Being a Lamb

A recent Sunday message from Psalm 23 ended with the question, “Will you make yourself a lamb under God the Shepherd?” It sounds simple enough on the surface, but that is actually a deep question!

The roles of God the Shepherd are described throughout Psalm 23:

  • He satisfies His lambs.
  • He makes His lambs rest.
  • He leads His lambs.
  • He restores His lambs.
  • He guides His lambs.
  • He is with His lambs.
  • He disciplines His lambs.
  • He protects His lambs.
  • He comforts His lambs.
  • He feasts with His lambs.
  • He chooses His lambs and sets them apart for His noble purposes.
  • He exceeds the needs of His lambs.
  • He endures with His lambs.
  • He will spend eternity with His lambs.

Of course we want all of those benefits! But the phrase “make yourself a lamb” caught my attention. We cannot experience God’s shepherding unless we are willing to place ourselves under his care and take on the nature of a lamb. What is that nature?

  • Lambs listen for their Shepherd’s voice and obey His commands.
  • Lambs do not follow other shepherds; they only follow their own.
  • Lambs trust their Shepherd completely, they know he will not harm them.
  • Lambs flee danger.
  • Lambs depend on their Shepherd for protection, they have no natural defenses.
  • Lambs understand they are safer in the flock than alone and stick together.
  • Lambs only take in what is healthy for them; they don’t consume garbage.
  • Lambs do not complain about being in uncomfortable or painful situations.
  • Lambs are content to follow and let the Shepherd lead.

Lambs in God’s flock experience far more life. They know the Shepherd will provide all they need for a full, satisfying life. They do not worry. They do not live in regret. They are free to enjoy each day as it comes.

We find it hard to be lambs. We want to determine our own course, be in charge of our own life. This verse too often describes us, just as it described God’s flock in Old Testament times:

The Israelites are stubborn, like a stubborn heifer. How then can the Lord pasture them like lambs in a meadow? (Hosea 4:16, NIV)

Our stubbornness, pride, and insistence on getting our own way prevent us from experiencing far more life of a lamb under God’s care. God desires to lead us to a place of safety and abundance within His protective boundaries, but we resist. In those moments, we trust ourselves more than we trust our Shepherd. We prefer to blindly forge our own path in search of what we need rather than follow Him to the place He knows will meet our needs.

This reminds me of a friend from college who demonstrated the life of a lamb following her Shepherd. When challenges arose, she recited this Psalm:

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore. (Psalm 131)

My friend was an intelligent, independent, capable woman. She was a leader. She did not shirk responsibility or have a low opinion of herself. But she was realistic about her position before God. She recognized He was the perfect Shepherd and found far more life as a lamb in His flock. She trusted Him as her leader and accepted the tasks and opportunities He provided, believing He was always working for her good. She was content to follow Him rather than needing to forge her own path. She understood a lot but also recognized that there was much she did not understand. And in those areas, she was willing to trust her Shepherd and believe He had a plan and purpose to bring her far more life.

Lambs were sacrificed as atonement for sin in the Old Testament. And the Bible refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God because of His sacrifice to atone for our sins. But God has also raised Jesus to the role of Shepherd. This glimpse of our future in Heaven with Him is exciting:

They are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ (Revelation 7:17, NIV)

Our Shepherd is leading His lambs to the most wonderful pasture imaginable, Heaven. And we will remain there — safe and satisfied — forever. But we can also experience His presence and provision now. That is far more life: being a lamb in the flock of God the Shepherd.

Sisters,
Have you experienced God the Shepherd as described in Psalm 23?
Are you more often “stubborn as a heifer” or like a lamb in the meadow?
Do you take on responsibilities and concerns that are not meant for you? What makes you hesitant or reluctant to be a lamb in God’s flock?
Will you choose to be a lamb under God the Shepherd today and experience far more life?
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: David Padfield/FreeBibleimages.org



Rest in Far More Life

By this point you may think you need to DO MORE to get far more life. Love God more. Love people more. Give God more glory. But God asks the opposite of us:

Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10, NASB)

Cease striving? Or “be still” (as other translations instruct)? Doesn’t God understand that if we let up everything will fall apart? Chaos will overtake our lives?  How can that lead to far more life?

There are definitely areas of life where we need to continue striving. We need to keep battling temptation, sin, and unhealthy patterns in our lives, striving to become more like Christ. We need to keep expressing God’s grace and truth, striving to share His life-changing message with those around us. We need to keep working on our relationships, striving to offer respect and love through each interaction.

But we can’t meet all the needs or fight all the battles. Some of us have tried and found it is impossible and exhausting.  So how do we decide where to work and where to cease striving? But Psalm 131 offers guidance:

O Lord, my heart is not conceited. My eyes do not look down on others. I am not involved in things too big or too difficult for me. Instead, I have kept my soul calm and quiet. My soul is content as a weaned child is content in its mother’s arms. Israel, put your hope in the Lord now and forever.” (GW)

We should find the places our soul is not calm, quiet, and content; these are the things that are too big or too difficult for us. Instead of positively impacting these situations, we are being negatively impacted by them. They are keeping us from far more life.

But what happens in the areas where we cease striving?  Some of them are big needs. And important to us. The text instructs “put your hope in the Lord”. God is big enough to handle it — ALL of it.  And, surprisingly, He can even handle it without us!

One Sunday I felt especially “full” and decided I would not volunteer for anything that popped up during the coming week. Instead, when I became aware of a need I would pray for God to meet the need. Three situations came up that week where I would have normally offered help, but each time I simply prayed. I was excited and humbled to learn that the person who stepped up to meet each need did it better than I could have. So not only did God meet the needs without me, He met them BETTER without me! Why was I surprised? He has a whole kingdom of resources at His disposal. A kingdom of people with a variety of skills, knowledge, resources, experience, and availability. A kingdom of power and wealth beyond my understanding. This experience reinforced my hope in the Lord. I don’t need to strive to make everything work. He can meet my needs  — and others’ needs — today and every day.  Placing our hope in Him is far more life.

Maybe you’ve been striving for so long that you don’t even remember what a calm, quiet, content soul is like. It experiences and radiates God’s character. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. Forgiveness. When we feel and emit these, we are not striving to do God’s work. We are calmly resting in God, quietly placing our hope in Him, and contendedly investing our energy; we are living far more life.

But when we are anxious, exhausted, stressed, fearful, angry, worried, hopeless, overwhelmed, or stuck, our souls are not calm, quiet, and content. These feelings are indicators that we need to cease striving in one or more areas. We need to identify what is too big or difficult and turn it over to God.  At those moments we are like Martha in Luke 10, worried and upset by many things. But recognizing that we are striving enables us to make a choice: will we continue or will we choose to follow the example of her sister, Mary, sitting at the Lord’s feet listening to Him?  Jesus said Mary chose what was better. She chose far more life.

Some of the areas where we are tempted to take on too much are physical. We can overpack our schedules and push our bodies beyond their limits. But we more tempted to carry mental and emotional burdens that are too big or difficult. We worry about people and situations over which we have no control. We replay past events and conversations in our minds, asking what we should have done or said differently. We imagine all the bad things that could happen in the future. Let them go! Cease striving! Remember that God is holding you like a mother holds her child. Lovingly. Tenderly. Securely. Rest — quietly, calmly, contentedly — in His arms. Place your hope and trust in His goodness and strength. Embrace far more life.

My pastor often says, “Do your best and let God take care of the rest.” That helps me understand how to cease striving in a practical way.  There are things we can and need to do. But we must also recognize our limits and God’s limitlessness. Knowing God’s power and trusting His character frees us to cease striving. Rest in far more life!

Sisters,
Prayerfully examine your heart, asking “What am I involved in that is too big or difficult for me?”
Are you willing to turn those things over to God?
If not, why? What do you need in order to trust Him in those places?
Are you willing to ask Him to help you grow in trust?
Thank and praise Him for being big enough to handle all of it.
Enjoy less striving and far more life!
-Shari

Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso