When “Want To” is not Enough

My blogging buddy Greg will be glad to know this is the last post in this category, at least for a while. I’m hoping to prompt some feedback on some practical steps we can and should take in order to experience spiritual renewal. Please don’t hesitate to speak your mind.
How many of us can remember our first visit to the fire station? What a thrill it was to see the inner workings of one of the most fascinating places in the entire world! What awe filled our hearts as we climb up to the top of that massive, shiny red machine! How inspired we were by the stories of that person wearing a firefighter’s uniform!

Near the end of the visit, when we have thoroughly wowed, one of the firefighters usually asked, “How many of you want to be a firefighter when you grow up?”

The hands of almost every child present usually shoot high into the sky and wave about. Our infatuation with the idea and the raw emotion of the moment makes us want to respond to the next fire call. We just want to be a firefighter so bad! But, in this instance, there is a big gulf between what we want to do and what we are able to do.

What we all know…

Desire is a very good thing! However, even if our entire being is nothing but pure desire, there are times when “want to” is just not enough. This is especially true when we want to do something that requires such things as long-term commitment, personal sacrifice and devotion. Examples:

(1) Wanting to have a better looking lawn is not enough, especially I spend hour after hour just sitting on the couch watching gardening shows on television.

(2) Wanting to grow as a husband is a noble aspiration, but desire alone will not produce the changes in behavior which enable me to do so.

(3) Wanting to be an authentic follower of Christ is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian, but Jesus made it clear that much, much more was required (Mark 8:34, “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.'”)

(4) Wanting to experience spiritual renewal is essential, but this is another case in which “want to” is not enough. Jesus made this clear in Revelation 2:4-5, “But you walked away from your first love—why? What’s going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you’ve fallen? A Lucifer fall! Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste, for I’m well on my way to removing your light from the golden circle.” (The Message)

What we need to remember…

Every aspect of our spiritual life is fueled by faith! Faith is the very substance upon which our spiritual houses are built (Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” KJV)

The implications of this truth are extensive…

A few examples are:

Romans 5:1 – We are justified by faith;

Romans 5:2 – We gain access to grace by faith;

2 Corinthians 5:7 – We live (walk) by faith;

Philemon 6 – We gain understanding by sharing our faith;

Ephesians 3:14ff – We appreciate the work of God’s Holy Spirit by faith.

When “want to” is NOT enough, faith must be at the helm!

Since this is the case, the critical issue is: How do we nurture and strengthen our faith? How do we develop the substance upon which to build spiritual lives? I offer three simple suggestions:


(1) STUDY…

– Get with people who are getting into “The Book”! – Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 2:15

– Get with people who have “The Book” in them! – 1 Corinthians 11:1

– Remember, the objective is transformation (Romans 12:1-2) not accumulation of information!


(2) PRAY…

Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”

Ephesians 3:16, “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you…”

Philippians 1:9-11, “9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Colossians 1:9-10, “9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…”


(3) OBEY…

James 1:19-27, “19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Those who listen to the word but do not do what it says are like people who look at their faces in a mirror 24 and, after looking at themselves, go away and immediately forget what they look like. 25 But those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continue in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

James 2:26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”

– What might Peter’s counsel be? “If you want to walk on water…” (…you must get out of the boat!) Peter seemed to understand this, because he said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28, TNIV)

– The Greatest Commandment and Second Greatest Commandment are our perpetual faith-building workshop, because each challenges us to act on what we know!

Well, that’s three things that we can add to our desire for spiritual renewal. It’s not like desire can be separated from studying the Scriptures, praying for grace and guidance for and in the journey and obedience to the Lord’s will. But, I’m sure there are other things that should be added to this discussion. What might these be?

© Bill Williams

July 20, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Church, Discipleship Training, Following Jesus, Life, Preaching Notes, Spiritual Renewal. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to When “Want To” is not Enough

  1. dojo says:

    Just do it! Even if you mess up, get busy serving. Wanting to will never fulfill, we must just get out of the boat and take the first steps……by the way, I am talking to DONNA

  2. Yes. You are talking to Donna…and Bill…and many of the rest of us. It is so easy to let talking the talk become a substitute for walking the walk…Thanks, sis! –bill

  3. cwinwc says:

    dojo beat me to it. I’m thinking of what takes place at the Mid-Ohio Valley Work Camp for 4 days. We need to fill our calendar with serving our fellow man in the name of Jesus.

  4. Greg England says:

    With regards to faith, I made a comment in a recent sermon (forgive me if I’ve mentioned this elsewhere in your blog responses … you know the mind starts going at a younger age than I ever imagined!) that faith exists in the context of despair and helplessness. If we can control a situation in and of ourselves, then faith is neither present nor necessary. My wife disagreed to some extent with that statement because she says everything she does is from a context of knowing God is enabling her. She’s always been further along in her faith than I.

    My point is that maybe our faith isn’t as strong as we would desire because we have a tendency to either manhandle through situations from our own strength, or we simply avoid the very circumstances that are impossible and desperate and helpless. The very circumstances that produce faith.

  5. kreyes says:

    Hi Bill,

    I apologize for jumping into the discussion a little late. Greg’s post really resonated with me – I often feel that despair and helplessness when I finally lean on my faith. (I have a tendency to be an “I can do it by myself” type (sort of like your 5 year old attempting to tie his shoes, pick out his clothes, make himself breakfast….) I wonder if God is cringing at our “self” motivated attempts….Anyway this post reminded me of Oswald Chamber’s process of sanctification. He states, “In sanctification, the one who has been born again deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ, and identifies himself entirely with God’s ministry to others.” My Utmost for His His Highest, Jan 10. He states that is is the second mighty work of grace; the first being the opening of a sinner’s eyes so that they may receive forgiveness of sins…(Acts 26:17,18). I like the word sanctification. It reminds me that this faith thing, this GOD thing is a process; a journey. And you know I’m all about the journey. My destination has already been made clear to me: to stand at the foot of Christ. But my journey, well that’s a story for an entire post!


  6. Jim Martin says:

    Just read through this post and came away wanting to read the entire series. I appreciate your thoughts and work.

    You are right–“Want to” alone is not enough.

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