At its heart, willfulness is self-exaltation—making our self most important. This includes pursuing selfish interests and making them of highest value. We do this, or they become such, by the amount of time and energy invested in them. OK, nothing new with that observation, but what's behind it? What drives this want, this desire, this consuming lust? Why does it become greater in value and importance than anything or anyone else?

Grabbing for Candy at Rainbow's Christmas Party

This willful drive is seen as early as toddlerhood with the learning of "no" and insistence of self-will, in spite of its self-destructive possibilites. Currently, in the US, it's being demonstrated by those involved in the "Occupy" protests, the shameless stalemate within Congress and with the President, along with the continuing greed of financial institutions, as with the latest revelation of exorbitant bonuses for mediocre performance. So, is it just simple greed or pride that drives this willfulness? It's deeper than that.
Consider the admonition God gives those He calls the remnant of Judah, through Jeremiah the prophet. They had asked Jeremiah to seek God, assuring him they would do whatever God told him (Jeremiah 42:6). Of course, when decision time came, they rebelled—willfully. Why? Their willful intent is seen later when Jeremiah warns them of certain judgment for disobeying the Lord's direction, a reversing of what they committed to do. What was behind it? Here is their own reasoning for returning to their old ways—"For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster" (Jeremiah 44:16-19).

This is the heart of willfulness—the shortsightedness of unbelief. Unbelief is what blocked the way to the Promised Land for the first generation brought out of Egypt by Moses. Unbelief still blocks the way to entering what God has promised those who trust in Him. What's the real issue? It's not mere disobedience, but a lack of trust. It is what went so wrong in the beginning, in the Garden—Adam and Eve stopped trusting God. They grabbed hold of something less, something that satisfies at the moment, but the cost was steep.

Why risk this great cost—losing everything—for what? Willful sin—willfulness—bothers me. It's calculated. It's intentional. It goes beyond the idea of "sins of commission and omission." All sin is wrong and brings spiritual separation from God, but all sin does not have the same consequence of effect—what's called the ripple effect. Willfulness seems to have a self-destructive ripple effect—radiating inward, as well as outward. A simple example is addictive behavior, which I won't spend time explaining, since it should be self-evident.

When I find myself struggling with willful sin, it bothers me a lot. I'm reminded of the description in Hebrews 12:1, an older NIV says, "the sin that so easily entangles." It comes down to choice, decisions our free will must make—the effect of eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I don't want to give up my free will, my freedom of choice. But why would I entertain giving up what I know is good with eternal benefits, for what I want in a moment, knowing it has short-lived enjoyment?

I've radically changed my diet because of a medical condition. However, when given the opportunity for violating certain self-imposed restrictions (for curative purposes) for a taste of something I know I don't need and is not good for me—why do it? Hmmm, because I want to! I want to taste that sugar-laden brownie-bomb for the moment of enjoyment. Of course, there are decisions of greater consequence to battle, but the issue remains. How about you, ever wonder about this type of thing? Ultimately, I know it's a matter of implicit trust—intentional faith in Jesus for what He knows is best for me. I'll close with a couple of my "go to" verses, and leave you pondering the idea of willfulness for your self.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)