Talbot School of Theology professors Rick Langer and Joanne J. Jung are authors of the new book The Call to Follow: Hearing Jesus in a Culture Obsessed with Leadership. Join Good Book Blog on a series of four posts written by Langer and Jung on the call to follow. Below is the third post in the series. Read the first post, “A Book on Followership, Really?,” and the second post, “Was Jesus a Follower?”

In the last post we saw that following is a valued something — not an insignificant nothing. It is not merely the absence of leadership or the failure to lead, but it is a demanding and important activity in its own right. In fact, it is so demanding and important that Jesus appears to understand being a follower as part of his fundamental calling and identity. Following is significant enough that it demanded the best from the incarnate Christ himself!

At this point, faithful following may suddenly sound both daunting and difficult. Biblically, it appears to be both.

In biblical following, Jesus invites us to be his “yokemates.” To follow him is to bear his yoke. This strikes our ears as strange — we rarely talk about yokes and when we do, it is almost always associated with something unpleasant. And in that sense, yokes capture a bit of the daunting side of following Jesus. But on the other hand, Jesus also says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Those who take his yoke upon themselves find rest for their souls. Once we wear the yoke, we discover that we were born for it — or perhaps we should say born again for it.

We should also be clear that the yoke is not easy because Jesus takes us along easy paths. Far from it. In fact, the paths trod by those who bear the yoke of Jesus are often excruciatingly difficult — they are the paths of cross-bearers. The yoke is not easy because our path will be easy; the yoke is easy because it keeps us attached to Jesus no matter the path we walk. When the path demands great strength, we find ourselves yoked to the one to whom all power and authority has been given. When our path includes hunger, we find ourselves yoked to the Bread of Life.

When we find ourselves thirsty, we are yoked to the Living Water. When we find ourselves lost in the darkness, we discover we are yoked to the Light of the World. When we find ourselves assaulted by wolves, we discover we are yoked to the Good Shepherd and we find comfort in the protection of his rod and staff. In short, the miracle of successful following is not found in the ease of the yoke but in the nearness of our yokemate. It is in abiding in Jesus that we find rest, and the yoke helps assure that we abide.

We are attached to his vine. We draw daily nourishment through the presence of the Holy Spirit. We walk through our days that have already been written in God’s book before even one of them is lived (Psalm 139:16). Whatever we walk through, we walk in the comforter, strengthener, encourager — the Spirit of God.

In all that we are called to do, we will do it because Jesus has gone before us. He demands of us only what he has modeled for us; we share only what he has given us. We walk through this world as followers, passing on only what we have received:

  • We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

  • We forgive because he first forgave us (Col. 3:13).

  • We comfort with the comfort he gives us (2 Cor. 1:3–4).

  • We serve because he came to serve (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28)

  • We give because we have freely received (Matt. 10:8)

  • We extend mercy because he is merciful to us (Matt. 18:33)

  • We reconcile with others because he reconciled us to himself (2 Cor. 5:18)

  • We welcome because he first welcomed us (Rom. 15:7).

And as we lean into knowing the God of the Word through the Word of God and daily seek to align with God’s Spirit, we allow God’s Word to penetrate our hearts. As a result, his Spirit can more readily enable us to truly follow in his footsteps. Soul rhythms cultivate a heart of following. Review the list above in a time of silence and solitude, prayer and humility through the grace of confession and the grace of thanksgiving. Be reminded of the wonderful Spirit-given gift to share what you have received, extending friendship to a stranger, and proving that God never puts two people together for the benefit of one but for three: the other person, yourself and God.

And if the joy of being a conduit of the grace we have received was not enough, we also receive rewards. Our souls are refreshed, our family and ministries flourish, and we can be confident knowing that our obedience to the master is not only noticed but highly regarded. The greatest blessing we can ever know is to hear God almighty’s words directed to us, as faithful followers, declaring, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Listen to Scott Rae and Sean McDowell interview author Rick Langer about The Call to Follow on the Think Biblically podcast.