When I have zero motivation I sit in my recliner staring out the window with no desire to do anything else. But then I think about all the consequences that will come into my life if I sit there the rest of my life so my motivation level moves up to ten and I get up and go to the bathroom. I was motivated by the fear of loss, fear of shame, fear of pain. Fear is the most basic of the motivations, the foundation, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I became a Christian because I didn’t want to spend eternity in agony and pain in the “Lake of Fire.” Many things I choose to do because of the consequences that I will experience if I don’t. It is getting close to tax time. Most of what our government does with the money I pay to them I am opposed to, but I send it anyway because they have a big stick.
The second motivation in the hierarchy of motivators is the hope of reward, the desire for pleasure and joy, the craving for glory, the sense of accomplishment. We train our dog, Roscoe, with doggy treats; when he obeys, he gets a doggy treat. God motivates us with the fear of punishment and the hope of reward throughout the Bible; Heaven and hell, the “Judgment Seat of Christ,” and blessings in life for right choices right living. Most people have very little awareness that God disciplines for wrong behavior and rewards for good behavior, so they sit in their recliner staring out the window.
Dogs are motivated by these two motivators and with many people that is mostly what motivates them to work hard, study hard, have a good marriage, manage their money well, and even serve in their church.
But moving up the hierarchy of motivators we come to “Love of person.” Jesus died on the cross because He loved us, and he said that if we truly love others we will lay down our life for them. Paul declared that his love for Jesus motivated all the sacrifices that he made in life. If I love my wife the way Jesus loves the Church I will give up my life for her. Fear of loss and hope of reward are all about me, but love is all about others. When I get all three of those motivators working together in my heart like a well-oiled machine, I become a very motivated person accomplishing a lot with my life that matters for all eternity.
One more motivator is the highest of them all, which many people, Christian people, good people have little of. It is duty or a sense of responsibility. Duty is much like love but love has a face attached to it, a name, a relationship. I watched some video footage of “D-Day” at Normandy in the Second World War. As I watched men plunge off of landing craft into the water with intense gunfire and bombs going off all around them, facing almost certain death, I wondered what was motivating them to do that. It was undoubtedly more than the character trait of bravery. My Dad had four ships sunk under him during World War II, and I recognized in him all through his life a strength of motivation that resulted in a very faithful man. One of his sayings was, “always do the right thing because it is the right thing.” I wonder how many people are motivated by that saying? Some have debated with me over my making duty nobler than love. I do so on the fact that very few people have grown to that motivation in regular, everyday life. Many will rise to it in crisis situations, like war, but few live it every day. Those who have all four motivators going like four pistons in an engine have a lot of power.
Duty as a motivator is a result of identity. A soldier faces danger because that is what soldiers do, my Dad called it “the power of the uniform.” My identity now is, I am a disciple, a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ, a servant of the most high God. If I am, then I need to act like it, live like it, talk like it. That is my duty on the basis of who I am.