I have a lengthy list of things to do on my first day off of the new year.
Sleeping in was one that I accomplished, drinking coffee and finishing a book was another.
It’s snowing outside and everything is seems cool and calm under the white light of winter this morning. It was a perfect time to light candles, sip coffee (that I kept having to re-heat because I get distracted and don’t drink it fast enough), and pray for my heart to come alive under the revelation of the GOOD Shepherd of my soul.
Over the past couple of months I’ve been visiting the language of Psalm 23 in my heart.
You are a good, good leader.
You lead me…
You guide me…
You let me rest…
Accidentally, I found “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller. Being a pastor and a literal shepherd by occupation, he had collected his detailed insights and experience into this Psalm. I’ve been reading through this book every now and then during the last several months with a vision that my heart would know and trust the good leadership of Jesus in my life and needy circumstances.
My trust-mission was confronted with a revelation of freedom and fearless action that sent me into a plateau of confusion and hopelessness up until now. I resolved to stay on the side of need and leaning, asking for understanding, and trusting that the Lord would honor my humble desire for direction, as helpless and incompetent as it might seem to be.
I am so in need.
I felt like I needed to read through Psalm 23 before I spent the rest of the morning finishing up the book that I had neglected for too long. I got distracted as I walked past my keyboard, stopped to worship for a while, and then grabbed my bible. I sat down and absentmindedly opened to Psalm 23. I love little moments like that, almost as if they’re assuring you that you’re on the right path.
I read through the Psalm and smiled at verse 3;
“He renews my strength.”
I have a prophetic coffee cup.
Good. We’re going in the right direction.
I spent the rest of the morning fighting to ignore the looming (and lengthy) to-do list, and learning about the ways and heart of a natural shepherd being likened to our Heavenly Shepherd who is good in all His ways.
I learned about how a shepherd would never take his flocks to places where he had not already been before. Nothing surprised him. Even the dark valleys, as disappointing, frustrating, difficult, and discouraging, were roads to higher ground. As terribly tough as that way might seem, the sheep could have confidence that it would prove to be the easiest and gentlest way to the next level of terrain. What cause for joy and thankfulness right there; to be confident in the leadership of the Shepherd and the truth that he is working all things for the benefit of his flock.
The valley, though dark and challenging, is the well-watered route. We find our refreshment even in the midst of our difficulty, the time where we need it most. Courage and strength are found even in the low places.
All of this multiplies my confidence in Christ.
It is because of this good leadership on strategic paths and his nearness that we can say, “I will not be afraid.”
This is cause for great joy and thankfulness.
I learned about the significance of the rod and the staff in the Shepherd’s hands. He likened the rod to the Word of God, the authoritative, clear-cut direction and protection that is found in absolute truth. This truth can be activated in our lives as victorious opposition to the darkness we’re facing. He told all sorts of stories about the ways he saw shepherds protect their flock by the skilled and diligent use of their rod.
He likened the staff to the Spirit of God. The comfort to the flock that was used to lead and guide. This staff was used to draw the sheep together in intimate relationship, and to reach out and catch an individual sheep that seemed to be wandering away, bringing it closer to himself. The staff would guide the sheep along the right path as they wandered through the valleys en route to higher ground. I was reminded about the Comforter who guides us into all truth and leads us by His Spirit on firm footing.
“This is the way to walk – walk in it.”
And as we comply with his gentle leading, a sense of safety, security, and well-being envelopes us along the way.
I would like some gentle leading…
We can be confident that no matter what comes our way, the goodness and mercy of God will pursue us. We are in such a test. Can we embody such confidence when everything around is uncertain?
“When my little world is falling apart and the dream castles of my ambitions and hopes crumble into ruins, can I honestly declare “Surely – yes, surely – goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”?”
What can energize our faith more than reflecting on past experiences where we found ourselves in great need and saw the specific, outrageous, faithful provision of our Father? Just this weekend, our Pastor encouraged us that as we move into the new year, lets be concentrating on what God has done and what He is doing, as opposed to what hasn’t happened yet.
I keep telling my heart to trust and put it’s confidence in the Lord, and I encourage my heart by reflecting on what He already has done for me. It’s the revelation of his goodness and faithfulness that activates our heart of thankfulness, strengthening us to trust Him in our time of need.
We see, looking back, that He really does work all things for our good!
For those that love Him, nothing but good can come out of chaos.
All this gives us confidence to believe that there is no better way than His way.
Even in the difficult journey, there is grace – provision, joy, peace, strength – for that day.
There is no better way.
“And I will live in the house of the Lord forever” is a declaration birthed out of confidence and personal experience that His way – His family, His house – is the most fulfilling, where joy and pleasure is found forevermore.
And this is why I’m going to keep moving forward until my heart grows to completely trust the Lord in my time of need.
And I am happy to learn and to grow because I know this time of testing is producing endurance, strength in my spirit, and a joyful glory that will far outweigh the struggle I’m facing today.
And He’s not worried. He’s not worried that I won’t make it. He knows that someday soon I will have abandoned all worry and striving for the better way of rest and provision.
And I’m gonna make it.
I’m going to see the faithful provision of God in the land of the living, and my heart will be stirred with thanksgiving, and I will love Him more.
All this so me – and my whole household (which is on the way) – will love Him rightly.
That the Lamb may receive His reward in me.
(See, His way is better.)