When Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II and put in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, he was stripped of everything: property, family, possessions, and a manuscript he had spent years researching and writing on finding meaning in life. The manuscript had been sewn into the lining of his coat.

“Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own,” Frankl wrote. “I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning.”

A few days later, the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up what little clothing they still wore. “I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber,” said Frankl. “Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the Jewish prayer ‘Shema Yisrael’ (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)

“How should I have interpreted such a ‘coincidence’ other than as a challenge to ‘live’ my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?”

Frankl later reflected on his ordeal in Man’s Search for Meaning, saying, “There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is meaning in one’s life…. He who has a ‘why’ to live for can bear almost any ‘how.’ “

How to Motivate

How do you motivate students to mission?  I found myself in my third year as a campus missionary trying to figure this out.  I went through my catalogue of seminary answers and compared that to real life always coming up short.  I found that what was natural to me was quite challenging for some students.  Where I was able to share my life with those in need of Jesus, students were finding it difficult to get motivated.  The answer to motivation is in the why.

Elijah’s Motivation

Elijah first enters the Old Testament in 2 Kings 17.  Elijah was given the task of demonstrating to all of Israel that Yahweh was Lord over all, not Baal.  God asked him to go to Zarapheth immediately (v.9).  The Bible says in the following verse that Elijah went immediately.  He didn’t have to think about it, pray about it, or weigh the pros and cons.  Elijah demonstrated through obedience the reason for the “why”.

Why did Elijah respond instantly?  Why does he speak so confidently about God?  The reason for the “why” is simply that he knew without a doubt that Yahweh was Lord over all.  He knew all that God had done.  He knew His Scripture (or he would not have been able to predict a drought; see Deutoronomy).

The challenge with students and mission is the why.  Why do we respond to a skeptic’s questions?  Why do we sacrifice ourselves daily for the will of God?  Why do we invite others to live on mission with us? Why? Why? Why?  The answers to those simple questions are what motivate me to missional living.

Chris-and-ChristenChris Wilson is the director of the Baptist Student Union on the campus of Missouri State.  After traveling in a traveling ministry called No Longer Quiet for 11 years, the Lord brought him back to his old alumni where he was first discipled.  He has a passion for discipleship, missional living, and the church.  More info at