This is a question I think about from time to time. I think it is a good question to ask as we evaluate our spiritual lives.
It is a good question to ask because our motivation for doing something reveals more accurately the condition of our hearts than our actions do. We can do the right things for the wrong reason, and thus miss the problem that we have in our hearts.
For much of my life the motivation I have had to follow Jesus was to live up to the expectations of those around me. In other words I sought the approval of people rather than seeking the approval of God.
The apostle Paul opens his letter to the Colossians with an interesting thought, a thought that we need to remember. This is what he wrote:
3 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people,5 which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. (Colossians 1:3-5; NLT)
The Colossians were motivated, not by the expectations of people, but by the hope they had in God. This hope came from the Gospel, the message that Jesus is the one true Lord of the world, and that he is making everything new. This hope empowered them to live with faith and to love people. They wanted to be part of God’s redeeming work and proclaim this message of hope through word and deed.
I think it would be freeing to have this as a motivation. Rather than being motivated by selfish things, I would be free to live out the purpose of my life. God created us to reflect His character into this world. This truth, at least in part, is what it means to be created in God’s image. When we seek to be part of God’s work, then we will naturally reflect His character to into the world.
The question is how can we have the same type of motivation for following Jesus that the Colossians had?
It is important to remember that motivation is a heart issue, so for our motivation to change we need a change of heart. The place to start is asking God to bring that change to us. We know that we are powerless to change our hearts and that we need God to bring the healing, transformation, and hope that our hearts need.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a part to play in bringing change and transformation to our hearts. The Colossians received their motivation from the Gospel. They had heard the truth and they made the truth a part of their lives.
The process of taking truth and making it a part of our lives is called mediation. We constantly hear about the importance of reading our Bibles, but we seldom hear about the importance of mediation. Reading is important, but for these ancient cultures, they did not have access to Scripture like we do today. The Colossians did not read the Scriptures daily, but what they did do was meditate on God’s word every day. They would take the truth they heard, use that truth to fuel their thoughts and prayers, and in this way God’s truth was embedded into their hearts.
Mediation is to truth what digestion is to food. In digestion our bodies take the food we eat and breaks it down, and it becomes the fuel our bodies need and it provides the nutrients our bodies use create and repair our cells. We are what we eat.
In meditation we take Scripture and we think about, we visualize what it means, we plan ways to apply it, and we pray it. As we break it down in our hearts and minds, this truth because a part of us. It begins to influence our actions, direct our choices, and inform our motivations.
The transformation of our hearts, minds, and motivations begins with the choice to meditate on Scripture.