Question: "What does the Bible say about motivation?"
Answer: Motivation is defined as “that which moves one toward an action; that which changes, provokes, or impels our very being.” The Bible has a great deal to say about motivation. The motivation of Christians is supposed to be exactly the opposite of what motivates unbelievers. For one thing, our sense of motivation or inspiration comes from God, not from the things of the world. David spoke of his motivation in his psalms: “I desire to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). Later he wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25).
The world is motivated by self and the aggrandizement of self, the all-about-me syndrome, which is identified by self-determination, self-obsession and self-worship. The Bible does not teach us to be centered on ourselves. In fact, it teaches just the opposite. Jesus said, “The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12; Luke 9:48). As followers of Christ, we are called to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). The cross was an instrument of death, and Jesus’ message to us is that only those who die to self will truly follow Him. We do that by doing nothing out of vanity and conceit, but instead considering others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
Jesus set the example for our motivation in this life: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:34). Jesus was concerned with pleasing His Father, and so should we be motivated by that same concern. He always did the Father’s will, motivated by pleasing Him through obedience (John 8:29). His obedience extended all the way to the cross where He humbled Himself and “became obedient unto death” (Philippians 2:8). Our motivation should be the same as His—the obedience by which we prove we are truly His. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
The apostle Paul spoke of what motivated him to endure the suffering he experienced: “For me, to live is Christ . . .” (Philippians 1:21; compare 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). It wasn’t money, it wasn’t fame, nor was it being the best apostle that motivated Paul. It was living for Christ that superseded everything (Philippians 4:12-13). Our motivation as believers stems from a yearning to have peace with God (Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:7), to have His grace as well as hope (Romans 5:2; 1 John 5:13). The Christian views life through the lens of the future—being in the presence and glory of God (John 17:24), and this is our true motivation.