Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion states, “Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.” If something is moving, then it will keep its path unless an outside force changes the path. And matter at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force (which lends a whole new perspective to Sunday football watching!). The whole idea is this: it takes a force to make matter move or change paths. Without it, nothing changes.
What causes us to move or change paths, which leads me to the title of this article, “What’s Your Motivation?” People are motivated by different things- money, recognition, achievement, etc., but people are not motivated equally by the same thing.
Take for example money. Money can have both an intrinsic and an extrinsic motivational factor. In other words, some want to acquire money simply for the large bank account, while others want to acquire money for what it can buy, or a means to something else. Motivation is complicated because of the diversity in the equation – the human factor.
Can motivation come from outside of us? It certainly can. Take for example the apostles preaching the risen Christ. While they were largely uneducated, after the Holy Spirit had come upon them, they spoke with complete knowledge of the law and the prophets which amazed everyone who heard them. This was the outside force.
Many people were converted, first in Jerusalem and then outward from the city. This conversion continued to threaten the ruling class in the Jewish faith. The Sadducees were becoming increasing jealous of the message the Apostles were teaching, and had them arrested and thrown in jail. After escaping, they were found preaching in the temple courts. When they were brought before the high council, they spoke boldly, greatly angering the court who wanted to put them to death. But it was one who stood up and spoke.
This man was Gamaliel. He was a teacher of the law, probably heard the 12-year-old Jesus teaching in the temple courts, and was a close friend to Nicodemus. He reminded them if their motivation were of themselves, this movement would fade. But if their motivation were from God, to fight against them would mean the High Council would be fighting against God himself!
What’s your motivation? From where does it originate? If you have selfish desires, they may give temporary satisfaction yet fade with time. But if your motivation is of God, He will give you the words and strength to stand and speak the truth boldly, with compassion, and with grace. In reality, God will use you as He did the apostles to bless others and build up His kingdom.
Consider being motivated by an outside force this week that goes way beyond our human comprehension. If it is from God, no one will be able to stop it!
Many of you have sat on several committees in your personal and professional life. The numbers can range from just a few individuals to well over a dozen. There are dangers with having only a few where only a limited range of solutions to issues are discussed. The opposite is true with larger committees. Some say larger committees will discuss and argue about so many different solutions they eventually begin to “beat dead horses.” I usually add to this saying with, “and they lash the dead horses together for greater pulling power!”
Jokingly, I’ve heard people talk about some animals like the platypus or the zebra. They say, “The zebra is obvious a horse created by committee.” Of course this isn’t true, but it is a prime example of how things can get out of hand with committees, and the outcome is less than desirable. We know however this funny saying isn’t true, as the zebra is a beautifully unique creation where no two are exactly alike. Their stripes are distinct to them in the same way our fingerprints are unique to us.
Jesus encountered some leadership issues in His time with His disciples. The issues were not with Jesus but with His committee – His disciples. They disagreed among themselves and even James and John’s mother lobbied Jesus for special seats for her sons, one on the left and one on the right when Jesus came into His kingdom. The “committee” had a self-declared spokesman (Peter) who usually spoke way too soon, and was even brash enough to step out of the boat, which was then followed by him being saved by Jesus serving as a lifeguard. They were a dysfunctional group at times.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the eleven disciples followed instructions and went into Jerusalem. They prayed together, ate together, and even agreed on the replacement for Judas Iscariot. They set the criteria and chose. They probably discussed a great many encounters and joys they experienced over the last forty days. But Jesus was gone again! What will they do now?
They prayed! Jesus told them to prepare for the promise of God the Father. Could they remember exactly what this promise was? They had a hard time understanding a great many things Jesus told them during His time with them over the last three years. Uncertainty may have filled the room, but it made no difference to the committee – because they prayed for ten straight days.
Are we facing uncertain times? The answer is yes. So how are you handling the future? I believe we can take note of the disciples’ actions and pray daily for guidance, wisdom, discernment, for grace, and for forgiveness when we fail to listen. God will give them all to us if we put pressure on our knees and talk directly to Him! God is still in control! Praise God for that!!
How many times as young parents did we hear this question from the back seat as we traveled down the highway, “Are we there yet?” It was spoken in seriousness, but sometimes would be repeated over and over again, knowing it was getting under the skin of the front seat occupants! Needless to say, the question was a signal the back seat was about to have about as much sitting still as they could take.
It was also a signal of uncertainty. The young ones knew the departure point but the destination time was a little foggy. It was at this point in the trip when all the games planned on the trip lost their luster and parenting skills were now required.
No matter how much parents repeated, “We’re almost there” it somehow did not alleviate the anxiety of the young ones. They had a pre-conceived idea of how long the trip would take, and once it exceeded that period of time, all they could do is focus on the goal – arrival!
The nation of Israel was under Roman rule when Jesus walked among them. This rule was oppressive, and the people hoped for days of freedom. They remembered their liberation from their days of slavery under the Egyptians, and celebrated it every year. The prophets foretold of the coming of the Messiah for generations. The people hoped He would free them from the rule of a foreign government and join all the tribes once again under one king.
The Apostles were Jewish and knew of the prophecy. They like all others desired to see the nation of Israel return to one nation under a new king. Even though they had spent approximately three years with Jesus, there was some ideas that were hard to give up.
On the day Jesus ascended, they gathered around Him and asked, “Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Basically, they were asking, “Are we there yet?” While they believed Jesus was the Messiah to their very cores, some of the things Jesus taught them were still being lost. They were ready to arrive at their destination of a united Israel.
Jesus knew His disciples, and us as well, have a hard time as humans understanding God’s master plan. We all have a part to play in it, one specifically chosen for us. We can remember the beginning of our relationship with Christ, but on this journey, we can’t see the destination as clear as we would like.
This week, rest in the faith that God has a plan, and nothing we can do nor anything this world can throw at it will inhibit it one bit. It is a marvelous plan and one beyond our wildest dreams. Get involved in God’s plan, but mostly we should enjoy the trip with Him in the driver’s seat!
During my last deployment to the Middle East, I had a conversation with a Colonel that bears sharing. We were longtime friends, so when he said, “Doug, you’re just a Warrant Officer” I didn’t take offense. I responded, “I’ll take that as a compliment!” He inquired about my positive response.
I said, “Colonel, you’re an Infantry branch Officer. You bounce around serving in many different positions from operations to supply, from intelligence to personal and even in public affairs. You have also served in varying levels of leadership in different size organizations. At the end of all of this, you’ll know a little bit about everything, thereby becoming a generalist. Your next rank is a General Officer.” He was locked into my explanation at this point.
I continued, “Sir, I’m a Chief Warrant Officer in the Intelligence branch. I stay in my field my entire career and with over two decades of experience, I’ve become the subject matter expert in all things intelligence. When you are briefing as a generalist in a big conference, I’ll be standing at the back wall as the expert in intelligence ready to help you with the questions you can’t answer!” He smiled and said, “Point well taken, Chief.”
We can compare a general officer to a person who is very wise in a great deal of matters. But the question is do they have a full understanding of them? One would have to conclude no, or they would not need large staffs to assist them with decisions.
Solomon was called the wisest man to ever live. People sought him out for guidance in disputes and other matters in daily living. He must have displayed a great deal of common sense. But here is my question (and I know you’re saying finally!): Is wisdom better than knowledge or understanding?
Would a Warrant Officer in my example above be considered wise or having understanding? Of course, it’s the latter. To understand a subject, one must have in-depth knowledge. A person with no formal education can be wise, but their in-depth understanding of specific matters may be inadequate.
Should we strive to be wise about spiritual matters or should be desire an in-depth knowledge about them? We can recite the 66 books of the Bible in order, but do we have knowledge or understanding of their contents?
Two verses give us a roadmap to understanding God, and the first step is wisdom. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
We don’t have to take the first step on our own. Ask God to give you wisdom. With it, you can develop a better knowledge of Him, and His goal for us is to understand Him and the desires of His heart for us! This week, let us begin asking for His wisdom in us.
In my father’s boyhood days, there was no such thing as a community swimming pool in rural Oklahoma. Even though the Greeks and Romans had pools 600 years before the birth of Jesus, I guess rural Oklahoma had yet to catch up.
My father could swim well. I asked him how he learned, thinking all along of the dust bowl state in a post-depression era. He told me his dad would take each of his siblings when they came of age to the big pool in the nearby creek (yes, you know what’s coming next!). My grandfather would convey to them he was right there if they needed him, but it was a matter of sink or swim. With that, the student was thrown into the creek to either swim back to the bank or be rescued by my grandfather. I’m unsure how many times my father was rescued, if any. Its obvious he grasped the idea of staying on top of the water quite well.
We apply the phrase “sink or swim” to our daily lives in situations which do not involve water at all. We say, “nose to the grindstone,” “fish or cut bait,” or “sink or swim” to indicate its time to get motivated or succumb to the hardships in our path. Highly motivated individuals can do this with some ease, but most of us need help just getting started.
Biblically, when you hear the “sink or swim” phrase, our minds should automatically go to Simon Peter. Peter was bold, brash, and made some quick decisions that later got him into a little trouble. These decisions usually didn’t have very much thought behind them.
When the disciples were in the boat struggling all night against the wind on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus walked out passed them. Initially, they all were terrified until Jesus identified Himself. It was Peter who challenged Jesus saying, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” A few steps later and Peter was sinking, crying out to Jesus to save him.
Contrast this with the disciples fishing together after the resurrection. Jesus asked them if they were catchin’ any (just like any good fisherman would ask!). When He instructed them to try the other side, the nets became full. At that moment Jesus was recognized and it was Peter who wrapped his outer garment around his waist, and into the water he went without hesitation. It’s speculated he made it to shore before the boat!
The difference? Preparedness for certain. But the greatest is keeping our eyes on the one who can motivate us to greatness, even in the midst of our circumstances. Jesus was present with Peter at both occasions, but it was Peter’s focus that motivated him to reach his goal.
Where is your focus today? Are your eyes set on the one who can pull you from your situation? You can sink or swim, but Jesus not only wants you to swim (our goal), He also wants you to walk on water (His goal for us)! Do some “water-walking” this week with the right focus!