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Volume 15, Issue 3: Eschaton

Motivation

Jack Van Deventer

If truth were a steering wheel, motivation would be the gas pedal. Motivation is an essential predecessor of hard work. We're all aware that it's one thing to know the right course of action and quite another to do it. But what motivates a Christian to do the right thing? What prompts a believer to walk in the truth? What causes someone to fight the good fight and persevere to the end?

There are lots of standard and essential answers to these questions. The Holy Spirit, faith in God's Word, trusting God's promises, and so on. But given that Christians generally know what constitutes good works, why is it that some Christians are fired up to serve God and others listless? Why is it that some believers transform the world around them with their good Christian works while others seem mystified that the world passes them by? The answer has to do with the anticipated fruitfulness of one's labor within God's plan.
Some Christians believe their actions can and will be used by God to change the world. Other Christians view changing the world for Christ to be a hopeless endeavor because they anticipate that lawlessness and apostasy are inevitable outworkings of God's plan in human history. We observe that some Christians roll up their sleeves and get the job done and others say, "What's the point?" Clearly, Christians are divided into two camps: those motivated by hope and those dissuaded by despair.
"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." In our Christian culture, faith and love are still held in high regard, but we throw ice-cold water on hope. In fact, hopelessness is a big Christian industry with lots of money being spent on fictions that reinforce lethargy among the saints. But long-term dreariness wearies the soul. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," says Proverbs. Whether the deferred hope that incapacitates these well-meaning folks is a "rapture" that never happens or something else, the result is the same: a gripping despondency.
Pietism is another doctrine of hopelessness that teaches God's power and influence are limited to ethereal matters of the heart and conscience. (Far be it from God to change real things!) Where do we get these ideas? Who convinced us that God's hands got tied up somewhere along the line?
Rather, we should anticipate the advancement of Christ's kingdom and the promised salvation of the world. What Christ ordered us to do in the Great Commission is to disciple the nations. That's our job. And He, as the King of kings, has the power and authority to bring about this glorious, global salvation. The will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We believe this joyful promise because we believe God's Word is true. The reason we work hard is to bring about what God has promised by His grace and according to His will. This is a labor rooted in hope. Our motivation, then, is to glorify God through the preaching of the Gospel, while we enjoy the delightful outworking of His grace upon the nations.
"Where there is no vision, the people perish." Motivation is always connected to a vision, to expectation, and to anticipated outcome. The more glorious the outcome, the more one is motivated to work hard. We observe this in John Owen who wrote in 1680, "Though our persons fall, our cause shall be as truly, certainly, and infallibly victorious, as that Christ sits at the right hand of God. The gospel shall be victorious. This greatly comforts and refreshes me." John Owen was energized by the thought of a victorious gospel. He loved seeing God's salvation transform lives and cities and nations. It was his motivation for laboring hard in the work of the Lord.
Charles H. Spurgeon also recognized the connection between faith in the finished work of Christ and our labors when he wrote, "The fullness of Jesus is not changed, then why are our works so feebly done? Pentecost, is that to be a tradition? The reforming days, are these to be memories only? I see no reason why we should not have a greater Pentecost than Peter saw, and a Reformation deeper in its foundations, and truer in its upbuildings than all the reforms which Luther or Calvin achieved… Our laziness puts off the work of conquest, our self-indulgence procrastinates, our cowardice and want of faith make us dote upon the millennium instead of hearing the Spirit's voice today. Happy days would begin from this hour if the Church would but awake and put on her strength, for in her Lord all fullness dwells.
"Oh! Spirit of God, bring back thy Church to a belief in the gospel! Bring back her ministers to preach it once again with the Holy Ghost, and not striving after wit and learning. Then shall we see thine arm made bare, O God, in the eyes of all the people, and the myriads shall be brought to rally round the throne of God and the Lamb. The Gospel must succeed; it shall succeed; it cannot be prevented from succeeding; a multitude that no man can number must be saved."1
Our modern church will rebound when she repents and regains a love for laboring in the gospel. This paradigm transformation won't take place until we pray as Jesus did, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." What better motivation could one ask for?

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