“A-h-h-h-h! It feels so good to get this pack off my back,” I whined as I eased down to the ground. “At least it’s not raining,” someone offered. It was late 1970, and we were operating in the Que Son Mountains in South Vietnam. The monsoon season was raging, and to be resupplied, we had to hike down the mountains to a helicopter LZ (Landing Zone) to pick up food and ammunition. Climbing back up the mountain with our arms full and overloaded packs was wearing us out. The smartest guy was the one who offered to walk point, knowing he shouldn’t be overloaded so he could react immediately if he contacted the enemy.

As Christians, we can also find ourselves “overloaded” because we become workers before we become worshippers. In far too many churches, we overload new Christians with a burden of service before they have learned the secret of God’s strength in their lives. Nehemiah tells us,

“Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10, ESV)

Pastor, author, and prophet A. W. Tozer explains this disconnect.

“The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to restore the lost soul to intimate fellowship with God through the washing of regeneration. . . God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. It is inconceivable that a sovereign and holy God should be so hard up for workers that He would press into service anyone who had been empowered regardless of his moral qualifications. . . Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart; but holiness and spiritual worship come first.”

(A. W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian)

My “joy” comes through my intimate relationship with King Jesus. Knowing and worshipping the King of Kings must come before service. Jesus told us,

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15, ESV)

I learn to love my Savior when I spend time worshipping Him. Jesus explained this to His disciples in the upper room hours before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Speaking of the things He had commanded them and of their need to abide in Him, He summarized it by saying,

“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11, ESV)

A worshipper is a joyful servant and a tireless servant because their strength is not their own. The “joy of the Lord” is their strength. We get the cart before the horse when we put people to work before they know Him whom they serve, and we wear them out.

Christian service is a blessing and an honor when it is an act of worship to the King. Jesus told His disciples,

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b-32, ESV)

He then went on to say,

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, ESV)

The Son came to not only set us free from the burden of our sin, but also from the burden of service. He told us as much when He said,

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)

If serving has become burdensome to you, it’s time to drop that overloaded backpack and enter into the rest and joy of Jesus, your King.

What say you, Man of Valor?

Adapted from Men of Valor Devotional by Ron Helle, 5 April 2024

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