4 Motivators for Ministry

In my efforts to lose weight and improve my health, I have discovered that motivators help. On my computer desktop wallpaper is a gorgeous shot of the summit of a mountain, and it motivates me to exercise so that I might be able to visit that peak one day. Motivators remind us of why we have our nose to the grindstone. My college Greek professor, Jesse Robertson, was an incredible motivator. He would show us pictures of Greek manuscripts and help us translate them long before we were ready. Experiencing the ability to translate God’s Word from the original languages while we were still stumbling through simple vocabulary and grammar was very motivating!

In 2 Corinthians, Paul gives us four motivators that help sustain us in the grind of ministry. Paul very well could have meant his words to instruct the Corinthians in their work, but it seems as if he also meant them as reaffirmation for himself as to why he was even “fooling” with it.

1. The Fear of God (2 Cor. 5:11)

Paul’s words point back to v. 10 where it is clear that the destiny of all is to stand before Christ’s judgment seat and be judged. It is disconcerting that the same Jesus we perceive to be meek and gentle will also be the one who judges us at the final day.

“God’s wrath” is an unpopular idea in today’s religious climate. As sinful human beings, there is within us a tendency to reshape God to our liking. We prefer to emphasize God’s love, mercy, and blessing—and these are certainly biblical truths—but the Bible is also emphatic that God will bring judgment on sin.

Which is why our efforts to evangelize those around us should be marked with passion and urgency. If you truly love those around you who are outside of Christ, then you will warn them of God’s judgment. Second Peter 2-3 speaks of how Noah was mocked and ridiculed because he warned those around him of God’s coming judgment that culminated in the Flood. We too run the risk of being ridiculed by those we love when we discuss God’s coming wrath. But Paul says in 2 Cor 5:11 that it must be done.

2. The Love of Christ (2 Cor. 5:14)

All of us at one time were stuck in the hopeless muck of sin. And God could have left us there forever. But in spite of his wrath against us, he loved us too much to leave us there. That is why he sent Jesus to live and die. Jesus’ love for us—as seen in his willingness to be tortured and crucified—is beyond full comprehension.

For Paul, this very love of Christ compelled or controlled him. He uses the Greek word sunecho, a word that meant “to hold together so as not to fall apart,” and from there it gained several meanings, including the idea of controlling or compelling something. When a carpenter puts clamps on something, it does more than hold it together, it controls it and does not allow it to move on its own.

In this way, true appreciation of Christ’s love for us will control us, particularly in evangelism. We won’t care too much about what others think of us and whether they think we’re crazy or “normal.” For our part, we will be secure knowing that Christ loves us, and that is enough. Christ’s love is all we need!

The other side of this coin is a startling idea: If we fail to evangelize the lost around us out of fear or apathy, we are effectively saying that we need something to sustain us in life more than Christ’s love! But when we abandon ourselves to the love Jesus has for us—when we embrace it fully and live in it—we will find it difficult to keep silent about the joy found in being in a right relationship with God.

3. The Value of a Soul (2 Cor. 5:16-17)

On the heels of talking about Christ’s love, Paul mentions that he has stopped regarding people “according to the flesh,” or as the NIV says, “from a worldly point of view." Instead, as he says in v. 17, we are to see others as either a new creation in Christ or a potential new creation in Christ.

This challenges us to reevaluate our perspective of those around us. Do you see your family members as those you simply have to put up with? Do you see your friends as simply people to have a good time with, but nothing else? Do you see your neighbors as random consequences of geography, your co-workers as consequences of economics? That’s the value the world puts on others, but not so God and his Word!

I believe that little in our lives is truly random or by accident. Rather, God is in control of our lives, writing the script. We must then embrace those around us: family, friends, neighbors, co-workers as those who were made in the image of God but are now lost, are outside of Christ, and in jeopardy of eternal punishment.

Simply put, what value do you put on the souls around you? Paul says that he sees no one now from a worldly viewpoint. He infers that he now sees them through God’s eyes. He sees them as potential new creations in Christ.

4. The Commission of God (2 Cor. 5:18-21)

Previously, we discussed how God’s wrath is a motivator, particularly his wrath against sinners. If God’s wrath were the beginning and end of the story, that would be profoundly bad news. But it is not! It is just this terrible bad news that makes the Gospel the good news that it is! In Rom. 3:23-25, Paul says that all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but God made a right relationship with him possible by offering up Jesus as a propitiation. Through faith in Jesus, we can be forgiven all our sins.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says that God was reconciling us back to him in Christ. This is a confusing picture, but a beautiful one when we make sense of it. God was angry with us, but it is not as if Jesus singularly stepped in to smooth things over. It’s not as if God is the angry, wrathful Father, and Jesus is the compassionate, loving big brother who patched things up. There is no reason for us to feel closeness with Jesus, but distance with God. God was reconciling us back to himself through Jesus.

“Reconciliation” is a Greek word that had the idea of “exchange,” as in money. But Paul uses it to mean the exchange of hostility for peace, a substitution of peace for war, of love for anger, and of friendship for enmity. This is not reconciliation in the sense of two friends at odds with each other kissing and making up. This is two countries at bitter war with one another replacing that hostility by becoming the closest of allies and friends.

It is then that Paul says that God has commissioned us to be ambassadors of God and facilitators of this reconciliation. We know what an ambassador is, a representative of the interests and will of a superior. If we act differently around Christians than we do non-Christians, we aren’t very good ambassadors, but if we have bought in to the fact that God wants everyone to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4), then we will become agents and ambassadors for that.

Motivators are powerful things; they can bring growth and maturity to our endeavors. Without motivators, we can stagnate or even regress, which is the polar opposite of growth.

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