I have been making it a point the last six weeks or so to wake up early before work or other plans so I can start my day in the Word and in prayer.
I could tell you the ways this has changed how my days go, like my mood being better, feeling more rested, feeling spiritually filled to serve effectively in my line of ministry/work, etc. I might save that for another post, but today I wanted to share something God has been speaking to my heart through these early morning times with Him.
I’ve been jumping around between a few different Bible studies during these times of devotion, and it seems that every one I’ve started in the last few weeks has brought me back to the idea that Jesus is our Good Shepherd. Every one. After the third study I randomly started ended up at this same passage in Scripture, I decided God was really trying to tell me something, so I better listen up.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”John 10:1-5
This first chunk of this chapter about shepherds and sheep stood out to me. If you know anything about sheep, you know they’re pretty stupid animals. They get distracted easily and are prone to wander or follow other sheep without thinking, they’re defenseless, they’re stubborn, and they have poor eyesight so they don’t know where they’re going half the time.
Sounds a lot like myself, so I don’t have to think too hard to see why God uses this metaphor to describe our relationship.
I am his sheep, and he is my shepherd.
What stands out to me about these first few verses is that idea of the sheep knowing their shepherd’s voice. They might be prone to wander, get lost, and have bad eyesight, but they know the voice of their shepherd really well. Enough to know to run when a stranger is trying to lead them.
What a powerful picture. God is our Good Shepherd and we are his sheep. I’ve been feeling really convicted to learn to discern his voice because of this. Because without knowing his voice, how am I supposed to know who to follow? I’ll just end up one of the sheep who wanders, gets lost, and can’t find a way back. Thankfully, God will come after us when we do get lost (read Luke 15:1-5 if you need an image of that), but wouldn’t we make it a whole lot better for ourselves if we just learned to recognize and listen to his voice in the first place?
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”John 10:14-15
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, knows us. And not just a factual, head knowledge type of knowing. This particular word for know comes from the Greek word “ginosko”, which means “to come to know, recognize, perceive.” In other words, it’s a knowing through experience – a heart knowledge. God doesn’t just know our names like we remember the name of the school we went to. He knows our hearts – what we struggle with, what we desire, what brings us joy. And he wants us to know him in the same way.
As I kept circling back to this passage, God laid on my heart the word trust. You see, he knows my heart. He knows that I might hear his voice, but I’m not always ready to move toward his voice or go where he says to go. If I’m being honest, the things that hold me back the most from fully listening to God’s voice are stubbornness and fear of where he’s going to lead me (because it’s probably not going to be easy). I’ll hear his direction, but instead of following it, I’ll allow myself to get distracted and end up going a different way.
But God, being the Good Shepherd that he is, can always find me and lead me back to himself. And so here he is telling me to trust.
Trust his voice.
Trust his ways are higher than my ways.
Trust his thoughts are higher than my thoughts.
Trust and walk in his wisdom.
Trust in him, and receive joy and peace and hope.
If you’re struggling to trust in God – whether out of fear, stubbornness, selfishness, or something else – read his Word and see how he speaks to you. That’s one of the easiest ways we can hear his voice – read his Word. The Bible is the literal Word of God. It gives us wisdom, understanding, direction, peace, comfort, and joy. Trust in it, trust in him, and follow his voice.