When was the last time you heard a motivational talk? Maybe it was in your church. Or perhaps at a gathering where some eloquent and accomplished speaker addressed the audience with such fervor, some people didn’t need to exit via the doors. They were ready to run through walls, they were so psyched up.
Years ago, I attended one of those multi-level sales meetings where men and women shared their glowing success stories and got many of the attendees fired up. I wasn’t one of them, but I must admit, their stories sounded convincing.
Lots of men and women have forged lucrative careers as motivational speakers, and some have supplemented their incomes with books capturing their inspiring messages. In many cases, what they have to say is good. It’s drawn from their own experience, and others benefit from hearing about what they’ve learned through the process of hard work, determination, trial and error.
Unfortunately, such external motivation doesn’t last all that long. I think of the popular Promise Keepers conferences of years ago. Thousands upon thousands of men would gather together for a couple of days, basically listening to a series of “Win One for the Gipper” speeches, only with a decidedly spiritual twist. I attended one in Atlanta, and a lot of what we heard was very good. But a week or two later, guys I went with were kind of scratching their heads and thinking, “Now, what was it I was so excited about at that conference?”
Because being motivated that way is like attending a football pep rally. Everyone’s excited, the team is pumped, and we’re all convinced our guys are going to score a resounding victory. Then comes the kickoff, however, the game is on, and we discover heightened emotions won’t be enough to win the day.
Which leads us to an important question: What motivates you? Experts tell us motivation drives basically everything we do, whether it’s extrinsic motivation – to achieve something or attain a goal, or intrinsic – being motivated internally for some form of personal fulfillment.
I think of a friend who many years ago started a ministry aimed at a very difficult segment of society. Some of us who knew him wondered how long he would stick with it, considering the many challenges, obstacles and disappointments he was bound to encounter. About 40 years later, he’s still involved with the same work.
So, what is it that undergirds some people’s well-intended initial commitments and enables them to endure and persevere over a long haul while so many others start well but fizzle out after a relatively short period of time? What keeps them motivated?
For followers of Jesus Christ, the answer can be summarized by a simple sentence: “For Christ’s love compels us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). The apostle Paul wrote this within a context of explaining his motivation for sharing the good news of Christ to any and all that he encountered. The love Jesus had shown to him, and Jesus’ love being manifested through him to others. This should serve as the motivation for everything we do.
In the same passage, Paul wrote, “If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you…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).
He concludes this section by declaring, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). As we go through each day – whether it’s at work, interacting with neighbors, attending a school PTA meeting, even at the local mall – we should never forget that we are ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
Colossians 3:23 offers this motivation: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Like most writers, many times I don’t receive a lot of feedback on what I write, whether it’s a book, an article, or one of these blog posts. It’s not uncommon for any writer to wonder, “Why am I doing this? Does anyone care? Is it making any difference?”
For me, it’s important to keep in the forefront of my mind that I’m compelled by Christ’s love for me, along with the love He’s given me for others, as well as the awareness that ultimately whatever I do is for an audience of One. Then I have the clear answer for the “why” of what I do, along with being assured as the Lord is guiding me, I’m making a difference in one way or another.