The Lord is my Shepherd…

Psalm 23: 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. This could very easily be one of the most famous verses in the bible. For the most part, every time I have said that prayer, I casually run through the verses till I get to my favorite part, “Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” Boy do I say that with so much conviction but  today,  I felt God asking me to slow down with the scripture so here goes:

The first and most important thing I realized was that the “Lord is my shepherd” is a preamble to the whole prayer not just “I shall not want”. I can confidently claim the benefits of this prayer in its entirety if and only if the Lord is my shepherd.

So what does it mean to have the Lord as my shepherd?

I am the good shepherd. I know My sheep and My sheep know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep. John 10:14-15 Berean study Bible

Note that at this point Jesus had not yet been physically crucified but He did not say, “I will lay down my life”. He said,  “I lay down My life”. The Lord Jesus,  our shepherd, has already paid the ultimate sacrifice and yet He is prepared to do it all over again if that’s what it takes so that you are part of his fold.

I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them in as well, and they will listen to My voice. Then there will be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:16 Berean Study Bible

As a shepherd, Jesus knows me. He doesn’t only know my name (Isaiah 43:2). He knows everything about me (Psalm 139:1-4) and wants me to be solely reliant on Him for everything. His love defends me when wolves (the storms of life) come (John 10:12, Ezekiel 34:12). He is concerned about me (1 peter 5:7). He delights in every detail of my life (Psalm 37:23). He is intentional about me and will leave the other 99 sheep to come after me when I go astray.

And what are the implications for me?

The sheep (me) knows the shepherd. I must know the voice of the shepherd. I must not answer to any other  but the voice of my shepherd. I must trust my shepherd completely knowing that He has my best interests at heart. I must rely on His guidance and direction. I must be comforted by His rod and staff  even if it is a rod/ staff of discipline. And when I find myself in a place of uncertainty, a place a sorrow, a place of despair, I will not be afraid or let my heart be troubled because I know he is selflessly with me.

So the next time I say Psalm 23, I am going to say it with understanding of the privilege I enjoy with Jesus as my shepherd and the identity and responsibilities I have as a sheep.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Amen.

His Perfect Strength

Picture this: you wake up in the morning determined to be the best christian you can be. You spend time praying and meditating on some scriptures. Your mind and heart are at peace. It is going to be a good day! Today is the day you go a full day being the perfect godly christian and then the phone rings. On the other end of the phone is one of God’s creation sent to test your patience. By the time you are done talking, you are seething with anger and resentment and the peace you had before has been replaced by a volatile emotional volcano. Amidst this feeling of anger, you feel discouraged and dismayed. You could not even make till lunch and already you are out of character and bent out of shape. You no longer feel so so godly because you’re so angry at the person and angry with yourself because you could not contain your anger and be the bigger person.

This is me….most of the time. As we grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, we start to develop a certain degree of Christian character. We begin to grow in areas such as truthfulness, kindness, patience, humility, and purity. The Holy Spirit works actively on our conscience to help convict us of things that are not morally upright. The problem however is that we do not always act consistently with our character (Jerry Bridges). We tell a lie or allow ourselves to get caught up in juicy gossip. We get angry and in the moment, think or say unkind things to others. Then we get disappointed and dismayed with ourselves because our actions are inconsistent with the character that God is building in us.

Paul, the great apostle Paul, found himself in this conundrum on several occasions. In his despair he said,

For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out… I do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do. […] So this is the principle I have discovered: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s Law. But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:18-25 Berean study Bible

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord? Why does Paul say this? Does that mean there is hope for me to get out of this dilemma I constantly find myself in? The answer is YES!!!!

God knows that by myself I would never be able to get out of this destructive cycle so he helped me out by

…sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man, as an offering for sin. Romans 8:3 Berean Study Bible

I am encouraged because I have a mediator who fully understands my struggles and so when He intercedes for me I know that he truly understands. Whats more, He offers guidance through His Word so I can break free of the cycle. He also gives me His strength in those times when I am powerless over my anger, over impure thoughts, over gossip and backbiting so I can overcome.

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me
No great success to show
No glory of my own
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect
We can only know
The power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes
His strength in us begins
Where ours comes to an end
He hears our humble cry and proves again
                                    Steven Curtis Chapman

You can overcome. Don’t give up. His strength is perfect and available. Be intentional in asking for strength this week.