God On Your Ipod Part 3: At Your Side
On Sunday 6th August at our morning service, we continued our series God On Your Ipod with the topic 'At Your Side'. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.
To listen to this, click here.
This week’s song is At Your Side by the Corrs. It is a song that describes how a friend will always be by your side whatever you are going through in life.
In the Bible there are many examples of God being beside his people – taking an interest in their lives – supporting, guiding, comforting and challenging them as they go along life’s journey.
To help us explore the idea that God is right beside us we are going to take a look at a psalm, a song found in the Bible. It is Psalm 23 and was written by a man called David. In Psalm 23 David writes about the relationship that he has with God - ‘His Shepherd.’ You can read this by clicking here.
“The Lord is My Shepherd, I lack nothing”
The Psalm is about how God takes care of us. David says that he lacks nothing. The idea here is that God makes sure that we have everything that we need.
A good shepherd loves his sheep. He wants to see his sheep contented, well fed, safe and flourishing in his care. That’s what his life is all about, and he gives everything he has to it. That’s the kind of shepherd we have. In fact Jesus goes even further when he talks about himself being the Good Shepherd. He says, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep." You can read about this by clicking here.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters.”
Whilst preparing this. I came across an interesting fact – Did you know that it is not easy to get a sheep to lie down? In fact they will refuse to lie down unless four requirements are met.
Firstly they must be free from all fear. Sheep are very easily frightened. But nothing quiets a flock of sheep like seeing their shepherd in the field with them. Like sheep, we also are easily scared. We live in an uncertain life. Any hour can bring disaster. But we can be confident that God is right beside us: our Shepherd is near.
Secondly there must be no tension between members of the flock. When the shepherd is not around, the sheep fight to be top of the flock, in charge. There are often tensions within our churches, families or workplaces – we should try to resolve these with God’s guidance and the help of his Holy Spirit.
Thirdly – The sheep must not be aggravated with flies or parasites.
The last requirement is that the sheep must be free from hunger. Our shepherd/God provides us with the spiritual food we need. If we hunger and thirst after him he has promised to fill us. All of our needs will be met through our relationship with him through Jesus.
David then writes that God also "leads us beside the quiet waters".
Sheep need water to survive. And they will not drink from noisy, turbulent water. They require a well or a slow-flowing stream, “quiet waters”.
Sometimes we get so busy or distracted with things in going on in our lives that we need our Shepherd to bring us back to the ‘quiet waters’ – that place of rest where we can spend time with Him praying or developing a deeper understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus by reading our bibles and talking with other people.
“He refreshes My Soul.”
This links with the quiet waters. We need spend time with God so that his holy spirit can renew, strengthen, and replenish us.
“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
If sheep are left to their own devices, they will continue to graze the same hills until they are barren. They need a shepherd who will lead them to good grazing areas. We are a lot like sheep. As humans we can either get bit stuck in a rut – not wanting to step out of our comfortable lives or we seem to end up taking all sorts of unsuitable paths through life. We need a shepherd who can lead us along the right path – a path that ultimately leads to eternal life.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
There are going to be valleys in life for all of us. Some of us have many valleys, some few. Some of us have deep valleys, some not so deep. But whatever difficulties we go through. God is right beside us.
During the time of David a shepherd carried very few possessions. But these did include a rod and a staff. A shepherd used the rod to discipline and protect the sheep. He used the staff to guide the sheep and get a sheep out of trouble.
To those of us who are God’s sheep, knowing that we can rely on him for support, guidance, protection, discipline and direction is a great comfort. We do not have to journey through our lives alone or in our own strength. God is right beside us.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
I’ve always thought that this verse was a bit weird! I’ve never seen sheep sitting at a table. So I’ve spend a bit of time reading about what this could mean. One thing I’ve found out is that in some parts of the world the high plateaus of sheep pasture are called "mesas" which is Spanish for "tables". It is possible that David means the pastureland has been prepared. In the spring, after the snows melt, a shepherd will take his sheep up the mountain to finer pastures. But first he goes up into the rough, wild country to check it out. He prepares the route of the sheep ahead of them. Similarly, God has prepared the path ahead for us.
David finishes his song with: “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
Because David had committed his life to following God, he knew that it would be a life of blessing. This didn’t mean that David would be free of problems but, he knew that God’s mercy and goodness were with him every day – no matter what problems he faced God would be there to help and protect him.
We can follow the same God that David followed and claim the same promises for ourselves. David encountered the faithfulness of God – he trusted him to be his Shepherd. He felt confident that he would be with God forever. It is the same for us. God desires to be our shepherd. He wants to bless us. He wants to care for us. He wants to walk beside us every day.
God wants to hear how you are! He wants to you to share your life with Him. He is right beside you.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. Is God your shepherd? And if so - are you trusting him to provide you with everything you need?
2. Do you have any tensions that need to be resolved? Either within our church family or in your work or home life?
3. Do you carve out time in your day when you can give God your full attention?
4. Are you stuck in a rut or currently walking an unsuitable path? What could you do about it?
5. Are you going through a dark valley at the moment? Know that God is right beside you.
6. How does God guide, protect and discipline us today?
7. Where is God leading you to? What does the path ahead look like?
8. Whatever is going on in your life right now are you sharing it with God?