I vividly remember it; waking up to the first day without school. I had just finished my sophomore year of high school and I had big goals for my summer. A stack of books beside my bed represented my academic aspirations, the jump rope and chin-up bar showed my desire to earn the starting power forward spot and the phone was my key to endless hours of fun with friends. It was going to be an AMAZING summer.
95 days later I woke up to a blaring alarm which loudly proclaimed summer was over and school had started again. My stack of great literature and poetry lay by my bed relatively untouched. The jump rope and chin-up bar had seen small amounts of use. The plans with friends had failed to take into account the fact that I had no car or license. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great summer. I got to sleep in, eat great food, play lots of games, enjoy vacations, got the starting position and spent some time with friends. Yet, it was not as epic as it could have been.
Now why am I telling you this story of my sophomore summer? Because far too often I find myself daily replaying this story in my spiritual walk. It has great moments where God reveals His character to me. Times when I step out in faith and those early morning prayer times where His presence is so real. And yet, it also has a lot of unread moments, chin-up bars which didn’t seem worth the effort and wasted opportunities for connection.
For years 2 Corinthians 5 has been a central passage in my life and recently it has become a vision and a prayer for how I want to live my life. Verse 14 starts out, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”
How cool is that?! Imagine living in such a way that the love of Christ literally CONTROLS me to no longer live for myself but for others? I can imagine the true freedom, hope, and security which comes with a life so radically and daily transformed by Christ.
Paul continues in verse 17, “ Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself.”
Paul is telling the church that Christ’s love should control them to live for others so that in God and through God they might become a new creation. This is God’s vision for everyone who proclaims the name of Christ! It is a beautiful picture of growth.
I am a firm believer that mere humans do not have the power to mess up God’s plan of our lives. However, the decisions and actions we make every day certainly have the ability to hinder us from experiencing the full beauty of the story God is weaving through our lives.
In reading this passage I began to realize that I had been spiritually treading water. Or as Paul describes it, finding nourishment in milk when I should be moving on to the meat.
But this is where it got difficult. It is one thing to have a vision and a totally different thing to do something about it. I have a very real vision of dunking on all my friends and yet the reality of jump rope is a very different story. This is where motivation comes into play.
Motivation is the word of my summer. It has the idea of drive or purpose. It is the propeller which pushes someone forward.
So, what is the motivation to follow after God’s story with reckless abandon?
Take a look back at the 2 Corinthians passage, “For the love of Christ controls us.” Now substitute the word 'control' with 'motivates', “for the love of Christ motivates us.” Christians should be so in love with Christ and God that the mere thought of missing out on one iota of the beauty of God’s amazing story and settle for a good story motivates them to continue transforming into a new creation.
I gain this kind of love by gazing in wonder at a sunset, conversing deeper with people about life, choosing to smile instead of grumble at the early mornings, hearing the deep laughter of friendship, worshipping in church, reading the Word, and most of all, when considering Christ ultimate sacrifice, to redeem my worthless brokenness.
It’s not easy and I can’t say I do it perfectly or even well. However, it is my prayer that Christ’s love would motivate me to pursue transformation in such a way that people would describe me like King David was once described, “Behold David the son of Jesses is a man of valor, a man of (strength), prudent in speech and a man of good presence, and the Lord is (clearly) with him.” - 1 Samuel 16:18
Ryan Fraser, Impact at IUPUI VP of Fellowship