Obstacles to service

The 12 men who spent roughly two extraordinary years in the company of our Lord during His earthly ministry, often had difficulty understanding the nature of the spiritual commitment that Jesus demanded. Their struggles are emblematic of the same spiritual obstacles we often face today.

In Luke 9, Jesus sent out these 12 men on a limited mission, preparing them for the obstacles they would face when He was gone. When they returned, Jesus began to seriously prepare them for what lay ahead, and the spiritual challenges they would encounter. He foretold His death (9:21-22), He exhorted them in the nature of true discipleship (9:23-27), and then He foretold His death again (9:43-45). Meanwhile, the disciples argued about who was greatest. It must have been maddening for Jesus to see this. In the closing verses of the chapter, Jesus got down to brass tacks: the cost of service.

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. – Luke 9.58

The life of a disciple is not intended to be one of comfort. Jesus calls us to a life of service, not a life of ease. Modern culture, however, emphasizes the rightful earning of rest, relaxation, and constant entertainment. We protest the anguish of toiling in air conditioned comfort, with constant breaks, a lunch hour with enough food to last most of the rest of the world a week, and can’t wait to rush home, plop down on the couch, enjoy our third meal of the day, and be entertained by some electronic marvel for 2-3 hours, before we collapse in a bed more comfortable than anything our Lord felt in His entire life. And complain before dozing off that we’ll only get 7 hours of sleep before we have to perform the same wretched routine again the next day, for an amount of money that is 10 times what we need to live. But when asked to sacrifice one of our busy nights to visit a sick brother, or encourage another, we’re just too tired.

To another He said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” … Yet another said, I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” – Luke 9.59,61

The Lord has no time for excuses. His response to these would-be disciples was direct:

No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. – v.62

A huge obstacle to our commitment to service is our attitude of entitlement. We are jealous with our time, and we don’t want anyone telling us how we must use it — certainly not an unseen God. Service to fellow man or brother becomes work, and don’t we work enough already? Our “free time” is for our own personal use. And does the Lord really begrudge us having some time to relax and recharge our batteries?

When Jesus demanded a completely reasonable commitment of time, resources, and effort from His disciples, they offered excuses. To our way of thinking, these excuses are reasonable — burying a loved one, or telling family farewell before embarking on a life of service.  Jesus was not trying to suggest that there is no place or time for personal activity in the life of a servant. The same Lord taught to show love and piety at home, and to respect and honor parents. But we cannot allow any circumstance or person to stand as an excuse from our duty to God. If our dearest relation stands in the way of our service, it is necessary for us to “deny father and mother,” as Jesus taught. As disciples, we are called to be servants — first and foremost. We are not to become “entangled in civilian pursuits” (2 Timothy 2.4), nor when the Lord calls us to service should we “consult with anyone” (Galatians 1.16) from a human standpoint.

For every Christian desiring to grow and mature, service is the key to a healthy spiritual relationship, and, collectively, to a properly functioning group of disciples. Involvement of all is critical to the personal growth of each, and the collective growth and potential we so desire. But if we look upon service as irksome or laborious, or we can easily be tempted by the world’s pursuits to put off our service, then Jesus is right: we are not fit for the kingdom.

May grace reign through righteousness in your life.

– Bo Couchman

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