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When You Don’t Want to Obey

What do you do when your body feels full of desire to do what you said you’d never do again? What do you do when you don’t want to obey God?


I must have promised I’d never act out sexually again a thousand times. Especially after my sin, I felt so badly, I never wanted to sin again. My desire to do better felt like an army pumped up, loud, and ready for battle.

But every time, after some time had passed, temptation would come knocking again, the army seemed absent, and I would throw all caution aside and dive right back into my sin.

Winning the day against temptation is not done by force or brute strength. Yes, it requires a fight, but not the kind I thought. That loud army, the resolve, the fire of motivation inside? It didn’t work. But it didn’t need to.

This Holy Week, let’s look to Jesus in Gethsemane.

He didn’t want to go to the cross. He wanted a different path than crucifixion, and he told his Father as much. Jesus was fully human. His pleas with the Father, his distress, his sweat like drops of blood were all the real deal. He really did want the Father to provide a way out. But there was no other way. Jesus was the way.

So what does this mean for us when we don’t want to obey—when we really want a pass or an easier way?

  1. Jesus can relate. Although he was never addicted, he has suffered under the intense weight of a body surging to go a different route than the one the Father has given. This means you do not need to play the good Christian stoic with God. He sees and can relate with what you feel.

    “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
  2. Jesus led with surrender. He was honest, but not with a posture of defiance or self-pity. There was no “I have to be true to myself” or “If You wanted me to go to the cross, then why did You give me these other desires?” Jesus’ honesty was confession, not rebellion. He did not assert his will, he surrendered it.

    “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV) 
  3. Jesus modeled self-acceptance. Notice that Jesus doesn’t beat himself up for not wanting to do the Father’s will. In his admission, there is not even a hint of self-loathing.  Likewise, when your will resists God, there is no need for you to berate yourself. In such moments, Brother Lawrence, the 17th century Carmelite monk revered for his intimate walk with God, used to pray simply and without a hint of self-scorn “And such I will always be unless You change me, Lord.”

    Think of your situation as similar to a mechanic who is holding the wrong size wrench for the repair. Reach out your hand to God and pray simply, “Father, the will I have doesn’t fit the job at hand. Can you pass me another?” This leads to the next one.
  4. Jesus models dependence. Jesus’ prayer, “not my will but Yours be done” was not just a prayer of surrender, it was a prayer of dependence. It echoed the prayer he taught his disciples: “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done.” In other words, because Jesus wanted the cup of the cross to pass from him, he needed the Father’s will.

    “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:49, 50 ESV)

    This leads to the final and most important part.
  5. Jesus obeyed for you. Don’t miss this. His faithfulness in Gethsemane and on Golgotha is God’s gift to you, now yours in full. Think of it this way: Jesus’ “not my will but Yours be done” is in you. Where the first Adam’s actions cast humanity down to become slaves to sin, the last Adam’s obedience has recast who we are—no longer slaves, but sons and daughters of the Most High who can say yes to God’s will.

    “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV)

Friends, where are you at odds with God? This Holy Week, do not deny it. Tell him what you really want, surrender, lay aside self-recrimination, depend on God’s will, and receive Christ’s yes to the Father.

“Lord, not my will, but Yours be done.”

With you, Josh


Make sure to check out the latest episode of Becoming Whole on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you listen to your Podcasts.

4 thoughts on “When You Don’t Want to Obey”

  1. This is fantastic! It captures my own experience exactly, both during the period of my active addiction, and of the day I found freedom eleven years ago.

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