Gifts from God

Gifts from God

Some time later the word of Adonai came to Avram in a vision: “Don’t be afraid, Avram. I am your protector; your reward will be very great.”

Genesis 15:1.

This is a delightful verse from Torah. How this verse might be misinterpreted to represent our working for Adonai purely for the rewards we will receive from Him. Is this what Avram did? Did he only work for God because of the promised rewards? This position leads to the question: What might be the consequences that arise from only working for the rewards?

To address this question, let’s look at the work typically completed by elite athletes, when they train for major tournaments and competitions. Throughout the world, and throughout the year, there are tournaments and competitions occurring only for elite athletes. For many of these, the only rewards are trophies and medals. Some competitions provide sufficient funds to continue training, using elite coaches and trainers, but very few, if any, provide a living for the athlete. So, why do they get involved, when there is no real hope of significant gain?

Almost all elite athletes have what is known as ‘autonomous motivation’[1], which is “the motivation to perform an action based on one’s own interest or enjoyment.” If we analyze this statement carefully, we may notice that it is telling us the performance is the reward for the athlete. This is his or her autonomous motivation.

Autonomous motivation exists not only for elite athletes. Anyone who has achieved success in reaching set goals, has also been guided by the internal motivation to succeed. What are the inner qualities that aid anyone of us in these ventures? Hatch, et. al.[2], identified several aspects of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation found in elite amateur and professional athletes. For example, athletes driven by intrinsic motivation, deal with a good task-relevant focus, fewer changes in their motivational drive, fewer distractions to their performance, less stress, when dealing with errors, increased confidence and self-efficacy and greater satisfaction with their performances.

There are four essential elements of self-motivation: self-desire, commitment, initiative and resilience. Each of these plays a vital role in ensuring whatever we try will reach a successful end, no matter how far off that may be. Without self-discipline, we would never focus on what it is we want to do or what we want to achieve. Once we have this desire, then we need the commitment to continue working at achieving, even though there may be several obstacles in our way. Commitment may also be known as passion. It is this passion, or the achievement we seek, that will drive us on. Initiative keeps us moving along the path; it’s the ‘kick in the butt’ many of us need. Finally, when we start our journey, resilience allows us to break through the many barriers that face us along the way. These may come from within, fatigue, lack of evident achievement, etc., or the barriers be imposed by others, family members who don’t share our passion, competitors who wish us to fail, and many others. Thus, when these four elements are in place, the chances are good we will reach our goals.

What happens, then, when the athlete focuses on a tangible reward and not on the intrinsic reward? Those athletes driven by extrinsic motivation, are often driven by rewards from outside, such as parents, coaches or organizations and, perhaps, avoiding punishment or guilt. Often their interest, value and effort leading towards achievement tend to grow, as the reward grows; often they display great anxiety and have difficulty dealing with failure. These may eventually impede the growth towards achievement and result in poor emotional/mental health. Clearly, an athlete, or anyone, who is intrinsically motivated will achieve at a higher level, for a more sustained amount of time then will anyone driven by external rewards. How does this apply to our relationship with God?

Almost all believers, Christian and Messianic, have been taught and have read in Scripture/Torah, that the reward of a God-focused life is an eternal life, with Him. This, then is our reward for following His Word and working for Him. If this becomes the motivation for our behaviour, we may be labeled as being extrinsically motivated. All what we do is to achieve eternal life, once we die. Is this your way of thinking? Is there anything wrong with this?

When Adonai Yeshua, the Lord Jesus, left this earth to join His Father, as was recorded in Matthew 28, He gave us a commission: go and make people from all nations into talmidim (disciples), immersing them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach HaKodesh, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19,20. As well, He taught us, through His prophets, to:  learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow. Isaiah 1:17. How do we approach these tasks?

Both what we learn in Matthew 28 and Isaiah 1 may be approached through intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. If we approach these actions through the motivation of love for our Master, then we know we will sustain the behaviours longer and with greater focus, then if we do these just for the extrinsic reward of eternal life.

Rav Sha’ul, the Apostle Paul, has listed the nine elements of the fruit of the Spirit, that assist all believers in fulfilling their commissions. These elements, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, Galatians 5:23,24, add much to our own internal motivators. They are God’s gift to us and come to us, as we need them.

Just as with elite achievers, Beloved, our behaviour is our reward. We do not seek an eternal reward for doing what He asks of us. We do these because we love Him. He is our motivation. And, when we approach His work with our love for Him, which came from Him, He will sustain us and keep us going, no matter what we face. Do you need convincing of this? I urge you to read Philippians 4:19, where Rav Sha’ul wrote: Moreover, my God will fill every need of yours according to his glorious wealth, in union with the Messiah Yeshua.

CONSIDER: How do we approach the tasks given to us by the Master? Are we focused on His reward of eternal life or are we focused on His love?

ACTION: I urge you to consider these questions deeply and fully. Ensure you delve deeply into the reasons why you follow His word. Try not to convince yourself of seeing one way or another. Be true to yourself.

PRAY: Abba B’Shamayim, Heavenly Father, I am a believer, who wishes to serve you and follow your Word. I pray, from the bottom of my heart, that you probe me deeply and allow me to understand why I do what I do for you. B’Shem Adonai Yeshua, in the Name of our Messiah, Amen.

May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob bless you fully and richly.

[1] Hannan, T., What Olympic athletes can teach us about regulating our emotions and staying dedicated, The Conversation, August 1, 2021.

[2] Hatch, S., Thomsen D., and Waldron, J.J., Extrinsic rewards and motivation, Association for Applied Sport Psychology,

By heartformessiah

Dr. Michael Wodlinger is a Messianic Jew, living in Quebec, Canada. He has been a university professor and a rabbi of a Messianic Fellowship.

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