“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” (1 Corinthians 9:16–17, KJV)
Most of my adult life, whether in business or in ministry, I have been in leadership positions. I discovered that one of the most important things in leading people was an intrinsic quality born in the heart of both the leader and the followers. That quality was motivation. As a leader, I discovered that when the people were motivated, they performed at their highest level. Moreover, when they did, success was sure to follow. Highly motivated people made my life as a leader much easier. On the contrary, when people were unmotivated, my life often became quite miserable.
Yet, the type of motivation is also very important. I had some in the manufacturing environment that were highly motivated. However, their motives were counterproductive. One of my supervisors was motivated purely for personal advancement. This led him to do anything possible to advance himself over the other supervisors. This attitude permeated the organization, created animosity between the supervisors, and resulted in a lack of teamwork that ultimately hurt the entire organization.
Here, Paul demonstrated his internal motivation for preaching the gospel. We see this in that he was ready to sacrifice his right to receive his sustenance from the church for preaching the gospel. He did not want anything to get in the way of people receiving the gospel that he preached. It is possible that some may have thought he only preached for money and this would have undermined the genuineness of the message.
So, what was Paul’s motivation? Well, it was not for personal glorification and it was not for personal gain. No, his motivation was something that was wrought by the Spirit of God in his heart. He did it of his own will, a will that was transformed by the power of Christ at work in him. He also understood that God had made him a steward of the infinite riches of the gospel. As such he was compelled to fulfill his calling to preach the gospel. His exclamation says it all, “woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”
What about us? Do we have such a compulsion to preach the gospel? Perhaps the problem is that we have not considered the privilege with which God has blessed us. As believers, He has made us all stewards of the most valuable thing anyone could receive, that is the message of the gospel.
What about the sincerity of our motives. I’ll be honest. When I was a brand-new believer, I remember sitting in a worship service and hearing people give testimony of how they shared the gospel with others. I was very envious of them. I wanted to be one of those people who would receive the recognition of others. However, looking back on those days, today I think about how poor my motive for preaching was. Perhaps you are also struggling with right motives. They are important.
Let us all seek the Lord in prayerful examination of our motives for serving Him and His church. If we find ourselves wanting in motives, let us pray for a right heart. We can only be motivated with right motives by His grace working in us.