October 4, 2011
I Need a Shepherd
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
He tends his flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young (Isaiah 40:11, NIV).

Friend to Friend
Shepherds live with their sheep, finding places for them to eat and drink, providing shelter from the storms and protection from the heat. Sheep must eat the right amount of the right kinds of grass at the right times or they will die. If the sheep eat too little one day and too much the next day, some of the bacteria that live in the stomach of the sheep will reproduce abnormal levels, creating toxins which cause sudden death. The shepherd must carefully plan the path and lead the way so the sheep have neither too little nor too much grazing and are able to get to the water hole on time. Pastures are often lost to extreme heat which means the shepherd has to scour the countryside in search of green grass.

Several flocks of sheep are gathered together at night in a sheltered place so shepherds can share the watches of the night, protecting the sheep from wild animals and thieves. Good shepherds are always willing to risk their lives to save their flocks from any harm, any enemy and even from themselves. 

The needs of sheep, compared to the needs of other animals, are greater because of their instinct to be afraid and when faced with a fearful situation, to run. Without a shepherd to care for the sheep, they would not last long. Sheep are dumb, can never be left alone and often stray, requiring the shepherd to continually find and rescue them. A shepherd never pushes his sheep but rather leads his sheep, going before them, making sure they are not walking into danger. 

Personally, I definitely fit the profile of a sheep. I can’t count the number of times I have stubbornly stuck to my plan, foolishly thinking that it was better than His plan, only to end up in some pit somewhere, calling for help. Psalm 40:1-3 has become my life maxim – with one exception. I rarely wait patiently. Remember, I am a sheep!

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD (Psalm 40:1-3, NIV).

I sometimes allow fear to drive me to a place where I am trapped by doubts and darkness until He rescues me.  I satisfy my hunger by eating the wrong things from the wrong hands found in the wrong places at the wrong times. The result is always the same; my soul is soon ravenous for what is good because I have been stuffing my heart and mind with what is bad. 

Like every sheep, I don’t like to be pushed. Good shepherds do not push, no matter how great the temptation.  A good shepherd stands in front of his sheep, gently calling their names, leading them to a place where he has already been, positioning himself between danger and his sheep. When I am tired and ready to give up, I tend to withdraw from the other sheep and even from my Shepherd. Many of us have somehow bought into the lie that we can make it on our own or that the rules and commandments of God do not necessarily apply to us like they apply to those other sheep. The longer I walk with God, the more I realize just how much we need each other and how much we need Him.  When will I learn that I cannot do life on my own – as a sheep or as a shepherd? 

Let’s think about the sheep for whom we are responsible as shepherds here on earth. We are all called by God in different ways to do different things, but we are all called to be a shepherd to someone. We live in a world filled with people who, like sheep, are lost, confused, hungry, lonely, and in desperate need of a Savior. Family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors are all part of our flock. And sometimes their needs are overwhelming.

You live with your sheep or everywhere you go you run into someone from your flock. Your phone rings off the wall, e-mails pile up and you are constantly trying to rescue one of your sheep who is in trouble. The feeding schedule of your flock is not an easy task either. Since sheep must eat the right amount of the right foods at the right time, you must always be prepared to feed them, according to their needs – not yours.  As a shepherd, you must know your sheep so well that you can lead them – not push them – in the right direction. The natural inclination of every sheep in your flock is to run when they sense danger. You may be trying to lead your sheep, but they are either too afraid or too stubborn to let you lead. You may be standing in the middle of their escape route, which may also mean that they will run right over you in their frantic stampede to escape. Remember that they are afraid and in desperate need of rescue. Your job, as their earthly shepherd, is to care for them and to continually point them to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Remember, a good shepherd is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, just as Jesus Christ laid down His life for you and for me. Do you love your flock enough to lay down your life for each one – the cute, fluffy ones as well as the dirty, broken lambs?

Maybe it is time for us all to stop, listen for His voice, seek His plan and remember that we are indeed needy sheep who are called to love and lead other needy sheep to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. 

Let’s Pray
Father, thank You for laying down Your life so that I can live now and eternally. I am desperate for You. I am lost without Your love and power at work in my life. I don’t know where to go or what to do. I am afraid, Lord. Right now, I surrender every part of my life to You. Please be my Shepherd and my Guide. Help me love and care for the people in my life and point them to You, Lord. Use me to love others and serve them in a way that pleases and honors You.
In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

Now It’s Your Turn
Read Psalm 23:1-6 once a day for one month. Let it soak into your heart, mind and soul and become a living reality in your life. As you read Psalm 23, consider the following questions:

  • In what ways are sheep dependent on their shepherd?  
  • How do shepherds care for their sheep?
  • Compare the two lists. What similarities do you find in your own life?

More from the Girlfriends
Need help? Mary’s book, Escaping the Stress Trap, is based on Psalm 23 and is a step-by-step plan for dealing with the stress in life and learning how to truly trust God.  

Come as You Are,Mary’s NEW Online Bible Study, has just begun. Enroll before October 15and have access to all 2011 lessons. Need a friend? Connect with Mary on Facebookor through email.

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