Excerpt from Devotional Classics

The Must I?” of Duty

There is, per­haps, no part of Chris­t­ian expe­ri­ence where a greater change occurs, upon enter­ing into this life hid with Christ in God, than in the mat­ter of service. 

In all the ordi­nary forms of Chris­t­ian life, ser­vice is apt to have more or less of bondage in it; that is, it is done pure­ly as a mat­ter of duty, and often as a tri­al and a cross. Cer­tain things, which at the first may have been a joy and a delight, become after a while weary tasks, per­formed faith­ful­ly, per­haps, but with much secret dis­in­cli­na­tion, and many con­fessed or uncon­fessed wish­es that they need not be done at all, or at least that they need not be done so often. 

The soul finds itself say­ing, instead of the May I?” of love, the Must I?” of duty. The yoke, which was at first easy, begins to gall, and the bur­den feels heavy instead of light.

The Tread­mill of Dai­ly Chris­t­ian Work 

One dear Chris­t­ian expressed it once to me in this way: When I was first con­vert­ed,” she said, I was so full of joy and love that I was only too glad and thank­ful to be allowed to do any­thing for my Lord, and I eager­ly entered every open door. But after a while, as my ear­ly joy fad­ed away, and my love burned less fer­vent­ly, I began to wish I had not been quite so eager; for I found myself involved in lines of ser­vice that were grad­u­al­ly becom­ing very dis­taste­ful and bur­den­some to me. 

Since I had begun them, I could not very well give them up with­out excit­ing great remark, and yet I longed to do so increas­ing­ly. I was expect­ed to vis­it the sick, pray beside their beds. I was expect­ed to attend prayer-meet­ings, and speak at them. I was expect­ed, in short, to be always ready for every effort in Chris­t­ian work, and the sense of these expec­ta­tions bowed me down continually. 

At last it became so unspeak­ably bur­den­some to me to live the sort of Chris­t­ian life I had entered upon, and was expect­ed to live, that I felt as if any kind of man­u­al labor would have been eas­i­er; and I would have infi­nite­ly pre­ferred scrub­bing all day on my hands and knees to being com­pelled to go through the tread­mill of my dai­ly Chris­t­ian work. I envied,” she said, the ser­vants in the kitchen, and the women at the washtubs.” 

A Con­stant Burden 

This may seem to some like a strong state­ment; but does it not present a vivid pic­ture of some of your own expe­ri­ences, dear Chris­t­ian? Have you nev­er gone to work as a slave to his dai­ly task, believ­ing it to be your duty and that there­fore you must do it, but rebound­ing like an Indi­an-rub­ber ball back into your real inter­ests and plea­sures the moment your work was over? 

You have known of course that this was the wrong way to feel, and have been thor­ough­ly ashamed of it, but still you have seen no way to help it. You have not loved your work; and, could you have done so with an easy con­science, you would have been glad to give it up altogether. 

Or, if this does not describe your case, per­haps anoth­er pic­ture will. You do love your work in the abstract, but in the doing of it you find so many cares and respon­si­bil­i­ties con­nect­ed with it, and feel so many mis­giv­ings and doubts as to your own capac­i­ty or fit­ness, that it becomes a very heavy bur­den, and you go to it bowed down and weary before the labor has even begun. Then also you are con­tin­u­al­ly dis­tress­ing your­self about the results of your work, and great­ly trou­bled if they are not just what you would like; and this of itself is a con­stant bur­den.

The Things We Want to Do 

Now, from all these forms of bondage the soul that enters ful­ly into the blessed life of faith is entire­ly deliv­ered. In the first place, ser­vice of any sort becomes delight­ful to it, because, hav­ing sur­ren­dered its will into the keep­ing of the Lord, He works in it to will and to do His good plea­sure, and the soul finds itself real­ly want­i­ng to do the things God wants it to do. 

It is always very pleas­ant to do the things we want to do, even if they are dif­fi­cult to accom­plish, or make our bod­ies tired. If our will is real­ly set on a thing we view the obsta­cles that lie in the way of reach­ing it with a sub­lime indif­fer­ence, and we laugh to our­selves at the idea of any oppo­si­tion or dif­fi­cul­ties which might hin­der us. How many men have gone glad­ly to the ends of the world in search of world­ly for­tunes, or to ful­fill world­ly ambi­tions, and have scorned the thought of any cross” con­nect­ed with it! How many moth­ers have con­grat­u­lat­ed them­selves, and rejoiced over the hon­or done their sons in see­ing them pro­mot­ed to some place of pow­er and use­ful­ness in their country’s ser­vice, although it has involved per­haps years of sep­a­ra­tion, and a life of hard­ship for their dear ones! And yet these same men, and these very moth­ers, would have felt and said that they were tak­ing up cross­es too heavy almost to be borne, had the ser­vice of Christ required the same sac­ri­fice of home, and friends, and world­ly ease. 

Con­strain­ing Us by Love 

It is alto­geth­er the way we look at things, whether we think they are cross­es or not. And I am ashamed to think that any Chris­t­ian should ever put on a long face and shed tears over doing a thing for Christ which a world­ly per­son would be only too glad to do for money. 

What we need in the Chris­t­ian life is to get believ­ers to want to do God’s will as much as oth­er peo­ple want to do their own will. And this is the idea of the Gospel. It is what God intend­ed for us; and it is what He promised. In describ­ing the new covenant in Hebrews 8:6 – 13, He says it shall no more be the old covenant made on Sinai, — that is, a law giv­en from the out­side, con­trol­ling a man by force, — but it shall be a law writ­ten with­in, con­strain­ing us by love. 

I will put my laws,” He says, into their minds, and write them on their hearts.” This can mean noth­ing but that we shall love His law; for any­thing writ­ten in our hearts we must love. And putting it into our minds” is sure­ly the same as God work­ing in us to will and to do of his good plea­sure,” and means that we shall will what God wills, and shall obey His sweet com­mands, not because it is our duty to do so, but because we our­selves want to do what He wants us to do.

God’s Way of Working 

Noth­ing could pos­si­bly be con­ceived more effec­tu­al than this. How often have we thought, when deal­ing with our chil­dren, Oh, if I could only get inside of them, and make them want to do just what I want, how easy it would be to man­age them then!” How often in prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence we have found that to deal with cross-grained peo­ple we most care­ful­ly avoid sug­gest­ing our wish­es to them, but must in some way induce them to sug­gest the thing them­selves, sure that there will then be no oppo­si­tion with which to con­tend. And we, who are by nature a stiff-necked peo­ple, always rebel more or less against a law from out­side of us, while we joy­ful­ly embrace the same law spring­ing up within. 

God’s way of work­ing, there­fore, is to get pos­ses­sion of the inside of us, to take the con­trol and man­age­ment of our will, and to work it for us. Then obe­di­ence is easy and a delight, and ser­vice becomes per­fect free­dom, until the Chris­t­ian is forced to explain, This hap­py ser­vice! Who could dream earth had such liberty?” 

Entire Con­trol

What you need to do, then, dear Chris­t­ian, if you are in bondage in the mat­ter of ser­vice, is to put your will over com­plete­ly into the hands of your Lord, sur­ren­der­ing to Him the entire con­trol of it. Say, Yes, Lord, yes!” to every­thing, and trust Him so to work in you to will as to bring your whole wish­es and affec­tions into con­for­mi­ty with His own sweet, and lov­able, and most love­ly will. 

I have seen this done often in cas­es where it looked before­hand an utter­ly impos­si­ble thing. In one case, where a lady had been for years rebelling fear­ful­ly against a lit­tle act of ser­vice which she knew was right, but which she hat­ed, I saw her, out of the depths of despair, and with­out any feel­ing what­ev­er, give her will in that mat­ter up into the hands of her Lord, and begin to say to Him, Thy will be done; Thy will be done!” And in one short hour that very thing began to look sweet and pre­cious to her. 

The Lord Is Our Burden-Bearer 

Many Chris­tians, as I have said, love God’s will in the abstract, but car­ry great bur­dens in con­nec­tion with it. From this also there is deliv­er­ance in the won­der­ful life of faith. For in this way of life no bur­dens are car­ried, no anx­i­eties felt. The Lord is our bur­den-bear­er, and upon Him we must lay off every care. He says, in effect, Be care­ful for noth­ing, but make your requests known to me, and I will attend to them all.” 

Be care­ful for noth­ing, He says, not even your ser­vice. Why? Because we are so utter­ly help­less that no mat­ter how care­ful we were, our ser­vice would amount to noth­ing! What have we to do with think­ing whether we are fit or not fit for ser­vice? The Mas­ter-work­man sure­ly has a right to use any tool He pleas­es for His own work, and it is plain­ly not the busi­ness of the tool to decide whether it is the right one to be used or not. He knows; and if He choos­es to use us, of course we must be fit. And in truth, if we only knew it, our chief fit­ness is in our utter help­less­ness. His strength is made per­fect, not in our strength, but in our weak­ness. Our strength is only a hindrance.

PC: logan­ban

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