One of the things in the Bible that has lost context over the years are the constant metaphors to sheep and shepherds. The Old and New Testament talk about sheep a lot. We know Psalm 23 starts out that the Lord is our shepherd. In Mark 6:34, Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were sheep without a shepherd. Ezekiel 34:31 says that we are the sheep of God’s pasture. Isaiah 53 says that we are like sheep who have gone astray. Over and over there’s this comparison to sheep, but shepherding sheep isn’t as common as it used to be. I don’t know a lot about them, but I do know that they are defenseless, like to flock together and prefer to be led from the front rather than pushed from behind.
As a person who teaches leadership, I can tell you that people need a want a leader worth following. As John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.” By that definition, we all have leaders in our life who influence or lead our decisions. 2 Peter 3:17 warns us about who we allow to lead or influence us. It says, “As for you, divinely loved ones, since you are forewarned of these things, be careful that you are not led astray by the error of the lawless and lose your firm grip on the truth” (TPT). We must be careful in who we allow to lead us because there are those who would lead us astray. Even Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1 to only follow Him as he followed Christ. It’s important to know who’s leading the people that are leading us.
Leaders and pastors will be held to a higher standard on judgement day (James3:1), but you will still be held liable for your actions. That’s why it’s important for each of us to not just follow a person. We must also be led by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (NLT). We must know our shepherd’s voice for ourselves without relying on another leader to hear it for us. If we don’t learn to hear it ourselves, we can easily be led astray. Each of us must take time to listen to what God says through His Word and to our hearts. Anyone who gives contradictory advice to what God says will lead you astray. We are to be Spirit led more than people led, but our sheepish nature simply wants to follow the sheep right in front of us. We must fight against that and listen to the Shepherd ourselves.
I went to a pretty small high school where if you were athletic, you pretty much played every sport. If you ran track, you didn’t just run one race, you ran several which meant several heats for each race. We had to be in great shape. I remember my running coach teaching me to breathe a certain way so that I wouldn’t get that pain in my side. She also taught me aerodynamics so that my body would channel the wind. Then there was the conditioning to get my body in shape to survive so many races. I put a lot of miles on my shoes so that I could win the races I ran. After high school, I decided had ran enough miles for a lifetime, but in the course of it, I had won many races.
Running takes discipline and mental strength to push through when your body wants to quit. It’s a lot like living out your faith. It takes being dedicated, being mentally focused and being disciplined. Your flesh is always fighting against you and is trying to slow you down so you have to be prepared mentally to push back. It tries to play against your sympathies to get you to stumble and fall. You have to be disciplined enough to catch it early so you can stop that line of thinking. You also have to keep your eyes on what’s at stake in your life and in the lives of others. It’s not a 5k Fun Run. This is more like a marathon or an Iron Man. Every part of you must be disciplined so that you’re making determined progress and are be becoming more like Christ every day.
1 Corinthians 9:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run [their very best to win], but only one receives the prize? Run [your race] in such a way that you may seize the prize and make it yours!” (AMP) Each of us are running the race God has called us to. No one can run your race for you. It’s up to you to run your race in a manner that you’re not just providing traffic for the other runners, but that you’re running in order to win. When you’re running to win, you push yourself to stay in the front of the race. You lean on lessons you’ve learned from the past and ensure that you’re spiritually fit. You use the discipline of reading and applying God’s Word to keep you on track. You continually seek God and His presence so you can endure. You invite the Holy Spirit into your life to encourage you daily to keep going. If you’re going to live a life of faith, be 100% committed and give it your all.
Have you ever been driving and had someone in the vehicle comment constantly on your driving telling you what to do and how to do it? Did you like it? I’ve never met anyone who likes a backseat driver. According to Miriam-Webster online, a backseat driver is a passenger in a vehicle who is not controlling the vehicle but who excessively comments on the driver’s actions and decisions in an attempt to control the vehicle. We’ve all experienced it from someone in our lives. They make comments about your driving, especially when they feel like you’re taking a risk that they wouldn’t take. What they don’t realize is that backseat driving increases the risk of having a crash because of the added stress and distraction.
When you and I accept Jesus as our savior, we put Him in the driver’s seat of our lives. We, in effect, step out of that role and become a passenger. The church phrase is, “surrendering your life to Christ”. Yet how many of us have truly surrendered our lives to Him? We don’t mind surrendering the parts of our life we struggle with, but being a Christian is about surrendering everything. Remember the old hymn “I Surrender All”? Somewhere we have lost what it means to surrender our entire life to Him. When we are both trying to control the outcome of our life, we become a backseat driver to Jesus and increase the risk of messing things up. We start telling Him what we think He should do when we don’t have all the information He has as the one in control.
Jesus said it best in Matthew 16:24, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am” (MSG). You and I have to surrender the driving seat to Him. One way I do this is each morning before my feet hit the floor is to pray, “Lord, I open myself up to you. Fill me with your Spirit until I’m overflowing. Speak through me, love through me and live through me today. Let my words and actions be reflections of who you are. Use me in anyway you see fit. I surrender to your will.” Surrendering the driver’s seat isn’t natural. It has to be a daily and sometimes hourly. God is good and has a plan for your life that is greater than your own plan. Getting out of the driver’s seat and allowing Him to take over is the best thing you can do for your life.
To me, one of the most challenging things God has spoken to anyone in Scripture is in Genesis 12:1. “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you’” (NLT). He was 75 years old at the time. He was well established, and yet God asked him to pack everything up and go to a destination that would be shown to him at a later time. His faith in action is inspiring to me. The Bible later says that his faith was counted at righteousness. That’s a faith we should all aspire to have.
Fast forward to the New Testament and Jesus spoke something very similar to all of us. In Luke 14:31 Jesus said, “So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” Every one of us who follows Christ is given the same call that went out to Abram. I believe it’s God’s reminder to us that this place is not our home. Everything we have here is temporary and we can’t take it with us. We must be willing to let go of earthly things so we can receive from God the spiritual things that matter for eternity.
My wife and i try to keep an open hand for the things we have. When your hands are open to God, He can place things in them and take things out of them whenever He wants. Faith is trusting God with all you have and with the direction of your life. You may not get to know the destination. You may he asked to walk away from everything that’s familiar to you. God’s greatest blessings are stored up for those who are willing to give God whatever He asks for and for those who follow Him wherever He leads. What are you willing to let go of should God ask for it? Pray that God would help you keep an open hand and heart.
I think we can all agree that there is a difference between saying something and proving something. When we were kids, we all had that friend that told tall tales. He was related to famous people. He was going to be on TV. He had a hundred dollars. You name it, he either did it or had it. After a while, we found the phrase, “Prove it!” It turns out, he could tell you just about anything, but he couldn’t prove any of it. Without proof, we had no reason to believe the things he said.
When I was younger, I heard someone ask, “If you were to be convicted of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?” That’s a tough question we should all think about. A court can’t convict anyone unless there is some form of evidence against them. In some cases, that evidence comes from first hand witnesses. Other times it comes from physical evidence left behind. What evidence are you leaving behind for others to know you are a Christian? Can eye witnesses tell by how you live that you’re a Christian?
In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist was out at the river baptizing people when the religious leaders came to take a look. One of the things he said to them was, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (NLT). He knew they were manufacturing false evidence to try to prove they were righteous, but their lives contradicted that evidence. Jesus later said they were whitewashed tombs. They looked good on the outside, but were full of death on the inside.
Today’s devotion is not to say that you earn salvation by your works – that’s what the religious leaders were trying to do. It’s saying when you truly experience the power of God in your life, it changes you. Your life changes inside and out. You find that going to church isn’t evidence that you’re a Christian – living for God is. When you experience the power of salvation, you begin to leave evidence everywhere that you have repented and followed Christ. My challenge to you today is to take an honest look at the evidence in your life. What does it point to? Is it manufactured or is it natural from a changed heart and life?
Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
When my family and I are walking somewhere, my son tries to take the lead even though he should be following. He had no idea where we are going, but he wants to be first. “Are we going this way,” he asks. I smile and keep walking. “What about this way? Are we going over here?” I tell him to follow and he’ll find out. I want him to learn to trust our lead and to quit trying to be first. It’s more important to arrive at the right place second that at the wrong place first.
That’s how many of us are with God while He’s trying to lead us. We keep guessing where He might want to take us, and we run off asking, “Is this what you want me to do? Is this where you want me to go?” Being impatient is what gets us to the wrong place first. Listening to His voice and following where He leads is what we need to be doing. Quit trying to lead the Lord and start being led by Him.
Here are some verses on being led by God.
1. Teach me how to live, O LORD. Lead me along the right path, for my enemies are waiting for me.
Psalms 27:11 NLT
2. And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:13 AMPC
3. Hurry with your answer, GOD! I’m nearly at the end of my rope. Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me! That would be certain death. If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice, I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you. Point out the road I must travel; I’m all ears, all eyes before you. Save me from my enemies, GOD — you’re my only hope! Teach me how to live to please you, because you’re my God. Lead me by your blessed Spirit into cleared and level pastureland.
Psalm 143:7-10 MSG
4. May the Lord lead you into a greater understanding of God’s love and the endurance that is given by Christ.
2 Thessalonians 3:5 GNT
5. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalms 139:23-24 NLT