The Joy of Following Jesus

[This past weekend, I had the privilege of officiating the wedding ceremony of Nathaniel Lee and Brynna Sinyard. Below is my homily. It is a message I need to hear regularly. I assume you do also.]

For whoever would save his life will lose it, 

but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  

Luke 9:24

Nate, Bryana, it has been a joy getting to know you these past couple of years. And it has been a privilege shepherding you to grow in your love for God and one another.

I am sorry you are leaving Trinity. From the pictures you have taken, to the classes you have taught, you have been a true blessing to our church family. But, at the same time, I am happy for you as you begin this next stage of your life together.

I know from our many conversations the earnest zeal you share to present your united life as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable in his sight. And I know the plans you have made to that end.

I want you to know that, just as Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, my prayer for you is that God would fulfill your every resolve for good and grant to you the desire of your heart. And I am sure there are many here who join me in that prayer.

But, at the same time, I want you to know that not all your plans will come to fruition, not all your dreams will be realized. Some you will joyfully set aside as you take up better options. Others you will discard simply because they no longer hold your interest. But still others, despite your best efforts, for one reason or another, you just won’t be able to accomplish.

I think of Paul’s writing to the Romans. He  says,  “I long to preach the gospel in Rome, and many times have intended to come to you, but thus far I have been prevented.”

Imagine that. It was Paul’s ambition to serve God by taking the gospel to Rome. And many times, Paul made plans to do just that. But for one reason or another, he was never able make it there. He was never able to bring his plans to fruition. In fact, he only ever made it to Rome in chains, as a prisoner of the state.

You will experience the same thing. Life will not always go according to your plans or follow your script. In 10, 20, or 30 years, you will look back and be amazed at the path God has lead you down. You will marvel at the unexpected twists and turns, the detours you never expected, and the side-roads you never would have chosen.

As Proverbs says, “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

This is the reality of life in this present evil age. So, this is what I want you to hear and remember as you begin your life together:

  • Your joy is not tied to your plans.
  • Your happiness is not tethered to your dreams.
  • Your satisfaction is not bound to the script you have written for your life.

Now, it is good to have plans. It is good to have dreams. But, you must hold them lightly. For you plans are not your calling.

Your calling, or as our catechism says, your chief end, is to glorify God: to serve him fully and without reservation, to do whatever he gives you to do, day by day, year by year. You are not your own. You have been bought with a price. You are his servant. You are at his disposal. Your calling is not to execute your plan, but to serve your king. And sometimes that will mean letting your plans go.

Of course, this won’t always be easy. In Luke 9, Jesus said setting down your plans to follow him will sometimes feel like dying. It will hurt. You will grieve.

But, Jesus also said this. “The one who loses his life for my sake, will save it.” The one who loses his life to follow Jesus will find true life, and he will find it abundantly.

That’s why our catechism adds, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Man’s one, singular end is to glorify God AND enjoy him forever. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. It is as you seek the glory of God day by day, according to the opportunities he presents, with the resources he provides, in the strength he gives, that you will find true and lasting joy. Your joy is inseparably bound up with God’s glory.

The apostle Paul knew this and he called it the secret to being content in whatever situation the Lord placed him. I pray you will know it too as you begin your life together. May you always be able to say, “For to us to live is Christ.”

For, if that is the confession of your heart, then you will know joy inexpressible no matter what the years may bring. And because such joy can be ours in his service, that is one reason we call this good news. Do you believe this? I pray you do. And I pray this gospel will be the foundation of your life together.