How does a believer keep his or her motivation? I understand the motivation of the new believer, but how does one stay motivated in the day-to-day living, year after year?
Motivation is an art, and like any art it requires wisdom and skill. And like any art, it can be done poorly. An agitated verbal assault from the pulpit may be an awkward spectacle that goes viral on YouTube, but, we know berating Christians into service by a verbal lashing from the pulpit is a powerless strategy.
So, let me ask you to think about it in biblical terms this way, “How do you keep from losing your first love?” (Revelation 2:4 NIV). When you come to know Christ and put your faith in Him, Jesus changes your life. You are excited about Him, and everything in life is a contrast to what it was before. But over the long haul, how do you keep that motivation going? How do you sustain a Christ-centered life?
The world is motivated by self and the aggrandizement of self, the all-about-me syndrome, which is identified by self-determination, self-obsession and self-worship. The Bible does not teach us to be centered on ourselves. In fact, it teaches just the opposite. Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12; Luke 9:48 NIV). As followers of Christ, we are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24 NIV). The cross was an instrument of death, and Jesus’ message to us is that only those who die to self will truly follow Him. We do that by doing nothing out of vanity and conceit, but instead considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3 NIV).
Jesus set the example for our motivation in this life: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34 NIV). Jesus was concerned with pleasing His Father, and so should we be motivated by that same concern. He always did the Father’s will, motivated by pleasing Him through obedience (John 8:29 NIV). His obedience extended all the way to the cross where He humbled Himself and “became obedient unto death” (Philippians 2:8 NIV). Our motivation should be the same as His—the obedience by which we prove we are truly His. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15 NIV).
So how do you spend time with God? By opening His Word and spending regular time there. I know that believers used to talk a lot more about daily devotions and time with God, but I think many people started feeling like, “That is just a check-off the box, superficial kind of Christianity. I don’t want to just think, ‘Okay, I had my quiet time. So now I’m okay, and that’s all it takes.’”
Well, of course that’s not all it takes. But I would maintain that it is a significant part of sustaining our relationship with the Lord, because I need to spend time in God’s Word every day. During the days when I don’t, I really see a difference in my eternal perspective (and my lack of perspective).
So, I would encourage you to spend daily time in God’s Word. It can be a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year type of program, or one of many programs that provide daily readings of both Old and New Testament passages. You can go online and look at devotional books that help lead you through Scripture. Connect with a Life Group here at the church. These weekly groups study the Bible. In these groups you dig deeper in the Word, learning a lot more than I can share with you on Sunday morning.
Time in prayer should be integrated into your time in the Word. I confess that when I set aside time in prayer and it is all without reference to God’s Word, I can get sort of lost. So, what I will do is pray Scripture, sometimes out loud to myself as I read.
I would recommend reading in Colossians 1 where Paul prays for the Colossians, and then repeat the things he prays for: the knowledge of God’s will, a greater Christlikeness, conformity to His image, and a greater thankfulness of heart.
Look at a good model, the apostle Paul had a strong commitment to know and serve Jesus Christ. His passion and love for the Lord was obvious—Jesus was always central in his thinking, whether he was working as a tent maker, preaching to the crowd, or even sitting in chains at prison. What fueled his love for the Lord?
Paul’s conversion experience on the Damascus Road was a motivating force in his life. Grateful for the gift of grace he had received at salvation, the apostle told many people about his encounter with the resurrected Christ and its impact on him. We, too, have a story to tell of God's mercy in saving us and of the new life we have in Him.
All these things help us stay motivated about the Lord so that we don’t live a Christian life of drudgery where we wearily put one foot in front of another, thinking, “I’m going to try my best to be obedient.” Instead, a better cry is Paul’s from Philippians 3: “I want to know Christ.” He’d known him for thirty years, but he wanted to know Him better every day.
Our relationship with Christ needs to be a love relationship, and although we certainly want to be obedient and need to obey Him even when we don’t feel like it, we’re nonetheless daily asking God to be present in our lives. We can trust He will answer that prayer because He has promised us, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20 NKJV). As we pursue knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, may we sense the very presence of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives.
Make Every Day Count!
Come and get motivated!