Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Life without Christ, life divorced from righteousness, is harder than life in Christ in the pursuit of righteousness. This is the message of Jesus in Matthew 11:29-30. It is also a central theme of Dallas Willard in his now classic book, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. I’ve been reading this book over the summer and trying to absorb its meaning and I’d like to pass on to you what I am learning.
Of the easy yoke Christ proclaimed Willard observes the following:
“To many, Jesus words are frankly bewildering. We hear them often quoted, because the idea they express is obviously one that attracts and delights, but there seems to be something about the way we approach them, something about what we think it means to walk with Christ and obey him, that prevents most of us from entering into the reality which they express.”
Or as another wise man said, “The Christian life has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.”
Willard is right. Living life in the power of Christ is much easier, much freer, and much more powerful than the Christian life as experienced that most of us are familiar with. But it seems hard, too hard to pull off. We know that we are supposed to experience and express the qualities that Jesus modeled: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control etc. But quite often our experience, the actual life we live, falls short of these ideals. Why is that?
Consider the lives of two of the USA’s recent Olympic champions: Gabby Douglas and Michael Phelps. Both of them are obviously remarkably naturally gifted athletes. They have physical endowments that gave them an edge in their respective sports. And both gave gold medal performances under the highest pressure imaginable. They made it look easy, the true mark of champions. But neither one of them could have performed at such a level without the disciplines they have submitted themselves to for years. They’re hard training brought their natural gifts to full flower.
We too, born again Christians, have been given remarkable spiritual gifts. In the opening paragraphs of his second letter the Apostle Peter says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Those gifts, however, will do us no earthly good if we do not begin to incorporate into our lives the disciplines that will bring them to full flower.
The yoke that Jesus mentioned is easy. But it is a yoke. It is a life lived under his control and according to his priorities. I encourage you to pursue with me what it means to live like that. I’m sure that it will seem hard at first. But in the end, it is the easy way.
 Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, Harper & Row, Publishers, San Francisco. p. 2.