John Piper tells the story of coming home on his wedding anniversary with a big bouquet of flowers for his wife – one beautiful, long-stemmed rose for each of the 25 years they had been married. When he walked in the door and surprised her with the flowers, she responded, “Oh John, you did not need to do that.” He then said, “Yes, I did. I have been reading a book on marriage, and it says that is what good husbands should do. It is my duty.”
In telling this story, Piper says that those hearing it always laugh when he says duty – even though doing one’s duty is a good thing. Because we all know that buying flowers for your wife out of duty is no way to show love. In fact, no wife would feel loved if her husband said, “I really didn’t feel like buying flowers for you, I wanted to spend the money on something else, but I disciplined myself to do this out of my duty toward you.”
I believe that many of us, perhaps most of us, approach our walk with Jesus in this way. We can begin to fall into the trap of doing our religious duty. We go to church because we know we should. We serve on a committee or teach a class because we ought to. We feel guilty when we don’t read the Bible or pray – so we ask others to hold us accountable.
I will be very honest with you – no one ever needs to hold me accountable to do the things I love to do. If there is an IU basketball game on TV, I do my very best to arrange my schedule so that I make sure and watch it. I don’t need a group of men to ask me each week if I watched the game or not. I love watching IU basketball, so I happily watch it – well, maybe not so happily this year. But even when IU is not that great, I watch because I want to – it is my desire, not my duty.
I want my walk with the Lord to be the same way. I want to follow Jesus out of desire, not out of duty. And it is what God wants as well. He does not want to be the object of our duty, He wants to be the object of our desire, of our love. A.W. Tozer said that “God waits to be wanted.” “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2). God is worthy of more than just my duty – He is worthy of my desire.
I have been meeting with a group of 8th grade boys every Thursday over their lunchtime to study the Bible and talk about faith and life issues. We are beginning a study of what it means to really follow God from desire – to thirst for Him, to long for Him. I hope it is something that they can at least begin to get a taste for, to get a glimpse of what it means to love God with all their hearts, and to begin to follow Him out of desire and not duty.
I hope the same for myself – and for you.
In Him – Scott Winslow