The bedrock of motivation is the grace of God.When this is working freely in our lives, and our relationship with God is truly based on his grace, motivation for Christ is the natural overflow. This is the basis of Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians as he seeks to motivate them to be generous for Jesus.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
Paul begins by saying, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But I find that very few know the grace of Jesus, at least to the point of having experienced it so deeply that it is rooted in their hearts and therefore motivates them in all that they do. Many doubt their free, unconditional acceptance by God. They base their good standing before God on what they do for him or how they behave towards him. This means they also motivate others from the negative base of winning the approval of God and others by what they do. This breeds guilt and condemnation in themselves and others.
I know a good way of testing whether you have any legalism in your heart when dealing with others.When you see someone acting inconsistently as a believer do you find yourself thinking, “I wonder how that person can call themselves a Christian and do that?”
I have found myself judging people that way, particularly when they disappoint me personally. It is easy to dismiss others whey they fail to uphold Christian standards – when they fall into sexual sin, fail to witness to others about their faith, show no interest in the growth of their cell and barely show up to anything designed to help them develop their faith. Perhaps, we interpret their reluctance to be a slight on ourselves and our ministry as leaders. And we wonder how they can call themselves Christians and behave so badly. But this shows that we have departed from the gracious mind of Christ, who loves us and accepts us despite knowing all that there to know about us.
It is not as if we keep such thoughts to ourselves.We actually express these sentiments to others concerning the “guilty person’ and let them know in some way or other that we disapprove of their conduct. Some actually encourage people to feel bad in order to get them to do what they ought to be doing. One way this is done is through the technique of naming and shaming.
Playing the guilt game
Once I experienced the fruit of this approach as I saw a prominent leader shame a team of cell leaders publicly because they had failed in his eyes “to catch the vision.’ It took two years for those same leaders to feel comfortable with the cell vision after that! And this is not an isolated example. It happens all too often when the leader is more concerned with so-called results than with truly motivating people from the heart and out of love for Christ. Motivation simply doesn’t work by naming and shaming people. They only resent the humiliation they feel and any upturn in “performance’ is only temporary. Unless the motivation is grounded in God’s grace and acceptance, in the end, it is not real godly motivation.
We must be ready to call people to be accountable for the task the Master has left us, but this should be built on the solid base of helping people understand they are valued, appreciated and totally accepted for who they are in Christ.
The motivation of the cross
Christ’s death on the cross is the revelation of his grace. It is the means of grace, the measure of grace and the motivation of grace. In other words, because Jesus paid the price of the cross we have been totally, eternally, freely and unconditionally saved. This means we do not live for God in order to gain his approval, but we live for God out of the loving relationship he has given us. Genuine obedience is based on God’s unconditional love and acceptance and is our response to his acceptance. The surrender of our lives in sacrificial service to the Master is the result of the open-hearted gratitude that we express to God for what he has done for us.
We must learn to value ourselves and others by the measure of Christ’s love demonstrated on the cross. That way we will never appeal to others to work for God in order for them to gain approval – from ourselves, from others or from God. And we will never encourage people to base their acceptability before God on how much they do for him.
Gaining by grace
We must have a revelation of this grace, because without it we are helpless and we reduce the gospel to a doctrine of self effort. But when this revelation comes, our service is transformed. It is no longer mere duty, but a delight. It ceases to be obligation but the outworking of love.We don’t interpret calls to commitment as burdensome demands upon our lives but we respond with a willing heart that is born of the Spirit.
Furthermore, once we truly know the grace of God, we never resort to coercing others but seek to inspire the Spirit’s conviction in them.We learn to activate people by demonstrating God’s grace in all that we say and do.
Spiritual self interest
Another important yet little understood principle of God’s grace is what I call spiritual self interest. God could simply issue his dictates for our lives and then leave us to it. But he refuses to act that way, and that seems to me to be astonishing.Where he commands he also enables and, more than that, he offers us incentives to holiness. The rewards of God’s grace at work in our lives mean when we obey him, he blesses us. James puts it like this:
…be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:22-25
First of all, notice what James calls “the perfect law of liberty.’ This is the principle behind New Testament obedience. It has to do with freedom which means we obey God willingly without any external pressure. This is called elsewhere the “law of love.’ Then, notice the incentive God promises to those who are willing and obedient. He says that they will be blessed in their doing. We have already emphasised that God promises good things to those who obey him from the heart.
If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land Isaiah 1:19
So let’s see how Paul applies this principle in his motivational words to the Corinthians.
And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago 2 Corinthians 8:10
The key words here are, “advice’, “advantage’ and “desire’.When your advice is seen to be to the other person’s advantage they will want to follow it. One of the main principles of human psychology is that we are motivated to go in the direction we believe is good for us or our needs will be met. Unless people see that a particular action is to their advantage they are not going to be easily persuaded to do it. But willingness of mind follows enlightened self interest.
I am not talking here about selfishness or egotistical self interest. I am describing a spiritual attitude. People are easily motivated by love of self, but love for Christ is potentially a far greater motivation for us because the rewards of following Christ are deeper and more satisfying than anything the self can set its desires on. The search for spiritual fulfilment is the deepest aspiration of the human heart, especially when it is awakened by the Spirit of grace.
The rewards of grace
We are always motivated to do the things we believe will be good for us or will meet our needs. But often what we believe to be good may not actually be good. Therefore, we are deceived and become wrongly motivated. That’s why we must show people the benefits that will come to them when they obey the Lord.
For example, we can explain that if people follow in the steps of Abraham they will experience the blessings of Abraham, who was blessed in all things.We can also show that the promise of the rich and abundant blessing of God follows those who submit to his will.
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree. He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Psalm 92:12
In the context of the cell vision (which is a serious attempt to mobilise the church to fulfil the Great Commission of Jesus) we can stress the promise he gives to all those who obey his commission: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” This is a promise which can only be fulfilled in those who are actively working for the vision of Christ.
Jesus promised treasures in heaven to the Rich Young Ruler whose worldly wealth was a stumbling block in his journey to eternal life. Paul expands on this theme showing that the judgment seat of Christ will be the occasion for rewarding those who have been faithful on the earth.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10
In 2 Corinthians 9:8-15, Paul shows the benefits that will come to the Corinthians if they are generous and give as God wants them to. They will have:
We see, then, that motivation involves awakening people’s spiritual desire and showing them that following God will bring great satisfaction and the fulfilment of their spiritual yearning. That is why we should only ever motivate people through their spiritual position in Christ and address their renewed nature, connecting them to the Spirit at work in them.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Ezekiel 36:26-27