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Our Risen Shepherd

Weekly Devotional for Preachers
Our Risen Shepherd
Image: Cyndi Monaghan / Getty

My Dear Shepherds,

When I gather with a group of pastors I like to ask, “How has shepherding been good for your soul, and how has it been hard on your soul?” Dying is part of our work—“sharing in the sufferings of Christ”—but we are also purveyors of his resurrection, and that is life-giving!

Three times in John 10 Jesus said, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Then he said,

“The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

David taught God’s people, “The LORD is my shepherd,” but if Jesus had not taken up his life again no one could “walk through the darkest valley” without fear of evil. Nor could we sing, “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” (Ps. 23:6).

Some months ago, I met for a couple of hours with Ervin, a pastor from Slovakia. He was on a sabbatical in the United States because he was thoroughly burned out. I was alarmed at how fragile he was, and I wondered what became of him. Then I received his update:

The Sabbatical was life changing for me, my ministry and my family. … I needed to experience that GOD IS my Lord and Shepherd who really meets me where I am and who I am and He perfectly satisfies all my need of protection, help, refuge, attention, being known, comfort, voice to be heard, attunement, forgiveness or celebration. Do you know why? Because THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD AND I SHALL NOT WANT. I met myself in my need. And I surrendered my life to the One who really cares for [the] real Ervin.

Up from the grave he arose!

Pastors not only preach the wonders of Christ’s resurrection life, we are also its ushers and witnesses. I learned years ago, one of a pastor’s key tasks is to help people die well. We walk with someone to the threshold of eternity. We breathe on their flickering flame of hope. Sometimes, at death’s door, someone is born again.

Bill, another pastor friend, served as a hospice chaplain for a season, visiting “people who had a foot in each world, rocking back and forth.” Bill told me about one man who was dying from ALS. This man was deeply bitter and resented God for afflicting him so terribly. But he was also deeply ashamed of things he’d done. Being Catholic, he asked Bill to arrange for a priest to visit so he could make his confession and receive Communion.

“The next time I saw him he was a different person,” Bill told me, “I’m convinced he was converted during the priest’s visit.” Bill gave him a Bible which they studied together during their weekly visits. “He had such a hunger for the Word,” Bill remembers. “When he was dying, he was weeping with tears of joy and gratitude,” Bill said. “It marked me more profoundly than almost anything else in my life. Just seeing the power of God to change his life!”

More than most people, pastors have the remarkable privilege of standing alongside the Good Shepherd as he leads someone into the house of the LORD forever!

Be ye glad!

Lee Eclov recently retired after 40 years of local pastoral ministry and now focuses on ministry among pastors. He writes a weekly devotional for preachers on Preaching Today.

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