by Dave Hintz
The concept is simple: if we are driven to serve God by duty rather than an abundance of joyful desire, then our acts of worship and service mean nothing. This distinction between duty and desire has been extremely helpful in my own life as I continually pray for the right desire in my service to the Lord; after all, the Lord loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). However, rather than being spurred to examine their hearts and pray for Godly motives, many people wrongly use this maxim to justify their sin. For instance, someone commits himself to a Saturday morning service project, but when he wakes up he feels spiritually ‘out of whack’. Sensing the lack of a desire, he goes back to sleep, not wanting to serve “for the wrong motives”. Another opens up the Scriptures to meditate, but finding that she lacks the desire to pursue God through prayerful meditation on His Word, she closes her Bible and turns on the TV instead.
These actions reveal a spirit of all-or-nothing perfectionism. These people wrongly believe that they will incur greater condemnation for performing these biblically mandated actions with the wrong heart. In choosing to simply forego their spiritual activities, they entirely miss the true value of the “Duty verses Desire” maxim. A lack of desire never releases us from our duties as Christians. For instance, a person may not have the desire to resist having an adulterous affair, but that does not excuse him from his responsibility to obey God. In no way does God respect the adulterer who was honest about his own intentions! It is bad enough that we don’t have the proper desire, but we must never compound our sin by failing to do what we know is right.
So what happens if you find that you do have the wrong desire? First of all, you need to acknowledge this as a sin, confess it, and seek to bring your heart in alignment with God’s will. Second, you must immerse yourself in the Word and seek to be obedient to God’s commandments. The worst thing that a person can do when he lacks the desire to read his Bible is to not read his Bible. After all, what else will fix his problem? Certainly not watching TV or playing video games! It is God’s Word that never returns void (Isaiah 55:11), and God’s Word that sanctifies our thoughts (Eph. 5:26). Knowing the Word’s power to change us, our response should be to confess our sins, pray that God will give us the right desire, and then read. Abdicating our Christian duty never changes our desire, but the active ministry of the Holy Spirit through confession, prayer, and the Word will. So the next time you lack the desire to serve God, do what you know is right and trust the Lord to change your desire.