Most of my life I had a rather distorted concept of shepherds. When I heard Bible stories about the shepherd David, I pictured him sitting on a rock, playing his harp and watching the sheep as they quietly grazed around him. But I got a completely different picture of shepherds when I observed them firsthand in Romania a few years ago. These hard-working men were constantly searching for places with fresh grass to eat and water to drink. They were up early in the morning, leading the sheep and tending to their needs, and returned after a full day of wandering, usually working at least fourteen-hour days.
David is a perfect example of a shepherd-warrior — one who could fight, nurture and sing at the same time. The heart of a shepherd is unselfish, willing to give up his own life for his sheep. Also, the heart of a shepherd is protective and sacrificial. Often enemy prey threatens the sheep and the shepherd must be on alert at all times. David told King Saul when he was wanting to fight the giant Goliath: “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth” (1 Samuel 17:34-35).
This is definitely not a shepherd who was taking long naps in the afternoon sun, strumming on his harp and taking it easy. No, he was alert and ready to do battle. And David was an amazing warrior. He went from victory to victory with a singing heart.
God does not make us just warriors, he also makes us worshippers. He causes us to sing regardless of what the enemy throws at us. David had a song when the lions came at him and when bears threatened him because he knew how to encourage himself in the Lord. He sang: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want … He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:1-3).
These are times when somebody, or perhaps many people, become aware of God’s willingness to restore and heal. They understand his willingness to take us, not in our strength, but in our weakness. After all, the Scriptures do not tell us to come to the throne of God when we are strong; rather, we are to come when we are weak. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
The moment of spiritual awakening occurs when people begin to hear the Lord speaking: “I know your shepherds have led their people into powerlessness, having created a religious system around them to help prop up their error. And I know people have sinned and forgotten my ways, but I am still willing, one more time, to be merciful.”
God is calling out to men and women he wants to use for his glory. Remember, it does not take a multitude of people to change a nation. It does not take a hundred people to change your neighborhood — it takes only one who believes that God is willing to show mercy. However, if nobody steps forward, people who could have been spared will be lost.
If you desire to be used of God in this hour, you must be willing to step forward in faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Trust God for the ability to accomplish all he has called you to do. Even though you may feel like you have little to offer, bring what you have and believe that he will take it and change your generation. “I sought for a man!” (see Ezekiel 22:30) — God is looking for that one who will step out in boldness and be that voice that declares God’s mercy.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
The one great concern of our heavenly Father is that no “other gospel” will take us away from the cross of Jesus Christ. Many Christians have had their faith shipwrecked because they were given a flattering word years ago, perhaps something like this: “You’re going to have a great ministry and win thousands of souls to the Lord,” and not one word of it came to pass. Now those sheep are totally discouraged, their faith on the ash heap.
If you are going to receive a word from the Lord, let it be from Scripture. Better yet, let it be from your precious time spent in the prayer closet with Jesus. Let your closest godly friends test that word with you to confirm it; otherwise, if you allow anything to get in the way of the true gospel, you will end up in despair.
Paul was concerned about a dangerous invasion against Christ’s church when he told the Ephesians: “Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30). The Greek word for “perverse” here means obstinate persistence in promoting an error.
Paul was warning, “Some of you in authority will rise up and bring in a distorted gospel, introducing a corruption of the pure gospel.” How could this possibly happen among the leaders of this church? Notice, Paul was not referring to wolves or robbers of widows. No, he was referring to ministers who cower and shrink back from preaching the whole counsel of God — those who present a watered-down gospel, a half-gospel, only a part of God’s Word.
It is the responsibility of every believer to be sure you are sitting under the teaching of a good shepherd, one who preaches the whole, uncompromised Word of God. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). This means that the minister of God will lay down all his pride and fear of man to feed his flock God’s pure Word. Be certain you settle for nothing less.
We can often possess something valuable without fully appreciating its worth or significance. The story is told of a farmer wo worked his small farm his entire life, tilling the rocky soil year after year. At his death, the farm was passed down to his son who continued plowing the ground — but the son found a gold-streaked nugget in the soil. The land was full of gold and he instantly became a wealthy man. Yet that wealth was lost on his father, even though it was on the land his whole life.
So it is with the Holy Spirit. Many of us live in ignorance of what we have, of the power that resides in us. Some Christians live their entire lives thinking they have the Holy Spirit, yet they have not truly received him in fullness and power. He is not accomplishing in them the eternal work he was sent to do.
Some believers seek the Holy Spirit only when they are in trouble and want him to manifest his power. They hope he will come down and sweep away their problems. But Peter says that is not the truth about the Spirit. According to him, we have the treasure within us: “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).
At the Jordan River, John the Baptist told the Pharisees, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know” (John 1:26). Those religious leaders saw Jesus in the flesh, and they heard him speak, but they had no understanding of who he was. They did not know about his power and glory. Likewise, Jesus asked his own disciple, Philip, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip?” (John 14:9).
How long have you testified that you have been filled with the Holy Spirit? Has he been with you many years and yet you really don’t know him? He is the One who brings us through hard times with a testimony of joyful endurance. Our greatest witness to the world is being a Christian who has cast his every burden on the Holy Spirit.
God still speaks to his people today. And he speaks as clearly as he did in the Old Testament, or to the apostles, or to the early church. Yet we must realize one thing: God chooses to speak only to those who have ears to hear.
Mark tells us Christ “taught them many things by parables” (Mark 4:2). In this passage, Jesus tells the parable of the man who sows seed in a field. Yet when he finished the story, the crowds were baffled and wondered, “Who is this sower he is describing? And what does the seed represent?”
Jesus did not explain it to them; instead, Scripture says, “He said to them, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (4:9). Only the disciples and a few others wanted answers, so they came to Jesus afterward, asking the meaning of the parable: “When he was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable” (4:10). Then Christ took time to answer all their concerns (see 4:14-20).
Let’s look at what was happening here. Jesus had given the crowd revelation truth, a word spoken directly from God’s mouth, yet it puzzled them. You may wonder why Jesus did not explain the parable more clearly at the beginning, but I believe he was saying, “If you want to understand my Word, you are going to have to pursue me for the answer. Come to me with a hunger for truth that will set you free and I will give you all the revelation you need.”
I can imagine that when a majority of the crowd that day went home, their neighbors crowded around, eager to hear what Jesus had said. “Tell us all you learned,” they urged. And while they might have been able to recite the parables, their words would have been dead, lifeless, with no life-changing power. It was the ones who stayed behind, who lingered in his presence, who received Christ’s life-changing revelation.
Are you willing to wait on Christ in order to receive his secrets? Give up your comforts to do whatever is necessary to train your ear to hear his voice.