Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Have to

Have To, Want To, or Get To?


Ever feel burdened with all the have-tos in your life?

Many mornings I awake with my thoughts circling a list of “have-tos,” sapping my energy like water circles a drain with increasing speed until it disappears. Things to do that I don’t want to do. Tasks weighing on me like heavy burdens instead of joyful privileges.

I wonder if that’s how Cain felt. Remember the account of Cain and Abel from the book of Genesis in the Bible? Two brothers brought a sacrifice to the Lord (Genesis 4). Cain brought “some” produce, while Abel brought the best of what he had: “fat portions” from the “firstborn of his flock” (4:3-4).

Two different offerings. The Bible isn’t clear as to the precise reason God rejected Cain’s offering, but we do have some clues. Verse 5 tells us the problem seems to have rested with “Cain and his offering.” Not just with the offering, but with Cain, too. Is it possible Cain had an attitude problem? We see some evidence of that in the next verse when Cain became angry at God’s response (v.6).

Cain wasn’t the only one with an attitude problem. Consider Jonah. God called him to a mission: preach repentance to the pagan city of Nineveh. Instead, Jonah ran in the opposite direction. He finally traveled to Nineveh because he had to—the alternative was to remain in the belly of a great fish! And when the people did repent, Jonah resented it.

Not Just Them . . .

It appears Cain, Jonah, and probably many others, were motivated by a “have-to” attitude. And before we criticize them, what about you and me? When it comes to worship and serving the Lord, are we also motivated by have-tos?

  • I have to go to church because that’s what Christians do.
  • I have to give financially because that’s what’s expected of church members.
  • I have to read my Bible and spend time in prayer, because those are the disciplines of the Christian life.

What would happen if we moved from “have-to” to “want-to” and then to “get-to”?

  • I have to trust God because I have no other options. vs.
  • I want to trust God because He has always been faithful. vs.
  • I get to trust the God of the universe because He loves me and saved me!

Or how about:

  • I have to serve in the nursery because nobody else is filling the need. vs.
  • I want to serve in the nursery because I want these children to know they are loved. vs.
  • I get to serve in the nursery because it’s a privilege to invest in their lives for eternity!

Then there’s Bible reading. Someone once likened reading the Bible to eating three different types of dishes: oatmeal, steak and potatoes, or peaches and cream.

  • I have to read the Bible because I know it’s good for me (oatmeal).
  • I want to read the Bible because it tastes good (steak and potatoes).
  • I get to read the Bible because its sweetness blesses my spirit (peaches and cream)!

So the next time you’re considering the have-tos in your life—especially in your spiritual life—consider how the Lord wants to change your have-tos to want-tos to get-tos!

In what area of life are you stuck in the have-to stage? What needs to change for you to move to want-to or finally, to get-to?


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