By Donnie Scearce
Donnie is the executive director for Pioneers Canada and currently lives in London, Ontario, Canada.
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an exceptionally difficult and dangerous circumstance? It presses in on you, your heart races and palms get sweaty each time you reflect on the situation. Well, this is actually the context of a famous passage.
David was on the run from Absalom. His son had betrayed him and he and his army were on the retreat, trying to regroup and figure out what was next.
They were hungry, tired, and concerned about their future or if they would have one. In this context, David sits to write in his journal: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” This psalm is so familiar that we overlook its implication for us who sense His leading into mission involvement.
Often when we sense His leading beyond our controlled and comfortable environment, we are struck by the enormity of the situation. Our internal voice asks: What will my parents think? What will my boyfriend/girlfriend think?
Do I really have what it takes? I don’t want to raise support and after all, I wonder who’d support me anyway? I have a hard time sharing my faith next door much less in a new culture and language?
Emotions swarm and fear grows to tsunamic proportions with the too frequent result of paralysis. We don’t move ahead because we fear too much.
There are three particular phrases from Psalm 23 that are critical to our moving forward with God:
“The Lord is my Shepherd” – This Psalm is extremely personal. David refers to himself 17 times in only six verses. And he refers to God 13 times. David views his relationship with God and God’s action on his behalf as central to his very existence.
It is important and I believe, accurate, to read it this way: “The Lord is MY Shepherd.” Let’s face it. We all too often think that while God may care for the world, we have a serious doubt if He cares for us.
And for too many workers already in the harvest, there is the danger of laboring to try and earn their own, others, or God’s acceptance (often leading to burn out and a premature returning from their place of service).
David believed God was personally interested in him and the rest of the Psalm reaffirms this. What do you believe?
Some little children in a church program were all trying to memorize Psalm 23. One boy was having a particularly hard time. The night of the presentation arrived and each child got up and quoted the psalm.
Though the little boy had worked hard, when it came his turn, he became nervous and flustered, stood to the microphone and said “The Lord is my shepherd … and that’s all I need to know.” Maybe it’s all we need to know too.
“You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies” – Most of us when struck with gut-wrenching fear, anxiety, and grief do not think of eating. It is the last thing we want to do as the emotional impact of the time is so great that our appetite disappears.
Yet David says that God actually prepares a feast for him and in the presence of his enemies? David had learned a secret. Maybe it began with the lion, or Goliath, but somehow this lesson had settled into his heart.
David did not view himself in light of his circumstances; rather, he viewed his circumstances in light of his sovereign and loving God.
Paul later reminds us of a similar truth “What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
One of our partner missionaries was in a Muslim country and this particular man is a bold witness for Christ. At some point, he had come across someone who was very antagonistic to his message. Within hours, he knew he was in trouble and caught a van to return him to the airport.
On the way, a small group of extremists chased the van down and ended up T-boning the van at a high rate of speed. All were killed except for this missionary and one other person in the van.
Distraught and seriously injured, he had the presence of mind to call his wife, who was in their home country, with his cell phone. The embassy was able to get involved, find this man, and evacuated him to Paris to receive much needed medical attention.
Though the entire situation is sad and the loss of life great and difficult, it is a great reminder that our Shepherd sees us, protects us and cares for us in the middle of sometimes extreme circumstances.
Our enemies will not always be physically trying to harm us like David and this missionary, but they are equally as real and we, no less, need His provision of peace. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
David was not in a physical “house of the Lord” when he penned these words but we get a glimpse of David’s perspective in Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.” David saw himself dwelling in the presence of God.
On February 27th of this year at 1:30 in the morning I felt a pain in my chest. I logically concluded from the Taco Bell meal I’d earlier eaten that it must be heartburn. I took something and went back to bed.
But at 2:30, I again felt the pain, went to the kitchen to get something to drink and felt a deep and sudden “whack” in my chest. I fainted and awoke to vomit twice and I knew I was in trouble. My wife called 911 and within minutes I was in the hospital.
As it turned out I was having atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat) as a result of a more serious condition with multiple blood clots in my lungs, likely caused by extended international travel. While lying in the hospital, this passage came back to me over and over again. My granddad had quoted this passage to me when I was a boy.
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life” not because of me but because of His great love and faithfulness. I could do nothing “for God” in that place and His presence was as real and comforting as I’d ever known it.
The key to moving on with God’s leading in our lives and to overcome paralyzing fear is to know Him and to know that He knows us. We are not hidden from God.
Even when we go through the “valley of the shadow of death,” He is with us. We know He is powerful and most of us embrace this at least cognitively. But as He has demonstrated enough times that we should get it by now, He not only has power but He consistently uses it to demonstrate His fantastic love for us.
It is only in the context of His presence that we dare move out but we should because He is with us. And He is more than enough!