Ah, the myth of willpower. The truth is, you don't have power over your will. The English word, will, comes from the Greek concepts of pleasure, delight or desire. In other words, to will something is to desire it. The word, willpower, is well-intentioned but it might be deceiving you into thinking you can gain power over what you desire. Impossible. (Read that like you'd hear the guys on SNL saying, "the bulls", "the blackhawks"... "impossible".) You can help guide, you can feed properly, you can influence... but demonstrate power over your desire? Nope. If you could truly control your will why would you be in the mess you have been in? (or are currently in?) Why would mankind experience so many problems?
Our good friend, James says in his chapter 4, "What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?" So, the bad news is you can't control your will. But, the good news is once you humble yourself and admit the bad news, your will can't control you. (read the rest of James 4)
I recently caught up with James backstage in El Paso before his "Rock with Humility" tour kicked off, and asked him about what it means to humble ourselves and admit the bad news.
James, I'm a big fan. Thanks for taking some time out before your big night.
No problem, chief. I'm happy to.
So, give us some verbs to help us better understand what humbling ourselves means?
Ok, how about 'submit', 'draw near', 'wash' and 'purify'?
Nice, (laughing) thanks but I'd really rather not do that. That's pretty demeaning don't you think?
Well, look if you have no trust in the one telling you to pursue these verbs then yeah, I suppose it could come across as demeaning.
Right. Like my buddy, Robbie, who grew up in a house where his Dad was always telling him what to do. But Robbie didn't respect that. He knew his dad was hypocritical and wasn't practicing any of those things himself.
Good point. So, that's why it's so important for you to know who you are talking to here. I'm James, I was an eye-witness to Jesus. I was his half-brother and I'm telling you, you can trust Him. He's not encouraging anyone to do what He didn't do. I watched him. This isn't demeaning. I mean, it's hard but not demeaning. He humbled Himself in the same way He knows you need to. It's amazing really. Bro, think about it, He was God, the ruler of the universe and yet He was so good at submitting and humbling Himself. He was like a machine -
Yeah, no, not really a machine. That's just a figure of speech and it was poorly chosen because He was the opposite of a machine. He was real, authentic and passionate, full of energy and power... and yet in the middle of all that is this mystery...
Tell me about the mystery, James.
Yeah, this whole counter-intuitive, mystery thing of 'dying to live', 'losing to win'... of wanting to be good but needing to admit you're bad before you can be good. Look, you gotta stop trying so hard to fix it all yourself and let God do it. The stuff inside you is way to powerful for you to control. If you don't pursue submitting, washing, purifying, etc... you are in trouble.
What do you mean by that?
It could mean a lot of different things, really. You know, I'll never forget a church I was at once that couldn't control how they talked. You've probably never witnessed that... Gossip here. Misleading there. You talk about trouble. It was bad, man. It was like this large area covered chiefly by trees just blazing on fire. Out of control -
How does that connect the whole humility thing...?
Look, I'm just saying that's a great example of how out of control we really are. I mean, here's a church... a church, right? The place where we think we've got it all in control but it's not. And it's that way because the people there just wouldn't humble themselves. Remember what Jesus said? "Draw close to me and I'll draw close to you." Right? Remember that? These people couldn't do it. Truth is, none of us can without admitting we're not in control.
So, don't let me put words in your mouth but it sounds like you're saying what I've been trying to communicate... and that is we really don't have power over our will, our desires do we? We really don't have willpower?
(Laughing) Willpower? No. Will-guidance maybe. Will-help... But no willpower.
That's pretty much what I said at the beginning of this post. We've come full-circle.
Well, it sounds like it but don't just leave 'em there, chief.
What do you mean?
I mean, don't just tell people that they've got no power over their will. That's the negative side. True, but negative. You gotta get to the positive. Make sure they know that when they confess their sins He will forgive them. He will move into their lives and empower them Himself, personally. I've seen it. I've experienced it. You talk about power over the will! This is it, bro. The Spirit-filled-person is someone who is controlled by the desire... the will... of the Spirit. How cool is that? Never forget to leave them with that hope.
Good stuff. Wow, thanks for your time I really appreciate it, Jimmy. I was thinking about calling you that? Can I call you Jimmy? That was just something -
Ok, good. Let's just stick with James. I like James.