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Worship Message - Follow on Good and Bad Days Alike

Follow on Good and Bad Days Alike

Do whatever He - do whatever Jesus - tells you. That is the theme of our messages

during this time between the just-passed season of Advent, when we celebrated the birth

of Jesus, and the soon-to-start season of Lent, when we will remember the suffering of

Jesus. Suffering that led to Jesus sacrificing His life for us.

Last week we considered what Jesus tells us about the spiritual direction He wants us to

go. Specifically, His call is for us to repent of our sins, to believe in Him as the Savior,

and to follow Him as the Lord.

Today we are going to consider some Bible passages that continue His challenge to

follow Him. To do so on good days and difficult days alike. Three passages will be

considered. One from Luke, one from Matthew, one from John.

First, Luke 21.

The main verse in that chapter for this message is verse 8. However, as is often the case,

it is important to also consider some of the verses around that one to get the full impact

of it.

Luke 21 begins with Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem. From the context of the chapter,

I think He was sitting. Perhaps He was resting for a bit. Right before this He had been

confronted by many of the religious leaders of the Jews, the leaders trying to trick Jesus

into saying something that would get Him into trouble.

Their plan did not work, but after Jesus sat for just a bit, He looked up and saw some

rich people putting their gifts into the treasury. I understand that many of those who

did that did so in ways that assured others would notice their generosity.

But then a poor widow quietly slipped up to where offerings were being deposited.

Jesus noticed she put in just two copper coins, doing so without fanfare.

I assume Jesus’ disciples were in the Temple, too - that they were with Him - because He

said, “Truly I tell you [I assume you refers to His disciples], this poor widow has put in

more than all of them [all the rich ones].”

Of course, on the surface of it, that was not an accurate statement. The woman’s two

coins were certainly no match monetarily for what the rich gave. But in ways that are

more important than the amount, it was a true statement because, Jesus added, the rich

ones before her “all contributed out of their abundance, but she, out of her poverty, put

in all the living that she had.”

Shortly after that, as some, probably again referring to His disciples, spoke of the

Temple - as they oohed and aahed about how it was adorned - Jesus said, “As for these

things which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left one stone upon

another that will not be thrown down.”

Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when

this is about to take place?” He answered - and this is the key verse in this chapter for

this message - “Take heed that you are not led astray.”

That refers directly to what Jesus tells us about following Him because, as He added,

there were going to be many who would come in His name. Many who would claim to

be Him, as in the one who had come to save people. “I am He,” they were going to say,

along with, “The time is at hand.”

Interestingly, Jesus went on to list all sorts of problems that were going to occur and still

occur even now. Problems that can so easily convince people the world is falling apart.

Which can so easily lead to fear. Fear that can so easily persuade people to follow

anyone who claims they can help, including spiritually. On the list are “wars and

tumults, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom” and “great

earthquakes and famines and pestilences, even terrors and great signs from the skies.”

“Do not go after them,” Jesus said. Do not go after anyone else who claims to be able to

help in any of those situations. Do not go after anyone but Jesus.

Why? Because Jesus is the one and only help. The one and only hope. That is true, no

matter how persuasive anyone else is, especially in times of trouble.

Of course, doing that - staying true to the Lord, following Him and Him only - may not

be easy on good days either. On good days it is so easy to rely on ourselves and our good

fortunes. After all, it is easy, is it not, to think, when things are going well, that we have

things pretty well under control. Of course, our good times come because of Jesus.

Because of Him blessing us with such times. But it can be easy to take personal credit

for our good times.

But following God can also be difficult on difficult days, which Jesus went on to address.

Jesus told His disciples - again, since it is in the Bible, He tells us, too - that “there will

come times when they [referring to the enemies of Jesus and His people] will lay their

hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you up to the synagogues and

prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for My name's sake.”

Wow. What difficult times those will be.

You know, I have wondered from time to time, especially recently, if I am willing to go to

prison for my faith. I would like to think I am strong enough for that, but I will admit to

not being sure.

Yet Jesus predicted that might happen. It did happen for the original disciples of Jesus.

And yes, those were and they will be very difficult times. But the call is still to follow

Jesus. Why? Jesus said, “This will be a time for you to bear testimony.”

And the reward for following Him - for testifying about Him - in times of persecution?

Jesus added, “Do not meditate beforehand how to answer the persecutors.” Honestly,

that is a strange concept for me. I like to know ahead of time what I am going to say.

But “do not meditate on how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which

none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.”

Jesus went on to predict that being arrested for faith may even be at the hands of family

members. And Jesus predicted that some who are arrested will not survive physically,

and that others will be hated because of Him.

But listen to another reward for following Jesus at such times. “By your endurance you

will gain your lives.” Maybe not physically, but most certainly spiritually.

Do whatever He tells you. Including to follow Him. To do so on good days and difficult

days alike. Do not go after anyone else. Follow Him only.

Which should be easier to do, even on difficult days, as we consider the second passage

for today, which is in Matthew 11.

The first passage, which was in Luke, came late in Jesus’ ministry. This second one, in

Matthew, came in about the middle of His ministry. He had just sent His disciples out

on kind of a hands on training opportunity. He had done some miracles, including

healing people and raising a girl from death. He had done some preaching. He had

done some teaching.

It was at about the halfway point of His ministry that Jesus, perhaps sensing that the

people He was serving were distraught with political problems and physical problems

and personal problems, said these words in verses 28 through 30 of Matthew 11: “Come

to Me [that is another way of saying, ‘follow Me’], all who labor and are heavy laden. Do

that, 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.”

Let me ask. Do you labor? Listen for the meaning, but do you labor? Are you heavy


For the Jews Jesus was serving, that described them. They urgently wanted to know -

they labored, this referring not to their daily work, but to their spiritual struggles - they

sincerely wanted to know the truth. They sincerely wanted to know the truth so they

could be righteous.

But their human natures so often got in the way. And it seems their religious leaders

were no help. It seems about all the leaders did was add more and more rules and

regulations that had to be followed. If it was difficult to follow a few rules, referring to

what is taught very clearly in the Old Testament, think how much more difficult it

became as more and more regulations were added all the time as the religious leaders

thought they had to use them to explain what was in the Old Testament.

Do you labor spiritually now? Are you heavy laden now? Do you need rest? The one to

help you - the one to give you rest - is Jesus. That is what this passages teaches.

Do you need to learn how to rest - how to rely on Him rather than yourself or others?

Jesus is the one who can teach you. That is what this passage teaches.

And think how interesting the wording is, which is perhaps a bit more understandable

back then when yoked animals were seen around most of the nation of Israel. The

wording is interesting because you would think a yoke would be a negative thing. I

mean, it restricts, does it not? It forces an animal to go where the master wants it to go

and do what the master wants it to do.

But think of it spiritually. Is it not where Jesus, our Master, wants us to go and what He

wants us to do that we should go and do? And what better way to do that - what better

way to follow Him - than to have His yoke upon us so we can go no way other than His

way and do nothing other than what He wants? Lack of freedom? I suppose. Sure. But

think of the reward, which is the privilege of going only His direction, knowing that is

what is best for us.

And add this to our thinking. It is only by being yoked that an animal will achieve its

purpose. Do you suppose the same can be said for us? That it is only when we are

directed and controlled by Jesus that we will accomplish what He wants us to do?

Plus, His yoke is easy, which means it fits well. The weight is distributed nicely. It does

not chafe.

In fact, His yoke actually makes our Christian work easier. An easy yoke means He will

give us things to do that He has gifted us to do. And if that happens to not be the case,

as in Him giving us places to go and things to do that are out of our comfort zones, He

will add the strength or the wisdom we need.

And His burden. It is light. Which is interesting wording, too, in that sometimes, what

the Lord wants us to do can be difficult. Again, if it causes us to get out of our comfort

zones, His burden can be quite heavy.

But what makes it light - what should at least make it lighter - is that His burden is

serving Him, making Him happy, furthering His cause, which should make whatever we

do - doing whatever He tells us - our main goal.

With that, I was reminded in my study of the Boys Town motto.

Boys Town started right outside Omaha almost a hundred years ago. The founder was

Father Edward Flanagan, who started Boys Town as a home for troubled or homeless


According to what I read, the inspiration for the Boys Town motto came in 1941 when

Father Flanagan came across a drawing of a boy carrying a younger boy on his back. A

drawing with the caption, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”

I understand the logo was updated in 1979 with the addition of a girl carrying a younger


And the Two Brothers concept was actually witnessed by Father Flanagan before he saw

the drawing. In 1921, there was a young boy at Boys Town who had difficulty walking

due to leg braces. Other boys would take turns giving him rides on their backs.

But is that not a good depiction of what Jesus wants us to do, as in carrying the burdens

He gives us to carry? As in helping others in His name? Is anyone you know weak or in

a difficult time? Maybe crippled in some way, including spiritually? Is Jesus calling you

to help? Is that a burden He has put on you. If so, carry it. Carry the person, at least

figuratively. And yes, we, too, should be able to say, “They ain’t heavy, they are our

brother or our sister,” at least spiritually.

And guess what. We can do that because Jesus also carries us when we need it.

And when we do not need to be carried, He offers us His yoke so we can be doing His

work. May you and may I - may we - take His yoke and carry whatever burden He gives

us. May that be our goal so that in every situation, we will be able to overcome whatever

difficulties we face. And again, helping others to do the same.

Tough? You bet. But certainly possible as we now get to the third passage for this

message on doing whatever Jesus tells us, including when He tells us to follow Him. A

passage in the first part of John 15. A passage that gives us a bit of an agricultural


John 15, beginning with verse 1. This, like the first passage we considered, records

something that happened late in Jesus’ ministry, this one coming shortly before Jesus

was arrested. These words were spoken during the last evening Jesus and His disciples

were together before His crucifixion.

Jesus said many things at that gathering, including this: “I am the true vine, and my

Father is the vinedresser.”

It strikes me that the word “true” is important. It tells me there are lots of things to

which we can be attached. But spiritually, He is the true vine. The only one worth being

connected to.

Jesus then gave a warning. He said, “Every branch of Mine [anyone who claims to be

one of His people - everyone claiming to be connected to the true vine] that bears no

fruit, He [God, the vinedresser] takes away.”

Putting that into the context of the theme of this message, anyone who claims to be a

Christian, but does not do whatever He says,including following Him on good days and

difficult days alike, will face certain consequences.

And hey, here is something I want to share. Something I have not ever read before, but

did in studying for this message.

It seems the Greek word for take away, which has a very harsh connotation, can also

mean, in our language, “lift up.” As in, God can cut off and take away an unproductive

branch. But He can also tenderly lift such a branch off the ground and suspend it in the

air, which is the best position for a branch to be in to bear fruit.

Which seems to fit the mood of a word that follows - the word “prune” and what follows

it. In gardening, pruning is done, for instance with grape vines, not to kill them, but so

they can be more productive. So that, as Jesus added, “the branch may bear more fruit.”

Actually, I think the meaning is that one way or another, any Christian who does not do

what Jesus says, will suffer. As Jesus continued, the wording He used is that such a

person “withers.”

There is danger in that. As there is a bit later, when Jesus said, “If a man does not abide

in Me, the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” So yes, this is

serious stuff Jesus said. If a person never changes from disobedience, the consequences

will be very negative.

But perhaps God’s hope is not the destruction of such a person. Perhaps His hope is

that such a person will not wither spiritually. Perhaps His plan is to keep working with

that person. To keep trying to work with and encourage that person. To lift him or her

up so he or she can eventually grow into all he or she should be - what God wants them

to be, as in fruitful.

But then some positive words for sure. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.

He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.”

And it is not just fruit, as important as that is to Jesus. Listen to this that He added. “If

you abide in Me, and My words abide in you [once again, if we will know and then do

whatever Jesus tells us], ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.”

And then this key phrase” “For apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

D0 whatever Jesus tells you, including to repent, believe in Him, and follow Him.

Do whatever Jesus tells you. Stay connected to Him. Follow Him on good days and

difficult days alike. Follow Him and Him only. Do not go after anyone or anything else,

even if someone or something else is attractive. Do that by accepting His yoke and by

carrying whatever burden He has for you. Do that the only way you can, which is to be

connected to Him as closely as a branch is to its vine.

Do whatever Jesus tells you. Do that and be protected against whatever is false. Do that

and have rest when it is needed. Do that and be fruitful. Do that and have your prayers


Do whatever Jesus tells you, which leads to today’s closing song, which is a reminder of

that challenge. It is the hymn A Charge to Keep I Have. I have changed the order of the

verses a bit, and a few of the words, to better fit the flow of today’s message, but may we

be challenged to do whatever Jesus tells us.

A charge to keep I have,

A God to glorify,

A never-dying soul to save,

And fit it for the sky.

Help me to watch and pray,

And on You, Lord, rely,

Assured if I Your trust betray

I shall forever die.

Arm me with jealous care,

As in Your sight to live;

And o Your servant, Lord, prepare,

A strict account to give!

To serve the present age,

My calling to fulfill,

O may it all my powers engage

To do my Master’s will!

Repent, believe in, and follow the Lord. Follow Him on good days and difficult days

alike. Follow Jesus and Him alone. The goal being rest when we need it and our

fruitfulness always. Jesus tells us all that. Today, do whatever He tells you. Amen.

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