Summary: How can I make sure my motives are right in what I do?
One's motive often determines their level of success. As someone once put it, "Your attitude will determine your altitude." This is true of any endeavor, but it's especially true when it comes to living as God designed us to live. In our passage for today, the apostle Paul speaks of attitude - of motive. The key verse in this passage is verse 5 - "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus."
We've defined true success in life as "knowing the will of God & being in the center of it." If ever there was anyone who lived life that way, it was Jesus. That's why, in speaking to us about living life as God designed it to be lived, Paul cites the example of our Lord's attitude.
In this passage, Paul touches on three motives that lead to doing things for the right reasons and result in knowing true success in life. I can know I am doing things for the right reasons if my motive is:
1. To enrich the lives of others - vs. 3-4
Instead of being concerned only about myself, I should also be concerned about enriching the lives of those around me. This was the way Jesus went about living His life.
"He (Jesus) went about doing good." - Acts 10:38 (Stephen) (NIV)
This is one difference others should see in the way we relate to others if we belong to God. The world looks out for "number one." It's "every man for himself." That's why folks can find themselves surrounded by several people and yet be tremendously lonely and empty. God didn't design us to live that way. He designed us to live thinking of others. If everyone lived life this way, there'd be no loneliness of emptiness.
A man said to God, “I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.” God showed the man two doors.
Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table appeared to be famished. They held spoons with very long handles and while each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful; because the handle was longer than their arms, they couldn't get the spoons to their mouths. The man shuddered at the sight of their misery. God said, “You have seen Hell.”
Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished, laughing and talking. The man said, “I don’t understand.” God smiled. "It's simple," he said, "In hell they think only of feeding themselves. In heaven they think only of feeding one another."
As I follow the example of Christ and seek to enrich the lives of those around me, I can be used as Jesus was to show people what kind of difference there is in the way God calls us to live; and as I live life with this as my motive, I will be doing things for the right reason. I can also know I am doing things for the right reason if my motive is:
2. To embrace the will of God - vs. 6-8
"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." - Luke 9:23 (NIV)
Jesus said if one is ready to separate from the crowd, and live the kind of life God has in mind, he must be willing to deny himself and take up his cross daily. Paul tells us how our Lord lived by the advice He gave.
A. Jesus denied Himself - vs. 6-7
Paul points out our Lord's eternal position and status, which would give Him claim to certain rights and prerogatives. Yet, He willingly laid His rights aside in order to carry out the will of the Father.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has always existed as the second person of the Godhead, and He was actively involved in the creation of this world. He existed as God and was fully equal with the Father in His essence. But even though He was equal with God the Father, He did not seize that as an opportunity to independently further His own interests.
Instead, in carrying out the will of the Father, Jesus "made Himself nothing," or "emptied Himself." What does Paul mean by this?
Suppose a successful businessman - like Donald Trump - was elected to the office of President of the United States. You can imagine the ways a businessman could seize the power of that office to further his own business interests. This is why a man who runs for office usually places his business under the control of others, leaving decisions and control to someone else; making it difficult (if not impossible) for him to misuse his position as a public official. He doesn't give away all that he owns; he simply divests himself of the power to profit from his position.