Most people have encountered motives in varying degrees. In this blog, we will look at OUR MOTIVES, INTENTIONS and ATTITUDES. These terms will be used interchangeably throughout this post.
In a subsequent blog titled Our Motives, Intentions, and Attitudes [Toward Others]—Part 2, we will discuss how individuals judge and react to the real or perceived motives of others.
Five years ago, when my husband was entertaining the idea of taking a job in Lagos, Nigeria, he asked me if I wanted to go there. I answered immediately with a resounding, “YES!” How did I know to respond so quickly without researching and analyzing the situation in depth? It was because I know my husband, and I knew he always wanted to live overseas. Therefore, I didn’t have to question my motivation for the positive response because my motive was that I wanted to please him. My motive was clear!
Many times, it is the same way with God. By knowing Christ in an intimate way through our Bible reading, prayer and meditation, we can know His motives — as well as what ours should be — rather quickly.
However, at other times and in other situations, our motives may not be so easily discerned.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines motive as, “something (such as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.”
Our actions can be beneficial or destructive. A descriptive illustration is that “revenge was the murderer’s motive.” Here we see that because of the motive “revenge”, the action of “murder” occurred.
Motives create a lot of different scenarios. There are . . .
- We wonder if our motives are right or wrong.
- We know our motives are right.
- We know our motives are wrong.
- Another person wonders if our motives are right or wrong.
- Another person knows our motives are right.
- Another person thinks our motives are wrong.
- We wonder if another persons’ motives are right or wrong.
- We know another persons’ motives are right.
- We think another persons’ motives are wrong.
Hopefully, we can come to a consensus that searching for our true motives will create a deeper understanding of ourselves, others and God. Aligning our will with God’s will increases our spiritual growth, our maturity and our actions. Finding ourselves using more of the fruit of the Spirit is a beneficial outcome of getting deeper into the center of the Lord’s will for our lives.
In 2 Samuel 15, Absalom, King David’s son, decided to overthrow his father’s throne. Being a personable and popular man, Absalom persuaded many people to agree that he should reign as king in Hebron. Absalom recruited Ahithophel, one of King David’s loyal advisors, to pledge allegiance to himself instead. Absalom caused King David to flee Jerusalem to escape from Absalom—his own son! Remember, motives cause actions.
In this case, Absalom had two motives driving him:
- A SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT to become king, and
- A DESIRE to achieve power
These motives caused him to disrespect his father’s authority and kingship. This is an example of bad motives leading to bad actions.
I wonder what would have happened if Absalom would have turned to God and asked the Lord to show him His motives. It could have changed history!
Bad Motives Lead to Bad Actions
Somewhere along the line Absalom consciously made the decision to end his relationships with his family and plot to backstab David so he could become king. Oh, how it must have hurt David to see his own flesh and blood turn against him!
It happens today as well.
- Pride may ruin one’s relationship with God.
- The desire for approval may cause one to lie.
- A sense of entitlement may be the catalyst for unhappiness, ungodly behavior and stress.
- Jealousy may be the basis for revenge.
- Criticism may be the mainspring of hurt feelings and more.
We Can Use Our Personalities to Influence People for Evil
Absalom used his outgoing personality to get people to like him.
Let’s face it, making a first impression is important. When searching for a job, we dress well; we present an impressive resume; we learn how to shake hands the correct way, and we do everything to make a positive impression of ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with that, but in the case of Absalom, his ulterior motive in using his “kind and helpful persona” was to get people to like him so he could overthrow his father’s kingdom and take it for himself.
We see this same behavior in politics, churches, or movements. But, if we are truthful, we see it in ourselves also.
- Do you act differently at home than at church?
- Do you volunteer for non-profit organizations to prove you are a good person?
- Do you help people only to get a reward or recognition?
- Do you attend church only to make business contacts?
- Do you pay for others’ meals to show how well off you are?
- Do you brag about your spiritual gift(s)?
- Do you desire the limelight at home, church or at the office?
- Do you spend money you don’t have to impress others?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions (and others not mentioned), our motives are something less than pure.
Acting differently at home than at church, for example, reveals that we are interested in pleasing people in church by adopting a false countenance, yet we “let our hair down” at home where we revert to our less-guarded “normal” behavior. Volunteering to show how “good” we are is a far less noble motive than imitating (and illustrating!) Jesus Christ’s example of servanthood.
In all the cases listed above, our motive is to influence what others think of us. Rather than reflect who we are as Christians, as these acts should, we instead appropriate these actions to manipulate man’s thoughts and take the glory God should receive for ourselves.
We may do these things without realizing that we are doing them, or why. Being unaware or unrepentant of our thoughts or intentions is common.
Reading or listening to God’s Word and spending time in prayer becomes imperative to turn your heart to the Lord. Knowing why we do things and what our motives are is important.
Absalom ruined all family relationships when he decided to spite his father.
DID ABSALOM ASK OR CONSIDER THESE QUESTIONS?
- How many cousin relationships would be destroyed?
- How many marriages would break up over his actions?
- What would his life be like estranged from his father?
We may not know the specific answers to these questions regarding Absalom, but be assured, evil decisions have consequences.
Godly Motives Lead to Godly Actions
First Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
God wants us to live our lives with a godly attitude. He wants us to release our thoughts to Him regardless of what they are. If they are ungodly, He wants to help us get our motives, thoughts and intentions under His wing and protection. If our motives are already in line with His intentions, we are blessed as we move forward. Praise God!
When we share the gospel and Christ’s salvation to others with the right motive, God is pleased. Honoring our Lord and Savior by participating in the Great Commission is one, if not the most, godly actions one can undertake. If we give a large amount of money to the church with the sole purpose of giving out of our love for Christ and His church, our motives prove higher in the eyes of the Lord than someone who gives to impress the preacher or to influence the direction of the church.
Being in the presence of God allows us to trust our own motives more quickly and accurately. But, there will still be times when we question our motives. This is because we are humans. We are not God. We have the privilege of asking our heavenly Father for direction and clarification. When we pray in the name of Jesus, being led by the Holy Spirit, God will give us peace and direction—in His time and in His way.
How to Analyze Our Motives
Many times, in our lives, we want to know if our motives are allied with what the Lord desires for us. We wonder because we don’t want our actions to stem from ill-conceived motives. Another way to say that is that we don’t want to make fools of ourselves before God and people. When we question our own motives through prayer and inquiring of the Lord, a special union between ourselves and our heavenly Father is created because we are searching for God’s thoughts. We crave the very presence of God, so He can lead us on the right track in our thoughts, prayers, and actions.
How do we know what our motives are and what we should do?
- Ask God to show you if your motives are pure (or not).
- Ask God to show you your real motive.
- Ask God if your thoughts are from you or Him.
- Ask God if it is time to stop praying about whatever is your concern.
- Ask God for wisdom, character, sincerity and humility.
- Ask God for you to have the strength to give up your motives, intents, and desires and replace them with His will for you.
- Ask God to continually remind you that He knows what’s best for you because He sees the big picture of your life—NOT YOU.
Seek God’s Input
Seeking God’s input as to our motives is a fantastic place to start—but it is usually extremely difficult. We live in our dreams and desires; they are hard to replace.
Before anything, God wants us to put Him above all else. When we reach the place of total surrender to the Lord, we must move on in pleasing Him in our lives. We don’t know sometimes whether God is going to say YES, NO, or NOT NOW when we pray, but no matter what, know that He is working to perfect us, and He knows what is best.
We may feel that no one else can understand the extent of what we are undergoing. We may wonder if our thoughts are from our intellectual brain or from God. We may wonder if we are operating according to our fleshy desires. We may agonize over our motivational reasons, causes, purposes, intentions and even our spiritual aptitude to discern. Discovering our true intentions can be hard. We may be dealing with strongholds in our life, i.e. idolatry.
Even Strong Spiritually-Minded Believers Pray About Their Motives, because . . .
- They want their time spent in the presence of God to be productive.
- They don’t want to be praying about something if their motives are not in tune with God.
- They can’t move on until they know if their motives are acceptable to God.
- They want to grasp what God wants to say to them.
- They want to submit to God’s plan for their lives.
Occasionally, a believer’s heart becomes so impressed with a passage of Scripture that he feels God is declaring His plan or words just to him. If that is your case, take that verse, meditate upon it, look at the context, talk to the Lord about whether it is really meant for you and this situation.
“Dear God” Letter
I write “Dear God” letters when I really have something I want to articulate to the Lord. I’ve been doing this since 6th grade. One deep-rooted and totally honest prayer stated,
Why am I praying this prayer over and over? What are my motives and what are Your motives? Lord, it sounds crazy to pray that this could come true, but I hope for it. I am waiting patiently. If it isn’t Your will, I ask You to take away the desire and correct my prayer. I am at wit’s end trying everything to know Your will. I don’t know if it is a sin, a glimpse into the future or a thought from Satan. Lord, I don’t understand my own motives. Correct me, Lord. I don’t understand. I need relief. Is it time for me to stop praying about this? Lord Jesus, my spirit is heavy. Search me, O Lord. I want to be in Your absolute will but how can I be until You answer this prayer?
I love you.
I share this letter with you because many times there comes a point where we need to just stop saying the general prayers that we so often pray and start praying in total honesty to God. Tell Him you don’t understand. Tell Him you don’t know why you are experiencing this conundrum. Tell Him you need His wisdom and discernment. Tell Him you need His power to know His motives. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Always remember—He knows the plans He has for us. Plans for welfare and not for calamity give us a future and a hope. (See Jeremiah 29:11)
Our motives matter!
The next time you question your motives, get honest with God. I mean totally honest with God! Talk to Him like no other. Be specific. Be bold. Inquire. Then commit to seek Him daily for direction and understanding; tell Him you don’t want to misinterpret your motives. He will show you how He wants you to proceed—or how not to proceed.
As with all requests we make to the Lord, our obedience to His already-established commands is imperative. When we follow God in obedience, He will answer our questions, concerns, and intentions. Our Lord does not want His people to proceed with an unsettled or perplexed mind, but with confidence and clarity of spirit.
It is hard to imagine what life would have been like if Absalom developed a godly camaraderie and alliance with King David.
But I daresay that if Absalom’s intentions were completely surrendered to God, which is always the preferred method, our World History books would be different.
The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,
Even the wicked for the day of evil. (Proverbs 16:1-4)
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. (Psalm 37:4-5)
Jesus, I love you. I want to know Your will for my life. Please search my heart. I want all my motives, intentions and attitudes to be shaped by Your hand. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead me and guide me to Your plan and agenda for my life. Again, search my heart. Show me my sins, so I can repent. Teach me Your ways. Let me learn more about You every day. Let me adjust to Your timetable and accept each and every step along the way. You are my triune God. Lord, thank you for loving me so much. I really do love You. Amen.
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Edited by E. Johnson
All Bible verses use the New American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
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