Tag Archives: The Good Shepherd

Abundant Living

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.   John 10:10 (RSV)

In her book, The Wired Soul, Tricia McCary Rhodes describes what it feels like living in the hyperconnected age of the 21st century:

While I am not personally prone to panic attacks, but these days there are moments when I find myself out of sorts, almost as if I can’t quite catch my breath.  I don’t think I’m alone in this.  People of all ages seem terminally distracted, perpetually hurried, and often harried.  It is rare for an answer to the question “how are you?” not to include the word busy and elicit some degree of angst.  Collectively it feels as if we are losing something important in the name of progress, as if life itself is slipping through our fingers.    

I know I’m not the only one who identifies with Dr. Rhodes.  I listen to friends, associates, and even strangers share their frustrations as they attempt to be “all-and-everything-to-everybody-while-no-good-for-themselves”.   Is it time for you to reclaim your life?

Moses experienced this dilemma as Mediator for the Israelites until he received wise counsel from Jethro (Ex. 18:14-18).  Moses reclaimed his life!  Believers are sometimes like Moses.  Even when we work in ministry or in the church, our hectic schedules and conflicted priorities keep us from serving God well.  Many times we’re too tired and over committed to assist when needed.  We’re even unavailable to keep the “divine appointments” God sends our way.  The thief comes only to steal.

In our text today, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, contrasts his nurturing care for His believers with that of a thief.   In this analogy, the thief refers to the leaders of Israel who didn’t care for the spiritual good of the people but only for themselves.  Who is the thief for believers today?  It’s anything or anyone who robs believers of the promises and blessings of God (Ep. 1:3).   For those attempting to reclaim their life, the thief is noise, hurry, and crowds.   It’s our bad habits, our toxic relationships and yes, our over-committed calendars.  The thief is social media—that constant intruder who interferes with our ability to live in the present and in the presence of God.  Are you a slave to the notification bell that pings every time you receive a new text?  Do you jump when Periscope whistles to you when a new broadcast is about to begin?  The thief comes only to kill and destroy.

But Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” So what does “abundant life” look like?  Life (zoe) is defined as “real and genuine”.  It is a life vigorously devoted to and in personal relationship with God (John 15:4-5) and with others.   Life offers spiritual freedom and eternity with God to those who put their trust in Christ (John 3:16; Rom. 6:14).  Life lived abundantly (perissos) is possible through the leading (filling) of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).  Abundant living is everything we need to reclaim our lives—balance, energy, peace, simplicity, and happiness.

The Voice of the Good Shepherd

“When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” John 10:4 (NIV)

It is God’s desire to speak to His children.  As we’ve discussed, God speaks in a number of ways.  In the past, He spoke through the prophets.  In our lives, God speaks through circumstances, including closed doors and even in His silence.

Hebrew 1:2 states that:  “God has spoken to us in these last days through His Son Jesus Christ”.  Jesus’ incarnation became the anointed vehicle by which God would reveal not only His plan of salvation but also Who He was.  In His teachings, Jesus would disclose to believers that God not only listens to their cry but also speaks to them through both their expressed and unspoken needs. We complete this series, When God Speaks, by focusing on the believer’s need to listen for God voice as Jesus teaches about the “Good Shepherd”.

In John 10, Jesus launches a scathing charge against the religious leaders of that day.  Instead of caring for the people, like a true shepherd, they would perpetrate theft and abuse against the most vulnerable of the community. They are described in this illustration as thieves, robbers (John 10:1) and hirelings (John 10:1; 12, 13).  Jesus uses this familiar occupation to illustrate to His disciples, and us, an important fact about followers of Christ—they know His voice.

Followers of Christ know His voice.  He “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3).  To call His sheep by name infers a personal relationship with the Good Shepherd.  As He approaches, the sheep “hear His voice” and prepare to respond to His lead.  We must be prepared to hear Jesus’ voice as we move through the busyness of our daily lives.  These activities, though necessary, often deprive us of important time to receive God’s guidance and instruction for the “sheep of His pasture” (Ps. 100:3).

Followers of Christ know His voice.  They know His voice through experiencing His love.  He first loved us (1 John 4:19) and gave himself as a ransom for all men (1Tim. 2:6). The hireling doesn’t care about the sheep—he flees when trouble (the wolf) draws near.  God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, He died for us (Rom. 5:8).

Followers of Christ know His voice.  They do not know a stranger’s voice (John 10:4, 5) and therefore, will not follow them. The voice of the stranger represents the world and its trappings.  The stranger attempts to lure followers of Christ away from the safety and the will of the Good Shepherd.  However, even if the sheep goes astray, they can be  assured that He will come to find them (Luke 15:4-6).

The Good Shepherd still calls out today. It is up to each of His “sheep” to listen for His voice.   This can be accomplished by reading His Word and spending time in prayer and meditation.  The 23rd Psalm is the most familiar and most popular of the Psalms; this is because of the reassurance and comfort individuals receive while reading it.  Jesus’ presence as the Good Shepherd promises provision, rest and restoration, and protection (Ps. 23:4).  Take a spiritual break and read the 23rd Psalm.  Listen for His voice—He’s calling your name.

SELAH:  Read the 23rd Psalm and visualize yourself as an actual sheep in God’s flock.  Write down the things God says to you as a result of doing this exercise.