Serving God when we don’t want to.

October 30, 2009
[Originally posted Monday, October 16, 2006 at 2:49pm]

There are some who say that the only good and proper motive for serving God is out of love for Him. Some also say that we should not pray unless we have a desire to talk with God, or we should not read our Bible daily unless we really want to. Thus duty becomes a lesser motive for serving God (and according to some it is not even a good motive at all). According to them, a true Christian does good out of love for God alone, and love ought be the only driving force in our life. I would tend to vehemently disagree with these people.

George MacDonald, the great scottish writer and theologian that I have come to love recently, says this:

“That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or an aspiration, with the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness, and say to Him, “Thou art my refuge.””

Perhaps I am alone, but I know of countless times, days, or months that I have struggled to have a true desire to serve God. I have served God many a day, not because I have a desire to do so, but because I know I ought to — you might say out of duty. I have been caught in the utter dearth of my feelings, and cannot say that I desire to serve God at all — but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t still do so. Neither do I think it is a good idea to pray that God will change my heart, and then wait until He does to act. By all means, pray that God will change your heart, but get up and serve despite a wrong heart. C.S. Lewis says in his book, Mere Christianity, that if we do not love someone we should just pretend we do, and perhaps after some time of pretending we will end up loving them in reality.

The bottom line is that we cannot only serve God when we want to, we are to serve Him at all times — on the mountains of joy and in the valleys of sorrow. “It is in the valley that we have to live for the glory of God.” (Oswald Chambers) The test of man’s faith is not what he does when he is full of desire to serve God after he has been on the mountain, but rather the continued service when he reaches the valleys of life that sweep us away so easily if we are not grounded. And our lives are so often filled with valleys while the mountains are far and few between.

Now, I am not saying that it is bad to serve God out of love alone — that is a most beautiful thing! Oh, what it would be like to serve Him day in and day out merely because of love! What I am saying is that it is no less a beautiful thing (and I may say, perhaps more beautiful) to serve God even when we are bereft of any desire to do so — simply because we know He is worthy of such.

That man is pitiable who serves God only in the sunshine of the mountain, who serves Him only when his motive is love, who serves Him only when he wants to. That man is pitiable who serves God only when his motives and heart are right. “The true man trusts in a strength which is not his, and which he does not feel, does not even always desire.” (George MacDonald) The true man serves at all times, and even more so when there is no desire to do so.

So long as we serve God only when our heart and mind are in it, we are to be pittied as well. I believe the true man serves God even with his will, when his heart and mind are not in concert with him. Oh, that we could serve Him daily with everything — what a wonderous thing that would be! How admirable it is to serve Him because we want to! But I think perhaps it is at times more admirable to serve Him even still when we don’t want to.

“So long as we have nothing to say to God, nothing to do with Him, save in the sunshine of the mind when we feel Him near us, we are poor creatures, willed upon, not willing…”
— George MacDonald

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