wait for a convenient moment. Remember Felix, the Roman procurator?
“And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24-25).
The word preached by Paul shook Felix; but the latter made the excuse that when he had a more convenient time, he would continue the discussion with Paul. Do we wait for a “convenient season” before we obey the Lord?
Paul writes to the Colossians: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:9-10 ESV).
It is important for us to know that we may be motivated by zeal, but zeal must be informed by right knowledge. Paul was driven by zeal but without right knowledge. His zeal led him to persecute the church (cf. Acts 26:9-11).
We are new creatures in Christ (cf. 2Co 5:17), and therefore we must be transformed by the renewal of our mind (cf. Rom 12:2).
How do we do that? As Paul says, we are renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, that is, by the word of the Lord. In the very same context, Paul further says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:17).
Obedience is not a one-time act; it is the definitive lifestyle of the Christian. The Galatians present us a negative example. After obeying the gospel, which Paul preached to them, they were influenced by Judaizers who told them that in addition to the gospel, they had to follow the Mosaic Law.
In a letter filled with tough love, Paul asked them: “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth” (Gal 5:7)? The Christian life is likened to running a race. As in any long distance race, endurance is indispensable(cf. Heb 12:1-2).
If we lost our motivation to endure, to continue to increase in knowledge, and to keep obeying the will of God, we will become the most miserable of creatures. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness.
“For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness” (Heb 3:16-17)?
Let us keep the solemn words of the Lord in mind: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).