Summary: Mountain-Top experiences may be good but can easily get you in your head. We must not forget that the Valley experiences are the ones that shape, discipline and position you where God desires you to be.
Opening illustration: Five year old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup, but he didn’t want to go in alone. "It’s dark in there and I’m scared." She asked again, and he persisted. Finally she said, "It’s OK - Jesus will be in there with you." Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to leave when all at once an idea came, and he said: "Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?" (Tony Klinedinst, SermonCentral)
How many of us can relate to that … if so let us turn to Psalm 23 and catch up with our own fearful journey as we travel through the valley of life.
• David walked with the Lord while caring for a flock of sheep.
• Pastors face the dilemma of being both sheep (for the Lord) and shepherd (to the people).
• There are three major problems we encounter while traveling through the valley of life.
What are the problems we encounter while traveling through the valley of life?
1. Problem of Emptiness (vs. 1-2)
• First, David said, is a problem of emptiness. David wrote, "The Lord in my shepherd; I shall not want." He was not talking just about physical want, but spiritual want.
• As we travel through the valley of life (sometimes we just don’t want to … because of the difficulties) we encounter challenges that we are not really ready to meet or deal with.
• To name a few, problem like insecurities, attention seeking, depression, instability and flipping … flopping ... emerge because people are just empty inside and are desperately seeking something to fill that void in their lives which only Christ can suffice.
• The Lord sometimes has to make us rest and He alone can provide that rest.
• God is so committed to blessing us that he will force us to lie down and nourish us.
• My obsession with being a shepherd can easily cause me to forget that I'm a sheep also.
• A valley means I left one mountaintop and I'm on my way to another.
• When you are in a valley, remember a mountaintop is ahead.
• The key is to keep walking through the valley no matter what because the journey is not yet complete.
• Illustration: "Nirvana" is the Hindu word for someone who has arrived into the state of perpetual bliss. Media reports said that Kurt Cobain, the NIRVANA rock group's leader, was the pacesetter for the nineties, and the "savior of rock and roll." But he said the song in the end which best described his state of mind was "I hate myself and I want to die!" And at age 27 he committed suicide with a gun. (Emile Wolfaardt, SermonCentral)
2. Problem of Guilt (vs. 3)
• Second, is the problem of guilt? David wrote, "He restores my soul, He leads me in the paths of righteousness." Why should He lead us in the paths of righteousness?
• There is guilt in our lives therefore daily restoration of the anxious, weary soul is a major human need. The key to provision is the presence of God … for His name sake!
• Down inside, we all know that we have not measured up even to our own standards, let alone God's standard.
• Mountain-Top experiences may be good but can easily get you in your head. We must not forget that the Valley experiences are the ones that shape, discipline and position you where God desires you to be.
• God blesses you even in the valley.
• In the midst of depression, failure, and challenges, God moves.
• He prepares a table before me is a preposition of location or an adverb of time.
• Sometimes God positions you to see that he is up to something.
• Illustration: In the Middle East as the shepherd travels with His sheep in search of pastures, he would put his sheep down for the night and then prepare a place for them to eat the next day.
• We must learn to follow, even if we don't see where God is leading us.
3. Problem of Death (vs. 4-6)
• Third, David pointed to the problem of death. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." Death is the one common reality of all human life." Many are truly afraid to die!
• Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies – pain, suffering, disease, injury – but strength and courage cannot overcome death. It has the final word. The only person who can walk with us through death’s dark valley and bring us to the other side – our shepherd Jesus Christ.