Life really comes down to one question: What motivates you? Life anywhere on this planet takes motivation to live, even if that motivation is as simple as survival.The quality of your life depends on the source and strength of the motivation you feel. Why did you get out of bed this morning? Why did you go to work? Why did you call your mom today? Why did you buy your wife flowers? With every action we should be able to ask the question, "Why did I do this?" and be able to find the motivation for that action. If we are willing to be honest with ourselves I think we may be surprised at some of the things that motivate our actions.
One of the things that allowed sin into God's great and perfect creation was when Man turned from what God desired and responded to what he wanted for himself. His motivation moved from pleasing God to pleasing himself which pulled all of creation down over him. This is the reason that our sin nature is based on what we want. Rarely will we do wrong for the benefit of others and almost 100% of the time we sin because we see the benefit to ourselves. Just as Eve looked at the fruit and saw that it looked tasty and had the benefit of making her more like the Creator, she could not see past it to the consequences of her actions. So this remains the problem and our motivation is often as base as, "I want what I want and I want it now". This too is the mentality of most young children.
When we look at our current problems in society we can identify this nature as the root to them. Why is our health system so over taxed right now with long line ups at the hospitals and the impossibility of finding a family doctor? Because people do not see the benefit to society to look after themselves. We would rather watch TV, eat potato chips, smoke a cigarette, drink a few dozen beers instead of getting some proper exercise and eat a proper diet. Its easy to talk about doing it but if we do not see the benefit and if we don't care then we will never have the motivation to start looking after ourselves or of sticking to it. Some would say that the motivation to improve our health for our own benefit might be a better motivation but this is only true when faced with the possibility of dying, if even this is enough motivation to get us off the couch and to throw away those cigarettes.
Our sin nature is strong and has been part of us since our birth. We have never been able to overcome it on our own. This is what Jesus was referring to when he stated:
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
Through Jesus Christ we receive freedom from the strangle hold of sin so that we are able to decide whether we want to continue to be a slave to that sin or to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. This decision will determine our motivation in life. Our motivation will either continue to be based on what we want or on what God wants, which is doing all things right in his eyes. Our motivation shifts from self to others. It is like the difference between a single person getting out of bed and a parent getting out of bed. Most likely that single person is getting up for his own needs. The parent is getting up because his children need him. Without Jesus our reason for doing things is based on ourselves but with Jesus our motivation becomes service to others; at least it is suppose to be. This is why we have such passages as:
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
The great passages of Philippians 2:
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:4-8)
I get convicted as I read these passages because I know I am less than what I was. Some how, in some way, our old nature seems to claw us back to what was always familiar, even when we start off strong. When we allow life itself to choke out the giver of life, the sap stops running, we lose our inspiration and our motivation falls back to what it was. It stops being about others, we get offended easily, we get angry easily, we start protecting ourselves again and stop being vulnerable in the way Jesus was vulnerable to people. We allow the actions of others to justify our attitude and consider that experience has made us wise, but we are lying to ourselves. Experience has not made us wise, it has made us bitter because we did not allow God to mold our experience to benefit us. Instead we allowed the experience to become an excuse to slip back into selfishness, self-pity, self-preservation. Regardless of your words, you cannot serve Jesus with a heart in this condition. Do you recognize any of these in you:
... sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies ... (Galatians 5:19-21)
These are things things produced and provoked when our motivation is ourselves. However, we are not supposed to be like this. We are suppose to be different because we are a new creation with a new motivation:
... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
This is what is produced in us when our motivation is the love of Jesus which also provokes a love for others in us. Our motivation for getting out of bed, for going to work, for spending time with friends, for caring for a neighbour, for many of our acts of kindness is based on the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. Even things like exercise and eating well is motivated by the desire to be at our best to serve others. Our motivation for studying is not to improve ourselves so people will think well of us, but to be better equipped to explain Jesus to others. Our desire to do well in our work is not self-promotion but the promotion of Jesus, that others would see Jesus in us in all that we do. Our motivation to love our family is not so that we would have the perfect family to brag about, but that we are demonstrating the self-sacrificing love of Jesus to our spouse and our children. Any other motivation will cause us to fall flat on our face.
There is no "arrival" in this relationship with Jesus because every day is a learning and growing experience. We cannot afford to grow lazy in this relationship and stop putting effort into it. It does not take long for the love to grow cold and the sap to stop flowing through us. Where once we were passionate we can quickly become indifferent. Nothing kills love faster than indifference. Do you recognize any of this in you? Look for the danger signs in your motivation and take appropriate action where necessary. Recapture that first love by surrendering yourself again, be renewed, be refreshed and find purpose in living again. Today, remember this one thing: without love we have nothing and we are nothing.