Devotional: The Sheep on His Shoulder
Was there ever a time when you identified with the lost sheep?
Many of us who attend church regularly never perceive ourselves as having strayed because:
- We participate in every service;
- We never do drugs or wild parties;
- We are not promiscuous;
- We have no record of a drastic change from sinner to saint.
Therefore, we credit ourselves with being forever Christians--even though our thoughts and attitude condemn us.
However, God sees beyond attendance and abstinence. He knows when we have strayed from His presence and protection.
So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?
Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?
And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.— Luke 15: 3 - 5 NLT
The Story of a Preacher's (T.D. Jakes) Daughter Who Strayed
Megan was in that category of people who stray inside the church. She was nineteen years old and the daughter of a church leader. Bible study worship was a regular activity in her home. She was physically attractive, the life of the party, musically gifted and sang solos since she was five years old. She could never consider herself that lost sheep, comparable to other rebellious teenagers who leave the fold.
Megan became obsessed with maintaining her slim figure. Eventually, her beauty became the sum total of her self-worth and she flaunted it--not exactly a crime or a reason for church discipline. Even when she met Martin who wanted a serious relationship with her, she could not give up the desire to be popular with everyone. Martin doubted that he could trust her in his absence, and he ended their friendship. Megan journeyed from disappointment to despair to depression.
In her sessions with the Christian counselor, Megan evaluated her spirituality. She confessed, "At times when I wrapped myself in my selfishness, I ignored the presence of God in my life, and was as lost as the people who turn their backs on Him."
Megan had a point. We stray whenever our focus on anything or anyone (including self) replaces our focus on God. We do not need to be physically absent from church in order to leave His presence. Within the church, we still need the saving grace of Jesus Christ to rescue us from our own self-righteous attitudes, prejudices, and bad habits.
If we are honest, we can cite several instances when we identified with the lost sheep; and every time He searched for us with the passion described in the verse below from the song, The Ninety and Nine.
Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.
Within the church, we still need the saving grace of Jesus Christ to rescue us from our own self-righteous attitudes, prejudices, and bad habits.
There is no need for us to pretend that we're in the fold when we're not. God searches for church members with the same urgency and passion as He searches for non-members. He loves us all the same. The death of Jesus Christ on the cross gives the same benefits to individuals in both groups. Each one is a lost sheep until the Shepherd-sheep encounter in which the sheep responds wholeheartedly to the love of the Shepherd.
Can you imagine His joy as He retrieves His lost sheep?
Can you see Him reaching out His arms as He comes close, bending down to pick you up and lifting you gently onto His shoulder?
Can you sense Him taking you away from your panic, from your failure, from your hurt, and letting you rest on His shoulder till you are strong enough to stand on your feet?
I've been there, and there are no words to describe the joy of being lifted onto the shoulder of the faithful, fatherly, forgiving Shepherd.
What magnificent love! What rejoicing when the relationship is restored! You’re not just a number in the flock. You’re the one He misses and searches for. You’re the one He longs to celebrate. Let this image of being a sheep on His shoulder live in your memory and you will never ever feel hopeless, no matter your situation.
Quiz on the "The Lost Sheep"
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(1) Do you credit yourself with being a forever Christian--even though your thoughts and attitude condemn you?
(2) Do you realize that you stray whenever your focus on anything or anyone (including self) replaces your focus on God?
(3) Have you ever sensed God reaching out His arms as He comes close, bending down to pick you up and lifting you gently onto His shoulder?
(4) Does this image of being a sheep on His shoulder make you feel like persevering on your Christian journey?
(5) Will you share with other lost sheep about your experience of being lost and found?
Heavenly Shepherd, thank You for loving us even when we stray. Thanks for lifting us onto Your shoulder when we're tired, hurt or trampled upon by other lost sheep; or when our vision is so blurred that we cannot see our way. Thanks for the peace and joy which come when our fellowship with You is restored, and we return to the fold. We pray with thanksgiving In Jesus’ name. Amen.