“The secret to success is taking an interest in life.”
I read this quote recently as part of a personal growth programme I’ve signed up to. And I really do agree with it.
I think a lot is written about the importance of self-discipline, perseverance and a good work ethic. These things are great and important. But they are fuelled by: interest. When I am “interested” in my fitness, health and getting new PBs in the gym, sticking to my program is easy. When I am “interested” in my walk with God, waking up early to pray and read my Bible is easy. I find it easy to be focused and productive at work when I am “interested” in the jobs set before me.
The problem is: that when we admit that the reason we are so disciplined and focused on a particular area of life is because we are genuinely interested, then we lose that sense of achievement. That sense of, I really have earned my success because I was disciplined, because I persevered, because I have such a great work ethic. The sense of martyrdom. Because we’ve admitted, that actually we enjoy the task. We were really interested in it.
I propose though, if we want to help people to be inspired to pursue God’s heart, we need to focus less on getting them to be disciplined and persevering in their faith. (Although these things are very important!) Instead, we should help them foster an “interest” in the things God cares about.
Rather than asking, why are you struggling to have regular times with God? Perhaps we can ask, why are you not interested in spending time with God. Cutting right the heart of the matter. Rather than blaming a lack of discipline or focus, or a shortage of time, we need to address the condition of the heart. A heart that teeters on the brink of boredom, of room temperature.
Is this too forward? Maybe.
Principles for cultivating “interest”:
1) Understand your personality type and preferences. We all are different, we prefer different things, and there are aspects of God’s character that will really interest us and other bits that we just ‘don’t get’.
2) Understand the various ‘pathways’ to God. No, I’m not saying there is another way to meet with God apart from Jesus. But what I am saying is that there are various ‘languages’ by which we might choose to approach God. One author calls these ‘God languages’, another ‘sacred pathways’. Consider the differences between: connecting with God through liturgy vs a walk in nature. Or how about collective worship vs prayer in solitude? Reading the Bible through in year vs wrestling with a single verse for a month.
3) Understand that “familiarity breeds contempt”. I, even I, do eventually get bored of eating the same cereal every day. Even though I am a man who appreciates regular routine, there are only so many nights I can eat roasted chicken, boiled broccoli and rice. In the same way, I think we lose interest when we move from a ‘dynamic relationship with God’ to a stagnant set of tick-box exercises.
4) Understand that interest grows with knowledge. I have found that the more I know about a subject, the more I realise that I don’t know enough. The knowledge creates a hunger. Perhaps you already understand a lot of the above, now it is time to take the step of faith and to live it. Perhaps you can start by praying similar words to the desperate father in the gospels: ‘God I am interested, but help me in my lack of interest’.