Hello Friends of NLD,
I am back working on the 23rd Psalm series here on the blog. Interestingly as I type this Tony and I are on I-85 as we are on our way to Charlotte, North Caroline for the day to visit his best friend since Middle School who is dying with Cancer. He was diagnosed a year ago with a malignant brain tumor. He is now down to 4 or 5 weeks left to live and will leave a precious wife and three young children (ages 7, 5, & 3) behind. We don’t always understand the valley’s we travel. My Father died at the age of 50 with a malignant brain tumor as well. Death is overwhelming but praise our kind, good Shepherd who took the curse of sin that was credited to us through the law upon Himself and shed His own blood and presented it in the heavenly temple before God and it satisfied God’s wrath against sin and we have forgiveness, freedom and LIFE!
This part of the 23rd Psalm has been quite the popular passage to be quoted in those moments when someone is about to pass from this life to the next. But even here for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door in to a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ. Death is but the dark vale opening out into an eternity of delight with God. It is not something to fear, but an experience through which one passes on the path to a more perfect life. But for those of us who remain on earth, there is still a life to live here and now. So let’s look at some ways our Good Shepherd takes care of us in these “valley’s”
Let’s look at some reasons why the Shepherd takes His sheep up on the mountain ranges and long treks of the spring, summer and early fall. As with ordinary sheep management, so with God’s people, one only gains higher ground by climbing up through valleys. And notice it doesn’t say “we die there”, but rather, “I walk through…”. We will have many “valleys” that we will walk through. The disappointments, frustrations, discouragements, dilemmas, the dark, and difficult days, though they be shadowed valleys, they need not be disasters. They can be the road to higher ground in our walk with God. These thoughts bring me to point number one….
1. The trek up into the mountains is the easiest route to get us to this “higher ground” with Christ. We will see this when we receive our trials and adversitys….when we surrender it all over to Him, thanking Him for the dark, difficult days. We will then see that He is here with us and has never left or forsaken us. We will see that He is working out all things for our greatest good to the honor and glory of His name. To come to this conviction in life is to have entered into an attitude of quiet acceptance of every adversity. It is to have moved onto higher ground with God. Knowing Him in this new and intimate manner makes life much more bearable than before.
2. The second reason why sheep are taken to the mountaintops by way of the valleys is that not only is this the way of gentlest grades but, also it is the well-watered route. Here one finds refreshing water all along the way. There are rivers, streams, springs and quiet pools in the deep defiles. During the summer months long drives can be hot and tiresome. The flocks experience intense thirst. How glad they are for the frequent watering places along the valley route where they can be refreshed. Our good Shepherd is Living Water! He said if we would drink from Him we would never thirst!
As Christians we will sooner or later discover that it is in the valleys of our lives that we find refreshment from God Himself. It is not until we have walked with Him through some very deep troubles, that we discover He can lead us to find our refreshment in Him right there in the midst of our difficulty. We are thrilled beyond words when there comes restoration to our souls and spirits from His own gracious Spirit. Any other “source” we turn to for refreshment will NEVER satisfy and we will remain thirsty.
Interestingly, the one who can minister to the broken heart best is the one who has experienced a broken heart. Don’t avoid the valleys….you never know how God might use your experience one day, but know that the refreshment you can find available in Christ will fulfill like nothing you have ever seen!
3. A third reason why the rancher/Shepherd chooses to take his flock into the high country by way of the valleys is that this is generally where the richest feed and best forage is to be found along the route. The flock is moved along gently-they are not hurried. The lambs have never been this way before. The shepherd wants to be sure there will not only be water but also the best grazing available for the ewes and their lambs. Generally the choicest meadows are in these valleys along the stream banks. Here the sheep can feed as they move toward the high country.
Ironically, these grassy glades are often on the floor of steep-walled canyons and gulches. There may be towering cliffs above them on either side. The valley floor itself may be in dark shadow with the sun seldom reaching the bottom except for a few hours around noon. The Shepherd also knows from past experience that predators like coyotes, bears, wolves ,or cougars can take cover in these broken cliffs from their vantage point prey on his flock. He knows too that these valleys can be subject to sudden storms nad flash floods that send walls of water ramping down the slopes. There could be rock slides, mud or snow avalanches, and a dozen other natural disasters that would destroy or injure his sheep. But in spite of such hazards he also knows that this is still the best way to take his flock to the high country. He spares himself no pains or trouble or time to keep an eye out for any danger that might develop!
Our Shepherd knows all of this when He leads us through the valleys. He knows where we can find strength and sustenance and gentle grazing despite every threat of disaster about us. It is the most reassuring and reinforcing experience to the child of God to discover that there is, even in the dark valley, a source of strength and courage to be found in God. It is when he can look back over life and see how the Shepherd’s hand has guided and sustained him in the darkest hours that renewed faith is endured.
The person with a powerful confidence in Christ; the one who has proved by past experience that God is with him in adversity; the one who walks through life’s dark valleys without fear, his head held high, is the one who in turn is a tower of strength and a source of inspiration to his companions. We are going to have some valleys in this life. “in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The only question left then is…..how will you and I face these valleys? How will we handle them?
Well, with Christ – we will face them:
and with surety that only with them can I pass through on to higher ground with God. In this way not only shall I be blessed but in turn I will become a benediction to others around me who may live in fear.
Thank you, Jesus! You thought of everything we would ever need on this side of eternity! I’m crazy about you!