By Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope* Jesus
So often we hear messages about what Christians are to do. Do this, do that. They’re all about, “go and do,” and they all seem to be prodding the “sheep” with the rod, rather than guiding the sheep with the staff. And sadly, sometimes the messages seem more like an outright beating of the sheep.
That is not the Good Shepherd’s desire. He loves His sheep and He leads them and guides them. Prodding with the rod is for correction and beating the sheep is not His way. Such messages are discomforting, depressing and discouraging. They leave us with thoughts of, I can’t do it. I mess-up everything. I’ll just fail. Why even try. I will never succeed? Being a Christian is just too hard.
And we wonder why youth are leaving the church, or why they just aren’t getting it. Rules that seem impossible to keep and commands that seem too difficult to do, are messages that are discouraging and defeating and lead to apathy and apostasy.
Another type of message, that is not a directive like “go and do,” is “get it done.” This is about self-directed initiative. It’s not the Shepherd prodding the sheep, it’s the sheep directing themselves. “Get it done” says, decide what you want to do and what you can do and then decide how, when and where you will do it. Get started and get going so you can “get it done.”
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that planning and projects are a bad thing. Nor am I saying that we should not try to do our best to keep God’s commands and do His work. It’s important that we all use the gifts God has given us and that we spend our time doing meaningful work. But all too often we “jump in” at the wrong starting point. All too often the “go and do” and “get it done” paths start with an unwilling heart and then it’s hard, and often it’s doomed.
The Bible tells us something very different. It is the Good Shepherd’s desire to lead and guide His sheep with His staff. God gives us a much more effective way to do our work and a very different starting point. Jesus tells us to seek Him first (Mat 6:33) and James reminds us that our desire should be “”If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (James 4:14) If we look first to the Shepherd, we won’t need the rod…instead we will get the staff that gently guides us.
Remember the lesson we learn from the Israelites as they entered into the Promised Land. The only battle in which they were defeated was at Ai—and it was the battle in which they did not seek the Lord first.
Just like the Israelites, we are prone to doing just that. We rush in by our own initiative or we just follow the directives of others, without taking the time to seek God first. The Bible clearly tells us that we are to look to the Good Shepherd first. King David’s words remind us: “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee…” (Psalm 63:1)
The Hebrew word translated as “early will I seek” is shachar. It is defined as, to rise up early for a task, to be earnest and diligent. We must apply this in our lives as an urgent, earnest and diligent need to make God a priority and to look to Him first and keep our focus on Him in all that we do.
True behavior motivation or change doesn’t come from someone else telling us what to do. And all too often it doesn’t succeed when we self-motivate. As Christians the real fuel for our lives is the power of the Holy Spirit. It comes from the only One who can truly change the heart of man. Winston Churchill summarized this when he said, “the heart of the human problem. is the problem of the human heart.” Without a change in our heart behaviors are not truly changed. They may be modified for a time, but it is by heart change that desires, motives, thoughts, words and actions are conformed to the Person of Jesus Christ.
A Pastor friend teaches that we who belong to Jesus are to live our lives under a banner that reads, “it is finished.” When we find rest in the One who “got it done,” the One who ransomed us from the bondage of sin, then we are free to live our lives surrendered to Him, seeking His will in all things and lead and guided by our Good Shepherd.
Seek Him early and often throughout the day. Preach the gospel message to yourself, and your children, everyday—“it is finished.” Find your rest in Jesus’ finished work and seek Him so that His Spirit will work in and through you. Tell others about the rest for the weary that is found in Jesus. Confidence in His finished work will empower us to live and work and to find joy in all we do. Remember those all-important three words, “It is Finished.” Remember all that He has done for you and all that He has given you:
Pardon from sin
Light out of darkness
Life from the grave
Faith for the future
Hope in the heart
Peace in living
Love for others
Joy in Jesus!
In Him we live and move and have our being
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