Are You Motivated By Fear?

Let me begin by stating I have been converted into a big fan of all things Apple. In fact, I am secretly hoping my laptop, the only PC I have left, fails as I write this blog so that I may have an excuse to purchase a new MacBook. So, while I don’t know an extensive amount about Steve Jobs, I was saddened to hear about his death this past week as I had come to appreciate his life work and his life story. It is commonly thought that Steve’s commencement speech at Stanford in 2005 is the most concise and transparent of his career. Even though the video is over 14 minutes in length, I do believe it is worth the time and attention to watch it in its entirety. Feel free to watch the video below.

In the address, Steve divides the most important events of his life into three specific stories. Obviously, the stories are very personal and revealing of what defined Steve. He does an amazing job of using his life as a demonstration of how each and every one of us is faced with a choice as to how we respond and react to our circumstances. Obviously, Jobs never transcends the spiritual boundary in his anecdotal life lessons. But there is no doubt there is a lot to learn about his experiences and his response to failure and success. There is a truckload in his speech of what the 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards would call “common virtue” in Jobs’ presentation, and we should all hope to gain from his wisdom.

I was touched by Jobs honesty in describing his firing at Apple. At a point in the presentation he describes being let go by the company he himself founded, and how it resulted in the feeling of the heaviness of success being replaced with the lightness of beginning again, less sure about everything. It is quite obvious Steve Jobs was extremely passionate about his work. In many ways his faith in his own ability to rise from failure is exactly what drove him to unparalleled success. The unfortunate reality is Steve’s passion and his achievements are now in the hands of someone else. His life is transcendent only in his legacy and ideas.

I couldn’t help but be emboldened in a renewed passion that, in the gospel, I too have been given the “lightness of beginning again” and that God removes from us the burden of being successful and achieving for our own glory. However, it isn’t the idea of my death that secures that promise, but Christ’s death on the cross. Steve’s morbid, yet effective, daily reminder of the consistency of death encouraged his renewed faith in himself. How much more powerful is God’s promise of renewed life through the cross?

Just yesterday Keith Simon included on his blog a quote from Jobs about his motivation from the reality of death. What if we were to replace the word “death” with “the cross” in Jobs’ statement? I think you might be surprised to find the motivation still holds true. “Remembering [the cross] is the most important tool I’ve encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of [the cross], leaving only what is truly important. Remembering [the cross] is the best way I know how to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked”

What we see here is a clear picture of how the gospel sheds light on how things are supposed to be. God desires the same kind of ingenuity, humility, work ethic and resilience exhibited in the life of Steve Jobs. He simply seeks to free you from being motivated by fear, or more aptly, the fear of not living well in light of death. Even “common virtue” motivated by the fear of death still places the emphasis on our works and our own righteousness. The “true virtue” bestowed by Christ on the cross has the power to motivate us to greatness as well. The very distinct difference is our motivation is not based on fear, but grace.

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