The Counterpoint of Duty and Desire

Our desires for the church and our present duty in the church need not produce tension or discord.

WILBUR K. NELSON, Department of Religion, Pacific Union College

WHEN there is a world to win for Christ and worldliness is appar­ently winning; when the fish are plentiful and the nets seem too full of holes to catch them; when time is growing shorter and standards are dropping lower; when a perfect design appears on the blueprint but building goes forward in sub­standard style—what is the man of God to do? We look at the blueprint and we ex­amine the structure. The building has the form of the plan, but the materials in many places are short of meeting the specifica­tions. Viewing the building, the conscien­tious craftsman faces an almost overwhelm­ing problem. His sense of duty tells him he must stay on the job and make the structure sound. His desire ranges over several alter­native  approaches: (1) Abandon the build­ing and go to work for a company who will watch more carefully what labor and materials are used; (2) demand the demoli­tion of the building and urge reconstruc­tion along what he considers proper lines; or (3) determine just what his duty is and how his part of the construction can be made as perfect as possible.

Such may be the frustrations felt by Sev­enth-day Adventist ministers as they see the forces of hell rushing the gates of heaven. Will measuring the real condition of the church today by the ideal pattern necessar­ily lead to either conflict or compromise? Between conflict and compromise could there not yet be a harmonious and happy balance? Our desires for the church and our present duty in the church need not produce tension or discord. Rather, there may be a useful, melodic counterpoint be­tween duty and desire.

For the worker in the cause of God who accepts the ordained function of denomina­tional organization, duty is not hard to de­termine. It generally represents the sphere of service appointed to us by the action of a controlling committee. Personal desires in relation to our service could conflict with such assigned duties were we to permit them to do so. It is suggested that this may be avoided by a dedicated direction of en­ergy toward as perfect a service as we can possibly render in the clearly apparent area of service assigned us. Our very best effort in harmony with the unction of the Holy Spirit will result in a stimulating counter­point of sacred service with such vital in­terest that dissatisfaction or discouragement will be defeated. It will not be necessary for us to go in search of a place of happier serv­ice or desire the appointment given to a brother worker. The place of God's appoint­ment is also the area where we can best know Christ's presence. Where He has com­manded us to go we will ever be encouraged by His company.

When the question is asked, To what ex­tent do my desires represent affirmative re­sponses to the leading of God's Spirit and to what extent may they possibly be hu­man ambition? how do we reply? Probably the simplest test of determining if desire parallels duty is the question, Do I wish this new opportunity that in some way I might be placed in a more favorable position for personal profit, promotion, or public rec­ognition? The Christ-controlled life finds its true satisfaction in the success of His work. Personal achievement is neither de­sired nor observed, for the Christ within receives all glory and the human is hid in the divine. "Living is Christ" as far as the devoted disciple is concerned. On the other hand, desires centered in self demand for their satisfaction that personal recognition be a significant part of whatever success is achieved. Such "service" is chiefly con­cerned with advancement, recognition, and the accrual of increasing professional bene­fits or titular embellishments. Such a life pattern is devoted to moving up in the world rather than moving out into the field, desiring to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.

The proper relationship of personal de­sire and Christian duty is protrayed re­peatedly in the ministry of Jesus. When the newly won disciple of Decapolis was freed from the legion of devils he implored the Lord "that he might be with him" (Mark 5:18). He desired an unending fel­lowship with Jesus. Duty as appointed by the Saviour brought the same blessing but led to a different direction. "Go home to thy friends, and tell them . . ." (verse 19). Christ never calls for separation from Him, rather submission to Him. Desire will be fulfilled in duty.

The promised presence of Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit brings the direction of "the mind of Christ." "The Lord will teach us our duty just as willingly as He will teach somebody else. If we come to Him in faith, He will speak His mysteries to us personally."—The Desire of Ages, p. 668. Perplexities and uncertainties are resolved through an absolute surrender to God's will and His way in our lives.

Those who decide to do nothing in any line that will displease God, will know, after presenting their case before Him, just what course to pursue. And they will receive not only wisdom, but strength. Power for obedience, for service, will be imparted to them, as Christ has promised.—Ibid.

Such an experience of fellowship with Christ destroys the infatuation of selfish de­sires. Past futile dreaming of a desk behind an office door marked "President," "Direc­tor," or "Manager" has been discarded as unworthy of comparison with the real pres­ent joy in performing His bidding as dis­ciple and apostle of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Desire so fulfilled is to the soul "a tree of life" (Prov. 13:12). The Christian experiencing "the counterpoint of duty and desire" knows the secret of liv­ing in harmony with heaven.

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WILBUR K. NELSON, Department of Religion, Pacific Union College

February 1967

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