Summary: Contentment and security through God as Shepherd and Host of our lives.
This week, one of my research assistants sent me this email that reads:
"We convince ourselves that life will be better after we get married, have a baby, then another. Then we are frustrated that the kids aren’t old enough. We believe we’ll be more content when they are older. When the kids become teens, we’re frustrated that we have teenagers to deal with. Or we tell ourselves that our life will be complete when our spouse gets his or her act together, when we get a nicer car, and we are able to go on a nice vacation, or definitely when we retire."
We live in a generation of the half-empty cup, and the content that fills the half cup is fear: Fear that we don’t have enough, fear that we are not valuable, fear that we will be forgotten when we die and fear that we will face God unprepared.
We see a tremendous contrast in what the writer of the 23rd Psalm expressed and what our own hearts contain. How could someone write with such contentment and security before the time of hospitals and penicillin, before welfare programs and 401K? As we take a closer look at Psalm 23, we discover the answer from this psalm writer for contentment and security in the present and for the future.
How much would you pay to have what he had? What would you be willing to do to know his contentment and security? From the two pictures the psalm writer used to describe his relationship with the LORD God, I would suggest that to have contentment and security in the present and for the future, you simply have to trust God as your personal Shepherd and to trust God as your personal Host. In the remainder of the message, I will explain what I just said.
Someone tells about a man who pulled up to a red light and saw a truck towing a trailer with many sheep inside. The man rolled down his window and yelled to the truck driver, "You shepherds don’t move your sheep around like you used to."
To which the truck driver replied, "I’m not a shepherd; I’m a butcher."
King David, before he became King, was a shepherd boy, and he would tell you that a shepherd’s job was to care for the sheep. King David would tells us this morning that his contentment and security in the present came from trusting that the LORD God was his personal Shepherd, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.... I will fear no evil."
David noted that God provided pauses in life to restore our soul and our fellowship with Him in life’s darkest hours. We see this in verses 2 to 4. Have you experienced God’s presence in the pauses He puts into your life?
If we haven’t trusted God as our Shepherd, the troubles at work, the interruptions to our plans, the broken dreams and the illnesses will be nothing more than troubles at work, interruptions to our plans, broken dreams and illnesses, the dark times in our life. But if we have trusted God as our Shepherd, the troubles at work, the interruptions to our plans, the broken dreams and the illnesses are all pauses in life that allow us to experience His guiding presence.
Rita often tells the story of God providing the pause in her life in the form of her back injury. During her recuperation, God restored her soul, and she encountered God’s presence in prayer, in Bible study, in fellowship with believers and in corporate worship.
When Sir Harry Lauder received news that his son was killed in World War One, he wrote these words, "In a time like this there are three courses open to man. He may give up in despair, ... he may endeavor to drown his sorrow in drink (or indulgence) ... or he may turn to God." King David would tell us this morning the only choice that brings contentment and security to our present is to turn to God as our personal Shepherd.
Jesus, who was God in the flesh, speaking of Himself, reminded us with these words, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11)." God has always been the good Shepherd, but we have to trust His care, even when "we walk through the valley of the shadow of death."
The way you know you trust God’s care is that if you had to choose between Him and something else to fill your emptiness, you choose Him. That’s contentment. Another way you know you trust God’s care is that if you had to choose between obeying Him and obeying your fears, you obey Him. That’s security.
While contentment and security in the present comes from trusting that the LORD God is our personal Shepherd, King David would tell us that contentment and security for our future come from trusting that the LORD God is our personal Host. (See vs. 5 and 6)