It is a tragedy when a Christian begins to lose their joy. It is a tragic path on which to set off, living a life that calls us to serve God, but having no joy in the gifts that He secured for us so long ago.
Calling the loss of joy a tragedy might strike you as melodramatic. You might be reading this thinking I could benefit from a lesson in the ways of this big, bad world and the true tragedies it holds. But when a pattern emerges, exposing how we rob ourselves of a once zealous joy by bearing a burdensome view of service, we might be taking a tentative step towards the tragedy of unbelief.
Have you, like me, gone through the odd day when serving feels less joyful and more like hard work? Thankfully such days don’t see us bound to the problematic path towards unbelief. Our book for March, Serving Without Sinking by John Hindley bears the tagline “How to serve Christ and keep your joy”. My prayer is that as we dive into it together, we might come to a rebalanced view of God, service and ourselves in the scheme of God’s mission.
Early on in the second chapter, ‘Serving Can Be Joyful’, we are taken to Matthew 11 and Jesus’ declaration that he offers rest and a yoke to take upon ourselves that is easy and light.
Have you ever read those few verses, only to be left wondering how taking up a yoke and rest go together? But what stands out in this chapter is that both of what Jesus offers here live in tandem in the Christian experience, rather than being at odds with each other. Jesus offers His people rest. He offers us a yoke, a job to take up in the work of His kingdom and plan.
As we dig deeper with the writer, it seems obvious that the yoke would quickly become hard and weighty without the rest that comes from security in Christ. Likewise the rest would be fruitless without the pursuit of what pleases the God who grants it to us. It is when there is an imbalance that our service swings in the joyless direction.
The third chapter continues on to expose our easily adopted wrong views of God, ourselves, and service: a problem of the heart. Reading on I recognised the wrong views I have held at one time or another, views which meant I robbed myself of the joy that comes from service. Don’t we all, now and again, view service not as a privilege, but a burden, not as a response but a requirement, not a contribution but the lynchpin.
It’s at this point that I want to commend the author’s genuine, humble and real approach to this struggle we all face. Hindley is not afraid to use the very personal pronoun ‘I’ and to put himself forward as the prime example of every misguided attitude to service. As I read through and feel challenged about what’s going on in my own heart, Hindley has already relieved me from the burden of feeling like the world’s one and only sinner.
These first few chapters of Serving Without Sinking have so far brought me to understand the views and attitudes that can lead to my resentment of serving. Hindley paints pictures of a range of people we might be like in our attitude to serving. Did you recognise yourself in any (or all) of them? I have been the person who serves because I think God needs that from me. I have been the person who serves only because I know it will be seen and admired. I have been the person who serves to try and stay in God’s good books. But God is the one who has graciously outstretched a saving arm to fallen people like me. We should take a step back in amazement at the thought that this God just as graciously allows us to be included in making this message known.
About our contributor: I’ve been a Sydney girl all twenty-three years of my life and have just moved from the leafy 'burbs of Northern Sydney to the narrow streets and terraces of Newtown.