July 5th

A Good Shepherd

35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Matthew 9:35-37 NIV

Jesus recognized a great need among the people as he went through the towns and villages.  He saw crowds of people who where harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  As I imagined this scene, I thought about how many believers today are lost and vulnerable because they are not under the “covering” of a good shepherd in a good church. Many of these people have been harassed by the devil and plagued with problems.  I believe God’s desire for all of us is to be plugged in to the body of Christ, under the care of loving, faithful leaders. 

The Bible uses the flock of sheep to illustrate how the Christian walk is a group effort.  We are instructed to stick together and meet regularly for prayer, encouragement, worship and fellowship (Hebrews 10:24-25).  We need these things in order to survive and overcome the various attacks and trials that the evil one may bring our way.  The devil is like a prowling lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  He aims to destroy us in any way that he can.  When we’ve been isolated from the rest of the body of Christ, we’re an easy target for him to attack.   

The role of a pastor (or shepherd) of a group of Christians is very important.  As Jesus showed by example, good shepherds will be responsible, vigilant and protective.  Let’s examine each of those qualities further. 

Good shepherds are responsible leaders.  They take ownership of their flocks and stick by them when trouble comes, even at the risk of personal injury. Jesus said: 

11"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” John 10:11-13 NIV

Good shepherds are vigilant.  They keep on the lookout for threats to the flock both from the outside and from within.  Paul wrote: 

28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31So be on your guard!...Acts 20:28-31 NIV 

Good shepherds protect the flock.  Jesus said: 

12While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  John 17:12,14-15 NIV

Jesus protected his disciples by praying for them by the power of his name.  He had been given the highest name in the universe, and he applied that power and authority in his prayers. In the same way, good pastors will regularly pray for the protection of their people in the name of Jesus Christ.   

If you are not under the care of a pastor I hope that you will take action to find a good pastor and church where you can get connected.  Each of us needs the spiritual protection that comes from this God-ordained structure, and most especially in our current day with the rising tide of evil.  

Questions for further thought:

Prayer: 

“Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus as a model shepherd. Thank you for appointing faithful people to be shepherds over your precious flock.   

If you lack a pastor: Please help me find the church and pastor I need to connect with. Please forgive me for any sin-related attitude that may have prevented me from getting connected in the past. 

If you have a pastor: Thank you for my pastor. I pray for him or her, that you would strengthen them and refresh them with the Holy Spirit in their work.  Please bless his or her health and family.  Please protect him or her from the evil one.  Please show me what I can do to love and support them more effectively.   

Thank you, Father. I praise you now and forever, Amen.”