It’s amazing how many Christian activities average believers participate in at one time or another during their Christian life. They feed the hungry, sing in the choir, teach Sunday school, collect clothing for the homeless, visit prison inmates, witness on the streets, volunteer in a nursing home, demonstrate for a moral issue, collect money for sick children, support a missionary, help the elderly and so on.
Surely all of these good causes are a help and blessing to others. However, often I have wondered what the true motivation is behind an individual’s involvement in the kingdom of God. For some it is the challenge and excitement of being involved in something significant. For others it is the need for fellowship and love. Some like the honor and glamour that come with the action. Others are motivated by guilt because they have so much more than those poor people on the street or in prison. Then, of course, there are always those who hope that their faithful service will ensure them a sizeable reward in heaven. Last, there are those believers whose hearts are truly burdened and touched by the suffering of others and the needs of a lost and dying world.
However, when we look in the Bible, we find that none of those motivations is good enough to get us through the hard times ahead, which Paul describes so clearly in 2 Timothy 3:1–4. They are insufficient to keep us committed until the end.
Jesus was filled with compassion when He saw the widow whose son had died and when He encountered the sick, the blind, the demon-possessed and the multitude who were lost like sheep without a shepherd. But when it came to Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, it wasn’t just compassion that motivated Him. It was His love for His Father in heaven! Out of this love relationship came the motivation to be obedient unto death and to say, “Lord, I came to do Thy will” and “Not my will be done, but Thine.”
You see, our commitments are so short-lived and we change from one worthy cause to another because as soon as difficulties and disappointments come our way, our motivation is also gone. Furthermore, excitement, honor and compassion will not carry us very far, but love will.
The apostle Paul wrote at the end of his life to Timothy, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). What was the motivation behind such a life? It was this: “The love of Christ compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Once I met a young native missionary in Rajasthan, India, during a workers’ conference. His name is Par. When he first came to his pioneer field, he encountered severe opposition. Several of his enemies held him up in the air by his legs and told him, “We will tear you in half if you ever come back!”
But Par went back and preached in the streets, witnessed to people and passed out Gospel tracts. Wasn’t he afraid? Did he not take the warning seriously? Oh yes, he was afraid, and he knew his enemies meant what they said. So what gave him the strength and the motivation to risk his life? It was his love for Jesus, nothing else.
Today there is a church there.
Love is the greatest motivator of all. John 3:16 tells us, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” He gave Jesus not out of compassion or pity, but out of love.
We, too, will have the strength to follow the cross and be faithful unto death if our motivation is love. One of the tests that reveals our heart’s condition is to ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this or saying this? Is it for something I can get out of it, even a ‘thanks’ from others, or simply because I love Him?”
Love Him more than life itself, for He is your life.
Excerpt from Chapter 30 of Reflecting His Image (ISBN 978159589005X) © 2004 by KP Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia.
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