Let us encourage them

Last weekend I attended the IF Gathering at our church. The IF Gathering is a women’s conference started by Jennie Allen; Bible teacher, author, she’s also a wife and a mom. The idea of the IF Gathering is “if God” …and she fills in the blank each year with a different ending to that question. This year’s theme was: “if God was coming back in ten years, how would I live my life?”
The speakers walked us through Psalm 23, each sharing their hearts for why we need to take this Psalm seriously if we say we are living for God.

The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

It begins with David saying the Lord is his shepherd, and because of this, he lacks nothing (verse 1). This tells me that David believed the Lord would provide for his every need. Well, if I am a Jesus follower, I can assuredly believe the same, can’t I? Stick with me here, I will circle back to this truth when I wrap up.

It goes on to say in verse 3, “He guides me along the right paths”. So, if I am choosing to follow the good shepherd, I can know that He will guide me in the right direction. The direction that leads to life and not destruction.

In verse 4, David didn’t write “even IF I walk through the dark valley”, it reads; “even though”. It is a certainty we will walk through hard things. God never promised life would be easy, even when we choose to walk in His ways. Psalm 23 also reads at the end in verse 6; “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Friends God is calling us to live a life with Him as our good shepherd. When we choose to follow God, we can be certain that He will be walking through life with us. Preparing the way. This takes me to something I shared about our son in law at the IF Gathering that reminds me so much of the truth of this beautiful, difficult to fathom but most definitely honest Psalm.

Our son in law Josh is the second born in his family. He did not have an ideal childhood. His parents were very young and, in his interpretation, not ready to be parents. He has shared some things with us that broke our hearts. Wearing the same clothes for days at a time, no toothbrushes in the house. At times, not enough food for everyone. He didn’t see a dentist until he was seven, and even then, only because he had a toothache. He even shared there were a few times he came home after school, to the house locked and no way to get in for hours. These things unfortunately, are just the tip of the ever-looming iceberg that Josh and his siblings endured. He and his older brother Nick eventually had enough and took their parents to court to be emancipated, Josh was 13 his brother Nick 14. Their grandparents got guardianship over them from then on.

When Josh turned 16, he started his first job at a local Tim Horton’s. While working at this job, he noticed every Saturday morning a man would meet with some teens for Bible Study. After observing for a few weeks, Josh mustered up the courage to approach the man and inquire about the Bible Study and this Jesus he had heard a little about from the few times he attended church with his grandparents.

Fast forward a bit, Josh left for college in the fall of 2016 and never stopped attending this Bible study, thankful for Skype. When our daughter met Josh and they began getting closer, she eventually joined him on Saturday mornings for the Bible study. Now they are married, have given us a grandson and still, every Saturday meet this same man for Bible Study. This time Josh has spent has encouraged his faith beyond his comprehension. It has spurred on the flame ignited by Jesus to spread the good news. Josh works for himself as a handyman and uses his time in people’s homes to witness to them and tell of the Jesus that saved him from a life of failure, condemnation and steered him away from the road to destruction. Josh knows the good shepherd provided what he needed when his parents couldn’t or wouldn’t and got him through one of the darkest valleys in his young life. He has been a blessing to our family, we couldn’t imagine a better suited young man for our daughter.

Why am I sharing all this about Josh? At the closing of the IF Gathering, Jennie had a young man come on stage with her. A young twenty-something with a lot to say. Hmm, sounds like Josh. This young man shared about the revival we all watched unfold at Asbury. He was mentioning how young much of the people attending were. He also brought up that a lot of people in his generation are not taken seriously because of their sense of entitlement, their lack of interest in living adult lives and why would anyone believe they could do anything for the cause of Christ? People, I am here to tell you, this generation, most call them “gen Z”, have a lot to say. Not all say the same thing, but we need to listen. The ones that are living for the cause of Christ need encouragement from us. They need us to hear them, run alongside them, and take them very seriously. If we are to see the next generations coming up running hard after Jesus, we need to encourage the generations among us now. This leads me back to the place in the Psalm when David was saying the Lord is the good shepherd and because of this he lacks nothing. The Lord IS a good shepherd. A good shepherd puts the needs of his flock first, puts their safety, first. A good shepherd provides for the needs of his flock. What are you giving the good shepherd credit for today? If God is your good shepherd, He has already prepared the way for you through your dark valley and has not left you behind to fend for yourself. His goodness and love are there for you all the days of your life.

Carol Frear