What’s Your Motivation?

Motivation…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. – Philippians 2:13 (NASB)

Paul Arden says creative people create because they have a need to rebel against something. I don’t agree. That may be the motivation of some artists—I apply the term to anyone involved in creative work—but I don’t believe it’s the motivation of the Christian artist.

At least, it shouldn’t be. The Christian life is one of constant surrender and reaching toward something, i.e., God. To create as a Christian is to submit my talent and skills to God and to seek to glorify Him with my life and work. If I rebel, it is a rebellion against human constraints and limitations as the Spirit works in and through me.


I find this thought in my REAP journal, dated 09/21/2014:

Art, like faith, is a reaching toward. It’s the unsatisfied thirst and certain hope that drives us onward in our journeys (as artists and believers).

Another entry, same date:

Passivity has no role in the life of the artist and of the Christian. You’re either in, or you’re out, and if you’re “in,” you’re “in it to win it.” You run hard, and you run toward the prize. Both art and faith require discipline and exercise. 1 Timothy urges daily exercise. “No spiritual flabbiness!” (1 Timothy 4:6, MSG)


From Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones:

My responsibility as an artist is to stir up this gift, to exercise it, and to trust its direction and effectiveness to the One who gave it to me and into whose hand I have given my life.


Even Paul Celan, who wasn’t a Christian, expressed the idea that art moves toward an “other.” The artist focuses upon that thing. She hopes to meet it. Her work, her art, turns into worship as she pursues it.

Celan says:

Art makes for distance from the I. Art requires that we travel a certain space in a certain direction, on a certain road.

To be a Christian artist is to occupy myself with pursuing God through art, to so occupy my eyes, mind, heart, and body with the pursuit that I forget myself. I distance myself from the I, and, in the distancing, I encounter God—if only briefly. I don’t always encounter Him in those moments of forgetting, but I know I will. I wait for it expectantly.

As Anne Lamott says:

I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.


J.S. Bach understood motivation. His came from Christ. He sought to remember that and to call people toward it by signing his works “soli Deo gloria”: glory to God alone.


The story of the Christian artist is one of an unrelenting, eternal pursuit, an echo of God’s unrelenting pursuit for His beloved children. The Christian artist’s motivation is to reveal this God and His great love even as she stretches and stretches toward Him. She keeps running, trying to meet Him, anticipating she will because she lives in the realm of expectancy, the place of already and not yet.

Image: Loren Kerns

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