Time seems to be going so quickly! I can hardly believe I’ve finished the third week of my I AM study. This week it was about Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and it was so relevant to where I am at the moment.
I remember going to the Easter Show as a kid and watching the sheepdog demonstrations. I saw the dogs chasing after the sheep and biting at their heels, using fear to control and dominate. Is this sometimes how we see God? But the shepherds of Jesus’ day had a very different approach – they knew each sheep personally, they made sure no harm came to the sheep even to the point of putting themselves in danger. This is much closer to what Jesus meant when he said he was the Good Shepherd. He’s gentle and self-sacrificial.
Jesus is a shepherd motivated by love. The study looked first at the story of the lost sheep. The shepherd went looking for that one lost sheep, and rejoiced when it was found. In the same way, Jesus looks for us when we drift away or find ourselves in trouble. He meets us exactly where we are and he brings us home. It was very interesting to think about how that sheep actually found itself lost. It probably didn’t set out to run away, Lysa invites us to imagine, maybe the sheep got distracted by a particularly juicy patch of grass and by the time it looked up, the other sheep and the shepherd were gone. Silly sheep, I might think – but the reality is much closer to my own life. I never set out to distance myself from God. It happens slowly, gradually, one distraction after another. I neglect Bible reading or prayer a few times too many, I find myself connecting less with other Christians, I let worldly attitudes from TV or YouTube sink in. And suddenly I look up and find I’m distant, dry, discouraged.
How wonderful it is then that Jesus himself seeks to bring me back! It’s just a matter of calling out to Jesus for help, confessing of whatever’s taken me away and asking him to draw near. But how can I avoid drifting away again? John 10 says that not only does the shepherd know the sheep – the sheep also recognise the voice of the shepherd. Learning to recognise Jesus’ voice in my life, and living according to this. This study mentions some of the ways we can hear God’s voice – primarily through Scripture but also through godly counsel and listening to the still, small voice. But there are things we do that make it harder to hear God’s voice. Subtle things that creep up, like not setting aside time for him, being distracted by the world, being afraid of what God will ask us to do.
I know I’ve said it each week – but spending time with Jesus in prayer and Bible reading is so important. That’s the main thing God’s teaching me that just keeps coming up again and again. If I’m going to recognise God’s voice, I have to make time for him. I used to think God didn’t speak to me. My mum has a prophetic gift and she’s often talking about visions she’s received. I don’t have that gift and I felt like I was missing out. But things changed when I realised that God speaks primarily and universally through his Word. If I come to the Bible and really seek to understand, he will always speak to me.
One final thing stood out to me this week, connected to knowing God and recognising his voice. The first week looked at two Greek words for life, and how their different meanings affect our faith walk. This week, we learned two Greek words for knowledge. The first was eido – this is head knowledge, knowing about something or someone. The second was ginosko – a deeper knowledge based on personal experience. I have eido knowledge of my favourite historical figures, but I ginosko know my husband. It’s important to know our Good Shepherd in both ways. Knowing Biblical doctrines about God is very helpful but it has to go deeper than this. My knowledge of God has to expand into my own life experience – not just knowing that God’s a provider, but knowing how he has provided for me this year. Knowing how he’s forgiven me, how he went out looking for me and is bringing me back.
How do you hear the Good Shepherd’s voice in your own life?