In my opinion one of the most misunderstood passages of the twenty-third Psalm is verse 2: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” As you read this passage, you might imagine herds of sheep eating on the green hillside and drinking in a nearby babbling brook.
What made me stop and consider was the thought that the Shepherd had to make the sheep lie down in green pastures. It would seem that life in a pleasant, green land, you would not have to make the sheep lie down. So consider with me what would make the pastures so green? Storms – of course. Remember, Psalm 23 is talking about life on Earth with the Shepherd – not life in Heaven. In Heaven the green fields will not need storms, but on Earth they do. The same applies to the Christian life. The small storms of the pasture prepare us for the dark valley ahead.
Unfortunately, too many Christians are ill-prepared for the Christian life.
We must realize that a life of faith is grown. Look at the lives of great men of faith – men like Abraham, David, and Moses were not born as men of great faith – they were grown. The small difficulties faced on the green pastures of their lives grew their faith. Yes, it is true that God provided for their need on the pasture, but he also taught them. The sheep will jump into any water to drink. It is up to the Shepherd to lead him to the water that is safe to drink. It is the responsibility of the sheep to learn to listen to the Shepherd. That is the true purpose of the time spent in green pastures and by still waters. These are the places were we learn the voice of the Shepherd. We learn to walk where He says; we learn to lay down when He says. The reason for the storm becomes less important as learning to trust Him becomes more important.
Dr. Lee Roberson led me to Christ as a 5 year old boy. I can still hear him in my head saying, “Have faith in God.” As we grow in the Christian life, we will be tested. There will come a day that you face a valley. It will be dark, and you may not see the hand of the Shepherd like you did on the pasture. It may only be His still small voice that encourages you on. If you have not learned to listen for His voice you will be lost when the valley comes. It is easy to enjoy the green of the pastures and the stillness of the water and to take for granted that the Shepherd is trying to train you. We bristle as sheep against the rod and the staff. We want to live our way.
A sheep who has not learned the basics of the rod and staff will wonder off the path.
I can not emphasis enough the importance of learning the lessons of faith early. As a teenager, I took a softball to the head. I spent my 18th birthday in a hospital bed unable to move. For the first time in my life nobody could help me. The only person who knew what was really going on was my Shepherd. After a month of the doctors shaking their heads, I slowly began to learn to walk again. That step of faith back there seems so small compared to the level of faith I need for my daily walk today. I claim to be no great Christian, but I have learned to take steps by faith. The Shepherd has had many lessons for me. Each new loss of ability seems like a giant storm coming my way. It is in those times that the Shepherd makes me lie down in the green pastures. It is when I am desperately thirsty for some life-giving water that He leads my beside those refreshing, still waters.
I can testify that I have seen many storms come by, but I must also testify that the Shepherd has always been faithful. The storms may swirl around me so strong that I can not see the hand of the Shepherd. It is in those times that His still small voice breaks through the storm. It is those times that the rod and staff comfort me. If I had waited till the storm came to learn His voice it would have been too late. The time to learn the voice of the Shepherd is when the sun is shining on the pasture.
My friend, you will face storms in life.
The faith you have in the Shepherd will be tested.
Each opportunity for faith will be one step outside of what you think you can do. The decision you face is this: Will you learn from the Shepherd, or will you try to live the Christian life alone? Think about it this way… If your faith is never tested than you can never grow in faith. I will tell you this, I do not have the faith to stand in front of a million people and stretch my rod out over the Red Sea and expect God to part the water. That is not my test nor is it yours. I can tell you this though, that when Moses acted in faith God parted the water. The question is not if God can do something, but rather will He use you to do something. Learn to walk in faith, and give God the resource to do great things.