Saturday, September 15, 2007

After Bathsheba 4.2: David Changes his Motivation

"Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba”(2 Samuel 12:24)

So as I was saying in the last post on topic, one of David's major steps in returning to his first love (God) - and to integrity after Bathsheba - involved changing his motivation. In that post I said that one way of understanding MOTIVATION is to think of it as fuel or energy (the impulse to do something) ...

Another way of looking at motivation is as the reasons why we do it in the first place.

Essentially all of us are looking for positive experiences, and all interpret 'positive' differently. I do not enjoy sanding down a dresser but I enjoy computer games. My wife can’t stand computer games but likes to sand down a dresser. If she asks me to spend a Saturday morning sanding and painting when a friend has offered to hook me up in a multiplayer game on one of the computers at his house, which will I be more motivated to commit to? On one level, THE GAME of course!

But then if I look deeper within myself to a level beyond the pleasure of instant gratification, I discover that I actually gain pleasure out of making my wife feel that she is important – and that she is a more valued companion than my friend. I enjoy spending time with her. Therefore if I draw on my motivation at that level, it will induce me to help her with the dresser and postpone the match-up to another day. (I also really hope she doesn’t read this!)

David too looked deeper inside himself, past the “instant” gratification of a sexual encounter and the desire to keep his image of “cool king” intact. What he found was the same kind of compassion for the powerless that God had shown toward him in the past.

Motivated by that deeper value and drive, he returned to living honourably with the intention of pleasing God.

Where in your life can you look to a deeper motivation on which you can draw to refresh your spiritual disciplines and passion? Paul described this change as offering the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness and withdrawing them from serving sin. David seemed to take this thought literally!

David called on his inner (value-driven) motivation to honour God and imitate His character. This caused him to make deliberate choices, which switched on his energy-driven outward motivation, getting the wheels (and the dynamo) turning for him, making it easier to make the next good choice and the next.

A last thought about motivation. Jesus once passed an invalid, a man who had been lame for 38 years. His first words to the man were “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). I don’t believe any of the words of Jesus were trivial, intended just to start a conversation or to keep a conversation going. His reasons for asking this question were deeper than just getting the man’s attention.

The Gospel writer notes that “when Jesus learned that he had been in this condition for a long time”, he posed this question. One of the reasons John notes this I’m sure is to record Jesus’ compassion based on this man’s long-term suffering. The other reason for the question I’m equally sure was that Christ wanted to test this man’s inner motivation.

I sometimes wish the biblical writers had included italics in their writing to help us understand the emphasis of certain phrases. Of course it’s only my opinion, but I’m sure that Jesus asked the question this way: “Do you want to get well?”

Did this man really want to get well or was he a committed victim? Some people seem not to desire “healing” or improvement. That may sound crazy but I’ve heard it expressed by people in helping professions in many ways. Numerous counsellors and Pastors have verbalised their disappointment that many people come to their office to talk, not to change.

One (I think it was John Maxwell) even said it was a liberating day in his ministry when he began to require that people completed “homework” before coming back to see him again. It cleared his appointment book!

Now, why wouldn’t someone want improvement or healing? For our purposes there are probably two reasons that are important to us. One is something called learned helplessness. The other is that he/she doesn’t really want a different kind of life simply because it’s different.

Most people feel some level of anxiety about change. Change their circumstances and they personally will have to adapt, perhaps in a dramatic way. If healed, the lame man in this case would have to take full responsibility for his income, rather than relying on the compassion of others. He would have a responsibility to help others in the ways that he had been helped. He would have to redefine who he was. He would have to learn a new role in society and new ways of conversing with others. Jesus’ question could have been phrased

“Do you want that much change?”

The man’s response was enough for Jesus to see that he had the right kind of motivation – “No one helps me get into the pool and while I’m trying to get myself in there …” The man knew he was responsible for seeing his own needs met. If no one would do it for him, then he would do it himself.

David stepped outside of his own comfort, his own shame even, his own grief, to turn things around, to give love to another and to seek after God.

If you feel distant from God, even if you feel you are a "failure" at Christianity (a crazy idea but widespread nevertheless), I encourage you to tap into those inner values that impel you toward God - move a small way and you will feel like moving further. Get out of your rut, get out of your head, get out of your shame and reach out.

The old folk proverb “God helps those that help themselves” - while not actually in the Bible - illustrates the principle of Phil 2:12-13. When you are actively seeking the things that will bring you health, God then has an open door to be at work in you.


Your Turn:

  1. For the next seven days, pick at least one thing each day that you don’t want to do, but which is a good thing to do. Some examples might be washing and drying the dishes when it’s not your turn; vacuuming the Church chapel; carrying out a spontaneous act of kindness toward a non-Christian with no gospel presentation attached; washing your Mum’s car; spending one entire hour in prayer; reading a complete book of the Bible in one sitting (preferably not Psalms!). At the end of the week, look back at what you did and more importantly how you feel (in terms of both motivation and your general disposition).
  2. As you have read this post and the last, what thoughts have occurred to you in terms of choices that will lead you back into friendship with the Holy Spirit? Write these thoughts down. Alternatively, talk them through with your prayer partner or mentor. In regards to this friendship, what can you do to “turn on the tap” today? The next few days? Come up with a very simply (and short) action plan. Over the next few days examine the results of these actions.
  3. What motives for short-term gratification may be steering you into behaviour that alienates God? What deeper inner values can you draw on that will motivate you to pursue a lifestyle that God can fill with His presence?

God’s Turn:

    1. Ask God to show you in a way that only He can how much is for you. Ask His help and partnership in changing your motivation.

If this is the first time you've read one of this series of posts, please click on the label at the end of the post (
Relighting the Fire) to read all entires. Unfortunately, they're in reverse order, so like many blogs, you'll have to scroll to the bottom to find the start of the the thread...

No comments: