Motivation is a vast subject, and analyzing our internal impulses is a lifelong task. Are we motivated by encouragement or negative circumstances? Is it part of our mental make-up or is it learned? Is our behavior motivated by past experiences, societal pressures, and worldly desires? How do these compare to God’s promises?
My childhood experiences taught me strong independence. Look out for number one: take care of yourself because no one else will. Theologian Dallas Willard explains the challenge with this way of thinking: “… those who depend on themselves and their own abilities, are unwilling to let go of themselves and trust God. They are unable to say, I don’t have to dominate. I don’t need to have my way. Such are the truly miserable. Such are those who lose their souls in pursuit of the things that are set before them by the inclinations that are in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Eventually, the problems of living this way pile up on us.
What is Your Motivation?
Don’t misunderstand: it is not bad to want to be successful and enjoy the comforts of life. God, in all His sufficiency, wants these things for us. He didn’t create this beautiful, plentiful world to withhold it from us. The key is understanding the basis of our choices and our behaviors in pursuing them.
For example, what drives us to overwork at the expense of spending time with our family? Are we climbing the corporate ladder by mistreating people or using dishonest methods? Do we manipulate others to get our way? Are we insensitive to others in promoting ourselves? Are our decisions driven by the need to control?
In contrast, are we willing to do honest work and enjoy the fulfillment of our desires in a godly way? Can we have confidence in God’s timing? The difference between godly and worldly decisions and actions is all about our attitude toward and trust in God.
Paul explains in Galatians 5:13-26:
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.”
Paul Compares Motivation
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.”
Heart of the Matter
Read Matthew 6 to see contrasting attitudes in motivation. Matthew asks if we are acting to impress others or draw attention to ourselves? Or are we acting out of our godly gifts and seeking the rewards of His provision and inner peace? Is what we are doing a show or sincere? At the heart of it all, are we promoting a godly way of life or ourselves?
In conclusion, remain in God’s love, in His peace. Live in godly motivation. Believe in His promises. In these ways, we will have the strength and resources we need to experience life in all fullness, beyond what we can understand or achieve on our own.
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT