What do you need to sleep well? I like to have a good firm pillow. Do you need a firm pillow to sleep or a soft pillow? Do you need a soft mattress or a hard mattress? I like a firm mattress and I have to have a fan on. Do you need to have music or TV? Or some noise? How about a dimly lit room or a dark room? Sheep are the same way, they have certain needs met before they can get to sleep. I think that God wants us to understand how we are like sheep. The shepherd who shepherds his flock is going to make sure some things are taken care of if the sheep are ready to rest.
First of all, he will make sure that they are free from fear. Sheep are very fearful animals. They are always looking over their shoulders. And they don’t rest until their fears are taken care of. They are thinking about the lions, bears or the wild dogs. One little field mouse or one lone jackrabbit can stampede an entire flock of sheep. It will freak them out. But when the shepherd is on the scene, and sheep make eye contact with him, their fears subside and then they are ready to lie down.
A lot of us deal with fear, don’t we? Fear of the unexpected. Maybe the fear of a disaster. And we are ambushed by these fears. The three biggest fears that we face are the fear of death, the fear of living alone and the fear of failure. What fear is tyrannizing and paralyzing your life? Maybe you have just gotten a grim report from the doctor. Maybe you are experiencing gridlock in a family situation. Maybe you find yourself looking over your shoulder. And maybe like a sheep, you are thinking about running, about getting out of there. Don’t do it. Focus on the Good Shepherd. You have got to realize and understand that Jesus, Himself, is near. He is right beside you. And the moment you understand that, the fear will subside and then and only then are you ready to rest.
The shepherd not only takes care of fear, he also takes care of friction. You see, sheep are competitive. They are jealous. They are always butting each other, trying to be the top sheep. Rivalries are involved. But as shepherd Phil Keller writes, “When I walk on the scene and the sheep look at me, suddenly they begin to forget about the competition and the rivalries and the problems they are having in the flock.” It doesn’t matter what firm or organization or team or company you are involved in, we are all trying to butt others out of the way, all trying to be the top chief, all trying to get that status. We deal with the same sort of issues that the sheep deal with. Yet, the Lord Jesus Christ challenges us to look at Him, to focus on Him because when we do that, we forget about the petty rivalries and problems and friction with others.
Maybe you are saying to yourself that you have friction with someone, but they have not forgiven you. The person has messed you around. The person has abused you. The person has stabbed you in the back. We serve a God of forgiveness. Jesus Christ has forgiven all of our sins – past, present and future. And most of the world has not accepted His forgiveness. Yet, Christ did the work. He forgave us. We are challenged, in fact, we have a mandate from the Good Shepherd, Himself, to forgive others no matter if they have abused us, wronged us, stabbed us. No matter if they will not forgive us, not admit that they are wrong, we are challenged to forgive them, to release them, to get rid of the friction because the Good Shepherd wants me and wants you to rest. Too many times in my life I have held on to the friction that I felt for others and couldn’t get the rest that He desired me to have.
The shepherd makes sure the sheep are free of fear and free from friction. Also he makes sure they are free from flies. Our church mission trips to Guatemala and India have put me in contact with mosquitoes that carry Malaria. At night we have to close doors and put on repellent or it makes it hard to sleep. And the sheep cannot and will not lie down if he is being bugged. You know how some people just bug us? What do you do about it? Think about the shepherd. A shepherd will take his sheep and put repellent on their bodies. He will dip the sheep to get rid of the ticks and the fleas. We are simply to present ourselves to Jesus Christ and say that we are exposing everything to Him. Then we ask Him to take care of all of the things that are bugging us. We ask to be bathed in His repellent, dipped in His love and forgiveness and grace. And after that, we will be able to lie down. The Good Shepherd protects me so I can rest and live properly.
But He also leads and protects me in another way. Sheep get water from two major sources. The first source will probably surprise you. Sheep get a lot of water from just grazing. When they eat the dew-drenched grass, they are taking in liquid. And if there is a lot of dew on the grass, they don’t have to drink a lot of water since they get it from their vegetation. Sheep naturally get up very early. They are early risers. They will get up at dawn and graze. And a smart shepherd is gong to lead the sheep to dew-drenched grass. They will get the liquid that way and can be refreshed. And the shepherd is thrilled because he has taken care of his sheep.
It is the same way in our spiritual pilgrimage. The greatest Christ followers I know, the people who live life with confidence, endurance and a vision, are the ones who feed regularly on God’s word. Some set aside time in the day to talk to God in prayer and to read His word. As they do so, they experience Him and they are refreshed. And the Good Shepherd, Jesus, stands right beside them and is pleased. Sheep get water from the dew-drenched grass.
Sheep also get water by drinking, by just lapping it up. Sheep are not real smart. Sheep, when they are thirsty, will just wander. Without a shepherd leading them to quiet waters, they will just wander off. They will find any polluted puddle and drink from it. And they don’t realize it but they are ingesting parasites and diseases that can ultimately kill them and mess up the entire flock. Sheep just do this.
I run into so many people and you do too, who are trying to get their thirst quenched. They are hungry and thirsty for God yet they turn their backs on the Good Shepherd and drink from polluted puddle after polluted puddle. Little do they realize that they are ingesting parasites and diseases that it is tearing them apart. It is staggering, the lengths we will go to, to try and quench this thirst. We will get involved in community efforts or hobbies or sports and we think that will do it. Now those things are fine and dandy, but there is only one thing that will truly quench that deep down thirst. It is to drink from Christ. Why?
Jesus Protects Me
9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.
Jesus said that He is the gate. You see a shepherd back in Biblical times would lead his flock and since there were no barbed wire fences, at night the shepherd would make a sheepfold. He would take some rocks and make a little structure. He would leave an opening, and the shepherd would sleep in that opening and actually become the gate. So the sheep could not go in and out and a predator could not go in and out unless they crossed over the shepherd. And Jesus said, I am the gate. He is our protection.
See the word “saved.” If anyone enters through Me he shall be saved. You hear that word used a lot. He got saved. She got saved. What does it mean to be saved? To be saved means to be saved from hell. But Jesus saves us from more than that. We are also saved from an aimless, wandering life. We shall go in and out and find pasture, we have our needs met, we can find rest and peace in Jesus. We will be saved and be safe because we are under the watchful care of the Good Shepherd. We will be satisfied because we are finding pasture. We are feeding and are free to become what the Shepherd wants us to become. Are you following the Good Shepherd?