Confession: I often begin projects with great enthusiasm but then struggle to finish them. It’s all too easy for me start out with good intentions, only to have them falter after I lose the initial excitement. While this may not be such a big deal when it comes to sewing throw cushions for my couch, when it comes to my spiritual life it’s another story.
I’m embarrassed by the number of mornings I have risen dutifully to my alarm, poured myself a coffee, sat in my favorite chair with my journal and my Bible … and then spent the time I had set aside for the Lord in allowing my mind to wander, hopping from passage to passage, getting up and doing another task, checking my phone, and basically being wildly distracted. I woke up esteeming a diligent spiritual life. I even had all the right resources, but not the ability to carry it out.
Many times I’ve told people, “I just love studying God’s Word!” and I really mean it. But I must always ask myself the question: does my life display that those words are actually true? In my sinful nature, I can easily convince myself that having the right desire is the same as acting upon it — but it is only the first step.
I want to put real actions behind my good intentions; to put works behind my faith; to turn my enthusiasm into something more than mere words. For example, I deeply esteem the discipline of prayer, but if I don’t actually pray, my esteem is worthless. I have been deeply convicted about the number of times I say either with my mouth or in my thoughts, “I will pray,” but do not pray. I also esteem a life of sharing the Gospel with others; but if there is someone in my life who needs the Gospel, and I am called upon by the Lord to deliver it to them and do not, then my esteem for it is useless.
In short, I’ve come to realize that having the right tools and the right desire doesn’t equate to action.
Thankfully there is an ever-present hope for this shortfall of mine. Though I can truly say that “nothing good dwells in … my flesh,” and though I may cry out, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” the answer is always, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7: 18a, 24b, 25a).
His work, not mine, is the only thing that will enable me to live out the good things of God that I esteem. Jesus Christ can turn the wanting in my spirit into doing every time.
Although this is such an ongoing process in my life, there are some practical things I try to remember as I surrender to this supernatural work in my soul:
I choose to do the hardest thing first, and with joy, because “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).
I do it even when I don’t feel like it, because “the heart is deceitful above all things” (Jer. 17:9).
I remove or ignore distractions because I am “doing a great work [with the Lord] and … cannot come down” (Neh. 6:3).
I ignore the bait of the enemy to make an excuse because “sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Gen. 4:7).
Do you, like me, struggle with putting diligent obedience behind your good intentions? Always remember: the secret is not found in human willpower, but in abiding in Jesus Christ for the ability to “carry it out.” He alone can give us the ability to turn our enthusiasm into something more than mere words.