Have you ever been asked the question, “What motivates you?” Over the years I have been asked this, or something like it, by people curious about why I do the things I do. Whenever I am asked I typically give an answer like:
“I am motivated by a love for my family. Everything that I do is for them.”
“I am motivated by a love for God. I know what He has done for me and I would do anything for Him.”
“I am motivated by a love for life. I want to make the most of the one that I have and leave something valuable behind.”
Apparently there are quite a few things that I love! What is interesting about each of those answers, and answers like them, is that love really is a pure motivation. Love is an entirely selfless desire to meet the needs of another and when we love there is nothing within our ability that we will not do for the one that we love. And here’s the thing: love is not a burden! We do it because we want to. The Bible says this about love in I John 4:18:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
I struggle with this verse because I don’t like what it implies.
- This implies that fear, not hate (as we typically believe), is the opposite of love! Fear is the opposite of love because love is the letting go of self-interest, self-preservation and selfish ambition and living to serve others. I won’t hate if my motivation is serving others. Fear, the overwhelming belief that we do not have control, has everything to do with me and little to do with others. We don’t like to accept this because we convince ourselves that we fear because we love.
- “I am afraid that something may happen to my kids.” That sounds like love until we add, “What would I do without them?” or “I am not sure how I would handle that.” We fear for our children because of how it will impact us. We cannot control the outcome of their lives and become consumed with what that will mean for our life.
- “I am afraid for our country.” Again, this sounds very patriotic until we add, “If things continue like this I am not sure what it will mean for me and my family.”
I could go on, but I think the point is understood. I also know that not everyone will agree with me, but I think it is possible to have concern for the people and circumstances that we care about without being overwhelmed by fear. Fear, in my opinion, is saying something like this:
“God, I do not believe that you are big enough or powerful enough to work in this situation. Since you are not big enough, and I am not strong enough to control the situation myself, all I can do is allow the emotion of fear to drive me.”
When we are motivated by love for God and others we will do all that we can to use the resources available to us for their benefit and trust God to do what only God can do. There is no fear because I am not and DO NOT NEED TO BE in control.
2. The other thing it implies is that I am often motivated by fear.
I know and believe everything written in the last point, but I still choose, often, to allow fear to be the primary motivation in my life. I do things, or more often don’t do things, that are outside of my ability to control and determine outcomes. When I am forced to do things that I can’t control I get angry or spend my time worrying about what might happen. I make decisions emotionally, based on how I feel in this moment, instead of considering what is best even though it may not FEEL best.
We all respond differently to fear, but the one thing we all have in common is this: When fear is the motivation we will fall short of accomplishing the things we were put on the earth to accomplish. Why? because accomplishing anything truly meaningful requires us to allow love for God, or family, or others (and sometimes all three) to cast out fear and clear the way for us to accomplish. We can do pretty well when motivated by fear but “pretty well” falls short of doing all that God intends.
So, when motivated by fear, what do we do?
- Ask for Wisdom to see your situation and your motivation clearly (James 1:5)
- Spend time building your faith (the anti-fear perspective) through scripture. (Romans 10:17)
- Stop justifying your fear with phrases like: “This is just the way that I am.” While it is true that some people are more prone to fear than others, that does not make it right. I sometimes need to tell myself: “There is no excuse for bad behavior.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Decide, before something happens that will fill you with fear, that you will do the right thing in spite of how you feel. Decide that feelings will not determine your actions. (Acts 20:24)
- Ask God to grow you in this area. Courageous people start off as people with a little more faith than fear. Faith and confidence are built over time, one fear filled day after another. Get in the habit of allowing love, not fear to motivate you and allow that habit to become your default motivation. (Hebrews 11)
Fear is something that EVERYONE deals with. Those who accomplish all that God created them to do have simply (and sometimes not so simply) decided that it will not control them. Let the motivation of love cast out fear in your life and trust a God that really can control outcomes for the future!