29 – How Can We Motivate Men?
WHAT MOTIVATES A MAN
A man’s actions are not random events that just happen he behaves in certain ways because of how he views the world, the long-term goals he has set, or the priorities he believes are important. The things you do are the last step in a process that starts with your attitudes, beliefs and desires.
Jesus said, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Everything we do represents what is in our hearts.
Here is the truth: Every person does exactly what he or she wants to. Even in cases of sacrificial love, people act the way they do because they believe it is the best course of action because they want to. A mother nurses her crying infant in the middle of the night because she has decided it is a higher priority than her sleep. A man volunteers at the homeless shelter because he believes it is important to help the poor.
WHY “JUST DO IT” IS NOT ENOUGH
So how do you motivate a man to do the things that God wants him to do? Certainly not by just telling him to do them.
Think about the congregation of the church I attended. Every person there knows that they should be sharing Christ. The pastor’s closing words did not tell them anything new. But if they know they should be practicing evangelism, why aren’t they? The bottom-line is this: they don’t want to.
I am not trying to be harsh or judgmental. I am simply looking at the teaching of the Bible and the truth of my own experience. I know that when I don’t do the things I should, it’s because I have made a choice to do something else, something I wanted to do more.
A list of rules or a schedule of activities will never motivate a man to true obedience. When we disobey God, it is a sure sign that something is wrong with our hearts. So how can you motivate a man? By getting him to want to do what God wants him to do.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HEART
The secret to long-term obedience is a renewed heart. Our goal is to help men believe the right things so they will live the right way.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul describes the connection between what we believe and what we do. “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 1:3, emphasis added). Scripture shows these three classic virtues faith, hope and love to be the primary motivation for obedience.
“…WORK PRODUCED BY FAITH…”
Faith in God should be the driving force in our lives, “for without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). The fundamental sin is self-reliance, since God created us to live a life of faith and dependence on Him.
When a man chooses to work 70 hours a week just so he can get more power and money, he believes he will find something he needs that he cannot get any other way. He is placing his faith in something other than God. When a man gets emotionally involved with a woman who is not his wife, he believes he will gain something that his relationship with his wife, or with God, cannot provide.
In the same way, when men say no to temptation and live out the righteousness of Christ, they are often motivated by faith. Hebrews 11 rehearses the exploits of great leaders from the Old Testament Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and more. In each case, the writer begins their story with the words, “By faith….” For example, “By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger” (Heb. 11:27). Moses was able to obey God rather than man not just because he decided he would or because someone told him to, but because he believed God.
When our faith in God is weak, we should take time to remember all that God has done for us in the past (Psalm 77:11-20). We can also pray that God would give us assurance of His great love for us (Mark 9:24). An active, daily faith is an indispensable ingredient of heartfelt obedience.
“…ENDURANCE INSPIRED BY HOPE…”
After showing that God has promised to be faithful to His people, Paul says, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor. 7:1). In other words, let’s live today in such a way that we are prepared for the future God has for us.
In the Bible, hope means a sure knowledge and expectation of a future good. One of the reasons we get caught up in sin is that we put too much hope in the things of this world to satisfy. At the core of our greed, lust, anger, or bitterness is a desire for “that one more thing that will truly make me happy.” When you think this world is all there is, you will try to get as much of it as you can.
Realizing that lasting joy and satisfaction can only be found in God gives us a renewed perspective. A strong sense of hope helps us resist the temptation “to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Heb. 11:25).
Hope also helps us to persevere through suffering since we know what lies beyond. Paul put it this way, “…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:16,17). What will help you make it when times get tough? A secure hope in God is a beacon that will show you the way through the blackest night. If you find yourself looking to things other than God, meditate on the promises of God in the Bible. Allow the disappointments and trials that you endure to whet your appetite for the day when you will experience the fulfillment of all your dreams. Ask God to give you a sure hope in Him.
“…LABOR PROMPTED BY LOVE…”
Love for God is an indispensable motivation for a life of obedience. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15). In the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-40), Jesus shows that love for God and neighbor leads to the fulfillment of the entire law.
Do you remember what it was like when you were dating? All you could think about was the other person “what would she like to do?”, “where would she like to eat?”, “what does she want to talk about?” Love exalts another and causes us to forget about ourselves. It’s the same way in our relationship with Christ. When we love Him, we focus on Him rather than ourselves.
We make decisions so that He receives the glory and honor that He deserves. A golf match on Sunday loses its appeal because of our strong desire to worship Christ in church. When we love Christ, we naturally respond by doing the things He wants us to do.
If your love for Christ is wavering, tell Him so in prayer and ask Him to change your heart. Spend time with Him, read His word, and reflect on all that He has done for you. If you seek Him, you will find Him.
A PRACTICAL TEST
The next time you find yourself in sin, ask yourself: “Where is the problem with my faith? Where am I placing my hope for joy and significance? Who (or what) do I love?” These questions will help you discover the root issues that led to your sinful behavior.
The next time you have an opportunity to share with another man, consider these questions: “How can I help his faith in God to grow? How can I help him understand even more fully that his hope is only in God? How can I help him develop a deeper love for Jesus Christ?” A heart filled with faith, hope, and love leads to a righteous, obedient life.
A man will be motivated to change only after God changes his heart. God wants us to join Him in reaching men with the heart-transforming power of Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote to those who were trying to justify themselves by external conformity to the law, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).
David Delk is the President and Co-CEO of Man in the Mirror.
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