Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Discipleship Model, Part 4of7

~ Step 4:  Understand Your Motivations ~

NOTE:  This Discipleship Model is a special 7-part series showing a clear path to spiritual victory. One step will be posted each day for a calendar week. After completion of this series Abundant Life Now will “resume regular programming.”

Motivation is an important subject to all of us. There are times when we would like to motivate our kids, sometimes our spouses, our employees, etc. Sometimes we know we aren't adequately motivated ourselves!

Where does motivation come from? A key motivation is from our attitudes. Most of our attitudes are formed slowly through repeated thought patterns. An attitude can also change quickly due to a strong emotional event.

I once heard of a hard-working Christian couple who skimped and saved in order to send their only child, a daughter—Barbara, away to a fine Christian college. One day they received the following letter;

“Dear Mom & Dad,

“I met this neat guy a couple of months ago. He doesn't go to school, in fact he dropped out of high school! He's trying hard to find a job, but he has no work experience of any kind—nor does he know what to do with his life. But the important thing is that we really love one another. Mom, Dad, I know you won't approve ... but I've been living with him, my grades have dropped real low, and I'm pregnant! I think I'm going to withdraw from all my classes to avoid receiving failing grades!”

 (The tear-struck couple turned to the second page as best they could with their trembling hands.) The letter continued...

“Everything you read on the first page is false! However, this term I have dropped from straight A’s to a mixture of A’s and B’s and I do need some extra expense money real bad. Love to you both—as always, Your daughter, Barb."

Now Barbara knew how to motivate her parents through a change of attitude! She motivated them to not be overly upset about her grades and to be willing to help with extra expense money.

But just what is motivation?

Your motivation is the reason behind your actions—your “motive—action.” Virtually all of our motivations can be broken into one or more of three types:

(1)  Positive   ~   This motivation is to obtain something or gain an advantage. This is the reward or “carrot and stick” approach based upon an incentive of some kind. It depends on an external stimulator.

(2)  Negative  ~   This motivation seeks to avoid a loss or a disadvantage. This is the punishment approach, and action based on fear is designed to avoid a negative result. This motivation is also dependent upon an external stimulator.

(3)  Attitude  ~  There are three important differences which separate this motivation from the first two. First, this motivation can be either positive or negative. Second, it is internal and not dependent upon external factors. Third, and most importantly, the first two are temporary (they only work while the external factor is in play) but the internal or intrinsic motivation is much more permanent (but does need continuing cultivation).

Our motive for action is rarely only one of these three motivations. Usually there are at least two of the three involved and often all three are involved.

Consider the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, and the salvation it can bring.

(1)  Positive:  The gain of heaven and to be with God forever can be a motivation for many.

(2)  Negative:  Avoidance of hell and the wrath of God can be a motivation for others.

(3)  Attitude:  “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19) is a motivation for many.

While all three are valid motivations, may I suggest that the most worthy motivation is our love response to Him—without that being at least a part of a decision for Christ, one could wonder if salvation has in fact occurred. Attitudinal motivation will be part of the motivation of anyone who understands what the Lord has done on the Cross on their behalf.

This internal motivation has a strong basis in Scripture. Consider these examples:
“Keep thy heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23a kjv).
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23 niv).
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will put the right desires in your heart” (Psalms 37:4a).  
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart” (Luke 6:45a).
He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy [Isaiah 29:13] of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me’” (Mark 7:6-7a).  
And everyone who has this hope [of Christ’s coming back for His own] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).

Step 1:  Paradox  ~  Understand your partnership with God.
Step 2:  Thinking  ~  Choose to control your thoughts!
Step 3:  Attitude  ~  Increasingly rely on properly cultivated attitudes.
Step 4:  Motivation  ~  Be motivated predominately by yourself, rather than by external factors.
The next step will focus on gaining control of your lifestyle.

~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW

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