Motive Counts

If you put your mind to it you can be anything you want. 

If you work hard enough you can do anything.

Have you ever heard, or even said these things? Many faithful people in Scripture, as well as many today, would express their objection to these statements being universal truth. Things don’t always work out like we want or hope for in this life. Sometimes, the life to come will be the one in which we must wait. Hebrews 11 says:

  39 Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect. 

Hebrews 11:39-40 NRSV

The people referred to in Hebrews 11 were many of the saints of old. They were people who God used in ways that we continue to acknowledge, learn and even benefit from today. Some of them were called upon to be faithful without seeing the ultimate results. Did this mean they failed or were unfaithful? No, it means that God’s timing was longer than their lifespan. Not every generation saw the fruits of their labor. Some generations of the faithful people in Hebrews 11 were called to weed the field, others plant, and still others water. They never saw the harvest. And yet the harvest would not have been possible without their faithful work.

The point I want to get to is one of motive. Why do we do something? What keeps us going in the face of difficulties? Is it the false presumption that “everything will work out like we want or hope?” Or is it bound up in something more transcendent and I dare say more important?

In my own life I have seen the fruitful harvest of faithful planters, weeders, and waterers firsthand. The Andover community, of which I was a part of starting, experienced a harvest of new people whose lives were changed and who continue to be a witness for Christ. I am firmly convinced that the harvest was a result of the three groups who tried and “failed” on the same property before us. Their seeds of prayer, tears of watering, and labor of weeding were used in due season. They didn’t fail by any stretch! They simply were not around to see the end results. Without their faithfulness there would not have been a harvest at all.

Would you be deflated to know that your faithful response may be sowing or watering instead of harvesting? In other words, how likely would you be to remain the course if you did not see the earthly reward for a life of faithfulness?

It all gets back to motive. Why do we do the things we do? For a reward? If so, Jesus said that we would get our reward in this life but be disappointed in the next. Or do we do the things we do out of a relationship with Christ who asks us to work alongside him and trust in his timing, If so, we may, or may not, see the fruit of our labors, but we will experience the fullness of a relationship with the one who is the author and perfecter of faith. And because of our faithfulness, a future generation just may be shaped in ways that will make all the difference in the world for them.

People willing to commit to a life of faith without the need for an earthly reward. As counter-cultural as that may be, it is exactly what is needed.

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