There is no doubt in my mind that Simon Peter and his brother Andrew became the talk of all the fishermen around the lake of Galilee when they suddenly left their nets to respond to Jesus’ call: “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).
We are greatly challenged by the willingness of these men to forsake all at a moment’s notice to join a new teacher whose ministry and future were unknown.
But then we see a verse that shows us that Peter and the other disciples were not so different from you and me and the rest of humanity. Later on, they inquired, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27).
No matter what we do in life, it’s second nature to ask the question: What do I get out of it?
When we apply for a job, we want to know the benefits. If we send our children to an expensive school, we expect a certain quality of education in return. Even in spiritual things we often have this mindset.
A “Spiritualized” Self-centeredness
A large number of people come to Christ because they want to go to heaven instead of hell or because they want their messed-up lives restored. And God is more than gracious to save and help them when they call upon His name.
Many believers who invest their lives, time or resources for a godly cause want to make sure that what they give will bring them something in return—whether it’s joy, satisfaction, earthly blessings, recognition, honor from men, position or at least the guarantee of rewards in heaven.
If we are honest with ourselves, so often self-centeredness is at the bottom of what we do.
In our personal lives we seek to exchange the uncertain “follow Me” for something that seems more stable. We leave behind a burden or calling the Lord has given us to seek something that guarantees security. Elisha’s servant Gehazi—who went after selfish gain (see 2 Kings 5:20-27)—and the Apostle Paul’s coworker Demas—who “loved this present world” (see 2 Timothy 4:10)—both did this.
Without us even realizing what is happening, our personal struggles and the question, “What do I get out of it?” take priority over what the Lord has commanded us to do. We get sidelined when serving the Lord starts costing us something.
But often, it’s not the big costs that pull us away from serving the Lord, it’s the small costs: little squabbles, difficulties, discouragement and unfulfilled expectations. These are some of the main reasons that people who start serving the Lord in some way, eventually end up pulling back from that service.
What Is the Right Source of Motivation?
We worry and do so much to preserve our lives and make sure we will be okay, but in reality, there is no reason for you and me to be anxious about what we will get out of our service. Our Lord has already promised to meet all our needs.
So then, if we are not to be motivated by our own gain, where else can we find motivation? We find it in the same place Jesus found it.
Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “For the joy that was set before Him, [He] endured the cross.”
Jesus saw beyond all His impending suffering on the cross to “the joy set before Him.” And what was that joy? It was you and me, and the life that we would have because of His death and resurrection. That is what gave Him the motivation to go through with it. He saw what we would gain, and He gladly gave His life out of love.
So let us turn our eyes to Jesus, again and again, and see His sacrificial love for you, His love for me, and we will gladly give our lives for His sake, and for the sake of this world that He loves.
It Is Worth It
The Lord remembers our labors on behalf of His kingdom: “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name” (Hebrews 6:10). And He tells us that whatever we have done to the least of His brothers, we have done to Him.
So keep your hand to the plow, and don’t look back. It is well worth it.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon