I feel horrendously unqualified to write this message, but it is so important that it has to be said before we get much further into this discussion. We need to talk about motives. When I am writing these posts I often think of James saying, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness,” (James 3:1 ESV) or, more concisely, practice what you preach. My issue is that I live up to the standard that immediately follows James 3:1 significantly more than the one actually in verse 1, “We all stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2a NIV) I stumble in many ways and the area of motives is no different. It’s probably my weakest area to be completely honest.
But so many times through Scripture, we see God work through preposterously unqualified people who give a nonsensical message to a hostile crowd only to see thousands of people turn to God. Why? Because then it is totally clear that it had nothing to do with the person who gave the message, the message itself, or the people that received it. It all has to do with the great God who worked in the hearts and minds of the thousands and turned them towards Him so that all the glory would be to God. So while I may be horribly unqualified to teach this message and it is quite likely that it may be totally nonsensical, I at least hope that you are not hostile, but ultimately trust God to do the real work here in the hearts of all that come into contact with this post. Especially mine. I ask for your love, mercy, and prayers as I make a valiant attempt to write this message, and you make an even more courageous attempt to read it. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. It means more to me than you could possibly imagine. Enjoy.
Motivation. It is the one thing standing in between us and the completion of an Iron Man Triathlon. Well, that and a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, a 26.2-mile run, and a long list of medical conditions that we don’t have time to get into. While misplaced motivation leads to the eventual, yet inevitable, destruction of everything we were striving to build, with the right motivation, nearly everything is possible. Which is why it is absolutely vital to get to the heart of our motivation before we begin trying to build something out of our lives.
Everything we do has a motivation. It is the mental, emotional, and physical battery from which we draw the power to carry out our day to day activities. Without it, we slowly deteriorate to the point where it is hard to tell where you stop and the couch begins. There is only one issue with motives, the Bible warns us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 KJV) and motivation comes from the heart. Just like all things, our motives were corrupted in the fall. Our natural tendency is no longer towards pure motives, but towards selfish, self-serving ones. Motives that lead to destruction.
We may even convince ourselves that we are doing this for the right reasons, but we will never fool God. He searches the heart and knows our true reasons for action. (Jeremiah 17:10) To some of us, that may sound absolutely terrifying: the thought that God sees every last bit of our dirty laundry—even the shirt that we thought was clean but really had a ketchup stain that we wouldn’t notice until five or six hours into the day. But the fact of the matter is, God is not sifting through us to look for bad. He isn’t sitting on the throne of heaven waiting for us to screw up so He can hurl a lightning bolt in our direction. That is not the kind of God we serve. We serve a God who wants to see us succeed. The desire of His heart is to cultivate a desire in our heart that gravitates towards Him. In fact, His Holy Spirit that resides in us is working day in and day out to reveal our faulty motivations to us, not so that we feel ashamed, but so we turn them over to God and allow Him to transform them—and us.
Jeremiah 17:10, the one I referenced at the beginning of the last paragraph, starts off by saying, “I, the Lord, search the heart and examine the mind,” but then goes on to say, “to reward each person according to their conduct.” (NIV) Did you catch that? “I, the Lord, search the heart” not to smite the screw-ups from the face of the earth, but “to reward each person according to their conduct.” God desires to find the right motivations in us, and yes, He will sometimes rebuke us if He finds wrong in us, but that is not to punish us for our wrongdoing. Christ already absorbed all of our punishment. God rebukes us like a parent would a child to cultivate a heart of pure motivation and devotion to Him. It is in that pure heart that we will find exactly what we are looking for. Proverbs 16 verses one through three state:
Proverbs 16 verses one through three state:
The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the LORD weighs the spirit.
Commit your work to the LORD,
and your plans will be established.
(English Standard Version)
When we commit our plans and our motives to serving God, He, the Unshakable Cornerstone of Creation, will establish them. I can not think of something that could be much more valuable than that as we set out to build something of our lives. We have plenty of things to be motivated by in Christ: His life, His death, His resurrection, His return, His love, the list is literally endless. So when we turn all that we have over to Christ, we are left with an unshakable foundation with an unlimited power source that will never fail us. (Deuteronomy 31:8) Praise be to God! Our success is inevitable! Before we even set out on our journey, we can rest in the knowledge that all will be completed perfectly. When Christ said, “It is finished,” He meant it. All is finished. Now we simply work to His glory and wait for His return. (John 19:30)
With the love and confidence that we have in Christ,
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.“
Luke 17:10 NIV