Chrissy Mayer, GFC Temple Terrace
I love Mondays because it feels like a fresh start every week. New possibilities. New opportunities. Where my list people at?
Do you get that special feeling when at the end of the day you are able to put a check mark next to everything you set out to do? Maybe you are the person who even if it wasn’t on your list to begin with you add it – just so you can cross it off! Me?
I have all the hopes and dreams for a new week but, man, when I make a list, a lot of times I just get really overwhelmed, and then I just want to disengage and go take a nap. A laundry list of things we “have to do” or “need to get right” can give us so much anxiety.
I think for some people, if we’re honest, this can be the lens for how we view our faith. Without always realizing it, we can see following Jesus as a list of: All the things “I should or need to be doing…” All the things “I shouldn’t do or things I need to say no to…”
If we aren’t careful we can unknowingly get caught up in believing the lie that following Jesus and allowing Him to lead our daily lives is about our striving to follow a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” – ultimately reducing God down to some distant cosmic ruler with a weight of expectations.
Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”
Throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation God is continually referred to as “Shepherd”. In the Bible, Jesus is referred to by others as “Great Shepherd” or “Chief Shepherd”. Now I’ve read this passage many times, but one day, I asked myself the question, “But why did Jesus characterize and distinguish Himself as The Good Shepherd? Why did Jesus want to make sure that we knew He was good?”
I believe it’s easy for us to worship Him in songs that declare He is wonderful, beautiful, and powerful but, is it as easy for us to worship Him as a “Good, Good Father”? Do you actually believe His goodness is running after you? It’s easy for us to view Him as big, holy and mighty. But the question I have for you today is… Do you believe He is good?
I believe it’s only when we begin to grasp the goodness of God – when we truly believe that He is our “Good” Shepherd, that we are able to exchange the chaos and rules of religion for the comfort and rest of relationship.
But real quick, let’s jump back to Psalm 23. I want us to focus on the meaning of verse 4. “Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.”
Okay, now what in the world does that mean? “Ummmm, I was waiting for the four happy hops to trusting in the goodness of Jesus. “Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me?” How in the world are these things supposed to bring me any comfort or exemplify His goodness?”
In order for us to fully understand His goodness we have to understand how His goodness functions. So, what do the rod and the staff of The Good Shepherd represent? What do they symbolize?
Staff: A recovery tool used on sheep. It has a “hook” and a “crook” at the end for pulling back or pulling out. The stick is used for directing. The staff is used for guiding and directing. The staff represents rescue and recovery.
These tools give us four reasons why can we trust God as our “Good Shepherd”:
1. He is caring. “If I bring God my hurts – He responds with compassion.”
Matthew 9:36 “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
2. He is competent. “If I choose to follow Him – He leads me in the right direction.” He not only leads us in the right direction but He can lead us out of the wrong direction.
John 10:4 “The Good Shepherd walks ahead of the sheep; and they follow Him, for they recognize His voice.”
3. He is consistent. “If I fail or fall – He rescues and recovers me.”
Psalm 26:3 “Your constant love is my guide; your faithfulness always leads me.”
4. He is close. “If I grow doubtful or weary – He empowers me and renews my spirit.”
Psalm 23: 4a, 6a “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me…Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…”.
Going back to my list makers, and I want to be clear for a sec, there’s nothing wrong with lists, please no one email me a list of all the reasons why I’m wrong, but more than all the lists we could make and all the striving to do better or get it right – I think Jesus is more interested in us growing in our trust and dependency on His goodness and if we are reflecting that same goodness to others. The very goodness of God is that He sent His son Jesus to come and rip up our lists. All of the “have to’s” and “should haves” of religion! He is The Good Shepherd who simply desires an intimate relationship with us – His beloved daughters.
Questions to Ponder:
- Does the way we live our lives reflect a growing trust and dependency in His goodness or our best efforts?
- Does the way we live our lives draw others to want to experience the Goodness we have found?