what is going on inside? (Spirit of the Disciplines 7-8)

Years ago, a woman once told a young leader in our church that she hated the work that she did at the church. Then she said she was doing it for God. I thought this was a curious way to follow God. And by curious I mean wrong. She had divorced her inner life from her outer life. She had a shell of obedience, but her heart was corrupted because she despised the work of God. She thought it was virtuous to work for God while hating the work she was doing.
At one point in chapter 8, Willard says that the internal and the external are connected. He quotes Paul in I Corinthians 13, “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.” This is one of several instances where he connects the internal and external as inseparable. And when he does so, he is on the right track.
However, in the same chapter, Willard says, “The disciplines we need to practice are precisely the ones we are not ‘good at’ and hence do not enjoy.” And though I know Willard does not intend such consequences, I can’t help but think of that lady who said she hated what she did but was doing her work for God.
This kind of outside in discipline, Willard says, is the pattern that Christ followed. But this pattern of outside in is not the pattern described for Christ. The Bible says that Christ even had joy in obedience to the Father as He went to the cross. Hebrews 12:2 says, “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” The inner life fueled His action. I cannot imagine Christ saying, ‘I am going to do the things I do not enjoy because I must be disciplined.’ He found joy in the horrors of the cross because He looked at the end result and was motivated to do what needed to be done. Even though He asked the Father for a different way when He prayed before His arrest, He still preferred the Father’s will to His own.
If our hearts are not set right toward the disciplines of following Christ we will fail to maintain a consistent pattern of obedience. It is important to keep focused on our attitudes in every situation. We need assess why we do what we do. Yes, some disciplines will not be enjoyable in and of themselves, yet we can still find joy because we know that the outcome of those disciplines produces the right kind of life.
If we do not rightly assess ourselves and find joy in difficult disciplines, we run the risk of being just like the lady who was serving God yet despising the service that was supposed to be for Him.


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