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Sermon 11-15-09
Psalm 23:2 - He leads Me

Audio Sermon

He Leads Me

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2)

Last week we looked at Psalm 23:1, and saw that, “The Lord is my shepherd,” which is true for you and for me. We lack nothing because of Him and what He has done. The Hebrew word for “shepherd” means “to feed,” to “pasture” - rulers of those times were called “shepherds” of the people. Domesticated animals like sheep were often the basis of a country’s wealth, providing not only food, but also wool for clothing and hides for tents. The sheep were valuable and the shepherd loved them. The Great Shepherd loves you, but it’s not about taking anything from you. It’s about His love and what He gives.

This week we were privileged to be at the bedside of Pastor Bob Elliff, who is about to enter hospice care because of pancreatic cancer. Pastor Bob is surprisingly calm and peaceful about his condition because he knows that the Great Shepherd is with him. When I mentioned his attitude, mentioning how “calm” he is, Bob asked that his Bible be given to him. I passed it to him and he told me to open it and read the words inside the front cover, where I found two papers. The first reflected Jeremiah 29:11 – “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Bob smiled when I read those words. And then I turned to the second clipping inside his Bible. It was a quote from Charles Swindoll called “Attitude.” It said:

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me… is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearances, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you… We are in charge of our attitudes.

It is our attitude that enables us to let God into our lives to the extent that we can accept today’s Scripture, revealing our true relationship with God - “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2). We so want to be in charge of our lives, and though we have faith in the Lord, we often demand that He will bless what WE have done. It’s really the opposite - our hope must be in Him, not in ourselves.

Pastor Bob Elliff is content with his circumstances, recognizing that Almighty God could change his situation at any time. He can be healed and brought back to vibrant, full life at any moment, but if from the human perspective he’s not, he will be with the Lord, fully restored and far better than before. He is in what some might call a “win-win situation.” He has the faith to know that he is safe either way – because his Shepherd loves and protects him.

It is God who defines the nature of the “green pastures” and “still waters” of our lives. All too often we have been pleased if things go well outwardly and displeased if our physical circumstances seem “negative.” Scripture teaches “that ALL things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). It also teaches that we will walk through what is called “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4), which is not only about our departure from this life, but it also speaks of life’s dark circumstances that come to us right now.

The key is that He is with us. He is our Creator, our Sustainer, and He loves us without limit. Our God knows all about the “green pastures” we need and He indeed leads us to “still waters,” as David called them. Jesus referred to those “still waters” in places like John 4:10, as “living water.” We are given safety, refreshment and new life.

Because Jesus died for our sins, we are given LIFE like we never thought possible. Our bodies are limited, but in the center of our being we are becoming ALIVE like never before, though we understand little because we try to see through human understanding. Our Shepherd knows what we really need and He provides it for us, every day.

In New Testament times, a herd of sheep consisted of typically twenty to five hundred animals. Last week we touched on the words of Jesus, in Luke 15:4-7, describing the value of one sheep to that shepherd. If He watched over a herd of “one hundred” and one was missing, he secured the ninety-nine in safe pasture and looked fervently for that one sheep. That’s how God looks for you. Each of us has become “lost” in some manner. We are preoccupied with the things of this world to the extent that we only occasionally think of our Lord. He loves us and life will not be complete until we are devoted to Him in return. After all, the reason that you can read these words, understand them, and continue to breathe all at the same time, is because of His love. It’s time to look to Him and thank Him, now and forever.

Pastors many times talk with and minister to those who are close to death, and are often with them when they go to be with the Lord. From Scripture, we know that if we believe in the Lord, when we leave “our body” behind, something wonderful happens. Paul the Apostle, who heard and shared much from the Lord, observed that “if our earthly house, this tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Pastor Bob Elliff has the calm assurance of Paul, the faith that we lose nothing by leaving this world because we gain everything through trusting in Christ.

Our earthly house” is about the bodies we live in. Paul lived in a time when it was especially dangerous to acknowledge a relationship with the Lord. He said, “We groan,” for he longed to be with his Savior. Paul noted that “God has given us the (Holy) Spirit” and we are not alone. The Spirit tenderly leads the Sheep of God. He continued, “We are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:2-8).

Paul the Apostle’s words remind me strongly of the attitude shown by Pastor Bob Elliff. Though his body is in imminent danger, his soul, his spirit, the inner man is safe because of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. I am encouraged by Bob and the words he gave from Charles Swindoll, who showed “that life is ten percent what happensand ninety percent how (we) react to it.” Swindoll continued: “We are in charge of our attitudes.”

If your life is filled with panic and fear, think of what Paul the Apostle said about the gifts God has placed into our hearts and lives. Not only are we protected, sought after and saved by the precious gift of Jesus Christ, but His Holy Spirit has also been given to us. 2 Corinthians 5:5 says the Spirit is IN YOUR HEART as “a guarantee,” an earnest, a down payment, a promise of even more. He is with you right now and you are SAFE, today and for all eternity.

Dear Lord, thank You for all You have given us. Thank You that You sought us and keep us safe – forever. Thank You for the gift, the down payment, the promise of Your Holy Spirit who is in us. Heal our attitudes and help us trust in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

Write to: Letters@FridayStudy.org

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"
(Romans 5:8)

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Long Beach, CA 90809-2131 USA