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You’ve printed out a fresh resume and slapped on your best clothes because you want to nail that interview- You’re squeaky clean and doused in cologne because you’ve got a hot date tonight- Your face is painted, in a car full of shouting fans because you’re off to the football game- You’ve talked down the price and signed on the dotted line because you want that shiny new car- Your acceptance letter is in hand and you’ve paid the first semester, because you’ve earned your education- The trunk is packed and the reservations are made because you need this vacation...

If we want something bad enough, we’re usually willing to put in the effort to get it. We’re at our absolute best if we feel motivated. We want the job, the education, the status or the prestige. We desire the love, we seek the thrill, we require the rest, or we crave the recreation. Motives keep our engines running. We see a goal and we blaze a trail toward it. Without motivation, our efforts are halfhearted and we’ll rarely reach the desired result.

You could show up to the interview in your pajamas and talk yourself up to the boss, but you probably won’t get the job. You could take that pretty girl to McDonald’s, dressed in the same clothes you wore to work today, but you probably won’t see her for a second date. You could go to the big game by yourself, and leave your foam finger and jersey behind, but no one will know you're a fan. You could leave for vacation without packing anything; drop the directions on the kitchen table and leave the “reservations” to the tourists, but you’ll probably come home more stressed than when you left. Motivation puts us at the top of our game. It’s a key component to success, measured by the desire that burns within.

How does this translate to faith? Well, how “motivated” are you to continue your walk with Christ? Plain and simple, is He a top priority? Is your relationship with Him a thriving tree, or is it a weed, wilting in the corner? What are your motives for serving Him? Don’t answer too quickly and don’t just shake it off. Stop and meditate on it for a while. It’s not an easy question to answer.

Are you hungry for the Lord? Do you want more? Are you driven toward a deeper understanding of Him? Are you called to a closer walk? Are you “asking” (so it will be given), “seeking” (so you can find), “knocking” (to see the door open)? If your answer is yes, I encourage you to stay this course and enjoy the growth.

For many others, however, there is simply a motivation to maintain. We’re content to “manage” the relationship we’ve always had with God, regardless of its strength. It isn’t so much a desire for growth that drives us, but a willingness to "water the plant" if it shows signs of wilting. I’ve stumbled down this avenue before. It has never led me anywhere. I've claimed to “crave” God, offering minimum effort but expecting maximum results; foolish enough to than wonder why my relationship with Him seems stagnant and stunted.

I’ve been motivated to get up on time, but passive toward making room for my morning devotions- Motivated to check my social media, but passive toward opening a Bible- Motivated to get my bagel and coffee, but passive toward helping the hungry man outside- Motivated to get my work done and make a good impression, but passive toward pointing any credit to God- Motivated to get in bed for a good night’s sleep, but passive toward staying awake for the things I promised to pray for... I’ve been motivated to listen to music or watch television, but passive toward listening for the Spirit in the silence- Motivated to shop and spend, but passive toward giving to the needy- Motivated for others to humor my conversation, but passive toward offering a listening ear in return- Motivated to find love and be loved, but passive toward giving that same love to others...

I’ve cut corners, claiming to want the kingdom of God, but I know I’ll never walk like Jesus if I’m not motivated to take the steps. Fear. Insecurity. Comfort... They drive us to do crazy things. Christ calls us to be real and transparent, but instead, we fight to maintain an image or an identity. We’re motivated by status, even in our Christian circles. We fight for the reputations we've established. Maybe you’re the prayer warrior or the voice of reason; the listening ear or the patient heart; the calm and collected or the empathetic soul. Are you the giver? The disciple? The Bible scholar or the voice of wisdom? Are your hands the first to be raised in worship? Are you the "early arrival" at church each week? Maybe you’re the helper, the first one to say yes or the friend who can’t say no. It’s not wrong to serve for the sake of serving, but always assess your motives. Are you driven by “status” or growth in the spirit? Is your faith on display or is it planted by the water of life? We all want to be "beautiful trees" in our Father's garden. We all wish to bear fruit. Some of us will stand sturdy, birthing a harvest that is good and pleasing to the kingdom, while others (who appear beautiful) will only sprout that which grows sour and falls. The Lord is looking into your life, right now, in deeper ways than the eye could ever see.

“...and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6: 18 (NIV)

It doesn’t matter what you do to put your faith on display. If that's what motives your actions, it will lead you to a dead end. It doesn't matter if you're passionate about appearing "good." The Father sees what is done in secret; away from the church- away from your friends- away from the noise. His scope is focused deeply on your heart, longing to see how you live in the silence of your mind- in the time spent alone- in the places away from the eyes of the world. What motivates your faith in secret? Is it joy and purpose? Is it desire and passion? Is it willingness to push, push, push for more of God? What kind of tree do you want to be? Sturdy and true, or polished but fleeting?

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.” Luke 6: 43-44 (NIV)

May your motives plant you by the true source of life. May your growth be steady and evident, in the face of the world AND in the sight of God. Go and be passionate in bearing good fruit!

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