Many of us who have a sincere desire to live out our faith in Jesus in a genuine way nevertheless feel stuck and unable to change. What does it actually take to get us to re-arrange our affairs in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Dallas Willard is so refreshingly honest and practical about this. He acknowledges that you can have a since desire and yet not change. How? The open desire is fighting against other hidden desires and entrenched habits, which keep us from doing what we want.
But the answer cannot be to do nothing. In Christ we are not powerless. Willard advises that we spend the control we have wisely. If we know we are interested in being a disciple of Jesus, but the desire is not yet strong enough to displace other desires, there are certain things we can do to help ourselves get there.
I will probably create another list elsewhere of specific directives for this situation, but some that come to mind now are:
- telling Jesus we want to desire him more and asking for his help
- setting aside a few days (or at least a few hours) to read through the Gospels, immersing ourselves in the story and seeking to gain a clearer vision of who Jesus is and why he is worthy of our devotion
- spending time thinking about the beauty of Jesus and his kingdom, perhaps out in nature
- asking others to pray for us and encourage us in these actions
- resolving with as much willpower as we currently have control over that we will be Jesus' disciple, and asking for his help to strengthen our resolve
I love the honesty and practicality here. It has such a ring of truth to it. Yes, you may be unable to do everything here. Yes, you may feel weak to overcome the entrenched habits and the power of the culture around you that seeks to prevent you from becoming and living as a disciple of Jesus, but giving up and resigning ourselves to a life of meager joy and pitiful spiritual growth is not the answer.
We do not honor Christ by pretending that our unfulfilled and sickly life is the abundant life he promised. We honor him by taking him seriously and pursuing the life he actually did promise with our entire heart, soul, strength, and mind.
With whatever desire you have, and with whatever control you have, spend it toward to end of pursuing Jesus and helping your heart be captivated with his beauty and worth, and he will meet you in that. Will he meet you in sloth? Certainly he can and does, but that is not a good plan on our part.
Remember also that to be a disciple is not to be an expert. It does not speak of spiritual maturity at all, but rather who you are learning from. Once you are learning from Jesus, you are on the right track. You will learn the things he wants you to learn and grow in the ways he wants you to grow.
Most of these ideas come from Chapter 8 of The Divine Conspiracy, especially the second part.