Former astronaut Ron Garan presents “7 Keys to a Brighter Future” on his website. Under the heading “Set Aside Fear; Embrace Awe and Wonder,” he writes, “Motivation usually is sparked either by fear or by awe and wonder. Starting from a foundation of fear divides us and closes the mind, cutting us off from others with whom we share challenges. It also separates us from the solutions they bring. Starting from a foundation of awe and wonder, on the other hand, opens the mind to new ideas and solutions and encourages cooperation” (rongaran.com/ planetary-stewardship/).
We need not look into outer space to be struck by awe and wonder. We can look into the pages of the Bible. I maintain that the highest type of awe and wonder motivation is biblical motivation. Where the rubber meets the motivational road is in our preaching and teaching. Yes, there is a place for motivating folks to turn to Christ using fear and/or guilt. Men and women, young people and children, need to know, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). And, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrew 10:31). Fear of death and hell are real and can motivate individuals to consider Christ.
Jesus uses rhetorical questions to evoke a sense of guilt. After stilling the sea, he asks the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). After feeding the four thousand, the disciples forget to take bread with them on a trip across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus asks, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?” (Mark 8:17). Guilt is a proper motivator for people to turn to Christ. However, the negative alone is insufficient. People, young and old, must see the beauty of Christ as the answer to fear and guilt. This point directs us to awe and wonder motivation.
Isaiah confesses, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted” (Isaiah 6:1). His response was an unfeigned conviction, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). Isaiah’s response arose out of a vision of “the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5; John 12:41).
The whole thrust of Scripture leads us to the consummation and the glory to come. “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God … And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Revelation 21:10, 23). God purposes to fill us with wonder and awe in the presence of His glory.
This same purpose ought to permeate our teaching and preaching. There is a place for guilt and fear—however, awe and wonder are more excellent biblical motivators. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:11-13).