A concept many non-athletes or spectators struggle with is why some elite athletes are so motivated, and where does their motivation come from? Think about it. Most high-level athletes spend at least 3 to 5 hours per day training for their sport. I would venture to say that at least half of that training time is spent doing things they do not like and are not particularly good at. So why do it? What drives an athlete at that level to continue to work with such intensity and fervor for so long? I think the answer is simple: glory.
Glory for yourself, glory for your team, glory for your family, glory for your coaches, and maybe glory for your God. Glory is the underlying reason so many athletes spend so much of their time and energy trying to be better and get better at their sport. Why does LeBron want to win nine championships? Glory. Why did Naim step out on the platform for his fourth Olympics? Glory. Why does Tiger continue to try to be successful on the PGA Tour rather then clean up his life and save his family? Glory. Glory can motivate some of the dumbest mindsets and actions and also motivates many to the most spectacular feats we’ve ever seen in sports.
In Isaiah 39, we read a story about the king of Judah, Hezekiah. Hezekiah is the ruler of the kingdom during a time in which not only was its infrastructure unstable, but enemies were knocking at their door from every side. In chapter 38, God delivers Hezekiah from a sickness that threatened to end his life. Hezekiah, upon regaining health, is visited by an envoy from the country of Babylon to give him gifts to celebrate. Babylon was an up and coming superpower at the time. Hezekiah saw an opportunity to align with an up and coming country and potentially be a part of the overthrow of current powerhouse, Assyria. Hezekiah opened his doors to the men and showed them all corners of his kingdom. He literally kept no secrets. His motivation? Glory. The glory of his kingship, for he would be a renowned king with a giant kingdom, should he help take down Assyria. With this kind of glory through a relationship with Babylon he might return Judah to its former days of prestige and power. Glory for his son’s future, his family name, and the line of David. None of those reasons involved the glory of God.
If you know the end of the story, years later, Babylon returned. Not as allies, but as conquerors who would destroy Judah and the walls of Jerusalem and exile the people of God. Hezekiah had essentially given them the keys to the kingdom in his personal pursuit of glory. Glory as his motivator had given him just the opposite of what he desired. Judah was destroyed, his lineage almost ended, his sons were castrated, and his reputation was stained.
Personal glory may motivate, but it will always lets us down. It never gives us what we think it will. It never lasts and it never fulfills.
Texts like Deuteronomy 4:29, Matthew 6:33, Matthew 5:16, and Romans 14:18-19 call believers to be motivated by the same thing many athletes and celebrities are motivated by: Glory. However, the glory that motivates Biblical men and women is a different kind of glory. Glory for our God. It still serves as the same motivator, and in many cases will serve as a greater motivator to put in the work and train day in and day out. Serving a God who gave His Son that we might have life is motivating. Serving a God who holds true joy and true pleasure in His right hand is motivating. What’s more, training to be excellent at our sport for the glory of God is not only motivating, but the results last. That glory doesn’t fade or let us down, and ALWAYS fulfills. Mainly because we were not designed to receive glory.
Glory is an excellent motivator. The question we have to ask ourselves daily is whose glory are we chasing?