Discipleship is often expressed in two very contrasting ways – as a burden that is difficult to carry and costs us everything (Luke 9:57-62), and as a joy that makes work light (Ps 100:1-2, Matt 11:28-30). It’s often hard for us to hold these two in balance with each other. Equally often we emphasise the difficulty of discipleship and service to our Lord, forgetting that discipleship and service is also a joy that makes this same burden a light one to bear.
It’s easy for us to see the difficulty of discipleship, after all. We see all the things that we can’t do compared with those around us who don’t know Christ, and we see all the “extra” things that we need to do as a good disciple of Christ (attending weekly worship, being part of a discipleship group, spending time with God daily, serving in church and community…). Particularly for those serving in church, we often see the needs in church and we feel that if we don’t do something, if we don’t serve in those areas, then the church will stagnate, then the church will deteriorate, then God’s work will not be done. And there is something to that, since we are all part of God’s Body and each of us has been given to the Body to serve in some way (1 Cor 11:25-27). But even though this is true, we forget that this is God’s kingdom, God’s church, God’s people, God’s work. God is responsible for making sure that His work is done, not us. We don’t need to be worried that God’s work will fail if we aren’t able to hold it up. We don’t need to be concerned that if we let go of a ministry or a ministry role then the work will be hampered. What we do need to be concerned about is whether we are serving where God wants us to serve, how God wants us to serve, and when we serve according to God’s will there is joy abundant in our service.
Serving is not easy, but it’s also not meant to be a crushing burden. Service is a response arising from joy and thankfulness; it is an expression of our love for Christ. And the same goes for discipleship, of which service is a part. True discipleship is a discipleship born out of love, joy, and thankfulness, born out of a true relationship with the Master, not born out of obligation and duress. True discipleship knows the Master, loves the Master, obeys the Master, and relies on the Master. True discipleship is not easy – love, obedience, and reliance are not easy, after all. But as much as true discipleship is not easy, it is also a great joy and a privilege to take part in God’s work. May our discipleship and service be characterised by joy and not by duty.