As I write this I am sitting in the Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, where there is a light dusting of snow on the ground and an endless blue sky out the window to my left. I am on my way back to Seattle for Christmas, having just spent the past nine months taking part in an intensive bible study course that focuses on an inductive method of bible study. Reading through the text of the bible itself five times and doing historical background studies through each book, spending an average of 11-13 hours a day six days a week in the bible and study materials.
If there is one thing I have learned in my time studying the bible it is that the heart motivation in why we do things is of the utmost importance.
What is motivating us? Why do we do what we do?
Motivations can be something as simple as a desire that has come to us in a moment, like a longing for some sushi, which I wouldn’t mind right now. Or longing to see the nations turn to Jesus, which I also wouldn’t mind right now. But one obviously has a lot more impact and will take significantly more effort to accomplish. What is similar in both of these longings and what will remain consistent throughout most desires is that we need to maintain a focus on why it is we are doing what we are doing.
So often in the circles, or communities, that I am a part of I hear things like, “Don’t strive, just rest.” Or “It isn’t as much about what you do as who you are with,” (referring to Jesus). While these two things are true at times I do think that we often lose the work ethic and desire to make things happen if we are more focused on simply kicking back and letting things happen instead of getting out, pursuing our passions or desires, and actually making an impact.
The heart of the matter is the real issue we are dealing with and not the actions that are being performed, i.e. striving.
The battle of not striving seems to be one that constantly is faced in the realm of evangelical Christianity, or Radical Christianity, or whatever you want to call it. Don’t get me wrong, striving can be a bad thing.
The heart of the matter is the real issue we are dealing with and not the actions that are being performed, i.e. striving. Now I’m gonna get a little ‘bibley,’ so don’t let me loose you, but I think the lives that we see in the bible gives us great examples of what it means to live with a heart for God and yet strive all the more for him.
I’d like to specifically look at the life of Paul and how he walked and lived. In the book of Philippians we see that Paul had everything going for him, he was at the top of his class, but what was lacking was the heart motive in all of it, he was doing it out of empty striving. But then we see that Paul was willing to lay down everything for the opportunity to gain Christ Jesus, which would be a direct result of the encounter he has in Acts 9 and the subsequent experiences he has throughout his life.
In Paul’s life he did not count giving up everything as costing him anything, he was willing to lay it down so that he could gain Christ and inevitably lead others to Christ as well. (I will be writing about the necessity of community in our walk with Christ in a later article). In our idea of striving it can often become this idea of simply looking at what people are doing, but if we look at Paul’s life in 2 Corinthians 12 we will see that he did way more than any other person in his pursuit of the gospel and the lost.
In our idea of striving it can often become this idea of simply looking at what people are doing, but if we look at Paul’s life in 2 Corinthians 12 we will see that he did way more than any other person in his pursuit of the gospel and the lost.
That being said, I would like to propose to you that if a person has the right heart in what they are doing, the correct motivation, their eyes on the right prize and not just any prize, then they will be able to do all the works that any other would do and even more, to gain the knowledge of Christ and spread the gospel without ever ‘striving’ in the sense that certain Christians would use the word. Therefore I would like to propose to you that a person will not ‘burn-out’ if they have their motives and heart in the right position and perspective.
What does this perspective look like you might ask? That is the very thing that I have learned in this season of intense study. It can be easy to put a focus on the work that we are doing and make that the motivator, simply doing the work, or ‘works.’ But it is vital to make sure that our motives are placed in knowing Christ and letting that be our motivator for the works that we do. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus tells us of those that will come to him at the end of the age speaking of all they did for him, while his answer for them is that he never knew them.
I will leave you with this, why do you do the things that you are doing? What is the motivator in your actions? your relationships? your quiet times? The goal of every Christian is to know Christ Jesus our Lord and then to tell others of who we know and not just what we know.
Take heart, this is an easy thing to do, Jesus wants that relationship with you more than you do with him, and let this be an easy burden and light yoke, Matthew 11:29. But take some time and question your motivations.