In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

It will be healing to your body, and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3: 6-8

Perhaps this passage seems particularly pertinent today as there are many issues and concerns in my path that are weighing heavily on my heart and on my mind. The weariness of my bones may exist because of an especially long and hard workweek. We all deal with the impact of living lives that are full with activity and responsibility, that are burdened with stress, and that place demands on our physical and our emotional energy. Big things, little things, trivial things; they come at us with a sort of non-stop urgency that doesn’t leave a lot of time and space for quiet contemplation and for meditation on the Lord’s will and way.

We think that our times are considerably more complex and activity filled than at any prior time in history; yet, as indicated by this ancient writing, Solomon’s times must have contained a lot of the same stresses as ours do. His words tell me that I need to recognize God’s presence in all of life; that I need to give the Lord credit for what He does for me and for how He takes care of me in all situations. This idea of seeing God’s hand in every aspect of life is interesting to me, for as I recognize Him, my eyes are turned to His way of navigating through my day; God’s enlightened pathway of truth and love opens before me. Another aspect in these events is that God’s path takes a lot less energy out of my weary body and soul; as He always gives the strength and the stamina required to go in His direction.

As I look closely at the face of God while following Him through my day, another truth starts to resonate in my heart; all of the plans and approaches that I create on my own are silly, futile, and even dangerous. The more I seek to solve life’s challenges on my own, the more difficult it becomes to keep Him in clear focus, and since it is always more difficult to navigate on my own, I end up consuming more energy to get where I think that I need to go than I would have if I had allowed God the opportunity to lead me. This is foolish and dangerous, for when I get tired and discouraged, I grant evil easier access to my thoughts; thus, I can allow a sense of negativity, uselessness, and weariness to defeat God’s purpose for me. So, the stresses of life will continue to be present in my days, but as I turn the eyes of my heart to God and His care, provision, and direction for me, I will be strengthened and encouraged. The ailments that afflict my body are healed by Christ’s loving touch, my worries and concerns are given perspective, for the Lord makes my frame to be more than strong enough to carry the weight of my life and to lift up the burdens of those who God places in my path.   

Teach me your way, O LORD,

   that I may walk in your path;

   unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86: 11

The eye is a wonderful thing. Its design is remarkable in many ways, but if we are not purposefully focused, it can also lead us into misadventures, distractions, and harmful diversions. The shiny objects of this world are everywhere, and they can grab our attention in an instant. Additionaly, there are many paths that we can chose to take to navigate through various aspects of life. A number of them are perfectly good and useful, but some are dangerous and harmful so that they should be avoided or abandoned if taken. The point of this is that what we look upon and where we focus our gaze does have a tangible and a powerful effect upon where our heart will dwell and the places that our feet will take us.

The Lord calls to us to turn toward Him and to open our eyes wide to take in the splendor of His glory, the power of His presence, and the peace and comfort of His grace and love. These are things that are not found in their fullest expressions anywhere else in the world. The character and the nature of God is unique in all of the universe, for He stands alone as the singular author of all that is right and holy in the expanse of creation. When we turn our eyes toward the Lord’s call, our ears will follow along. So, where our eyes are focused and our ears are attuned, our hearts and minds are likely to go as well. Thus, God calls us away from all that attempts to divert our focus from Him as He draws people to His grace, love, truth, and righteous way. The Spirit then works within us to teach us to value God’s path over any of the others that might present themselves to us to follow.

This is that proverbial road that so frequently leads away from the more popular ones that are regularly standing before us to choose. As we focus our whole being on the Lord, He works within us to unite our hearts, minds, and spirits in a singular purpose of worshiping the Lord so that the thoughts, words, and actions that follow will also be infused with the truth of God’s Word. The Lord, through the work of His Spirit in conjunction with the counsel of His Word, teaches us to discern the holy path from all of the others that present themselves to us on a daily basis. He calls to us to journey with Him into serving His kingdom’s purposes during our days. This takes place as Christ binds our hearts together with other people of faith in our common trek through life upon God’s path of redemptive grace. 

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Colossians 1: 28, 29

 

Paul had goals. He knew the desires of his heart, too. He wanted to bring people into knowledge of Christ and to see them grow into a relationship with the Lord that was founded on solid truth and understanding. He also knew that these new believers would need to be taught, counseled, and developed in their faith if they were to be sustained in their journeys with Christ. All of this required that Paul spend time and expend energy in the pursuit of this labor of love. Being a shepherd for any flock is not easy, and doing this with people can be all consuming. Yet, shepherding is what Christ had called Paul to do, and this was what Paul was intent on seeking to do.

 

It doesn’t seem as if caring for the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of others was truly Paul’s gifting either. He was an intellectual with a great passion for knowing God’s word and for seeing that it was adhered to by all. However, in Christ, all of this was changed, for Christ calls upon His servants to care for the people who come into His flock. This is a very mixed group with many gifts, strengths, and skills to offer, and also with many challenges, personality quirks, and sinful issues to work on and through. The process of entering into the lives of others is not easy, and it is made even more taxing by the fact that God calls upon His people to engage with others for the long haul of life in a manner that is like the one that He employs with each of us. That is, we are to stay in relationships that do not always go well, and we are to go after people who wander away from God’s path of life. All of this can be tiring unto exhaustion and frustrating to all who seek to serve Christ.

 

So, we do not need to enter into this work of shepherding by using our own strength and consuming our internal resources. They will never be sufficient for all that lies ahead in service to Christ. Instead, we are granted Christ’s unending and bottomless resources as our source of supply for His calling to enter into the lives of others. The presence of Christ within does not change the reality of the challenges that come with the calling, and those challenges will bring about hours and days when we are beaten down and exhausted from the effort that we are required to expend and by the harsh rejection and personal assaults that we are forced to endure. Yet, even the worst of these times are ones in which Christ is present, and it is in these dark times that the Lord often becomes His most real and tangible to us. Loving others will lead to struggles and to opposition, but loving others and shepherding Christ’s sheep is His calling for His people, and Christ is faithful to give His shepherds the energy that is required by this calling and the strength to endure all that comes as a result of serving His will.