Making Ourselves Do Things We Don’t Want To Do

I was always taught that self-discipline was a matter of will. I’m not so sure that’s completely right anymore.

It’s 1:30 am on Friday night/Saturday morning. I have a long to-do list this weekend. Heck, I had a long to-do list last week for that matter, and all those boxes sure aren’t checked. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve got that list too. I know what I’m supposed to do. The problem is this: I just don’t wanna.

My “don’t wanna” list is full of duties that wear me down and burden me. Do you feel that way? Many of us identify with Cicero, Maximus’ servant in Gladiator. When asked if he ever finds it hard to do his duty, he responds: “Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to.”

Do you feel enslaved to the “I don’t wannas?” Do you feel like the city walls of your life have been stormed and taken hostage by an ever-increasing list of duties and responsibilities? The “sometimes” seem so few, and the “rest of the times” seem so many.

The “don’t wannas” are easy enough for each of us to see in our lives. Wash the car. Do the dishes. Take out the trash. Be nice to my wife even though I’ve had a bad day, week, or decade. Exercise. Tithe. Read the bible. Work. Play with the kids.

I don’t think the solution is “suck it up.” That’s basically what most of us were taught. “Life stinks. It’s mundane. Quit whining and do what you’ve got to do. Nobody likes it, but this is just the way life is.”

I say hogwash.

My God didn’t create me to be mundane or insignificant. He didn’t create me to pursue life-less, joy-less duty. Many moments in life feel tedious and pointless. But they’re not. The Apostle Paul says this: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31

God’s solution isn’t at its core, “suck it up.” It’s “believe that I have a plan.” “Have faith that I have a purpose for your life, one that is glorious and significant.” All of our moments can be used to glorify God. Don’t waste them.

But does that mean that we’ll never run into something we don’t want to do? Of course not.

The issue, once again, is faith. We have faith that our discipline at the gym will pay dividends months or years down the road. We don’t see results tomorrow or the next day. Likewise, when we discipline ourselves to read God’s Word daily, we are putting our trust in a promise that God will do something in our hearts, that he is changing us. When we are disciplined with our money, being generous givers, we are trusting that God’s plan for our finances is better than our own.

Self-control and self-discipline are vital to the Christian life. The Apostle Paul is a great example for us in that way: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control…(1 Corinthians 9:27)” But discipline does not come from my will and strength alone. It comes from trusting in what God has for me, in having faith that his will and plan are best.

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