Whole Motivation

Whole Motivation

Warren E. Berkley

I still mow the lawn! At various benchmarks in my sixties I tried to give up yard work. The other day a young man in the neighborhood said, “why are you still doing yard work?” The motivation for a seventy-two year old to continue doing yard work is multi-leveled. (1) I like having a neat place. (2) City ordinances require yard maintenance. (3) My wife likes it. (4) The grandkids think they have surpassed such tasks. (5) Maybe the guy next door will get the message that he should do his.

This is really the way motivation works. It is that inner engine that ignites and fuels the outer engine. It cannot be faked or borrowed and you can’t do without it. Even bad behavior has various sources in motivation, albeit wrong. {The word “motive” originates from that family of words that has to do with movement. We generally use the word when speaking of that which causes or prompts movement.}

Why am I a Christian? Several related levels of motivation answer that question.

(1) Being a Christian is part of the legacy I was given. My parents made certain I knew what I needed to know about becoming and being a Christian. My father was genuine about passing on the torch. When he read passages like “…that the next generation might know them,” he applied that to his efforts to teach us and model for us the meaning of becoming and being Christians (Psa. 78:5,6). Part of my motivation is to be true to that legacy.

(2) Being a Christian is the best way to lead my family. While I cannot force my children and grandchildren to become and be Christians, I can and must teach and show them. There is no higher standard for a father or mother. “Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” are words I took personally when we were raising our children (Eph. 6:4). As a grandparent and great-grandparent, that legacy motivation remains.

(3) Being a Christian provides guidance and good attitude in being a good friend and helping people. Being a good neighbor (even to the guy next door who needs to mow his yard) requires a selflessness that is richly informed and encouraged by following the teachings of the New Testament. Long before Mr. Rogers, Jesus spoke of being a good neighbor (Lk. 10:25-37). He illustrated maturity, disciplined responses to people and loving the unlovely. I need that. It’s part of my motivation.

(4) Being a Christian prepares me for death. I know what everybody knows. We will die. But what then? Of the two alternatives I want the better. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:57,58).

(5) Being a Christian means I am able to get help from the highest source. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and deliver them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit,” (Psa. 34:17,18). I need this! “Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:15).

(6) Being a Christian means I am a participant in a worthy cause. I can tell people and show people there is a way out of the destruction of sin. I can pass on the greatest message to ever be spoken and written. Without any doubt attached, any apologies or timidity, I can speak what God caused to be written. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’.” (Rom. 1:16,17) I became a Christian and I continue that way of life for all these reasons.

What do all these levels of motivation have in common? What is the principle motivation? I am a Christian because of who God is, what He has done for my benefit through Christ and what the gospel promises. Every reason given above is foundationally connected to the greatness and love of God in Christ. He made me in His image for His purpose that came to fullness with the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While all six motives identified above hold value, they only hold value because of Almighty God.

Popular motivational speeches and books may not be completely wrong or failures. I think the common defect is that they are frequently incomplete. The world wants motivation that is earth-bound and self-serving, to be financially productive; to overcome some deficiency; to gain some temporary excitement here “under the sun.” Billions of dollars have been banked by motivational books, seminars and podcasts that omit the highest motivation available to man. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,” (Eccl. 12:13). A life that isn’t “abundant” with Christ as the center, takes one only to the grave. What then? Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” (Jno. 10:10).

Much motivation talk is built around slogans, that may contain some truth, yet without wholeness and divine connectivity.

“Often it’s easy to take the teachings of Jesus and turn them into clichés. We’re tempted to dial into these slogans whenever we’re in crisis. But experience shows us that the slogans alone leave us hollow. So what would it look like to take the teachings of Jesus seriously and orient our daily lives around them? Let’s be honest—we need to do a whole lot more than stick a fish symbol on the back of our car.” (Source: Page 22, The Art of Neighboring: Building Genuine Relationships Right Outside Your Door, by Jay Pathak, Dave Runyon, and Robert Frazee. Baker Books, 2012.)

God has created us in His image and God has spoken and acted through Jesus Christ to get us out of the destruction of sin and into fellowship with Him. That goodness combined with our reverence for God is the principle motive, that has in it – all the other levels of motivation. I hope this helps you to stay motivated. And now, it is time for me to mow the yard again.


Previously Published in Truth Magazine, Dec. 2019

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