"Remember me with Favor, my God." (Nehemiah 13:31)
Think of a time when you were most motivated to change. What was your driving force?
The encouragement of someone else?
Fear of missing out?
Passion that stirred you up?
Another person inspiring you?
We've been exploring as a series of blog posts how we grow and develop and change through merging insights from Intentional Change Theory (ICT) with insights from studying the biblical book of Nehemiah.
ICT would suggest that the motivation to change comes from having a clear sense of our ideal self (read more here).
Do Ideals Take Us Far Enough?
ICT argues that as we dream into who we really desire to become, there arises a sense of motivation to change. Whilst I don't disagree that having a vision of ourselves in the future is a powerful driving force, I would not suggest it is the most stable and sure source of motivational power for change. Why?
Quite simply because our ideal self can be quickly impacted by life circumstances, personal experiences, even our emotional states. And what was ideal one day may become furtherst from ideal the next. How is this so?
How often have you heard an inspiring talk on YouTube, or been sold a great gym membership offer and opportunity, or heard a rousing sermon and something ideal has been activated in you. And you thrust yourself out into a new lifestyle, new pathway, only to find the motivation fizzes out in the space of 3 weeks.
Ideals are open to that kind of instability.
This is where Nehemiah Helps us!
As I preached on Sunday, out of chapter 13, Nehemiah knew where His source of motivation for both changing himself and being an agent of change in others lives came from. We see, in chapter 13, the following notes recorded by him in a personal tone:
"Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services." (Nehemiah 13:14)
"Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love." (Nehemiah 13:22)
"Remember me with favor, my God." (Nehemiah 13:31)
Who is Nehemiah speaking to? God, obviously. In context, what is that Nehemiah is saying and doing here?
Nehemiah quite clearly is recognizing that every move and change he makes in the city of Jerusalem, even as it goes against the norms of the time, is made in full awareness of God whom He is serving, and with full hope in God's blessing being on these changes he forges ahead and makes. Nehemiah was not serving a self-designed Ideal, but the living God, Creator and Lord of the entire Universe. No matter how popular his decisions were, and no matter how much resistance arose, Nehemiah was able to forge ahead and challenge the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the destroyed walls of Jerusalem and grow beyond their inconsistent practices of worship to God.
In other words, Nehemiah's "change agent" motivation arose out of a deep sense of living His life under God's watchful eye - an eye both of incredible guidance and support, and of accountability for the life He'd graced Nehemiah with power to live out.
How is this the most powerful motivation to change?
Firstly, God is stable. He is always there.
Secondly, God is clear in what He asks of us. It is contained in His word, including the insights we're gathering out of Nehemiah.
Thirdly, God is the Lord of the whole Universe, and our Creator. Not only is He the most powerful and authoritative being in the world, but He's made and shaped us for specific purpose.
Fourth, knowing your accountable causes you to assess both what account you'd give of your life right now if you had to, and what account you'd like to be able to give. In other words, if you know you'll give an account of your life to God, you want to give an account of a life lived with full determination to fulfill the purposes of the one who is watching over your life.
This is what Nehemiah knew, and expressed, and I believe was the "secret sauce" of his motivation to continue to be a change agent in his city and generation, even despite all the challenges and opposition faced.
The bottom line is, if you know God will ask what you've done with your life before Him one day soon, then you've got really clear and definite motivation for giving it all you've got to serve and please Him. The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, says it like this:
"So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad."
(2 Corinthians 5:9–10)
I encourage you to check what motivates you to change. Have you got the stability and motivating power of God as your source and guiding wisdom, or something more changeable and unstable. If you know your motivational source is on shaky ground, make the change to stabilize your motivation in service to God first. And ask someone you trust to pray for you, and help you sustain this change of motivation!
I'm thankful for this series - both in our Sunday sermon series, and in this blog series. I hope it's helped you grow and start to build new change-momentum. It certainly has inspired this in me!