In my office at work I have a quote hanging on my bulletin board that says, "The will to succeed means nothing without the will to prepare." The quote is full of meaning for me. We all aspire to become or to accomplish things in life. But all too often, when the realities of the necessary preparation hit, we falter and give up. I see it happen over and over and at all stages of life. It is easy to have the initial will and aspiration to succeed...but it is quite another matter to have the will that continues to pay the "dues" of preparation. If, when one seeks to master a musical instrument, a certain sport or scholarship of a particular field of study, etc., and "short-cuts" are taken in the preparation process, the end result will reflect short-comings in character, ability, beauty, knowledge and understanding. In the end the "achievement" can be a hollow one or, at best, a shallow one...simply because we didn't really pay the "dues" of preparation.
So what are the required "dues" of John's preparation message? For those who have the will "to succeed" in making a way for God to come and work in their lives, John's message further lays out the specific "dues" of the preparation. John made it obvious. If you aspire to have God work in your life, then the preparation involves "the baptism of repentance."
But this then is where we falter and give it up. No one wants to be told to repent, to forsake their self-centered lives or their self-centered religious lives. We would rather keep an arm's length distance in our walk with God, thinking there's no need to be so "fanatical" or "excessive." We would just rather take the "short-cut" of living comfortably as a "Christian" and dwelling in temples made with hands. But the message God gave John radically goes against this and declares the true "preparation" necessary for Him to really work in our lives.
As in the days of John so are the days of our time, the message John preached can only be received by those in whose hearts the goodness of God (according to Romans 2:4) is at work - in leading His own to the precious gift of repentance (i.e., "Father, not my will, but thy will be done.") The gift of repentance is how the Lord gathers His own unto Himself.
Is the goodness of God leading you and drawing you to give of your life in a radical newness of His Life? Then yield yourself (repentance) and give yourself completely (in the baptism He is calling you to)...fall back into the water, go completely down, get completely soaking wet, lay your life down…and trust Jesus to raise you up as one of His.