Endless clamor in our political realm, threats of violence, a world that changes in moments rather than years – all of these things, and more, conspire to create unrelenting anxiety in millions of people today. That emotion, by the way, does not just show up as worry or fear. It can morph into a sense of worthlessness and/or hopelessness. In those times a lie can take over the mind – “You are just a helpless pawn, caught in the flow of events that will overwhelm, possibly even destroy, you!”
Must those who are anxious just try desperately to endure the inner tumult? Is there a way to change the perception of the world around us? YES! The mind can be re-directed, thought patterns changed, if we choose to listen to the voice of the Lord, soaking in the counsel of His word, He will lead us out of our fears and into joyful abundance. Faith is both a gift of God and a choice to be made by us.
In the Scripture, God’s people are sometimes called His flock, sheep. Christians are derisively referred to by some as ‘dumb sheep,’ the implication being that they are easily led and manipulated. It is true that sheep are not among the world’s more intelligent creatures! Eons of being domesticated has made those wooly creatures entirely dependent on their shepherd. They are defenseless, dependent, and content to be led from pen to pasture. Thus, the comparison of people to sheep can be a genuine insult.
God is not insulting us when He calls us His flock! He is reminding us of His great care. Jesus taught about His Shepherding care for us. “The sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. … Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. … My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:3, 9-10, NLT)
Sheep with a good shepherd are not restless, milling about in anxiety. David says “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything 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 dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4, NLT)
Are you struggling with anxiety at some level today? Do feelings of fear or hopelessness stalk you, perhaps even overwhelm you? Meditate on those words from the Shepherd’s Psalm. Personalize it by inserting your own name as you read it aloud. Thank the Lord that He has taken you into His flock, made you one of the sheep of His pasture.
Disciple, are you listening to the Shepherd’s voice?
Are you letting Him lead you to abundant life of His choosing as one of His sheep, or are you more like that independent creature that resists all boundaries, the goat? Jesus says that when “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28, NIV)
This word from the Word comes from Ezekiel. He heard the voice of the Lord in a time when the spiritual leaders of the nations were not caring for the people. It is a lengthy passage which I encourage you to read slowing, perhaps even aloud, letting the promise settle your soul in the Shepherd’s care.
“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search and find my sheep. I will be like a shepherd looking for his scattered flock. I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places to which they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home to their own land of Israel from among the peoples and nations. I will feed them on the mountains of Israel and by the rivers in all the places where people live.
Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in lush mountain pastures. I myself will tend my sheep and cause them to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign Lord. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them justice!” (Ezekiel 34:11-16, NLT)
He leadeth me O blessed thought
O words with heavenly comfort fraught
Whate’er I do where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me
He leadeth me He leadeth me
By His own hand He leadeth me
His faithful follower I would be
For by His hand He leadeth me
Sometimes ‘mid scenes of deepest gloom
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom
By water’s calm o’er troubled sea
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me
Lord I would clasp Thy hand in mine
Nor ever murmur nor repine
Content whatever lot I see
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me
And when my task on earth is done
When by Thy grace the victory’s won
E’en death’s cold waves I would not flee
Since Thou through Jordan leadeth me
Joseph Henry Gilmore | William Batchelder Bradbury © Words: Public Domain