Jesus said, “…my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Do you ever wonder why the yoke of life or ministry feels so hard or the burden feels so heavy? Is Jesus promising an easy life here? Does He promise that our work will always be a breeze? Many years ago, I took some time to reflect on these questions.
What is ministry? Though it may seem subtle, there is a great difference between working for God and working with God. When I see ministry as working for God, I end up unconsciously assuming that God is “out there somewhere” and I’m here serving. A more Biblical image is to see myself as one who works with God, from a place of established and intimate relationship.
Ministry is the overflow of my abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. When ministry is the overflow of Christ’s life in me, my service comes out of abundance. When I minister from a place of leakage, my service may well be my last ounce or even the dregs. God means for my life to overflow with grace to others. This is ministry. I sometimes visualize this as the difference between the drop that spills out the top of a full cup and the dribble that leaks from a crack in the bottom of a mostly empty cup.
Matthew 11:25-30 is a passage that has helped me to see that ministry is coming to Christ, hearing and seeing him, and then going where he goes and doing what he does.
“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things [His miracles/works] from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
How is ministry the overflow of an abiding relationship with Christ?
First, I see that God hides what He’s doing from the know-it-alls and is pleased to reveal them to the “little ones”—the humble. Ministry must never be the overflow of someone full of themselves! It is the little ones who know themselves to be empty and who open themselves to being divinely filled to overflow.
Next, the process by which we come to spill the grace and life of Christ to others is captured in Jesus three-fold invitation:
1) Come to me
2) Take my yoke
3) Learn from me
“Come to me.” This is His invitation to relationship. We don’t come to a job or a task. We come to a Person who deeply loves us, wants us and welcomes us to be with Him and to join Him in His work.
“Take my yoke.” I know I’m in danger of mixing the metaphors, but a yoke would be a place of shared work. I am yoked with Christ…and He is carrying the heaviest end. In the yoke, we learn to go where He goes, do with Him what He is doing and even say the kinds of things He is saying. This is also a kind of overflow.
Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. If His burden is light, somehow ministry doesn’t have to drain me dry. I can learn not to take more responsibility that is mine as a pastor or Christian leader. It seems that what wearies, burdens or drains me in ministry is not what Christ invites me to take on, but what I have taken upon myself (or let others put on me).
“Learn from me.” In the yoke with Christ, we learn by companionship and shared experience how Christ actually works and what matters to Him. Ministry is learning to live and work with Christ in the places He has placed us.
“Come to me. Go with me. Learn from me.” This is a process that causes us to minister out of overflow.