I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
Paul had these same thoughts in Romans 7 as he described the struggle between his sinful nature and the only escape from it: Jesus. I’ve certainly felt this way before. Have you?
The fact is, I want to want God. My heart desires to be drawn to His like a magnet, yet I still don’t consistently do what is right. In this way, I’m not only like my brother Paul, but I’m also like Jacob.
At a quick glance in Scripture, Jacob doesn’t offer a very good first impression: exiting the womb with a jealous nature with a hand firmly on Esau’s heel (Genesis 25:26), buying Esau’s birthright for a bowl of lentil soup (Genesis 25:31), and stealing Esau’s blessing from Jacob through deception (Genesis 27:18-30). To be fair, Esau doesn’t promote a very good impression either: He’s careless, impulsive, and a crybaby. (See Genesis 25:32 and Genesis 27:34.) Jacob’s very name means “deceiver,” and his ways of getting what he wanted exemplified that prophetic name. He was a born fighter. It’s hard for me to initially respect Jacob for behaving in such ways, yet throughout Scripture, we see God pointing our attention back to His love for Jacob (see Genesis 32:28).
While his methods weren’t always noble, Jacob wanted God. He wanted the best of what God had to offer, and he wasn’t satisfied until he had the best. In his early pursuits, his heart was not yet refined for God’s righteousness. Similarly, he’s like Paul, and like us, as described in Romans 7. Jacob struggled with his own spirit – constantly trying his own plans first for success – and with God for a good portion of his life until he finally surrendered. Through his surrender, he received the blessings he wanted all along.
Jacob wanted to want God, and God loved him for his desire. God even used that desire to make Jacob into a man He could use for His kingdom. After his midnight wrestle, his new nature, and his new name, Jacob failed many times to do what was right. But from that moment forward, he was renewed in Christ and no longer desired to obtain godliness as a deceiver, but as a worshipper.
I want to want God the way Jacob and Paul did. I want to be aware of the struggle between my flesh (which condemns me) and my renewed spirit (which frees me). I can imagine you’d say the same thing. But how do we accomplish this? The answer is found in the same place Jacob and Paul found it: Romans 7:24-25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this dying body? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh, to the law of sin.”
To obtain such desire for God doesn’t come from our human heart but from our spiritual heart, which is rooted in Christ Jesus.
Johanna Inwood is a South Florida transplant now living in Colorado Springs, Colo. with her husband, Tim. She works in marketing for a Christian book publishing company and has deep affection for strong coffee, palm trees, bright colors, and purse-sized dogs. Learn more at her blog: johannainwood.wordpress.com.