The Will and the Want


donaldducks.jpgIn light of the Kierkegaard quote a few weeks back, I thought I’d put this quote from Norman Grubb’s God Unlimited up for discussion:

“There is no need to force a person’s will. All the other person need do is attract and captivate our ‘want,’ and then we will love to act in harmony with him….People often ask, How can we conceive of God changing a person’s will if he is free? The answer is that God changes our ‘want,’ and the will follows spontaneously. Once God has captured our wills by drawing us back to Himself through Christ, then it is He in us who ‘wills and does of His good pleasure’ and it is we who naturally, gladly, freely work it out.”


Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.


  1. Jennifer

    Doesn’t this all boil down to being a cup, vessel, branch? To ask and allow God to be our indwelling love and in doing so, ” God has captured our wills by drawing us back to Himself through Christ, then it is He in us who ‘wills and does of His good pleasure’ and it is we who naturally, gladly, freely work it out”
    Because ultimately WE cannot Do…it’s GOD working through us that DOES.

    Atleast that’s what I took it all to mean….The most important lesson there is to learn in my opinion.

  2. Ron Block



    That’s definitely the foundational lesson, which is learned through experiencing the wonderful Romans 7 self-effort led life. The result is utter, gut-wrenching frustration. As we learn to feed on the other inner realities of our relationship with God (Master-slave, Husband-wife, Father-son, Vine-branch, etc) we go deeper and deeper into tangible expression of the Romans 8-9 life. This Christ-life is by faith from beginning to end; when we step out in faith on the radical new creation identity given to us by God in Christ through the Cross, it will be expressed in our actions. But we continually put our attention, our focus, not on our actions but on the One who is the Willer and Doer of all our love-actions.

    In the end there is really only one constant choice between two options: either I’m going to trust Christ to live through me, and step out in faith there, or I’m going to fall back to the lie that I can “do my own thing” which is really Satan using me for his own ends. Satan loves to take God’s bright, shining new creations and inject them with self-condemnation, self-hatred, self-effort, self-indulgence, and all other self-sins. He wants us to think we are independent, autonomous beings who can avoid evil and do good by our own thinking, our own effort, because then he’s running the show.

    As my own thinking becomes clearer and clearer on the simplicity of this daily choice, life change is happening faster and faster. Satan’s temptations to sin, complacency, fear, unbelief, are becoming more repugnant and ridiculous in all their forms.Passion for Christ increases. Love and gratefulness to God increase. Doubtless things wax and wane, but I’m experiencing an overall heightening of the pitch of my relationship with God.

  3. Gaël Cosendai

    A friend once told me it is useless to fight against temptation. Resisting bad desires only makes them more appealing. The only way to resist when confronted to bad desires is to have them replaced by better, higher, thus more desirable ones. It is a much more positive way of seeing walking in the light! Then we are not to live “against”, but “for”. I like this idea of God giving us new “wants”, new desires, because then we are not trying to force ourselves into something that is alien to us. We let God give us his eyes, his heart, his passion, his desires that corresponds to our most intimate new nature and identity.

  4. Ron Block



    Your friend was right. Resisting is done by standing in who we really are. “Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.” “Satan has no part in me” said Jesus. Replacement, or rather recognition of His once-for-all-time replacement of the old spirit in us (Eph 2:2), is the answer to temptation and the key to breaking long-term strongholds of sinful attitudes and actions in our lives. Thus, the Christian man at his computer trying with his effort, and ‘accountability partners’ and all that, to abstain from viewing pornography is really just giving Satan a way in.

    If he fails, he eats self-condemnation for breakfast. If he succeeds, he becomes proud. That’s the problem with Law-based thinking; it starts and ends with concept of an autonomous, self-willing human self.

    The only way for him to truly succeed is by knowing he is a cup and Christ, the resurrected, real, bona fide Jesus Christ living within him by the Holy Spirit, is the answer to the devil’s temptations. And of course he will learn this in part by failure. The Law-mindset we have, that idea of “Just tell me what I gotta do, what rules I’ve got to keep, how much I’ve gotta read my Bible and pray and tithe, and I’ll do it,” all that has to go. Paul said, “…the power of sin is the Law” 1Co 15:56, and also that “Sin shall not have power over you, for you are not under the Law, but under grace.” Sin gets its power over us through the Law-mindset: “I am a self that must keep itself, that must keep these rules, that must exert effort to be Christ-like.”

    Only one thing is necessary, as with Mary and Martha: to concern ourselves with communing with the Lord, who now lives within us as our Life, our Source, our Bread, our living Water. That’s the real power of “resisting” temptation – not because we resist, but because the One who lives in us has already overcome sin. That’s why 1John says, “I write these things to you that ye may not sin” and “He that abides in Him sinneth not.” Abiding is the way through to true righteous living.

  5. Ginger

    Chad: Best comment I’ve read in months!

    It is hard to wait for God to change someones ‘want’ when it’s someone you love dearly, though. There is a tendency (however well-meaning) to try to “force a person’s will” even though you know that the best way to the Truth is through God-led discovery.

  6. Matt Conner

    First of all, that’s a great picture to choose, Ron!

    And the quote is golden. It’s definitely something I will need to chew on but that’s the absolute truth at least for me and where I’m at right now. I find myself spiritually dissatisfied at this current point, wanting to develop better discipines, be a better pastor, etc. And the reality is I can’t remember the last time I was truly captivated by God, allowing Him the freedom to speak and show so many things to me. And yet it’s frustrating because those are the exact times where my life has been profoundly marked for the better (those times I allow that to happen).

    Thanks for posting

  7. Seth Ward

    The Catholics have a term for this – Beatific Vision. It is the final goal of any Christian, as it will ultimately give us the “freedom” that we really want: To choose only God, no longer seeing in part, but face to face.

    I tried to explain this future inability or lack of desire for sin to a friend by comparing it to being in love for the first time. In the first stages of that love/infatuation, the thought of cheating or being unfaithful is the furthest thing from our minds. The very thought is repulsive; it’s insanity – which is what sin is. Of course, the analogy breaks down like any other when referring to mystery but it helps me. “Whom do I love?” For this reason Christ says Loving God is the first and most important commandment.

    And like a healthy marriage that takes work to keep the fires burning, this is the goal of our will, now, to be so continuously “in love” (cringing over bad praise song flash-backs) with God that we cannot conjure “the want.”

    I believe this is one of the many things that “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” means while we have this “mediate knowledge of God.” To turn our minds and hearts towards God, allowing him to change our wants. Of course, everything starts and finishes with God and “free will” and the predestined heart is ultimately a mystery, as St. Augustine put it: “Man can will good, but his will is prepared by the Lord.” Then later he said, “You chose whether you will be predestined.”

    Love this topic!

  8. Brance

    I was gonna quote back at you with some Spurgeon, but realized my comment would be longer than your original quote. So I just posted it to my blog with a trackback, but it never showed up.

    Here it is.

  9. Ron Block



    My comments are almost always longer than the original post.

    Good Spurgeon stuff. You have to realize though that Norman Grubb had a certain basis behind his idea of “we who naturally, freely work it out.” His basis is that we work it out by faith, because we are just containers and God is the Producer or Doer of good in and through us. When he says anything that speaks of our doing anything it is with the idea behind it that anything and everything we do that is truly good is really God willing and acting in us. In fact, most of his books are concerned with how the saved human being moves from thinking he is independent and autonomous, doing things for God, then goes through a Romans 7 period, where he realizes he is in a cruel dilemma and rapidly awakening to his own autonomy as a lie. After that his books delineate what the move into Romans 8 and 9 looks like. He’s a fascinating writer, though for some hard to read, and some mis-take him like Paul has often been mis-taken.

    In experience there are many times where our soul/body is pulled away from wanting what God wants; the same thing happened to Jesus. In such cases we are tempted to see a separate will in ourselves that doesn’t want what God wants. But if we really look deep down at ourselves, in the holy of holies in our inner being, we find the real want, the real will. And there, our want and His will are the same; we want Him to work in and through us no matter what the cost; we want Him to say “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we want God’s vision for our lives to become tangible, present experience. Does any believer reading this words not want those things? We all know that a large part of our eternal destiny depends on the level of trust we place in Christ here and now. Some will come through as refugees escaping through the flames (1Cor 3). Others will have trusted Christ more and more, letting the Spirit destroy fear and bondage and old lies in our soul/body. None of us wants to come through into the next life with nothing to show, no lives changed, no sinners saved, for a lifetime of being a believer. And those desires are the real you, the real me – that saved, Christ-indwelt, new creation man or woman.

    But it often takes us a long time to recognize that deep-level “I”. A friend of mine says “We have to play in almost every other yard before we come home inside ourselves.” We’ve got to find by experience our total bankruptcy as human doers of good, of finding our own way, of coping with life on our own terms. We think we’re ‘doing our own thing’ but really we’re doing Satan’s thing, because life is really a choice between faith/reliance upon Christ or upon the satanic thought-stream.

    It is during this time, as we learn to appropriate the overcoming life of Christ within us, that we are becoming “strong” and “overcoming the wicked one” and learn to walk in “the word of God abides in you.” (1John). “He that abideth in Him sinneth not.”

  10. Ron Block



    We have been so programmed by the world – our upbringing, largely, and other factors. We get dissatisfied with ourselves, and the current state of our relationship with God. That’s good, because there is always more to dive into.

    But isn’t it like playing a guitar – there is always more, but how we appropriate the ‘more’ depends totally on our attitude toward it. One way is start with exerting myself, set up programs, check off my daily lists of what I’m to learn. The other way is to simply and continually remind myself of how much I love music itself, how I love play music, how blessed I am to be able to do it for a living, etc.

    The first way is always a burnout after a few days. Like a diet, it starts with unbelieving I AM statements rather than faith statements. It is the human self wanting to improve itself.

    Now, even the world is catching on to the truth of believing in a positive identity, even though their object of faith is often faith itself, or the human self. I sometimes read success literature, like The Success Principles, or The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Much of this literature has to do with changing the way we believe about ourselves; when we change our limiting self-beliefs, even if we don’t know God, our behavior changes. Of course, one can be positive and successful all one wants to in this life and still face the Great White Throne of Rev 20. Much success literature uses timeless principles, even Biblical ones, but without the Cross – without having to die and rise in Christ.

    As the Christ-indwelt, we have something much more. We have an Object to which our faith is directed. God Himself has established our identity, our real self, in Christ. “Our real selves are all waiting for us in Him.” (Lewis). Everything that we need for life and godliness is already ours in Christ. All we need to do is ask God to bring that up in us; we have not because we ask not. I’d also add to that James statement that we have not because we don’t grab hold of the riches we already possess.

  11. Stacy Grubb


    It’s so uncanny how much your last two posts apply to a situation I’m in right now that it’s almost creepy. But for the fact that I’ve come to expect God to reach me through His children, I might be a little freaked out.

    These last 2 weeks have shook my world so severely that the only way I can explain it is to say that nearly every aspect of my life has been blown apart and put inside of a big ol Shake and Bake bag and now I’m rebuilding. I can’t help but know that, when all is said and done, I’ll be glad for the outcome. I was talking with my husband on the phone a couple of hours ago and we were talking about how much has changed in so very little time. Neither one of us has been on a very constructive path for the past 5 years and, sadly, we’ve spent a great deal of our time tearing the other apart. It wasn’t so much in a malicious way as it was in a selfish way. The intent wasn’t to tear the other down, but came from a me-centric place and the impact was just the side effect of it. Some events brought all of that to a screeching hault recently and we realized that the only thing left to do was get real, get honest, and get over ourselves. So, back to the phone conversation, he said that maybe God was using all of our wasted years to get us here where we need to be. I think that’s a partial truth. We weren’t living in His Will. As I said, we were living for our own pride and egos. But God knew all along where He wanted us. He gave us ample time to get there the easy way, but…we just didn’t take it. I think we’re closer to His plan for us than we’ve ever been and it’s mind-boggling the heartache we chose to get us here when I know good and well that’s not the way He would’ve had us do it. But as has been discussed in the RR before, God uses all things as a tool to achieve His greater plan. Our free will to do what we wanted to at the time didn’t trump His ability to control the situation.

    It’s a difficult thing to throw out into cyberspace that you’ve been a supreme dunce for longer than you care to admit. But first the marriage post and now this that goes right along with the conversation I was having just a few short hours ago and I’m convinced that the point I need to learn is to set pride aside. Wills, wants, fears, and temptations have been strong governing factors in my life for awhile, now. They led to selfish behavior that I rationalized with selfish justifications.

    These last two weeks have been torture. I’ve actually wept in genuine sorrow for making God put me through it. I know this wasn’t His first resort or even His second or third. I know it pains Him to make me suffer and that has added to my pain. For the first time in a long time, I’m caring about what I put Him through. That’s the sad and embarrassing truth. In many ways, my prayer for myself today is to “want to want.” Old habits die hard, slow, long, and painful, shot in the gut deaths. But not so long ago and I didn’t even want to want to change. All I saw was how others were failing me, which made me apathetic to how I reacted to that. Satan, of course, has no weapon more effective than a hardened heart.


  12. Ron Block



    We have to look at what temptation is. James makes it clear; every man is tempted when he is pulled away by his own desire, and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it brings forth sin.

    Desire is not wrong in and of itself. Satan grabs hold of our desires in order to tempt us. Take our sexual desires – not wrong in and of themselves, because they have a right use. Satan takes that desire and uses it to drag us to the point where we marry the desire with action (thought-action or outer action) and thus desire conceives with action and brings forth sin.

    God cannot tempt us using our desires as a starting point. God goes deeper, and in Christ we receive a new inner Motivator – Christ Himself. Then the Holy Spirit sets about putting the whole man under new management. God changes our inner motivations, our deepest desires.

    That’s what Norman Grubb is talking about – our deepest desires. The ones where we lay on our bed at night and pray that God makes us into everything we are meant to be. The desire that makes us want to hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The desire we have to love others. These deep desires, as opposed to the flesh-desires that Satan uses, are what Norman is referencing in this quote.

    So God changes our “wants,” the things we really desire. He shows us who we really are in Him, and that those deep desires are unchangeable and unshakable, and in fact unstoppable once we get through with thinking that our flesh-desires are “the real me.” I look at flesh-desires as a circumstance which happens to the real me. It is not the Center of me. The center of a hurricane is perfect calm. But we get fooled into thinking that the windy storm of our flesh-desire is the real me.

    But that isn’t the case. Take love. Real love isn’t the feeling of love; it’s choice. That choice to love may and often does bring feelings of love. But many marriages fail because people take that feeling of love – the flesh-desire or feeling – and make it into love itself. But it isn”t. It is a feeling, a circumstance, and so many Christian marriages end because people live by the inner circumstance of their feelings rather than from the Center of who they really are: a vessel indwelt by the Spirit of Love Himself. His love in us makes us into lovers – not necessarily in our feelings, but in our choice.

    Therefore God cannot tempt us with our flesh-desires as the devil does, because “the very nature of His scheme forbids it.” What God often wants is for us to choose against the flesh-storms and go with the Spirit-love that is in us. He wants us to make the choice to trust Him when we don’t feel Him. The devil wants to use our flesh-desires as a handle to get us to do his thing. That’s what the Screwtape quote is all about.

  13. Ron Block



    The prayer to “want to want” is a good one. It’s honest. “Make me willing to be made willing.” God loves and honors that kind of honesty.

    We’ve all been supreme dunces. We’ve all been wrong, usually (I’d say always) for years and years, and our primary wrong is about ourselves. What we think we need. Who we think we are. How we think we ought to be treated.

    God uses trouble to stir us up to question this “I” we think we are. Finally, when we’ve had more than we can stand, we ask God to show us who we really are, and He is always faithful to do so.

    God wants to get us to the place of spontaneity and freedom. But we are used to operating from tension and restriction, because we “need” and others go against those needs. Therefore we’re in a fight against the universe – or our husbands, or our wives, or friends, or co-workers – to fulfill our needs. It’s always a losing battle, because the one need we have cannot be filled by anything else. Until we begin to recognize and live in our total fulfillment in Christ, we will look to others to fulfill our needs, and that always ends up causing tension and restriction in our relating to others.

  14. Stacy Grubb


    I’ve often wished that God had made us all as little robots, programmed to do just as He would want us to do and incapable of doing otherwise. For the last little while, I’ve had an old Russ Taff song stuck in my head. One verse says:

    Life sure has its choices, and you left choices to me
    And I’m glad, but sometimes I feel caught
    It’s hard to know which bridge to cross and which bridge I should be burning
    I long to learn, but I’m so slow to be taught

    The chorus is a bit more uplifting, but I often find myself stuck on that verse and losing the hope within the words of the chorus, which talks about how God knows the heart of a person and says His love will lead me farther on down the road His hand has led me to. Sometimes, that’s something that I know intellectually, but I don’t really faithe it. And I’m also pretty sure that stepping out on faith would actually have me behaving much like the robot that I wish I was, but with the added bonus of doing it by choice – as you said, from a place of spontaneity and freedom.

    You’re right. I know you’re right, so then I start thinking of how I apply it and from somwhere comes the knee-jerk, “Yeah, but….I don’t wanna….let’s just think this through for a minute.” Maybe it’s the old habit of selfish justification trying to get a word in edge-wise and convince me of what I know is wrong. Right now, I want to want the right thing because it just seems like life would be easier if I did. Maybe the next step is wanting to want it because I want to want it. At any rate, maintaining the faith that God will lead me farther on reminds me that I’ve got to start somewhere and I can’t think of a single time when I’ve ever been able to start at the end and skip all the hard stuff. But I guess it’s better than going directly jail, not passing Go, and not collecting $200. I’ll gain something from it all and odds will be against me finding myself in the shoes I wear today ever again.


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