Means and ends. Motives and outcomes. Habits and desires. These are the issues of discipleship.
Your faith in Christ has in some way compelled you to do things you probably wouldn’t do otherwise: Go to church, read the Bible, confess your faults, sing out loud around other people, etc. Such things often become indicators. When we see people raise their hands during worship or lead a small group, we tend to assume something about their spiritual maturity, and likewise when we see someone sin.
Mark illustrates this in a subtle contrast of Peter‘s mother-in-law (1:29-31) and a leper (1:40-45). The outcomes are the same: Jesus heals both of them. The contrast is in their motives, which is evidenced by their response. When Jesus “came to her (Peter’s mother-in-law) and raised her up, taking her by the hand, the fever left her, and she waited on them.” What she hoped to gain by being healed was the opportunity to serve Jesus. The leper, on the other hand, takes a different course. Jesus gave him specific instruction to “see to it that you say nothing to anyone… But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and spread the news around.” His response reveals that what he really wanted from Jesus was the opportunity to get on with his life.
If you have a terminal illness and someone heals you, you at least make sure to do one thing he asks of you, right? Well, you do if the opportunity to follow and obey him is what you wanted in the first place. But if our motivation in asking God for healing or help is really just a plea for a quick fix for our discomfort so we can get back to our normal life, then perhaps that is why sin can be so easy at times. And perhaps that is also why we pray less when things are going good.
Sometimes I don’t feel like reading the Bible, or praying, or serving, or singing. I am too often ruled by the urgent and drawn to comfort and ease. My complaining and whining is the evidence. But these moods and tendencies are not insurmountable. Jesus is able to transform them at the deepest levels of our desires if that is actually what we want. And if it is, then we can force ourselves into disciplines and habits even when we don’t feel like it, and they will become our delight so long as our aim is nothing less than that Christ be formed in us.
Lord, I’m sorry that, so often, I’m just looking for a quick fix from You. Make me a disciple whose honest desire is to serve and follow You.