What is strong enough to motivate your Christian life? What will not only start you off with good intentions, but keep you going, month by month and year by year? If you read 2 Corinthians 3:12 – 4:2, you will hear Paul telling us how Moses came down from his meeting with God glowing. The experience had been wonderful – and it was obvious to those who saw him. Experience is important – whether we look back to a dramatic experience of God, or a turning point in our lives. Or perhaps we don’t have anything quite so exciting, but still need to look for the ways God has helped and guided us at different times – often through other people, perhaps a book, or a new understanding. Moses “glow” was a bit offputting for the people; Paul says it faded, and certainly it wasn’t enough to keep the people of Israel confident and faithful in the wilderness. Looking back can be comforting and helpful, but it may not be enough.
If experience isn’t enough to motivate us, what about the feel-good factor? If Christianity is good for us, if it brings us to our full potential and helps us realise our true purpose in life, isn’t that going to be rewarding and wonderful? The trouble is that it is rather like a healthy diet and regular exercise. We know it ought to be good, but keeping it up can be – difficult. As the Israelites headed into the desert, they might have known that they were being formed into God’s people, ready to establish themselves in the Promised Land. But they still squabbled, and sinned, and wanted to give up and go back to slavery etc. Yes, Christian living is good for you, but like the best medicine, it sometimes tastes really terrible.
So what is going to motivate you, if experience and the feel-good factor aren’t enough? Paul tells the Corinthians that the Law of Moses wasn’t enough, because the Spirit was lacking. Jesus motivates his closest disciples, not just by a sight of his glory, but by reference to his coming death. An individual Christian, or a congregation, has to be motivated by knowing that Jesus died for us. It’s a difficult thing to come to terms with. It needs thought and prayer – and then response. And that response comes at many levels: rational, emotional, personal and relational.
It is the Cross, – our understanding that Jesus death is for us, and does for us what we most need and cannot do for ourselves – that has, through the Spirit, the power to motivate and transform. We need our experience of faith. Not to seek or manufacture the dramatic, but to recognise and value God’s working with us and on us. We need the feel good factor, to remind ourselves that Christian faithful living is truly best, most fulfilling, purposeful and successful. Bbut only when we have come to terms with the death of Jesus for us will our motivation be sufficient and our response the depth and continuity that the Spirit can bring.What is strong enough to motivate your Christian life? God’s Spirit, yes, but the Spirit allowed to continue work because we know the importance or our life for which Christ died, the love in which we are held, and the hope which we are given.