2 Corinthians 5:14
As ministers and church leaders we would be quick to agree with the Apostle Paul. The love of Christ should be the reason for everything we do – as Paul went on to say we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him (see 2 Cor. 5:15). But what really compels us; what is our motivation for the things we do? If we’re honest many other things often drive us to action. I for one confess this is true for me.
John Maxwell said, “Action flows from intention. For this reason, it’s imperative for us, as leaders, to regularly evaluate our primary motivations.”* So this month let’s take a moment for a gut check and ask ourselves why we do the things we do.
How often do we find ourselves like Paul in Romans 7 – doing the evil we don’t want to do, and falling short of the good we yearn to do? Perhaps that’s a conversation for another time, but it illustrates the reality that our motives (or dare I say, the desires of our heart) are subject to change. Even the “good things” we do in ministry may not be from pure motives.
Over the past several months I have had to examine my motives. Why was I doing what I did in pastoral ministry? Why did I resign and launch the First Faith ministry? Why am I writing books and blogs like this one? Am I trying to make a name for myself, or am I being compelled by Christ’s love?
I think you would agree that as members of the human race it is possible for our hidden motivations to be mixed even when running a good race. How can we know what our primary motivation is, and test our motives to see that they are less about ourselves and more about a response to the love of Christ? I found a story that I think helps measure our motive.
John Leonard Dober and David Nitschman are not names we may recognize, but they live out what it means to be compelled by the love of Christ. In 1732 they determined to forsake everything, even to sell themselves as slaves, so that the 2,000 to 3,000 African slaves working in the sugar cane fields in the West Indies could hear the gospel message before they died. They booked passage from Copenhagen to the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix. Family and friends from their home in Herrenhut, Germany, including a wife and small child, came to see them off. Uncertain that they would ever see these two missionaries again the cries on the pier were loud and long. But Dober and Nitschman heard another cry that was louder than the one made by family and friends; it was the cry of their LORD for the unsaved slaves who had not heard of His great love for them. As the ship set sail these men called out, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”
As it turned out these missionaries did eventually return home. But their willingness to sacrifice all for the sake of Christ began the Moravian Missionary movement that sent hundreds of other missionaries to share the gospel in the West Indies. Dober served as a Bishop in Europe and Nitschman came to America with John Wesley to found a mission in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania – a work that would continue to grow under Wesley to become the Methodist Church.
I believe their story provides a key to testing our motives. What are you and I willing to lay down for the sake of what Jesus has asked us to do? Are we willing to risk everything? Jesus said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:24). How willing are we to forfeit our lives – to give up the American dream of success to answer the heart cry of our LORD.
Yes, let us say with an undivided heart, “Christ’s love compels us” because the Lamb that was slain is still worthy to receive the reward of His suffering!
*Monitoring Motivation, John Maxwell – May 8, 2013 http://www.johnmaxwell.com/blog/monitoring-motivation
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