Dwight and I have been involved with public ministry, in one way or another, for nearly 50 years. We’ve not been in paid ministry as such, but we’ve walked alongside many pastors. We’ve taught Sunday School classes, held administrative positions, led Bible studies, promoted conferences, and helped start a couple of churches. We’ve prayed and encouraged and grieved as we’ve walked out God’s work here on earth. It is one thing to care deeply and be immersed in God’s work. Along the way we have learned that it is much more important to know the One Who’s work it is.
The temptation with anything we humans set out to be involved in is to forge ahead, giving our all, working hard, arguing well, pushing when arguments don’t work, making it happen. That can easily become our operating mode. We don’t intend for it to happen that way. But sometimes we forget a couple of the principles that Jesus taught and lived out.
- Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. – John 15:4
- Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. – Matthew 11:28
I’ve been thinking about this principle during these very confusing and conflicting times. I’ve felt it as I’ve awakened each morning with a bit of dis-ease. There is this strange feeling of daily being faced with a situation that I/we/all of us cannot solve or get out of. We cannot make it go away. We cannot fix it. We cannot do all the right things and then all is well.
WE ARE IN A SITUATION WE CANNOT LEAVE OR CHANGE. WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.
God has used the metaphor of a shepherd throughout scripture to point to Himself and to His relationship to His sheep. God spoke through David, himself a shepherd, to remind us of who He is to us. It’s helpful to be reminded:
The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, to guide and to shield me],Psalm 23
I shall not want.
He lets me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still and quiet waters.
He refreshes and restores my soul (life);
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell forever [throughout all my days] in the house and in the presence of the Lord.
Jesus identified Himself in that same role in John 10:14-16:
I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt those who are] My own and My own know Me [and have a deep, personal relationship with Me] – even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father – and I lay down My [very own] life [sacrificing it] for the benefit of the sheep. I have other sheep [besides these] that are not of this fold. I must bring those also, and they will listen to My voice and pay attention to My call, and they will become one flock with one Shepherd.
What a comfort to know that the shepherd of Psalm 23 became the Good Shepherd of John 10. Read again Who He is and what He does. He provides for us everything we need, even in this time. We do not know the way out, but He does. Let’s call on Him and trust Him.