Summary: Ever think of why we don’t follow God’s leading? I don’t know about you, but I can think of at least 3 or 4 GREAT reasons not to follow God -- but are they good enough?
Psalm 23 has a very clear and comforting image of God leading us as a shepherd leads his flock.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. Which is to say, Since the Lord is my leader, I will not need anything else.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
This is beautiful imagery of God leading us in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
I met someone recently who told me that sheep really are dumb animals. This person told me that there is even one breed of sheep that is so dumb that if it falls on its back, it physically and mentally does not have the ability to get up. It will die there.
I don’t know if that is true or not, but I have also heard the same thing all my life -- that sheep are dumb animals.
But one thing we probably all know is that sheep can be led.
I enjoy watching David Letterman on TV late at night sometimes, and he has had on more than one occasion a taxi cab pull up to the front of the Ed Sullivan Theater where Letterman’s show is taped. The door of the cab is opened and out come half a dozen sheep and two sheep dogs. These two dogs can lead these sheep out of a New York taxi cab, into the Ed Sullivan Theater, through the lobby (where a special red carpet has been laid in advance for their welcome), down the aisles, and onto the stage where David Letterman is waiting. Then the dogs lead the sheep back up the aisle, through the lobby, out the door and back into the cab, which then drives off.
Sheep are dumb, but people are dumber! Because a sheep will let itself be led by a dog, but people won’t be led even by God almighty.
The imagery in the psalm is comforting -- up to a point. Green grass. Quiet waters. Then you have this valley of the shadow of death!
God leads us in some strange places, and sometimes, we don’t want to go where God leads.
St. Stephen is remembered in the Book of Acts as the first martyr of the church. He said in his first and last sermon: "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51)
And we do this all the time.
God leads us to speak, and we stay silent.
God leads us to use the gifts he gave us. And we stay quietly at home.
God leads us to be his bold witnesses, and we timidly stay mute.
It is hard to let God lead us. And it is almost illogical to do the things God wants us to do.
Moses! There he is with 1000’s of people waiting for him to do something. The Egyptian Army comes rushing over the sand dunes on one side, and Red Sea is on the other.
Who in his right mind would ever think that walking into the sea is a "good" idea? Most people in their right mind would look at the enemy army approaching and think, "Did anybody bring the white flag? Anybody trained in diplomacy?"
But God doesn’t want people who are ONLY in their right minds. He wants people in their righteous mind, who are on the righteous path. And sometimes, following God on the righteous paths doesn’t seem like the right minded thing to do.
Israel facing Goliath! Who in his right mind would send in the kid with the slingshot? No. Anybody in their right mind would look for Arnold Swartzenegger armed with a bazooka!
But God doesn’t want people who from the world’s point of view are in their right mind. He wants people who are on the righteous path.
Think back on the times when you rejected God’s leadership. I look back on my life and I think the times I rejected God and I know I had outstanding reasons to reject God.
Outstanding reason number one...
It is easier to stay where you are, or even move backward, than to move forward with God.
A few years ago, I was serving a church in Brunswick, Georgia, that had a relationship with Presbyterian Churches in the Navajo Reservation of Utah and Arizona. One year we had a young person who signed up with a program of the Presbyterian Church to volunteer to spend an entire year working in Arizona with the Navajo Indians.
At the very last minute, she decided not to go.
I talked with her, and asked her why the change of heart.