They are motivated by love, because they know that I’m put here to give a defense of the gospel; the others preach Christ because of their selfish ambition. Philippians 1:16–17 (CEB)
Motives are problematic. They can lead someone to do the right thing for the wrong reason, but they can also result in doing the wrong things despite the right reasons when not combined with sound judgment. Because our motivation is not always discernible, it is important that we ask God to examine us. In Psalm 26, David believed that he had acted with integrity, yet he still appealed to God: Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. Psalm 26:2 (NLT)
Motivation is a huge component in our lives and we quickly realize that not everyone is motivated by the same factors. In the business world and in athletics, the leaders who excel are the ones who have learned how to use a variety of incentives and disciplines to maximize their organization’s effectiveness. Someone who is good at motivation helps others by getting them to focus on things larger than themselves.
The apostle Paul had a difficult relationship with the Christians at Corinth, in part because they allowed the influences of the world around them to affect them and because they listened to many teachers. At times, their choices and decisions led them into difficulty, which in turn strained their relationships with one another and with Paul. At the heart of the problem was a failure on the part of the Corinthians to understand what was motivating Paul to care enough to bring them the good news of salvation. “If we are ‘out of our mind,’ as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:13–15 (NIV) Paul is appealing to them as a father would to his children. He wants them to understand what is at stake, as they endeavor to live their lives for Christ instead of themselves.
Although there is a wide range of motivating factors, there are two which stand above the rest: fear and love. Earlier in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul reminds us that we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive what is due us, whether good or bad. In verse 11, he says, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord.” We will not deny that fear is a motivating factor in many people’s lives. Undoubtedly, some turn to God, in part because they fear death, and they fear going to hell. Throughout history men and women of God have used fear of death and judgment as motivation in communicating the salvation message. Jonathan Edwards effectively used hellfire and damnation to motivate some who heard him. When he preached his famous message, “A Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God,” some would hang on to the pillars of the church for fear of literally slipping into hell.
Built On Love
Ultimately though, a lasting relationship must be built on love. Love is what motivated God to send Jesus to be our Savior. Paul had experienced the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ in his own life and as a result, he was motivated with the desire that others might share the same experience. It did not matter to him that some people thought he was crazy because if he was crazy it was for God’s sake and if others thought him to be rational and sane it was for their sake.
Regardless of how we respond initially to the message of the gospel, we should desire to come to the place, personally, where love triumphs over fear. It is a result of maturity and experiencing true love ourselves. The kind of love that is self-sacrificing and giving to others is what we should desire to have in our own lives. “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” 1 John 4:18 (NLT) As we grow closer to Christ, we move not in the fear of hell or punishment, but we are motivated by his great love for us. When we become convinced of Christ’s love for us, it will change our perspective on life. One result will be that we no longer live for ourselves and that our lives will produce fruit for the Kingdom of God.
When we are motivated by love, we also become more resilient: Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:7 (NLT). A love that never gives up is a love that will last.