I want to have 10 percent body fat. I set that goal a while ago and even managed to get really close to reaching it. But eventually I found out that I want to have 10 percent body fat just a bit less than I want to have 13 percent. There’s a key difference between the two: While 13 percent requires moderate effort to gain and retain, 10 percent requires strict discipline. I soon learned I just didn’t want the goal enough to put in the effort to achieve it. I didn’t meet my desire with discipline.
Most of us can think of a long list of dreams and goals we haven’t ever reached and desires we haven’t ever realized. Sometimes circumstances intervened to keep us from them, but more often than not, an honest assessment shows we simply didn’t want those things enough to put in the effort to have them. We dreamed of serving the church by playing piano, but the dream wasn’t strong enough to compel us to actually put in the necessary practice. We wanted to start a blog to serve other Christians but not enough to discipline ourselves to write day after day and week after week. We felt a desire to get better at cooking or learn a language or operate a camera in manual mode. The first few lessons were exciting, but we quickly got busy and distracted and never went back to it. All of life is a battle of desire against desire. It’s a battle to prove our dreams and desires with habits and disciplines.
I have a deep desire to be godly. This is the one thing in life I long for the most. At least, I think it is. But I wonder what my habits tell me. Do they prove or disprove my desire? Am I actually disciplining myself to achieve what I claim to want? Or is it possible that I’m settling for a mere 13 percent just because it’s that much easier?
I often consider the people I’ve known who set an example of unusual godliness. I think of well-known Christian men who lived godly lives in the public eye and who carried out unblemished ministries. I think of unknown and unnoticed women who lived equally godly lives far outside the public eye. What did they have in common? What was the key to their holiness? I believe it was their discipline. They disciplined themselves for the highest godliness. They were spiritual athletes who ensured their highest desires supplanted their baser desires. They achieved godliness because they aimed at godliness.
Yet it was not doing great deeds that led them to walk closely with God. It was not some mystical flash of spiritual insight or miraculous dispensation of divine wisdom. It was far simpler than that, far more attainable. They gained godliness by relationship with God. Their godliness was a gift of God he dispensed as they pursued relationship with him. They committed themselves to the Word and prayer. They disciplined themselves to spend time with God daily, reading his Word and diligently meditating on it. They disciplined themselves to pray earnestly and fast regularly. Whatever else these godly people did, they pursued God. Whatever else these people knew, they knew God. Their noble desire motivated conscientious discipline.
And it’s right here where I wonder: Am I meeting desire with discipline?
I feel a deep desire to be godly. I feel a deep appreciation for those I see and know who are unusually godly. I want to be like them. But when I really search my heart and examine my life, I see that I’d like to have the end without the means. I want to have what they have but don’t want to do what they do. I want their godliness without their discipline, their fellowship with God without their commitment to God. I want to be really godly, but not as much as I want to be kind of godly. I want the 10 percent, but not quite as much as I want the 13 percent. I want to achieve the goal a little bit less than I want to put in the effort necessary to have it.