What to do when we don’t want to do what we need to do



What do we do when, as followers of Jesus, we are faced with something we know we should do, but may not want to do? How do we obey a divine calling or opportunity to which our flesh says “No!” How do we learn to surrender to the heavenly doors God opens for us each day, even when those doors may lead to great risk?

Thomas R. Kelly (a Quaker missionary), in his A Testament of Devotion, writes about “Gateways to Obedience.” Kelly says there are two routes to becoming more obedient. There is a passive route and an active route.

Passive Route

“Some men come into holy obedience through the gateway of profound mystical experience.” (30)

“And some are led into the state of complete obedience by this well-nigh passive route, wherein God alone seems to be the actor and we seem to be wholly acted upon. And our wills are melted and dissolved and made pliant, being firmly fixed in Him, and He wills in us.” (32)

In other words, it’s still possible to have a Damascus Road experience in which we are so overwhelmed with the presence and power of God that we are completely undone. We can hardly not obey (although, clearly, we still retain free will).

Such mystical experiences are rare. Therefore, most of us will have to follow the second route–the active route. It has four steps.

Active Route

  1. Keep before you a vision of what a fully surrendered life looks life.

“But the first step to the obedience of the second half is the flaming vision of the wonder of such a life, a vision which comes occasionally to us all, through biographies of the saints, through the journals of Fox and early Friends, through a life lived before our eyes, through a haunting verse of the Psalms…through meditation upon the amazing life and death of Jesus…” (32)


  1. Practice small acts of obedience now.

“…the second step to holy obedience is this: Begin where you are. Obey now. Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it is like a grain of mustard seed. Begin where you are.” (33)


  1. When you fail, begin again.

“If you slip and stumble and forget God for an hour, and assert your old proud self, and rely on your own clever wisdom, don’t spend too much time in anguished regrets and self-accusations but begin again, just where you are.”


  1. Rely on God’s power to obey.

“Don’t grit your teeth and clench your fists and say, ‘I will! I will!’ Relax. Take hands off. Submit yourself to God…and let life be willed through you. For ‘I will’ spells not obedience.” (34)