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Duty or Delight

Weekly Devotions

Weekly articles written to encourage, challenge, and inspire Christians.

Duty or Delight

Paul Ussher

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
— Psalm 16:11

Relationships are a wonderful thing. In Genesis God said, "It is not good for man to be alone,” and I for one would have to agree. Sadly, in our world today it seems that relationships are crumbling more often than they are staying together, however, there are still those who are faithful in relationships. What is it that motivates this faithfulness? In a world that is filled with temptation, what is it that keeps two people committed and together?

There are a number of possible motivating factors that contribute to faithfulness in a relationship. I'm a man, so I can only write this from a man’s perspective.  As a man walks down a beach, what keeps his eyes and mind from wandering? Or perhaps at work, what is it that stops him from developing an emotional and physical relationship with a co-worker? It could be a sense of duty to the children. Perhaps it is a desire to avoid the shame of a failed relationship. Or it could simply be a stubborn commitment to the promise that was made in his marriage vows. Perhaps it is just a dutiful and proper understanding of right and wrong and a desire to avoid the guilt of doing what is wrong.

While all of these present real and possible motivations for faithfulness, I hope that as you read them you noticed that one possible reason was missing from the list.  In fact, I left out the greatest and most important reason to motivate faithfulness in any relationship - Love!  In reality, one would hope that all of the other motivations would rarely enter in as the overarching sentiment in maintaining faithfulness.  Rather, faithfulness should be the result of mutual love and enjoyment of the relationship itself. With that backdrop the eyes and mind have no inclination to wander because their desires have been met and affections drawn by one person. That satisfaction and joy leads to a commitment that is not out of duty but out of delight.  While faithfulness, in and of itself, is obviously virtuous and very important, surely we can all understand that the couple whose faithfulness is motivated by mutual love and affection is far more joyful.

My desire is to take this idea of motivation and apply it to our Christian life. What is it that motivates you to be faithful to the Lord? What drives your service and devotion to him? Do you read each morning out of some dutiful sense that you must do it? Do you attend and participate in the meetings simply to uphold an image? Do you try to lead your family simply because you feel it is your duty? C.S. Lewis articulated the thought well when he wrote:

Provided the thing is in itself right, the more one likes it and the less one has to “try to be good,” the better. A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people), like a crutch, which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it’s idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc.) can do the journey on their own!

How is your heart? To use Lewis' metaphor, are you walking on crutches or on your own legs? Is there within you a genuine love and joy that motivates your service or are duty, guilt, and pride the driving forces behind much of what you do? Your service to the Lord is not somehow more virtuous if you enjoy it less. In reality, the opposite is true. Therefore, I would encourage you to develop that love and affection. Ask God to give you a heart full of devotion to him. Pour it into your relationship with the Lord. Take some time this week to assess your heart.

I'll just end with one thought. Perhaps in your relationship with the Lord, you haven't been faithful. It could be that neither duty nor delight has been enough and you have slipped. It could be that your service has disappeared, your devotional life has dried up, and your involvement is marginal at best. Remember, though, that while you have been unfaithful, Christ has not been. He is patiently waiting for you to come back. There is grace to be enjoyed, forgiveness to be had, and a relationship to be restored.   

As we live our lives may we know what it is to live in a delightful, joy filled, and love-motivated relationship with our Lord. May our hearts be warmed, our affections stirred, and our energies directed in joyful service for the one who first loved us! May we know what it is to experience what Paul described when he said, "I will rejoice,” or what David described in the passage above when he acknowledged "In your presence is fullness of joy.”