Tag Archives: trust

Little Things Lead to Big Things

“I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me[a] were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved.[b] They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. ~John 10:1-16

So what does it actually take to follow the Good Shepherd? What does it take to please him? I read an interview with a shepherd who when asked what he liked about his sheep replied, “They come when I call their names. They love me. They paw at me and want my attention. They are responsive to me. They are not too afraid.” We have to trust what Jesus says in verse 10 is true – that he came to give a rich and satisfying life.

The amazing thing about our Good Shepherd, Jesus, is that he leads us in such a kind and gentle way that running when He calls our names ought to be so simple. He asks us to be obedient in small daily moments and when we take one faith-filled step after another, suddenly He’s taken us on an incredible journey we never thought possible.

My freshman year of high school, two students in our community, one just a grade ahead of me, had serious heart surgery. Both were named “Pete” and our teachers rallied the entire school to do something special for them. We began a campaign called “Pennies for Pete.” Admittedly, I was skeptical. What good can a lowly penny do? And yet, by the end of the event, over 900,000 pennies covered to gym floor – that’s 9000 dollars in pennies. And believe me, every single one counted. When you are faithful with little things, the Good Shepherd is able to make it something very big.

penny

Christmas 2004 one of the largest tsunamis in history struck SE Asia, including the small island nation of Sri Lanka. And though I was smack dab in the middle of a rigorous doctorate program, I felt an undeniable call to go that can only be explained as the voice of The Good Shepherd. And so I found myself committing to go half way across the world for 5 weeks that summer. However, there was a significant barrier to overcome – money. I was a flat broke graduate student living on credit card debt and student loans. How could I pay the thousands and thousands of dollars the trip was going to cost?

With one obedient step after another in the form of postage stamps, I sent out letters to friends and family trying to explain the unexplainable – that I was putting grad school on hold to go to Sri Lanka simply because I felt Jesus wanted me to go. And within days, letters began to return containing donations – unbelievable amounts of donations. The donations didn’t just cover the cost of my own trip, but paid for half of a teenager who’s fundraising efforts didn’t go quite as well AND covered the cost of taking many more supplies for the local children than we thought would be possible. God takes small steps and turns them into incredible journeys.

sri lanka3

And you are never too young or too old to be obedient in the small things. After learning of how desperately in need of clean water people in Africa are, three 5th grade students begged, badgered, and pleaded wit their mothers to allow them to do something to raise money for a well. And the moms finally relented in furnishing everything necessary for a killer lemonade stand complete with baked goods, custom crafts, and homemade bookmarks. In one morning these faithful followers of the Good Shepherd had raised 705 dollars.

lemonade

Jesus simply asks us to trust where he leads and to be obedient and faithful in the small things. A kind word makes a huge difference to someone who feels defeated. A simple heartfelt prayer falls on the attentive and eager ears of a good Father who gives good gifts. And forgiving someone who has wronged you brings healing and freedom. Jesus simply asks us to be faithful in the small things and let him reveal how they will lead to incredible things. And what’s even better is that we are not accepted because we do good things, we are free to be good because we are accepted. We don’t only have a Good Shepherd, we have the BEST SHEPHERD.

Do you recognize His voice? Do trust him enough to follow His voice? Do you believe He’ll turn your small faith-filled steps and turn them into a rich and satisfying life?

With Eager Expectation…

Remember the agonizing wait for Christmas morning as a small child? It was nearly unbearable! The presents sitting under the tree taunting you with their shiny wrapping and glittering bows. My sister and I would shake each gift in hopes of deciphering the contents inside. It never worked. Mom was too good at disguising each gift with packages of bolts and screws to throw us off the trail! Sometimes my sister and I were cute enough (or annoying enough) to convince my parents to let us open a present early. I’ll never forget unwrapping Pound Puppies on the 23rd. It was AWESOME! And yet, there was a let down as well as the rest of the presents still mocked us from under the tree.

christmas tree

Advent is all about waiting. The fourth Sunday of Advent is upon us and frankly, I haven’t spent enough time waiting! Instead, my life becomes a crazy, busy, stressful mess each December and I’m just hoping and praying Christmas doesn’t come too quickly. I know I am not alone. December flies by and I crash into Christmas. I’ve lost the art of waiting. The Israelites were professionals when it came to waiting. They waited for the coming Messiah for hundreds of years. Not months, not years, not decades, but CENTURIES!

David cried out, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope (Psalms 130:5).” While in captivity in Babylon, Isaiah proclaimed, “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my trust in him (Isaiah 8:17).” Only a remnant believed, the rest had lost hope. In fact, for four hundred years, the remnant became so small that Scripture is silent. The hope for a coming Messiah was nearly lost, the waiting had become too much to bear. But even during this apparent hopelessness, the heavenly hosts held the hope for the world. Look at Romans 8:19-22, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

advent

I imagine angels, cherubim and seraphim eagerly watching over the world like small children keep watch over the Christmas tree.

We too must regain the ability to wait with eager expectation. The kind of waiting that is narrowly unbearable. The kind of waiting that leads to only the greatest of joys and celebrations. Waiting is difficult, but the end result is incredible. One year I convinced my sister to tell me what was inside each of my gifts. It ruined Christmas. There was no surprise. No expectation. No eager anticipation. Christmas is just days away, so may we live out the desperate anticipation of the coming Messiah. May we learn to long for Emmanuel, God with us, like a small child longs to open their gifts on Christmas Day.

“Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:23-25)

 

It’s not fair!

 

I don’t know how many times that phrase came out of my sister’s or my mouth growing up. I was always much less concerned with how my parents treated me and always much too concerned with how they were treating her. To this day my mother ensures that the amount of money spent on Christmas and birthday gifts is exactly the same so it must have been a fair amount!

I was recently welcomed into a Bible study group, and besides building relationship with these fabulous folks, I’ve been completely convicted in all the right (and honestly annoying – because growth is always annoying) ways. The group is working through a study by Jeff Manion, lead pastor at Ada Bible Church in Ada, Michigan (a church I used to attend and still has a special place in my heart), and the study is called, “Satisfy.” Last week was on comparison, and OH. MY. WORD!

Jeff opened my eyes to see an old, familiar parable in a whole new way. In Matthew 20, Jesus tells the story of a landowner who goes to town to hire workers for his vineyard. At 6:00 AM he hires a group of workers and they agree on the standard wage, one denarius. At 9:00, he goes to town and hires more workers. He does this again at noon, at 3:00, and finally, at 5:00, which was one measly hour before quitting time. Now the landowner lines the workers up to receive their paychecks, and begins with those he hired last. To everyone’s surprise, those that worked only one hour received a full denarius! Now think about it, the guys at the back of the line who were hired first must have been elated.

They had worked the whole live long day. They were sore, sweaty, and exhausted. Scripture says the “bore the heat of the day.” I picture this work must have been something akin to detassling corn – wet from a mixture of dew and sweat, itchy, dirty, and too tired to even move! Surely they were in for a big pay day! The guys who only worked an hour received a whole denarius so just imagine what they’d be receiving!

Except, when it was their turn to be paid, the landowner handed them a danarius, exactly what had been agreed upon 12 hours earlier. Elation quickly shifted to indignation. The landowner, who represents God, reminds them that they were paid exactly what was owned them, exactly what was agreed upon and that he may do with his money whatever he pleases. The landowner finishes by saying, “Are you envious because I am generous?”

verse

Jeff points out that the guys who had worked all day were not angry because they had received too little, but because the guys hired last had received too much. Jeff uses a modern day example to illustrate, one I certainly could relate to – ice cream! My family growing usmall ice creamp loved to indulge in a bowl of ice cream as an evening snack. (I know not healthy, let it go.) When someone scoops us a bowl of ice cream, there is complete joy and satisfaction! Especially when it is our favorite kind.

big ice creamBut then we look at the person who came for ice cream just after us and their bowl looks better. They got more ice cream, more sprinkles, more whipped cream. And there it comes, that old familiar and sinking feeling. It’s. Not. Fair!

We are completely happy with the ice cream we received until we look in someone else’s bowl. Looking at what someone else receive immediately blinds us to the blessings that we have received. Jeff says, “Comparison is the enemy of a satisfied, generous life.” How true! And in this Facebook world we live in, comparison is easier than ever before.

I remember the panic I felt before my thirtieth birthday. I didn’t think twice about turning thirty until I started looking around at my peers. They all seemed to have accomplished so much, and I felt like I had accomplished so little. After eight years of full time employment, my friends at worked their way up in their career of choice or at least were seasoned veterans. Due to six long years of graduate school, I had been officially employed for only two years and was anything but experienced! The vast majority of my friends were married and most had a child or two (or four – go big or go elsewhere around here). I was definitely single (still am but I’ve got friends who are always willing to screen potential husbands. Just sayin’). And I couldn’t fathom children (still can’t). My friends all had mortgages. They owned their own homes! I was renting a bedroom, not an apartment, a bedroom in a house. They drove grown up cars. I still drove my Ford Mustang convertible. (Ok that one didn’t bother me. I LOVED that car!)

The point is, looking at what everyone else had in life prevented me from realizing what was happening in my own. I was blind to the amazing education God had blessed me with, the freedom that comes with renting and not having to care for a family, and the ability to enter into a rewarding career with new colleagues that in time became family. I am richly blessed! But to see it I need to keep my eyes on my own “bowl.”

blessedComparison is always a losing proposition for there will always be someone with bigger, better, and newer. Comparison steals satisfaction and robs joy. But our God is a generous God and free to bless who He wants in anyway that He wants. Counting my own blessings allows me to be grateful and content. So, when have you fell victim to the comparison game? When you look in your own “bowl” what blessings do you find there?

count blessings