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
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
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
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
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.