Following Jesus: Following Joy

Some people believe that Joy is in short supply in our world. That’s not hard to believe, given the events of the past few months and the pandemic we are enduring day by day. The anger and unrest that rumbles beneath the surface, and sometimes erupts, has caused many to lose joy.

It is hard to talk about joy. I had a professor in Holland who spent three years talking about anxiety. We studied Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Camus, and a lot of other people who made a career out of writing about anxiety. I asked him, “Can you do a lecture on joy?” He said, “I tried, but I don’t have much to say about it.”

Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

Even for Christians, joy is often confused with a good emotional feeling – and feelings are fickle.

No matter what we are enduring at the moment, Jesus can bring a certain joy to our lives that circumstances cannot steal from us. Joy that comes from following Jesus is our constant companion, it is a gift from Him to our hearts.

The FOLLOWING JESUS sermon series has a consistent message: Jesus Invites You to Follow Him. I hope that the privilege of that invitation has come through. The invitation to the first disciples was “Come and See” . His call was to follow Him and become “fishers of men.” He calls us to the Jesus Life – a different kind of life. It calls upon us to love our enemies. It calls upon us to carry our cross. It calls upon us to experience joy found only in Christ.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.

John 15:9-14, NIV

How Following Jesus Gives us Joy

WE ARE LOVED (John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you….)

Jesus Loves Me is more than a children’s song! It is rich with the truth of the gospel!

Ephesians 3:17-19 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

WE HAVE DIRECTION (John 15:9b-10 Now remain in my love.)

When we give ourselves to Christ, the Tempter is never far away. Our faith can be both strong and weak. We need to do everything we can to strengthen our faith to give us resilience in the most difficult days.

Living in His love is living in compliance – having a willing spirit. (John 15:10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.) He calls us to live the Jesus life. Many people have an idea that Christianity is just a matter of where we go to Church on Sunday. Really, it is a matter of who is in control of your heart. Jesus never walked outside of the will of His Father. This is our example for daily life in the Kingdom today.

WE HAVE PROMISE (John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.)

Do we really believe Jesus when he says that His joy is complete?

“The great challenge is to claim the joy that Jesus offers us. Jesus is God of the living. Jesus came to bring life, and life in abundance. Jesus came to break the chain of wounds and needs and to overcome death. He came to give life, and life is joy.”

Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

WE HAVE FRIENDS (John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.)

We are not in this alone – we have each other.

Jesus is our greatest friend (John 15:13-14 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.)

The One you and I are called to follow is the Lord of history, the Risen Lord who is the Gate to heaven, the Door to Eternal Life, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, who is the only Son of God, full of majesty and glory, who is the Giver of abundant life, who is our Lord, always drawing us closer into the mystery of God’s life. He is not a cozy friend whom you have a chat with. That is not the spiritual life. He is the Lord who calls you into communion with God.”

Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

How do we walk through the days of our life with Joy beyond our circumstances?

With our eyes on serving and loving others. (Philippians 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…”)

With our eyes on taking care of our own souls. (Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.)

With our eyes on those who have gone before. (Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…)

With our eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:2 …Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.)

With our eyes on eternity. (Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.)

Joy is not in short supply in our world because Jesus, the source of true joy, is available, open, desiring, inviting, and even drawing all unto himself.

Resource:
Nouwen, Henry. Following Jesus: Finding Our Way Home in an Age of Anxiety. New York: Convergent, 2019.