The “Why” of Paul’s Life — His Motives

Children begin asking us “Why?” almost as soon as they can talk.  And will continue to do so until we run out of answers and admit defeat.  Or, can distract them.

For older children, it even becomes a game.

open Bible and a plant

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As it does for my little friend, Harper, who just wants to know “Why?”  And expects that her mom, Holly, will know all the answers.

Asking “Why?” is a good thing.  It’s how children learn about their world.

And how we adults step back and re-evaluate our lives.

However, the answers to the deeper questions—

Why do I do what I do?


How did I get here in life?

—can sometimes be tricky to answer.

For some, it may take meeting with a pastor or Christian counselor, as well as, answering a series of “Why?” questions, in order to work backward to where it all began.  And to determine what has shaped our mindset and influenced our choices…maybe for years.

After much reflection, some of us would discover that we are driven by one or more of the following—

  • a desire to please, to be well thought of, and to gain approval

  • fear…fear of failure, or fear of angering someone, or even a fear of poverty

  • a past trauma that produced a debilitating fear of being hurt again, or of possibly hurting someone else

  • unforgiveness (of ourselves or of others)

  • misplaced guilt (survivor’s guilt)

  • a distorted view of love, actually believing that we are responsible for the happiness of others

All kinds of problems develop when our lives become out of balance due to unhealthy, complicated, and unbiblical motives.  Before too long our spiritual, mental, emotional, and even physical health suffers.

Which begs the question—

What should motivate my life and influence my choices and interactions with others?

Paul’s Motives

In our reading this week in Philippians, Paul reveals 3 motives that drove his life and choices.  But as I looked more closely, I realized that they all actually derive from 1 root motive.

Read on to discover “what” that is.

1.  Paul was motivated by his love for his brothers and sisters in Christ.

Love for those Christ loved and died for, kept Paul going throughout all the beatings and deprivations and imprisonments he suffered as he sought to fulfill the call of God upon his life.

Paul’s love and friendship for his brothers and sisters in Christ at Philippi is so touching to read.  Even as he sat imprisoned for his faith, his love for them caused him to seek to encourage and uplift them.  He cared more for their “furtherance and joy of faith” than his own “desire to depart, and to be with Christ;”  (Philippians 1:25, 23)

Paul’s love and longing for these special friends in the faith led him to pray always for them.  They were so dear unto him that he thanked God upon every remembrance of them! (Philippians 1:3)

How much of our lives is motivated by love for the brethren?

Do you just live by habitual daily routine, or do you consciously seek ways to love people with Christ’s love?


2.  Paul was also motivated by a deep desire for the spread of the gospel.

Paul rejoiced in prison knowing that—

“notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”  Philippians 1:18

He assured the Philippian believers that he was OK being in prison.  Even more than OK.  He was rejoicing!  Because he could see that God had wrought good from it…“the furtherance of the gospel.”  And the granting of boldness to those preaching the gospel.  (Philippians 1:12, 14)

Paul’s focus was not on himself, but on the souls of men Christ loved and for whom He died.

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Paul was deeply motivated to keep going, to keep trusting God, to keep preaching, to keep rejoicing, because of Christ’s love in him for others and the desire to share that love through the gospel.

Does the spread of the gospel figure prominently in your decisions?

Do you consider how your life choices will affect your testimony and witness? 

The lost are watching us Christians and are turned off by those they see as hypocrites. 

Are you careful that your choices match your beliefs so that you wouldn’t possibly hinder someone else’s decision to believe the gospel?

3.  Another major motivator and earnest desire of Paul’s heart was that Christ be exalted.

The desire that Christ be magnified was so strong in Paul that he didn’t care what that meant for himself.  If Christ could be magnified by His death, then so be it.  Or by his life and continued service and suffering, then so be it.

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. Philippians 1:20

Paul lived his life seeking to bring glory to God and never reproach to the name of Christ, or to the ministry God had given him.  (2 Corinthians 6:3) 

Philippians 1:20 is a great motive to guide our lives, as well. 

I want my life to honor Christ.  And I don’t want to be ashamed when I stand before Him either…at least no more than I already will be. 

The “Why?” of Paul’s life?

Paul was greatly motivated by love for God’s people and love for lost souls.  But when we look deeper, and ask “Why?” a few times, we discover that the root motivation of Paul’s life was Christ Himself…Christ and His love within Paul.

The “Why?” of Paul’s life, then, wasn’t a “what,” but rather, Who.

Christ in him.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  Galatians 2:20

Paul was so filled with His Saviour and the love of Christ that he loved and wanted whatever God loved and wanted.  It was as simple as that for Paul.

God loved and cared for His people.  Paul loved and cared for God’s people.

God loved and sought lost souls.  Paul loved and sought lost souls.

God would have Christ exalted.  (Philippians 2:8-11)  Paul earnestly desired to magnify Christ, whether he lived or died doing it.

God’s plan for this world culminates in the whole of His created beings, all of mankind from all ages, saved or lost, and all spirit beings, good or evil…bowing before Jesus and proclaiming Him Lord!  (Philippians 2:5-11)

Very rarely can I ever read that passage without tears.  It so moves my soul to try to imagine what that scene will look like and feel like?  Oh, what a moment!

May we all live with that moment in mind.  And like Paul, seek diligently to draw so nigh and be so filled with our Saviour that behind all that we do, are His pure motives! 

Drawing nigh to Him,


This post is part of our Philippians Bible Study.

Study Journal available >> HERE!


What is the “why” of your life?  What is it that drives you, motivates your choices?  Do you need a better “why”?

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