We Need Both Desire and Training
“. . . exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7,8).
IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE A PASSIONATE DESIRE FOR GOD AND ALSO TO UNDERGO THE TRAINING NECESSARY TO FULFILL THAT DESIRE. Both of these things are needed in the spiritual life, and either without the other will leave us short of our goal. In fact, if either of these is isolated from the other, the result can be disastrous.
First, consider the necessity of DESIRE. The writer of Hebrews tells us that God is a “rewarder of those who DILIGENTLY SEEK Him” (Hebrews 11:6). If Jesus taught anything at all, it was that God must be deeply desired. Those who will be “filled” are not the indifferent, nor are they those who happen to get in a religious mood once in a while. They are, as Jesus said, those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6). We must be moved by a desire for God that stirs deep within us. If we are not so moved, there is every likelihood that we’ll be “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14).
But also, consider the vital importance of TRAINING. Growing in the worship of God and in the acquirement of godly character is the highest endeavor to which we may commit ourselves. But the pursuit of godliness is like many other pursuits in that it requires the learning of certain SKILLS and the adoption of certain HABITS OF DAILY LIVING. It is not a thing that we find ourselves doing accidentally or haphazardly. Because it is a discipline, it takes training. Paul was not wasting words when he urged Timothy to EXERCISE himself toward godliness. Our godly desires will simply not be fulfilled if we don’t do anything more than what comes naturally.
Desire and training interact with one another and complement one another. Like the serious athlete, we train because of our desire. But when our training begins to bring positive results, that increases our desire. For this reason, it is critical that we pay attention to both. To make spiritual progress, we must deal decisively with anything that threatens either our desire or our training. “Meditate on these things,” said Paul. “Give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15).
“Know well that thy enemy laboureth in all wise to stay thy desire in good and to make thee void of all good exercise” (Thomas a Kempis).