Motivation is odd. Something I find compelling would be a complete bore to someone else. I might say “I like to do this because …” and someone else might respond “I don’t care about either of those things.”
One person’s motivation is another person’s non-starter.
The word “motive” is from the same Latin root from which we get the word “move” and pertains to the things that move a person to action, thought, or desire:
- something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc.; incentive.
- the goal or object of a person’s actions. (Dictionary.com.)
This got me wondering about why I do things that others might call spiritual.
- Why do I pray?
- Why do I read the Bible?
- Why do I go to church?
- Why do I spend time thinking about God?
I thought about this at length and couldn’t find a motivating factor. Or perhaps I should say I did not find a motivating factor in the usual sense.
The things I listed are what a lot of people call spiritual disciplines, or look on them as acts a follower of Jesus should do. I’ve also heard people say they seek to honor God with these actions. I agree with all of that, I suppose, but the more I thought about it the more I realized these are not the motivations behind them for me.
I’ve also heard people say that these acts lead to great benefit. I completely agree with that as well. The more time I spend in prayer, in reading the Bible, in thinking about God, in spending time with others who know him, the more my relationship with God himself develops. But while those are benefits, I can’t say those are my motives. They aren’t what I think about when I do those other things.
So what is the motivating factor? After all, I don’t do these things by accident. They aren’t purposeless.
The more I thought on it, the more I realized that the motivating factor isn’t a what. The motivating factor is a who.
Moved by the Spirit
When it comes to movement for God, the motivator is God the Holy Spirit.
‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28.)
The Spirit guides us in truth:
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13.)
The Spirit prays for us as he prays with us:
We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26.)
The Spirit is the one who transforms us from death to life:
He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5.)
This death to life transformation makes all the rest of it possible: prayer, gathering, praise, reading and more are all possible because of the Spirit’s movement first in us.
That’s where the motivation is. I am not motivated because of what I desire. The motivation – the movement – is the Spirit moving within me to glorify God. This is what Jesus promised his friends on his last night with them.
He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. (John 16:14-15.)
I’ve found my motivation. The movement for all I do in my relationship with God is because of God himself moving within me to do these things.