When our painful trials lead us to discouragement, Jesus—our Good Shepherd—assures us of his purpose for our afflictions.
Hi, I’m Joni Eareckson Tada with a lesson from a sheep rancher.
Phillip Keller is a shepherd (and he’s also an author who wrote a lot about the lessons he learned raising sheep). Anyway, in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip wrote:
"The day I bought my first 30 female sheep, my neighbor and I sat on the dusty corral rails that enclosed the sheep pens and we admired the choice, strong, well-bred ewes that had become mine. Turning to me my neighbor handed me a large, sharp, killing knife and remarked tersely, 'Well, Phillip, they're yours. Now you'll have to put your mark on them.' I knew exactly what he meant. Each sheep-rancher has his own distinctive earmark which he cuts into one or other of the ears of his sheep. It’s a deep cut into the ear, but in this way, even at a distance, it is easy to determine to whom the sheep belongs. It was not the most pleasant procedure to catch each sheep in turn and lay her ear on a wooden block then notch it deeply with the razor-sharp edge of the knife. There was pain for both of us. But from our mutual suffering an indelible lifelong mark of ownership was made that could never be erased. And from then on every sheep that came into my possession would bear my mark." —Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23
I read that many years ago after I got out of the hospital. “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”. It was one of the first Christian books given to me back in the early 70’s. And I really needed its message—I was feeling pretty low, pretty demoralized about my quadriplegia. But as I read those lessons about sheep—especially this one about the painful mark of ownership a shepherd places on an ewe—well, I glanced down at my paralyzed legs and realized that this was the Good Shepherd’s mark of ownership on me. My quadriplegia was a deep, painful notch an indelible mark on my body that showed me (showed everyone) that I was God's prized possession.
But what touched me most was the reminder that my suffering touched my Savior, as much as me. Like it says in Lamentations chapter 3, God does not willingly bring affliction upon men; [that is] He doesn’t do it from His heart; it gives Him no pleasure to see us writhe in pain. Just knowing that helped more than anything, it helped me learn how to trust the Good Shepherd for my future days ahead. I wasn’t out there in the wilderness alone. I had a shepherd guiding me with his rod and staff, and calling me his prize possession.
As a sheep of the Good Shepherd, you bear His mark as well. Probably a painful mark, but it's your mark of identification with Jesus. So ask yourself today:
Do I recognize His right and claim over me?
Do I respond to His authority?
Do I patiently, perhaps even joyfully bear the mark He's given me?
Well friend if you do, you can say with the psalmist, "The Lord is my Shepherd!" And if his mark is difficult to bear, remember what it says in Isaiah chapter 40, "He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."
And if you need more help being assured of God’s intentions then click on my radio page today at joniandfriends.org and ask for your copy of the booklet, God’s love. We all need to be reminded of God’s motives when it comes to the painful marks we bear, so write me today at joniandfriends.org and get your copy of this special booklet that describes in depth the love of God. Finally, remember that your great Shepherd is also the Lamb of God who laid down his life for us all—that amazing fact alone makes any mark worth bearing!
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