What the message was at church today and what I thought of it:
Speaker: Pastor Ray An Fuentes
Main Passage: Psalm 23
- The LORD is my Shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
- 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.
- Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.
- You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
- Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
I’ll be perfectly honest with you guys. I say God’s my treasure, but recently I’ve been in a dump. It is hard to follow God when you don’t feel like it, when nothing seems to be happening, when everything else seems more promising. And these last few weeks, I have not always stuck to following God.
And it is perhaps because of this that the message resonated with in me.
- A sheep’s welfare is dependent on the character of the shepherd.
Is the shepherd caring? Loving? Does the shepherd seek out lost sheep? Discipline the sheep? Provide for them? Protect them?
“in want” – state of neediness, destitution, and poverty
“be” – continually
Rephrasing verse 1, we get, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be continually in a state of neediness, destitution, and poverty.”
“He makes me lie down in green pastures”
“Green pastures” are symbolic of sustenance.
Note that it says “He makes me.” It is not something we do. It is something He does for us.
“He leads me beside quiet waters”
When a person does not have Christ as shepherd to lead him (or her) to the right path – the path of righteousness, things go wrong.
This is a lesson I have learned, and continue to learn as I make mistakes, and try to do things my way. I noticed that whenever I follow God, things go well. I’ve no worries, even when otherwise, I’d be worried. When I try to deviate from the path God wants me to take, things go wrong.
The speaker, Mr. Fuentes, recalled a story, when he was having a rough time. It was so bad, his wife was crying. He said that was the first time he saw his wife cry. So he panicked and wrote to his friends, hoping someone would help them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but after that, he said God told him, “Your problem … is that you ask people first. Why don’t you ask Me first?”
Restore – to renew
He renews our souls.
Note that in verses 1-3, David (the author of this psalm), talked about God. It’s in third person. But in verse 4, there is a shift to the second person, here David talks to God.
Also, the verbs are in present tense in the first 3 verses.
This is important, because it sets the background for what is to come. David knew the character of GOD (as seen in the first 3 verses), so when he experienced trials, he knew to trust God.
If you’re one of those people who don’t believe God allows us to undergo trials, hear me out. No one is immune to trials. James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
Besides, if followers of God do not experience trials, what do you call what Job had to go through? What about what Joseph had to go through? He had a vision of what would happen, then his brothers sold him to slavery. Then when things were starting to get better, he was accused of sexual harassment, and thrown in jail.
Trials, though they mark low moments for us, are opportunities to define us. It is when we serve God that the enemy seeks to attack us the most, because the enemy does not want us serving God. Trials can serve to refine us, if we persevere through them. Our faith is strengthened when we endure trials.
Verse 4 uses the image of a valley. A valley is land between mountains. So this is perhaps symbolic of low times for us. But the valley in verse 4 is not just any valley, it’s the “valley of the shadow of death.”
However, “It is not death, per se, it’s just a shadow.” And “shadows only exist because there is light.”
So you can see why David’s attitude was positive. He trusted God, and knew God was watching over him, even in dark times.
David was confident God would bless him, even when others curse him, David was confident God would reward him for persevering in good.
Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Rod – discipline and correction
Staff – guidance and correction
(For more on rods and staffs, click this link. I think it explains it nicely.)
So, this is what the speaker said, and I think he mentioned correction twice, ‘coz we’re in the process of being refined, regardless of what brought about the trials.
Rod – discipline, for when we bring the dark times on ourselves
And we are comforted, because God is with us, and disciplines us. Hebrews 12:6 says, “the LORD disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.”
Staff – guidance, for when God allows us to go through trials to refine us
And we are comforted, because God cares to mold us.
I’ve mentioned this earlier, Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Hindsight provides clear vision. Though Joseph had no idea why he had to be sold into slavery by his very own brothers and thrown into prison at the time they happened, he was able to connect the dots and see that his setbacks were intended by God to mold him, and to save others.
The staff is also for protection, and we see it in action in Joseph’s life.
We are not immune to trials, but our Shepherd protects us through them. Knowing the characteristics of God will help us through trials. Knowing God will help us to trust Him.
Now, back to the first verse …
The LORD is my shepherd
Jesus can never be your shepherd, unless He is your LORD.
“is” – present tense
not was, when you are busy
not will be, because you cannot be bothered right now
Once He is your LORD, He will remain your LORD now until forever.
“my” – personal
“my Shepherd” – statement of humility, because it admits we’re sheep that easily stray
LORD – owner
There has to be that point in your life when you can honestly say that your life is God’s.
Christian life is not about going to church. It’s about a relationship with God. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.”
What is God’s will, then? Look at Psalm 23. He wants to be LORD of our lives.
So what now?
For me, I commit to following my Shepherd. All you reading this are witness to this.
I have tried to follow God before, but I’ve often slipped to following Him on my terms. So from now on, I’ll try to do so on His terms.
Things I want to do:
- Develop a sensitivity to God’s voice.
In John 10:27, Jesus said, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.”
- Obey even when it doesn’t make sense to obey.
When it doesn’t make sense, or even when I don’t feel like it (coz there are times like that), even if it’s just one step of faith, I’ll take it to minimize mistakes, and because I know my Shepherd knows how to lead, and He will bring me to green pastures and quiet waters.