As a Christian there are some things that I have learned that are not limited to the Christian faith. The Bible is a book that is spoken to people, written by the Creator of people, for the instruction, growth, nourishment, and benefit of people. Many truths that can only be understood or accurately articulated from the perspective of faith hold true universally. For instance, there are things that we all desire and long for in our lives but outside of an understanding of our “ultimate purpose” those things – hope, love, community, peace, etc – are suspended and ungrounded, separate from any kind of universal truth.
Motivation, for me, is based on this same kind of innate longing. From the time when we are old enough to understand very much at all we begin striving to know, to learn, to understand, and to grow. I have two young children and I can attest to the curiosity and desire for comprehension that appears early in life. The more we mature, the more, I believe, we want to mature. The cycle of growth is a self-perpetuating thing. The less we strive the more satisfied we become with stagnancy, the more we press the less satisfied and more motivated we are to venture into the unknown places where mysteries and possibilities exist.
I believe Christianity speaks to this baser idea of motivation both through narrative and principle. The Scriptures are filled with stories of men and women who were, at some point, rightly dissatisfied with the status quo and willing to courageously do something about it. Noah’s faithful obedience as he built the ark, Jacob’s stubborn unwillingness to release the midnight wrestler, Moses’ somewhat reluctant visits to Pharaoh, and David’s audacious sprint into the Valley of Elah are all examples of people who intentionally moved forward, impassioned by God, into the future. In principle the New Testament refers to this as Sanctification. It is a life-long dedication to moving forward in order to find out what life looks like one step closer to Christ, one moment longer by faith, and one dream farther in hope. We press, we strive, we long, we run…all of these are images the New Testament uses to describe what life is supposed to look like. Not once is there acceptance of a sedentary satisfaction or a sense of “arrival” that abdicates the need to answer the call for adventure within the human heart.
The idea here, simply, is that though we’ve become new in Christ we are continuing to become. We are becoming. Our motivation is based on what we have already been made to be and the mystery behind verses like:
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son
1 John 3:2
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
It is this promise of finding not only who we can be, but who we actually are, in Christ that motivates us. To see what is on the other side of this day if it is used wisely compels us to work, to struggle, to war against the common and embrace the special. It was the writer of Hebrews who gives us a powerful image of the Christian life, and an accurate picture of the motivated soul:
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.