Right now, all Journey small groups are going through the same curriculum that coincides with our current series: 1thingIneedtochange.com. Last night during small group, we were discussing issues of change like, how to make and keep the change, and why so many people's "changes" seem to be short lived. One of the reasons we discussed is that many people make changes for the wrong reasons. Some people want to get in shape not so that they can be healthy but so that they can look better (vanity & pride). Likewise, many people make commitments to read their Bible more, or pray more, or to just generally "grow closer to God." But many times these commitments are made out of a sense of obligation or duty rather than a genuine desire to know God and to please him.
This discussion led to the question of whether there was any place for sheer discipline. For instance, maybe a new Christian reads the Bible because he knows he is supposed to, but the more he reads, the more he enjoys it, and before you know it he is reading the Bible out of desire rather than simple discipline. Well, the answer to that question is multi-faceted. Discipline, by itself, is not enough. Likewise, desire, by itself, is not enough. They both must work together in your life.
Disciplining yourself to read and pray out of a sense of obligation does not please God. Doing anything for God out of a sense of duty, actually does not make any sense. God does not need anything from us. God doesn't need your praise, your prayer, or your devotion. God has given us these things for our own benefit, for our pleasure. God is honored when we take pleasure in him. He is not honored when we do these things out of duty or obligation. In fact, he hates it. As a student pastor, my goal is not to teach students to read their bibles and pray or to have a consistent quiet time. I believe everyone needs those things, but until they desire to have them, there is no sense in pursuing them. God does not want his relationship with you to be a habit, he wants it to be your heartbeat. My goal then, is to reveal to students how incredible God is and how amazing is his love for us, so that they will fall in love with Jesus. Once you fall in love with Jesus, you begin to desire things like prayer and studying God's word. Discipline without desire is just duty (Also, discipline without desire is just doodie).
On the flip side, desire by itself is not enough. I love my wife, and I desire to do things for her (and TO her, but that's another story). However, many times because of my lack of discipline, I neglect doing things for her that I desire to do. Every Tuesday night is Kelly's night off. When I get home from the office, she is free to go and do whatever she wants while I take care of the girls. Or at least, that is supposed to be the case. I'm doing pretty well now, but there was a period of time when she was not getting her nights off. Why not? Because I wasn't disciplined enough to plan my calendar accordingly. Every Tuesday night "something came up," that I would have to take care of, and she wouldn't be able to leave. These lapses of mine didn't happen because of a lack of desire, but because of a lack of discipline. It's the same in our walk with God. Most of us desire to know God more. We desire to know and understand his word, but we lack the discipline to follow through on our desire. Desire without discipline just doesn't work.
So you must have both. It starts with desire, is carried through by discipline and results in deep and meaningful relationship with God. Discipline without desire is putting the cart before the horse. Desire without discipline is like having a cart but no horse to pull it (okay, enough with the analogies already).