Strangely enough, the person who has lost authentic vertical motivation from the Lord falls into legalism. The love of Christ no longer constrains him. He works for the sake of the work alone, whereas true motivation in working for the kingdom of God is love.
Love is the oil that keeps the machinery running smoothly. With this motivation there is no murmuring, no complaining, no grouchiness. People motivated by the love of God can serve Him 24 hours a day and be the happiest people in the world. They cannot do enough for the Lord because they love Him so much. When you lose that vertical motivation, you are doing things for the Lord because you have to.
When a person loses the love motive of his heart, he sees the Father as mean and unfair. He begins to compare service records. In the story of the prodigal son, the older brother compared his work with that of his younger brother, who wasted and destroyed everything his father had given him.
The father, weeping and rejoicing over his younger son, pleaded with his elder son to come in. But the son refused. His unyielding, headstrong disposition is a clear indication that he was not motivated by love for his father. He refused to go in because he felt sorry for himself. He was bitter about his situation. And he was discouraged.
But self-pity, bitterness and discouragement have nothing to do with genuine vertical motivation. The older brother had little feeling for his father or brother. His feelings had festered so long that he could think only about himself.
A person not motivated by love for the Lord will experience jealousy over others’ blessings and the desire for honor and position. He may want to be noticed by others, looking for opportunities to tell them what he has done. He may be dissatisfied with second place. Or he may secretly expect appreciation or approval. When our hearts are not motivated by love, our relationships with others are strained.
The older brother had apparently been content working in the fields day after day. But when his brother came home, he became jealous.
Now that this brother of mine has returned, he thought, look at the hugs, the ring, the shoes, the new clothes. Look at the feast, the dancing, the celebration. All the attention I’ve gotten, all the benefits I’ve received, all my father’s love, will now be turned to him.
It is a sign of true godliness to desire nothing but the Lord Himself. It is no simple thing to take second place and let someone else get the honor. It can be done only by someone who loves God.