A painful thing in life, which people struggle with, is the matter of insecurity. I suspect we all have an insecurity or two rolling around in our heads and a variety of questions we wonder and worry about:
• Am I doing good enough at work?
• Have I saved enough?
• Have I done a good job of raising my kids and taking care of my family?
• Am I pretty enough (or handsome) enough?
• Am I smart enough to do that?
• Will my health be well enough to take care of myself as I get older?
• Is my heart well enough to avoid a stroke or heart attack?
• Do my kids love me enough to take care of me if I need their help?
• When I die, will my spouse have enough money and capability to take care of herself (or himself)?
• Am I safe enough in this troubled and violent world?
• Have I done enough good to be received into heaven?
The list goes on and on. Living in this broken world of ours makes it difficult to avoid having a few insecurities.
Did you notice the word “enough” seems to be a major culprit in our insecurities? Our questioning? It implies a sense of inadequacy.
One of my favorite preachers of God’s Word, Stuart Briscoe, said a number of years ago, “Deep down, we have a sense of individual insecurity to cooperate with other people.” Maxwell Maltz who wrote the book, “Psycho Cybernetics,” estimates 95% of people in our society have a strong sense of inadequacy. I have no difficulty believing that figure. My only surprise is why the other 5% aren’t feeling insecure.
Jesus, in our passage for today, has some reassuring words, which have proven helpful for me in facing – even overcoming – insecurities in life. I’m sure you will find them helpful for yourself as well.
The words stem from a conversation Jesus was having with some of His adversaries who are trying very hard to wreck His reputation and ministry. They even went so far as to do Him in once and for all. They surrounded Him in Solomon’s colonnade around the temple area and asked, “How long will you keep us in suspense, Jesus? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Jesus responded to them by saying, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you refuse to believe because you are not among my sheep.”
Then Jesus speaks these wonderful words about the blessing of belonging to Him as one of His sheep.
My sheep hear my voice. So many voices speak out to us, offering misguided, harmful information that can harm us saying, Follow my advice and wisdom, and I will show you how to live the good life.
Satan is always busy seeking to make a wreck of our lives and destroy us. He throws temptations our way and says, Go ahead! Give into it. You will enjoy it. Nobody will get hurt. You deserve it!
Jesus promises to speak into our lives. He is our Shepherd. Though usually not audibly, He speaks to us as we open His holy Word. He assures us of His love. He shows us His way. His voice is a voice of wisdom and truth, which protects me, guides me, and gives me real life. It is the voice of real love reassuring me that I belong to Him.
I recently read this story by David Prince.
I know a family who adopted an older child from an unspeakably horrific orphanage in another country. When they brought her home one of the things they told her was she was expected to clean her room every day. She fixated on the responsibility and saw it as a way to earn her family’s love. In other words, she isolated the responsibility and applied it to her existing frame of thinking, which was shaped by life in the orphanage. Thus, every morning when her parents came to her room, it was immaculate. She would sit on the bed and say, “My room is clean. Can I stay? Do you still love me?” Her words broke her new parents’ hearts. Eventually the girl learned to hear her parents’ words as their unconditionally beloved child who would never be forsaken.
After she knew she was a part of the family, even correction and discipline did not cause her to question her family’s love for her. She understood it to be a part of what it meant to be in the family.
When we belong to Jesus as His sheep and place our trust in Him, we are considered adopted children of God, no matter what.
I know my sheep. Think of that. If you are walking with Jesus Christ, you are not just another face in the crowd. He knows you. He knows your name. He knows what is going on in your life. You are precious and important in His sight. He knows everything about you, and He loves you.
Walt Handelsman of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans wrote a story about Pulitzer prizewinning cartoonist, Jeff McNally, the creator of the comic strip, Shoe.
“I once received a call from editorial cartoonist Mike Peters complimenting me on a cartoon of mine. He said Jeff McNally and he had just been talking about how much they liked my cartoon. When I got off the phone, I told my editor that was a highlight of my career. Just knowing someone like Jeff McNally knew who I was. It is hard to explain, but to have someone great know who you are brings a sense of significance to life.”
My dear friends, Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, knows you by name. He knows everything about you, and He loves you anyway.
My sheep follow me. When Jesus is in a person’s life, He is there to lead them. Like the shepherd in Psalm 23, Jesus leads us beside still waters to green pastures. He leads us down right paths for His namesake. I don’t know about you, but oh, how I need that!
He is the leader I can truly trust. He is the leader who went to the cross for me. He is there for me, looking out for me, and He has all power and wisdom. With a voice of divine authority, Jesus announces, “And I give them eternal life.” When a person trusts in Jesus, they receive a new life. It is what He calls the abundant life – a life lived in the presence of a loving God and Father.
They will never perish. This life with God has longevity, eternity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Not even death can steal my sheep from me, Jesus is saying. No one can snatch them out of my hand (not the evil one, not death – nothing in all creation!) My sheep are My sheep, and I am their Good Shepherd. Jesus’ strong hand holds His followers tightly.
Notice: His hand is nail pierced. It reassures me. I have been bought with a price. His innocent and precious blood was shed at the cross for me.
No one is able snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I am His forever. This, my dear friends, always gives me a deep, confident sense of security. When life appears to be coming apart at the seams, it seems to be going totally out-of-control, I don’t know where to turn, and I am sensing a bit of panic, I remember that I have a Good Shepherd. He knows me. I am His, and He is mine. Nothing can snatch me away from His love.
At the end of His speech, Jesus says something that made His listeners get so angry, they picked up stones and tried to kill Him . . .
I and the Father are one. Jesus is claiming deity. He is God. They reject His statement as blasphemy, a total falsehood, which was deserving of being stoned to death according to Jewish law.
But you and I know, Jesus was not blaspheming. The resurrection on Easter proves that. He and the Father are one. Jesus is the Son of God. His claims were endorsed, and He was vindicated when God raised Him from the dead on the third day after His death on the cross where He paid for our sins.
As I read these words of Jesus and the response of His audience wanting to stone Him, I can’t help but be reminded of some words written earlier in the Gospel of John, the first chapter.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, yet the world didn’t know him. He came to his own and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him and believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:1-3, 11-12).
Even though He is still rejected by many today, the One who clearly states, “I and the Father are one,” wants to be received and believed by all. So we, who were children of wrath because of our sinfulness, might become children of God trusting in the One who said, “If you’ve seen me, you have seen the Father.”
Now, our belief in Jesus as the Son of God is not a simple intellectual assent, as some might think. It’s trusting Him. Trusting in all He has done for you at the cross and at the grave. It is betting the farm on Him. It’s giving your life over to His care and to His leading. It’s stepping into a personal relationship, surrendering with the risen Jesus Christ who wants to befriend you and give you life.
Yes, it’s true. Life’s challenges and the world’s brokenness can stir up insecurity storms within us. Jesus knew that about us. He knew that we human beings are sheep. We are helpless, prone to nibble ourselves lost, easily led astray, and not as smart as we think we are. But, He wants you to know that, when He is the Shepherd of your life, you have promises you can count on. I encourage you to daily claim these words of assurance He gives you in this passage.
Bob, I know you. You are valuable and precious in my sight. I know what you’re going through. I know your strengths; I know your weaknesses. I know you, Bob, like an open book.
Betty, I have such a good word for you. Just open your Bible to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and let me speak into your life. I will lead you down the right paths. I am with you. Follow me and serve me.
John, I have given you eternal life, a life lived in the presence and steadfast love of my Father. You were separated from God by your sinfulness, but it has been taken care of. I suffered and died on a cross and rose again so you could be His and live with the Father.
Julie, you are mine forever and ever. You will die someday, it’s true, but it’s not the end of your story. There is a place prepared for you. I’ve prepared it in my Father’s heaven.
I know, Sam, that this world sometimes seems dark, evil, and undefeatable. But know this: I’m stronger than anything in this whole wide world. I will not allow anyone or anything to snatch you from out of my hand. Nothing – absolutely nothing – can separate you from me.
I want to end this message for today with a statement Christian songwriter and singer Twila Paris made in an interview. I think it’s very profound for us.
“We human beings are so security oriented. Whether it is conscious or not, we all need and want security in our lives. From the time we were born, we were clinging to something. That’s okay, but we must cling to the right thing. When we are holding onto Jesus, that’s when we’re holding on to real hope.”
Amen to that!
Pastor Steve Kramer