Let’s cut right to it. Sometimes we don’t feel like reading our Bible, praying, going to church or other things that God tells us are good for us to do. It may not be any one thing, for any number of reasons we just don’t want to do it. So what do we do?
Well, we have a choice. It’s a fairly simple choice, but it’s not an easy one.
The choice is whether or not we are going to do what we should do. Are we going to, in spite of our will, open up our Bible and thoughtfully engage with God’s Word? Are we going to be still before God and pray?
The answer to the question is, like most other yes or no questions, pretty straightforward. It’s the underlying reasons for why we answer that are more nuanced.
Let’s consider the “no” answer. I’ve not found one good reason to not pray, read my Bible, or do anything else that God tells me to do. In fact, my experience is just the opposite. Often times it is the doing of the thing that I don’t want to do that actually serves to bring surprising benefits.
This is what I wanted to focus on here. It is a contrast of duty vs. delight. Many people avoid their duty because it is not their delight. After all, let’s be honest, we do what we want to do. And conversely, we don’t do what we don’t want to do. We don’t read our Bible because we don’t want to. We leave off praying because we don’t want to.
Now, let’s think about this for a second. If we will only pray when we want to then we are relying on our feelings and desires to be our spiritual compass. But what do we learn about our hearts in the Bible? They are trouble (Jer. 17:9). They are an untrustworthy compass. Even as Christians our minds and hearts are warped and desperately in need of renewal.
Therefore, I am advocating for doing the right thing—that which God calls us to do—whether we feel like it or not. Here is the thing, the delight, is quite often not at the front of the train. Frequently delight comes several cars back. It is the duty that is more often in the head. It is the car of duty that we see emerging from the covered tunnel. Instead of waiting to feel like doing something Christians should remember what they should be doing and do it. The delight comes through obedience to God’s Word and time in his presence. Delight comes through duty.
There have been so many times that I have wrestled my self down to my knees to pray. In time, my prayers warmed alongside of my heart. Like a chill on a winter morning God heats our cold clothes from within. He brings delight from and through his means. Soon after getting to work, I would find myself encouraged, reminded of countless demonstrations of saving and restraining grace. I would then move ahead to contemplate the gospel and the glorious inheritance that is mine in Christ. Like a faithful lead car, soon my duty has brought in delight. But what would have happened if I simply let my feelings drive? I would have wandered off to fetch a drink from a broken cistern or grabbed another slice of moldy bread. Far from being a spiritual albatross duty is dose of much needed medicine prescribed by the Great Physician.
Don’t be scared off by such rigid words as duty. The Legalism Police will attempt to cite you with some type of holiness violation. But friends, when the duties are ordained means by God, they are blessings filled with the seeds of your delight. We harvest our joy by and through God’s appointed means. You and I just need to take God at his Word and get after it. And I trust that we will find that as we drive from duty we will find our way in delight. And you’ll never guess what comes as a result: your delight drives you back to duty.
Editor's Note: This piece originally posted on The Gospel Coalition.