Motivation, by Anna Trent, Field Associate
Having started playing soccer at age 4, I couldn’t go anywhere without a soccer ball at my feet. I would bring my cleats to school, anxiously awaiting the pick-up soccer game at recess with the boys. As I got older, I started traveling with teams, winning championships and eventually getting to play at Nebraska. And at the end of it all, if someone told me, “Everything you ever accomplished in soccer wasn’t something you did and wasn’t because of your own work. You had absolutely no part in getting to this point,” I would have been so offended.
It’s our sinful nature in us that wants to have our hard work proven in our accomplishments and have something to say about ourselves. We want to justify all the hours we put in the gym or on the field. It’s appealing to our flesh because we feel good about ourselves and we feel self-sufficient.
That is the same problem the Corinthians faced when Paul wrote the first letter to them. They had become confident of their own righteousness, boastful, ignorant and became deceived by their sin. In the first chapter Paul addresses this by saying that “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; a stumbling block (scandalous) to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:22-24).
The Jews saw that Christ crucified was scandalous because they were offended that they would then be sinful people. They took offense to Christ because they saw themselves as good people, waiting for a different kind of savior to dominate their enemies in a political way. The Greeks saw Christ crucified as foolishness because by admitting that Jesus Christ is the Savior and bore their sin at the cross would admit that their own merit doesn’t make them right before God. They too think that they are good that that their own logic and intellect makes them closer to God. Both groups viewed Jesus Christ as offensive because they thought they could be justified by their own works – the heart of pride. But, as the verses continue, to those whom God has called (someone who repents of sin and trusts in Jesus Christ to be the only One who makes them right with God) see Christ as the true power and wisdom of God. Those are the people that recognize God is holy, they are sinful and separated from God, under His wrath and punishment, and that Jesus is the only righteousness that can make them in perfect standing with God.
That is why Paul ends the first chapter by saying, “He chose the lowly things of the world, the despised things – the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us the wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, “Let Him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1:28-31).
It is clear in those verses that one’s motivation is impacted by either faith in Jesus Christ or faith in their own works. When someone acts out of faith in their own works, they then boast in themselves and their abilities. They think that their works has some bearing on their position before God. However, when someone acts out of faith in Jesus Christ, they then boast in the Lord knowing that their only goodness is from Jesus and His perfection.
- Why do you work hard? What are some motivations you have in competition?
- Are those motivations driven to boast in our works or to boast in the Lord?
- Read 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 28-31
- Why do the Jews see Christ crucified as a stumbling block and the Greeks as foolishness? How do you see Christ crucified?
- What ways do you boast in yourself in your competition?
- Why does scripture say we should boast in Christ? What does that look like during your competition?