Prayer, Bible reading, meditation, service, evangelism, etc. These are a few examples of what has been called the “spiritual disciplines.” As Christians, we all agree these things should be consistently present in our lives. The problem is that we also often feel we don’t do these disciplines as much or as well as we should do. We recognize the lack of prayer in our lives and want to do something about it. We notice we aren’t diving into the Word as often as we should and realize the need for change.
While the ends are all good, the means will never work. Guilt is not a sufficient motivator. It may get you going for a few days, but you will find yourself dropping the ball in no time. We need something more to motivate us and continue to motivate us in our pursuit of the Lord. Thankfully, the Bible gives us the best motivation possible: joy. Not just joy by itself, but a joy in who the Lord is and all that He has done for us. In Philippians 4:4 Paul commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” In 1 John 1:4, John tells us that he writes certain commands and exhortations, “so that our joy may be complete.” Jesus also desires us to know joy because in John 16:24 he says, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”
But these things don’t just happen because we want them to. We need motivation. We need something to stir us up to give higher priority to our time with the Lord. More often than not, we turn to the most common motivating factor known to mankind: guilt. We feel bad after hearing a sermon about prayer so we set out to pray more. We feel guilty after a conversation with a friend about the Bible so we decide to spend more time in the Word. We read about missionaries risking everything so we decide we better try a little harder to share the Gospel with those around us.
In each of these instances, joy in the Lord is the goal. So in order for us to have the needed motivation to continue to pursue spiritual disciplines in the midst of busyness, distractions and hardships, we need to remember the purpose behind the practice. We don’t pray because we “should.” We pray because we are so joyously in love with our Lord God that we desire to be in His presence more. We don’t read the Bible to check it off our daily to-do list. We do it because we have found that true, everlasting joy is found in Christ alone and He is most fully revealed in His Word.
The amazing thing is that this relationship between our finding our joy in the Lord and being motivated to do spiritual disciplines is an ever-increasing mutually beneficial relationship. As I realize that God provides unceasing joy, I desire to experience Him more through the spiritual disciplines. As I practice the spiritual disciplines, I find more and more joy in all that God is.
Today, if you find yourself unmotivated, consider if you have discovered the joy that comes from knowing the Lord. Personally, I have seen that I am most motivated when I am pursuing joy in Him and not in anything else this world has to offer. We all need to practice the spiritual disciplines more. Instead of trying to “white knuckle” yourself into doing them more, discover all that God is and has done for you and let that joy in Him motivate you to pursue Him more.