Summary: Today, we’re talking about the shepherds who were just tending their sheep as they do every day and suddenly God shows up. What we’re talking about is a God encounter. A God encounter is not something you’re looking for, yearning for, expecting or even th
The Faith of the Shepherd
Last week, we looked at Mary, an engaged teenager whom God had chosen to carry His child to full term and give birth to Him. Today, we’re talking about the shepherds who were just tending their sheep as they do every day and suddenly God shows up. What we’re talking about is a God encounter. A God encounter is not something you’re looking for, yearning for, expecting or even thinking about and then God shows up. A God encounter is not you going to look for God. It’s when God comes looking for you and supernaturally makes an appearance in your life. And calls you to him.
George Alves writes, “I had 101 excuses why I didn’t need the church – in my early twenties I stopped coming to Olivet Baptist Church for a brief period. I thought church was boring, I had more important things to do on my weekends – I was working to pay for my college tuition, my books, and clothes, I could work better shifts at the restaurant I was working at. But then one Sunday morning at 11 AM a couple came into the place I worked at. They sat down and looked to the dock and the bay outside with fond memories. I asked them what they were talking about, “Oh, this used to be the place we came as children every summer to catch a boat which took us to Niagara-on-the-Lake for our annual Church picnic.” I had heard about such an event. I questioned them further, “What church were you with?” The lady responded, “You wouldn’t know, it a Baptist Church in west-end Toronto.” Now my curiosity was peaked. “What’s the name of the church?”, I asked. “You wouldn’t know it, we’re not even sure it exists”. “Please, tell me.” I insisted. “Olivet Baptist Church.” I had goose bumps all over my body, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. In that moment, I knew God was calling me back home to my family. I said to the lady that I was a member of that church. We became like long lost friends. I mentioned names like Gow, and Finlayson, but they had never heard of them and then I said, “How about Mr. Devlin.” Suddenly the man blurted out, “Mr. Devlin, Mr. Roy Devlin?” “Yes,” I answered. “Mr. Devlin was my father’s barber and my barber. He’s the reason why we started going to Olivet. Every Sunday he’d knock on our door, as he did on many others on his way to church to bring people to church.”
And then he writes, “I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was an encounter planned by God because Mr. Devlin was an important person in my life. Every single Sunday he made sure he found me and called me by name. He always asked me how I was doing, he took an interest me and I loved him very much. That evening I went to my manager and said, “Gus, if it means loosing my job then I’m prepared to lose it. You see, I can’t work anymore Sundays, I have to be in church with my family.” My manager respected my commitment and said there was no way I was going to loose my job. It was great to see Mr. Devlin that following Sunday!
The thing about a God encounter is that it doesn’t happen when you’re looking for it, asking for it or even expecting it. It’s not you seeking God but God seeking you. God just shows up. How many of you have had some kind of God encounter like that? Here’s the thing about God encounters: alot of God encounters happen in the middle of ordinary circumstances and in non-religious places. For George Alves it was in the restaurant he worked at. For the shepherds, it was in the middle of a field. God encounters us in the midst of our ordinary lives.
And God often speaks to people who are not that particularly religious. Because the thing about a God encounter is that He is calling you back into a relationship with him. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about the shepherd’s own religious beliefs or spiritual journey. But this much we know about shepherds: their lifestyle prohibited active participation in the religious life of the day. Their livelihood depended on the safety and well-being of their sheep. It wasn’t like they could clock out at 5 o’clock. If you were to go home, then that’s when the coyotes and wolves come out for dinner. So shepherds actually live out on the range with their sheep. They not only had to work weekends but all night to protect their sheep.
Do you remember your first encounter with God in your life? The first God encounter I had was when I was seven. I was asleep and like all children I had a fear of what hid under my bed in the darkness and what lurked in the closet. Fear gripped me every night, so much so that I asked my parents to leave the door of my bedroom cracked open so some light could stream in. One night I was awakened and saw a figure standing over my bed protecting me. I was terrified but not afraid. No words were exchanged. The next morning I actually asked my parents if they had come into my room before they had gone to sleep and stood over my bed and they both said no. But thinking back on that, I now know it was at that moment when God revealed himself to me that I knew I was chosen and God had something planned for me to do. When was your first encounter with God?