He maketh me to lie down in green pastures...
The good shepherd has brought us all to some green pasture and made us to lie down, and oftentimes the shepherd leaves the sheep at a safe place for a season, and expects to return and find his sheep feeding, growing and waiting for him. This act of the Shepherd remains safe, the promises of the shepherd remain sure, but the conditions that surround the sheep may nonetheless change. It is in these changing scenes of life that the sheep must judge their Shepherd faithful and trust in His word and promises, or otherwise.
The storm clouds suddenly gather, the winds grow wild and chilly, the sheep hear terrifying tales about how others just like them in waiting have died, and now the growls of wolves in the distant bushes scare them all the more, their insecurities and terrors escalate when other sheep they look up to depart from the place the shepherd left them. So why should they stay?
The sheep is tempted at every point to trust his instincts and depart. But does moving away in any way imply the sheep's doubt that his shepherd will arrive on time? Does it imply a lack of faith in the shepherd?
Many sheep are taking destiny decisions based on external conditions; trusting more in their own ability, instincts and prudence, than in the integrity of their shepherd. The storms with their winds, and the threat of the wolves seem more real than the Shepherd and his sure word, hence they move the sheep even when the Shepherd had asked them to stay, and cause the sheep to stay even when the Shepherd beckons that they follow after Him.
Our decisions speak volumes about our perceptions. In our hearts we're wondering: What if the shepherd doesn't come on time? What if I'm devoured as I wait on Him? What if those who departed find greener better pastures? Doesn't the shepherd expect me to make such decisions on my own? Is the shepherd as 'good' as he claims to be? How do I know that?
In the midst of all the uncertainties, insecurities and storms of our time, we will not find the answers in the things that we see, and we will definitely not find solutions in running after the times. For with our destiny comes the call to walk by faith and not by sight.
By sight we see the dark clouds gather over us, we see within the thistles and thorns, pasture that seems greener than what we've got. By sight we should be running as fast as we can on our tiny feet towards whatever green we can see, and away from what we fear - but by faith we must wait for the Shepherd to return; it may make no sense, but our Shepherd still says "Beloved, Be still and Know!"
That's the only way! In the midst of many valid questions and fears; be still and know.
When the storm hit the ship in Luke 8, Jesus didn't expect the disciples to jump into life boats whiles he slept on the deck, and he didn't expect Peter's masterful sailing to save anyone. He expected their faith in Him, the Shepherd of their souls, to be their Salvation; hence after he had rebuked the winds asked "Where is your faith?", A question he will no doubt have to ask many of us.
So many of us have left the pasture he made us to lie in, and are searching for greener pastures - some are even searching for him! - have left churches, abandoned ministries and mentors, ventured into risky relationships, and ended others!
The sheep have wandered and are wearied, lost, and sadly many have been devoured! Other sheep have found seemingly greener pastures on their own - pastures shepherded by the thief (who cometh only but to kill, steal and destroy) and his pet wolves. In these pastures they eat without restriction, from poisonous shrubs to thorny weeds, and are indoctrinated to find pleasure in their perversion. The thief has every intention to destroy them, and that he does one at a time in order not to raise suspicion, and also so that these raving lost souls in their deluded state of mind sadly advertise his kingdom.
The temptation will always exist to depart from the pasture wherein he had made us to lie;
The only thing that can cause the sheep to stay put is complete faith in the shepherd; that the shepherd is good all the time, regardless of the situation and the changing externalities. The truth is, no sheep has the ability or capacity to find the shepherd on his own. The shepherd expects a lot from the sheep, but never does he expect the sheep to lead themselves? What wisdom does the sheep have compared to his shepherd? How does the sheep know which way to go on his own? How does the sheep guarantee that every step he takes won't take him farther from his shepherd. The shepherd rightly said "without me you can do nothing".
Our works and moves only have value because they are divinely directed! So if the Shepherd has given no direction, then what is the wisdom or essence in moving?
Waiting is one of the greatest acts of faith. The surest way to find the shepherd is to wait on him: and with the shepherd, we have all the pasture, comfort and security we need. Sheep that wander about tire themselves out, become vulnerable to predators, and struggle to do what only the shepherd can do, but they that wait on the Lord find new strength.
I personally know how it feels to see several of my contemporaries go in some direction, and it seems foolish to wait on God whiles I can figure something out on my own. I know how it feels like to see the one I like walk away with someone else, yet to remain obedient to a call that doesn't seem to be in my best interest. But we cannot make destiny decisions like marriage, ministry, our future and our purpose based on feelings of desperation, fear or any other human inclination.
Waiting has never been easy, but once we are fully persuaded that our shepherd is inherently good and absolutely good at what he does, then we can have faith and wait.
Because in the end the victory that overcomes the world is the faith we have in him! All the challenges we dread and face are but opportunities for God to show up and show his might, and our efforts to resolve them by our own might are irritating interferences to the show he wants to put on. So he says "This fight is not yours, but the Lord's! Be still and know that I am God!"
As we meditate on his words and promises, we nurture these assurances within us. Then we can stay put and cry out to him from right where he left us: we can trust that he will never leave us nor forsake us.
For those of us wearied from wandering, and lost, don't take another step away: We are never too lost for Jesus to find us - Our Saviour is on his way. The good shepherd leaves the 99 and searches for the one who is lost. We are that precious! He knows about the storms that scared us, and the wolves that chased us away; and he doesn't blame us! He loves us and calls us to come into his rest!
The 99 are kept at a safe pasture, and there they wait. And He will make us all together lie down in green pastures, and restore our souls. The only running we will do is into his arms when we see him - but like the father of the prodigal son, He'll probably be the one doing the running to come and embrace us, because truth is, God really, really loves us. That is everything!
His track record is unbroken and his sovereignty is never compromised, And all through our waiting, as the storms come, and the winds blow and make their noise, and the wolves growl all they can, the voice of our good shepherd still resounds "Be still and know that I am God".