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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eager or Willing?

St. Paul, in his prayers for the churches that he was associated with, centers his prayers in four areas; that we would have an increasing intimate knowledge of God, that our love would constantly be growing, that we would live lives pleasing to God, and that we would be strengthened for endurance in living the Christian life. These are all areas worthy of our focus as we live out our lives. We should want to know God better, to grow in love, to please God and to maintain our faith as we go through life. A good question to ask ourselves is how willing are we to see these accomplished in our lives?

But a better question might be to ask how eager we are. The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, in his devotional book Coach Wooden: One on One tells how his view of “team spirit” changed from a willingness to lose oneself in the group for the good of the team to an eagerness to lose oneself. He came to realize that our willingness to do something does not indicate our desire to do so. Eagerness is much more closely connected to desire. Turning to spiritual matters, Wooden notes that there is a huge difference between our willingness to pray and our eagerness to pray.

The same is true in the growth of our Christian lives. Are we willing to grow or eager to grow? Will we accept it if it comes our way, or do we desire to see it accomplished in our lives? Having only a willingness to grow indicates a cavalier attitude. It’s ok if it happens but we aren’t going out of our way to see that it happens. Willingness takes a passive approach to life, often avoiding the commitment which requires active involvement. With this approach, it becomes easy to just go through the motions. Eagerness, on the other hand, requires active engagement. It requires a definite resolve, to make an effort, and at times to even make a sacrifice. It refuses to accept the status quo, wanting more. Just as successful basketball teams have a high level of discipline in their play, the same is true in our spiritual lives. We must have an eagerness to spiritually discipline ourselves and be disciplined by God.

We face many of the same difficulties today that men and women faced in Jesus’ time. The rich young ruler and others were willing to follow Jesus as long as it didn’t cost them anything. But they had no eager desire to follow him, and in the end turned away. The disciples, on the other hand, displayed an eagerness to follow him, for they had found that there was no other place to go, for Jesus had the words of life. We can easily do the same as the rich young ruler, following Jesus as long as it’s comfortable and doesn’t place a burden upon us. We are willing to follow him as long as he doesn’t make demands upon our lives. But if he does, we may find our resolve to follow him weakening.

Eagerness is never content with willingness. It requires a steadfastness of purpose, an intense consuming desire to know and follow God. It demands a commitment to discipline and a refusal to allow obstacles to thwart our relationship with him. It calls for our constant involvement with the word of God so that we can know him better. How strong is your eagerness IQ? Are you only willing to follow God or are you eager to follow him?

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