You’ll smile when you listen to the song at the bottom of this article!
A young couple came to our worship one Sunday morning. Their faces were beaming with joy. I asked them why they had come. The young lady said, “I have a rich grandmother, and she promised to pay for our wedding if we went to church.” Suddenly, I saw their eyes were illuminated by dollar signs not devotion to the Lord. Whatever good they were doing was ruined by the motivation behind it.
What motivates you? It’s an important question, but one that often goes unexamined. Sometimes we get into a rut and do what we do without remembering why. As a result, the joy and purpose is drained out of life. Other times, we think our motives are noble and right, when in reality they arise out of our own sinful desires.
The question of motivation is not an easy one. No wonder Jeremiah exclaimed, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Yet, one thing is for certain: God knows it! “I, the Lord, search the heart. I test the mind” (Jer. 17:10). Therefore it is wise to test our “whys.”
Jesus often aimed His teaching at our motivation. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount His target is our hearts. From the beginning Jesus says, “Kingdom people are not identified by their race, gender, abilities or wealth, but by their inner character” (Matt. 5:3-12). Jesus goes on to show that morality and genuine worship radiates from the heart (Matt. 5:17-48; 6:1-18). The order is essential. Godly living is not only seen in our actions, but in the spiritual attitudes which motivate them.
Yet, it easy is to let our internal devotion to the Lord be extinguished by the winds of worldly interest. Jesus said, “The love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12; Rev. 2:4-5), and so it does. But, when your motivation for faithful living begins to falter remember these two truths.
First, right motives will make your faith effective. Why were the early believers so successful in transforming their lives and spreading the gospel? Did it have to do with the color of their church building, the quantity of their programs, or the professional nature of their worship? No. It was the reality of the faith that beat in their hearts!
Sometimes we recognize the dryness of our faith and think refreshment will be found by moving to a new city, changing churches, or finding a new job. And yet, if we don’t change the devotion of our hearts we end up with the same parched faith just sitting in a new place.
In the same way, people mistakenly think the way to fix the church is to reorganize it, come up with new styles, and new terminology. And yet, after a considerable amount of upheaval you end up with the same people at the same level of spiritual commitment, because you haven’t dealt with the real issue—the heart! Genuine faith can only be ignited by a love for God and His word. There is no substitute!
The people of God were in a “deep sleep” in Isaiah’s day. The prophet handed them a word from God and said, “Please, read this.” and they looked at it like people who were illiterate, confused and uninterested. Yet they went through the motions of singing the psalms, mouthing the prayer, and enduring the reading. Until God intervened and said,
“These people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me” (Isa. 29:13)
They substituted the obligation of their public worship for the commitment of their hearts. As a result, their faith had very little effect on their lives. They kept their hearts for themselves in places far away from the purpose of God.
Don’t be fooled by religious acts and pious words. God isn’t. Surface changes are not enough. The affection of our heart must be changed if our faith is going to be alive. What you really love will determine the quality of your faith.
Second, remember that only right motives will make your faith acceptable. Nothing we do is acceptable to God unless it first radiates from the spiritual attitudes of a heart ruled by the Lord Jesus. On one occasion Jesus stood at the gate of the temple. He watched people go to the right place and do the right things, but for the wrong reasons. So, He said, “They will have no reward from the Father in heaven” (Matt. 6:1; also 1 Cor. 13:1-7). God knows the reasons of our hearts.
We sometimes seek to justify our actions by saying, “I’m not doing anything wrong!” “There is nothing unscriptural about it!” And the action may very well be right. But, if it is fueled by a heart of rebellion, a desire to be like the world, or selfish ambition, then what may be right is made wrong!
We are not dealing with a God who can be deceived like a man. He sees within our hearts. So, before we so brashly make our plans, we should first invite God to search our motives! David’s prayer should be ours, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Spend some time asking yourself “Why” you do what you do. Keep asking it until you get to the root of your motivation. Then have an honest talk with yourself saying, “Does that motivation honor the Lord? It is in line with His word? Does it show God’s love to people?” Because, it is only when your heart is right, that your life will be acceptable.
Solomon was right, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Spend some time with your heart today.
“Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
used by permission, RiverSong Records / PEBN
Sing this song when you wake up in the morning. It is a wonderful way to start the day!
By the way, do any of you remember a song, “Give The World A Smile Each Day”? My dad used to sing it in the morning when I was a kid. It put a new perspective on the day.