This chapter was of significant benefit to me, so I thought I'd share it with you. The whole book was incredibly insightful, and a must read for anyone serious about following Jesus... hopefully this will whet your appetite for more!
Living in the Light of Eternity by K.P. Yohannan
Chapter 6: What Motivates You?
The man stopped hoeing and straightened up, wiping sweat and grime from his forehead. He thought he had heard unusual sounds coming from the house. Strains of music drifted across the field and, he thought, shouts and laughter as well. What was going on?
Well, it was way past quitting time anyway. He swung the hoe over his shoulder and trudged over the freshly turned-up field toward the house.
As he drew nearer, the music grew louder. He could tell the wine must be flowing freely; the dancing and merriment were in full swing.
Father must have real reason for celebration, he thought.
Just then a servant came scurrying out.
Whats going on? he asked.
You brother has come home! the servant replied. Your father has killed the fatted calf, and we are all rejoicing because you brother is safe and sound. Please, your father wants you to join the celebration- come!
The mans face darkened. So this was what they were celebrating his brothers return? His irresponsible, wild, loose-living, inheritance-wasting brother? How dare he return after all the years of grief and uncertainty he had caused! A storehouse of angry memories flooded him.
I will have no part of this celebration! he spat at the servant. you can tell my father I will not go in!
And he turned on his heel.
We are all familiar with the story in Luke 15 of the man and his two sons. We know the younger brother as the Prodigal Son, but the story is really about the love of his father.
Jesus had been criticized by the Pharisees and scribes because He chose to eat with publicans and sinners. Look at this man, they whispered to each other. He says Hes God, but look who He eats with!
Jesus dinner companions were indeed reputed to be the worst members of society. But the Pharisees misunderstood Gods holiness to mean He would have nothing to do with sinners. So Jesus told them the story of the man and his sons to show them the heart of the Father. He was saying to them, God has everything to do with sinners, because He loves them.
Jolting the Jar
It is plain to see that the younger son represents the sinner, the outcast. But lets take a closer look at the older son.
The older son is a picture of the believer, someone who knows the Lord and is within the fold of believers. What was he doing when the younger son finally returned? Working out in the fields. He was committed to his father and his work. In appearance, anyhow, he loved his father more than his brother did. He never left home or gambled his money away.
The older brother is a classic illustration of the individual who seems to be doing a lot of good and whose life is full of activity but who may be motivated horizontally, not vertically. The motivation keeping the older brother going was not genuine love for his father. When his brother returned and adverse circumstances bore down on him, the truth came out.
The older brother was perfect. He sacrificed and worked long hours. He gave money faithfully for missions every month. He cut back on his lifestyle and lived more simply. He prayed an hour every day. He was active in his church. He always went the extra mile.
Am I talking about you and me? I am. But as we are in the midst of good activity, sometimes things begin to go wrong. Wow! We say to ourselves. I didnt realize I would ever face rejection for doing the right thing. I thought everyone would appreciate my hard work. I thought Id get a few rewards, a little recognition
When the extermal pressures brea upon us and jolt the jar, whatever is inside comes out. This jolting is orchestrated by the Lord, who wants us to see what is really in our hearts.
Why did the older son act the way he did? He felt taken for granted, and was angry with his father for receiving his younger brother back, who had done wrong while he had done right.
If we look carefully at Luke 15, we can see at least nine signs that something was missing in the older brother. He had lost the genuine motivation of his heart his love for his father.
Lets look at each of these signs.
Strangely enough, the person who has lost authentic vertical motivation from the Lord falls into legalism. The love off Christ no longer constrains him. He works for the sake of the work alone, whereas true motivation in working for the Kingdom of God is love.
Love is the oil that keeps the machinery running smoothly. With this motivation there is no murmuring, no complaining, no grouchiness. People motivated by the love of God can serve Him 24 hours a day and be the happiest people in the world. They cannot do enough for the Lord because they love Him so much. When you lose that vertical motivation, you are doing things for the Lord because you have to.
Legalism also means serving only for the reward. The older brother tells his father, Look! All these years Ive been slaving for you
yet you never gave me even a young goat so that I could celebrate with my friends (verse 29).
When a person loses the love motive in his heart, he sees the Father as mean and unfair. He begins to compare service records. The older brother compared his work with that of his younger brother, who wasted and destroyed everything his father had given him.
The man in Jesus parable of the talents who buried the one talent he had been given told his master, I knew that you are a hard man (Matthew 25:24). He saw his master as unloving and cruel.
Then there is the parable of the vineyard owner who gave equal wages to all his workers, whether they began at nine in the morning or four in the afternoon. The ones who had started work early began to grumble.
These men who were hired last worked only one hour, they said, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.
But he answered on of them, Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didnt you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go.
I like the story in Genesis 29 about Jacob. Good old Jacob what a rude awakening to find out that the woman you married was not the one you meant to marry! Yet we read that all those years of hard labor for Rachel seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her (verse 20, italics added). He was not working just to feed a few sheep. He was not working for pay. The focus of all his labors was Rachel alone.
I spoke to a group of people once who were working with a Christian organization on the mission field, and I asked them to think about this question: If your entire allowance were gone, if your benefits disappeared, if next month you would not earn even a penny would you still come here? If you had no money even to ride a bus to the office, would you walk here and serve the Lord anyway?
This is the kind of question we must ask ourselves if we want to avoid the trap of legalism.
Self-Pity, Bitterness, Discouragement
The father, weeping and rejoicing over his younger son, pleased with his elder son to come in. But the son refused. His unyielding, headstrong disposition is clear indication that he was not motivated by love for his father. He refused to go in because he felt sorry for himself. He was bitter about his situation. And he was discouraged.
But self-pity, bitterness and discouragement have nothing to do with genuine vertical motivation.
The older brother had little feeling for his father or brother. His feelings had festered so long that he could think only about himself.
Jealousy and Love for Honor or Position
Third, a person not motivated by love for the Lord will experience jealousy over others blessings and the desire for honor and position. He may want to be noticed by others, looking for opportunities to tell them what he has done. He may be dissatisfied with second place. Or he may secretly expect appreciation or approval. When our hearts are not motivated by love, our relationships with others are strained.
The older brother had apparently been content working in the fields day after day. But when his brother came home, he became jealous.
Now that this brother of mine has returned, he thought, look at the hugs, the ring, the shoes, the new clothes. Look at the feast, the dancing, the celebration. All the attention Ive gotten, all the benefits Ive received, all my fathers love, will now be turned to him.
Take another New Testament example. Before Pauls conversion on the Damascus road, he wanted to eliminate Christianity. If you had been a believer during that time, you would have had a hard time accepting this new convert.
Its just a ploy, you might have said. Hes only coming to find out who we are. Then hell kill us.
This is exactly what those believers thought. No one trusted Paul (see Acts 9:26). Then Barnabas came along and put his life on the line. He vouched for Paul and convinced others that Paul had truly been saved. A wonderful partnership was begun. But a few chapters later in Acts, we no longer read about Barnabas and Paul. Now we read about Paul and Barnabas. Fascinating! Barnabas took second place to Paul because his motivation was not based on honor or position. Barnabas simply loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him.
It is a sign of true godliness to desire nothing but the Lord Himself. It is no simple thing to take second place and let someone else get the honor. It can be done only by someone who loves God.
The older brother told his father, All these years I have done your work, revealing an Im-better-than-my-brother attitude. He also complained about this son of yours (verse 30). Notice that he did not say my brother but your son.
He was filled with pride, an exalted opinion of himself. Pride is the fourth indication that a believer is not motivated by love for God. The older brother did not even have room in his heart to acknowledge the tramp weeping and repenting as his brother. There was no room in his life for weak people. In his eyes he was plainly superior.
When we work as a team, as a church, as a fellowship, we must remember that the Body of Christ is made up not of superhuman entities but of weak, broken-legged, half-blind, bruised, hurting, sinning and repenting people. And it seems to me from this story that God has more compassion for them than for the superstars.
This story is about the all-embracing, all-forgiving, all-encompassing love of a father. But his older son, who lived in the same house and worked for him, was untouched by his love and made no concession for the weak, failed, backslidden man who stood before him. All he could say was, He had it coming.
True motivation from the Lord by contrast, manifests itself in humility.
Lack of Love for Others
We do not read the older son went out to look for his brother when he was gone. And who had told him his brother was living with prostitutes and doing wicked things? Not his brother! Still, the older son told his father: This son of yours
has squandered your property with prostitutes
(Luke 15:30). There was no love in his heart: he expected the worst from his brother.
Jonah had no love in his heart, either. He preached a fiery sermon, warning the Ninevites that they could soon be destroyed for their wickedness. But when the city repented and God decided not to destroy them, Jonah was angry with God:
O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relets from sending calamity.
What a strange rationalization! Jonah knew his theology but it was only head knowledge. He anticipated Gods compassion but did not understand or share it. He was not motivated by love.
Then there was Ruth. In the first chapter of that fantastic drama, Naomi tells her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, Look, my children, this is it. There is nothing I can do for you. Your husbands are both dead and I have no more sons for you to marry. Go home and find new husbands.
Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law good-by, but Ruth clung to her
dont urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Ruth 1:14, 16
Going with Naomi meant that Ruth would be leaving behind all that was familiar her family, her culture, even the gods she worshiped. How could Ruth make such a decision? Because she loved Naomi. Love made it possible for her to leave everything.
When you lack love for your brothers and sisters around you, becoming short-tempered and impatient and experiencing the worst from others, it indicates you are not motivated by the love of the Father.
Wanting to Give Up
The sixth sign of erosion in genuine motivation is desire simply to quit. The older son refused to go inside and join the celebration. He was saying to his father, Ive done all these things for you and what have you done for me? Im the one who has to give and give and give. Seems like a one-way street to me. Im getting the short end of the stick.
Everyone at some point faces the temptation to quit. Some are tempted to give up their Christian life entirely. In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul told Timothy that Demas had packed up his bags and left him.
If anyone ever had a reason to quit, Paul did. But he was motivated by something beyond what he could see. I can do everything through him who gives me strength, he said (Philippians 4:13).
Unwillingness to Suffer
Inconveniences, trials, difficulties and living with less cause many to lose their motivation. This is the seventh indicator of a lack of authentic vertical motivation: refusal to accept suffering as part of love.
The elder son lacked something his father had a tender heart toward his brother. Any feelings of love he might ever have had been buried deep beneath his resentment, bitterness and anger. But his father was not afraid to love his youngest son, even if it meant suffering terrible hurt over the poor choices his son had made.
No love is genuine unless it includes suffering. C.S. Lewis wrote about the risks of true love in his book The Four Loves:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in the casket safe, dark, motionless, airless it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
The alternative to tragedy or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
Jesus motivation was pure love for His Father. In obedience He came as a man and shared His Fathers heart for the lost world. And the love that was in His heart included suffering. If it had not, we would not have a Redeemer.
Lack of Prayer
Although it is not specifically mentioned in the story I seriously doubt that the older son had any real heart-to-heart communication with his father. And this is the eighth sign that genuine vertical motivation is lacking: a lack of prayer.
Any church or organization not motivated by love for God will rely on agencies, plans, programs, schedules and all sorts of gimmicks to get the job done. If we are not motivated to do what we do by the love of God, we will surely dry up in our prayer lives, too.
What keeps us going in feast and famine is the kind of relationship with the Lord that only prayer can bring.
Unwillingness to Live by Faith
The father told his older son, You are always with me, and everything I have is yours (Luke 15:31). He was saying, All that you see around you look! Its yours! Its always been yours, whether now or later. I love you, and I care about your younger brother, too. Its all the same.
But the son could not understand what his father was telling him. And this is the final sign: unwillingness to live by faith.
Paul told Timothy, The time has come for my departure
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day (2 Timothy 4:6, 8). Paul looked forward to that day in faith.
We read in Hebrews 11 of a group of people who lived, suffered and died in faith. Even though they did not experience the promises of the Lord in their generation, they looked toward the day that those promises would be fulfilled.
When you do not look to Him as your source, your circumstances look pretty grim. And when your faith in the Lord runs short, you know you are not being motivated by love for Him.
Regaining Our Motivation
Have you lost the vital vertical motivation of love for God? Have you caught glimpses of yourself in the pages you have just read?
Horizontally motivated persons can be involved vigorously in the work of the Lord. They can also be demanding and judgmental. They may express intense concern about the moral condition of society or become zealous for world evangelism. But when the internal relationship is gone, only a shadow of that reality remains.
Paul talked about a group of people who were sold out to preach the Gospel, but for the wrong motivation. They intended to cause more persecution for Paul, who was in prison at the time for preaching the Gospel (see Philippians 1:15-17)
In 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan approached David after his sin with Bathsheba, Nathan told him a story about two men. One was a rich, greedy man who owned many sheep; the other was a poor man who owned only one little lamb. When he told David that the rich man had taken the only lamb of his poor neighbor and slaughtered it to feed a visitor, David was enraged.
Who is the rat? he thundered to Nathan. He deserves to die!
Then Nathan told David, You are the man.
David had been so zealous for his people and so out of touch with God that he failed to see he was the real culprit.
It is easy to get out of touch with God and try to live the Christian life on our own. We all fall into it. But when we realize what has gone wrong, how do we go about mending it?
In Revelation we read Jesus message to the church in Ephesus an incredible passage that can turn your stomach inside-out! If you remember the story of the Ephesians from Acts 19, you know that when Paul preached the Gospel to them, a great number believed. They brought their sorcery books, worth 50,000 pieces of silver, and burned them publicly. They took a stand against darkness and committed themselves to Christ, separating themselves from their former ways of living.
Paul wrote that the Ephesians were blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3) and prayed for them for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation (verse 17). But now Jesus told them:
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
There is a fascinating paradox in this passage. First Jesus is positive: You are doing many good things. Then He says, Repent and do the same things.
Perhaps the Lord would say something similar to a believer today: You are giving ten thousand dollars every month to My work, but I am going to snuff out your light unless you repent.
Lord, says the believer, what do You want me to do?
Repent; then give ten thousand dollars a month to My work.
At first it sounds confusing, doesnt it? But Jesus was saying something was missing in the Ephesians lives. They were laboring the same as always, but their inner motivation had changed. It was no longer labor prompted by love (1 Thessalonians 1:3). They had forsaken their first love.
When you find yourself in a situation like this, the Lord wants you to come to Him and say something like this:
Lord, Im still doing all these things, but now its mechanical. The spring is wound and things keep going, but my heart for You is no longer involved. I dont have the same love for the lost: I do these things because I to do them. Its been a long time, Lord, since I cried over the lost world. My concerns have turned to myself and my own problems. Please, Lord, give me that genuine heart motivation once again.
This is true repentance not patching up old wineskins, but becoming new wineskins altogether. I encourage you to take this first step of repentance.
I thank God for the day more than twenty years ago when a group of Operation Mobilization workers, including me, gathered in an old school building in North India. George Verwer spoke to us from Hebrews 4 with this message: There remains a rest for Gods people. Enter into it.
I will never forget that day. It was the day I surrendered myself completely to the Lord. I was one of the ones who went forward and said, Im fighting, struggling and striving. Im always hurting and in pain. Im always complaining that something is wrong. I want rest.
That day I began to realize the incredible reality of entering Gods rest. Once you surrender your life completely to the Lord, no matter what happens from then on, you have something to fall back on. It is all in Gods hands.
Be Filled with the Holy Spirit
There is no more important factor in living a victorious life one filled with motivation and strength that come from beyond ourselves than being filled with the Holy Spirit. But many are confused about what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
I will not dictate to you about how to be filled with the Spirit of God. It does not matter to me how it happens: just make sure that you are!
The Word of God tells us we are walking into dangerous times in history when many will fall away. We must not be persuaded by the trends of this world. Remember, God wiped out a whole generation and saved only Noah and his family. The majority of this generation will not make it. But a minority are living holy lives, led by the Spirit of God, willing to walk in Jesus footsteps and trying to reach others for Him.
As unto the Lord
What is the key to living with right motivation> Do everything as to the Lord, and not unto men (Colossians 3:23, KJV). Even though we hear this statement often, the real meaning comes when we interpret it practically
It is said that if we do anything for 21 days, we will have established a habit. Let me suggest, then, that for the next 21 days, no matter what you are asked to do, you say to yourself, I am doing it for the Lord. I am doing it for the Lord.
Watch how this becomes part of your thinking and part of your life!
Think about Heaven
Why should we think about heaven? Because it is the paycheck Paul said he was looking for when he wrote, There is no store for me the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8)
Heaven is not our motivation, as the older brother was motivated by the thought of his reward and not by the love for his father. But we will find joy in thinking about heaven as we serve our heavenly Father in love.
Isaiah prophesied, See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power
See, his reward is with him (Isaiah 40:10)
Daniel was pulled out of his homeland, put into prison, given a job, then misunderstood. He had no wife or children. His life was one of giving and serving, giving and serving. He was thrown into the lions den but kept on serving. Kings came and went and the kingdom of Babylon changed hands. Daniel had to prove himself again and again.
At the very end of the book, when Daniel had become an old man, an angel appeared to him and told him, Go your way till the end. You will rest and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance (Daniel 12:13).
Why, in the last part of this faithful old mans life, did God send His angel to tell him these words? I do not know, but I suspect that Daniel, in all the ups and downs of his life and after all the troubling visions of the end times, had something on his mind.
Someday, he may have thought to himself, this is all going to be over. This is not final. This is just a short time that I have to walk through.
So when the angel spoke to him, it affirmed his convictions.
And Paul, in the final stage of his life, told Timothy he knew there was a crown reserved for him. That knowledge kept him going so that he could say confidently, Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Think about heaven. In everything you have to deal with each day, think, This is not the end. There is much more. This is only a short time that I am walking through. The Lord has promised us through His Word that the end will be far better than the beginning. Do not lose heart. Take Him at His Word!