Fuel for the Journey

A Man’s Burden
by Jukka Nopsanen

What propels disciples of Jesus forward in their walk with Christ?  What fuels us to spend time with him, or with his people, or in his Word, or in spiritual growth? Willpower? Guilt? Duty? Obligation?

If we were to take a moment of silence, allow our heart to emerge and speak to us, and ask ourselves, “Why do I do what I do” (in relation to our spiritual journey), what would our heart say?

I just need to try harder (at prayer, being good, reading my bible, going to church…)

I am an awful Christian if I don’t…

I made a commitment to God / church / friend (who cares if it was a wise or healthy commitment) therefore I must…

I feel like I *have* to…

These thoughts are too common amongst spiritual sojourners today.  Unfortunately, the church can sometimes feed into this black hole by providing unlimited programs every day of the week (usually with good intentions) coupled with an expectation (usually unspoken) that people serious about God will be there.  The super-serious ones will help out.

In other words, Martha eats Mary for breakfast (see Luke 10:38-42).  Must do, must do, must do. Can’t stop. Can’t breathe.  Can’t sit at Jesus’ feet. Must do. In the end, we are left with an acute issue, and this issue almost always begins with “I should…”  If I can’t do that should, then I have to feel bad and try harder.

We are slave drivers to our own souls.

Willpower is a terrible fuel for the Christian journey.  So are guilt, duty, and obligation. Do not misunderstand me – these things have a rightful place in our Christian journey.  Even guilt (yes, even guilt) has a legitimate role in our relationship with God (perhaps a topic for another post).  “Doing” is also a bona fide Christian practice; there is much “doing” in life together.  But as fuel for the spiritual walk (the propellants that actually make us do what we do), this little family of willpower, guilt, duty, and obligation are odious and atrocious.  Sure, each one may drive us forward, but they all rob us of enjoying God and, ultimately, lead to burnout.

Instead of gratitude, we feel resentful.

Instead of feeling loved, we feel used (by God or others).

Instead of feeling energized, we feel enervated.

When the Christian journey is fuelled by willpower alone, we are left with weary, joyless, and indifferent followers of Jesus, whom the world observes and says “Thank God I don’t believe in God.”

So what is the best fuel?  Well, there is only one propellant that can compel us forward and nourish us at the same time…

…and that is the topic for the next post.

In the mean time, God invites us to not put any “shoulds” or “oughts” onto ourselves today. How would it feel to live an entire day without one “should” or “ought” driving you forward?


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