ONLY THE LIVES OF REFRESHED SHEEP CAN OVERFLOW.
John 7:37-38 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Psalm 81:16 He would have fed them also with the finest of wheat; And with honey from the rock I would have satisfied you.”
As with most animals sheep are made of 70% water. Water is vital for them to live. Generally speaking, water for the sheep came from three main sources…dew on the grass…deep wells…or springs and streams. Most people are not aware that sheep can go for months on end, especially if the weather is not too hot, without actually drinking, if there is a heavy dew on the grass each morning. Of course, dew is a clear, clean, pure source of water. And there is no more resplendent picture of still waters than the silver droplets of the dew hanging heavy on leaves and grass at break of day.
Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
To get the water they need they must be up early while the grey mists of dawn are rising. Is there a lesson again for us? Do we meet the Lord in the quiet opening of our days? Do we get the refreshment we need to carry us onward through the hot, dry activities of life’s deserts? That is what the morning manna collection pictured. That is what the sheep experienced. That is what all the biographies of the great saints of the past have recorded as being a common denominator in their lives. Is that hat we have?
Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; In the Christian life it is of more than passing significance to observe that those who are often the most serene, most confident and able to cope with life’s complexities are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word.
Mark 1:35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. It is in the quiet, early hours of the morning that they are led beside the quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for the day. This is much more than mere figure of speech. It is practical reality. The biographies of the great men and women of God repeatedly point out how the secret of the success in their spiritual life was attributed to the “quiet time” of each morning. There, alone, still, waiting for the Master’s voice one is led gently to the place where as the old hymn puts it, “The still dews of His Spirit can be dropped into my life.
One comes away from these hours of meditation, reflection and communion with Christ refreshed in mind and spirit. The thirst is slaked and the heart is quietly satisfied. In your mind see the flock of sheep again, as the gentleness, stillness and softness of early morning finds the sheep knee deep in dew drenched grass. There they fed heavily and contentedly. As the sun rose and its heat burned the dewdrops from the leaves, the flock would retire to find shade. There, fully satisfied and happily refreshed, they would lie down to rest and ruminate through the day. Nothing pleases a shepherd more. This is precisely the same reaction our Good Shepherd’s heart when we meet the day in the same way. He loves to see me contented, quiet, at rest and relaxed. He delights to know my soul and spirit have been refreshed and satisfied.
ONLY THE LIVES OF RESTORED SHEEP CAN OVERFLOW.
One of the most dreadful situations for a sheep is to be “cast”. This refers to being on its back, feet flailing, and unable to regain its balance to stand. This often happens when sheep seek a spot that is too comfortable (like a depression in the pasture to sink down into and lay in), or when they over eat, or when they are too shaggy and untrimmed, or when they stumble and roll down an embankment.
In Psalm 42:11 David cries out, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God”. A “cast” sheep is a very pathetic sight. Lying on its back, its feet in the air, it flays away frantically struggling to stand up, without success. Sometimes it will bleat a little for help, but generally it lies there lashing about in frightened frustration.
Once in a cast position, the clock begins to tick. They lose circulation in their legs, then feeling goes, then the rumination gasses start them swelling and if left unchecked they actually die from the suffocating pressures of their own upside down digestive world. They are cast when their world turns upside down!
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Often when the fleece becomes very long, and heavily matted with mud, manure, burrs and other debris. It is much easier for a sheep to become cast, literally weighed down with its own wool.
Wool in Scripture depicts the old self-life in the Christian. It is the outward expression of an inner attitude, the assertion of my own desire and hopes and aspirations. Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
“Wool” is the area of my life in which and through which I am continually in contact with the world around me. Here is where I find the clinging accumulation of things, of possessions, of worldly ideas beginning to weigh me down, drag me down, hold me down. Mark 4:19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
It is significant that no high priest was ever allowed to wear wool when he entered the Holy of Holies. This spoke of self, of pride, of personal preference – and God could not tolerate it. If I wish to go on walking with God and not be forever cast down, this is an aspect of my life which He must deal with drastically. James 4:8Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Whenever a sheep was being cast because it had too long and heavy a fleece, swift steps are taken to remedy the situation. In short order the sheep is shorn clean and the danger removed of the loss of life. This was not always a pleasant process. Sheep do not really enjoy being sheared and it represents some hard work for the shepherd, but it must be done. Actually when it is all over both sheep and owner are relieved. There is no longer the threat of being cast down, while for the sheep there is the pleasure of being set free from a hot, heavy coat. Often the fleece is clogged with filthy manure, mud, burrs, sticks and ticks. What a relief to be rid of it all! 2 Corinthians 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
And similarly in dealing with our old self-life, there will come a day when the Master must take us in hand and apply the keen cutting edge of His Word to our lives. It may be an unpleasant business for a time. No doubt we’ll struggle and kick about it. We may get a few cuts and wounds. But what a relief when it is all over. Oh, the pleasure of being set free from ourselves! What a restoration! 1 Corinthians 9:27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
ONLY THE LIVES OF OILED SHEEP CAN OVERFLOW
Galatians 5:16, 25 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Sheep are especially troubled by the nose fly, or nasal fly, as it is sometimes called. These little flies buzz about the sheep’s head, attempting to deposit their eggs. If they are successful the small, slender, worm-like larvae set up an intense irritation accompanied by severe inflammation. Once the oil had been applied to the sheep’s head there was an immediate change in behavior. Gone was the aggravation; gone the frenzy; gone the irritability and the restlessness. Instead, the sheep would start to feed quietly again, then soon lie down in peaceful contentment.
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. In the flock there are also subtle changes. this is the season of the rut, of mating, of great battles between the rams for possession of the ewes. The necks of the monarchs swell and grow strong. They strut proudly across the pastures and fight furiously for the favors of the ewes. The crash of heads and thud of colliding bodies can be heard through the hours of day and night. The shepherd knows all about this. He knows that some of the sheep will and can actually kill, injure and maim each other in these deadly combats. So he decides on a very simple remedy. At this season of the year he will catch his rams and smear their heads with grease. I used to apply generous quantities of axle grease to the head and nose of each ram. Then when they collided in their great crashing battles the lubricant would make them glance off each other in such a ludicrous way they stood there feeling rather stupid and frustrated. In this way much of the heat and tension was dissipated and little damage done.
Among God’s people there is a considerable amount of knocking each other. Somehow if we don’t see eye to eye with the other person, we persist in trying to assert ourselves and become “top sheep.” A good many become badly bruised and hurt this way. To forestall and prevent this sort of thing from happening among His people our Shepherd loves to apply the precious ointment of the presence of His gracious Spirit to our lives. It will be recalled that just before His crucifixion, our Lord in dealing with His twelve disciples, who, even then, were caught up in jealous bickering and rivalry for prestige, told of the coming of the Comforter -the Spirit of Truth. Because of His being sent to them, He said, they would know peace. He went on to say that His people would be known everywhere for their love for one another.
But too often this simply is not true among God’s own people. They hammer and knock each other, stiff-necked with pride and self-assertion. They are intolerant, dogmatic and uncharitable with other Christians. Yet when the gracious Holy Spirit invades a man or woman, when He enters that life and is in control of the personality, the attributes of peace, joy, long-suffering and generosity become apparent. It is then that suddenly one becomes aware of how ridiculous are all the petty jealousies, rivalries and animosities, which formerly motivated their absurd assertions. This is to come to a place of great contentment in the Shepherd’s care. And it is then the cup of contentment becomes real in the life. As the children of God, the sheep in the Divine Shepherd’s care, we should be known as the most contented people on earth. A quiet, restful contentment If sheep are not checked they develop infections. The most common is what we see in the Old Testament called blemished (as in an “unblemished” lamb). The blemishes were what we today call the scab, a communicable infectious skin disorder that if left unchecked can totally disable sheep. The face of the sheep is where the scab starts. It is transmitted as sheep rub heads, which they do often. The other most common ailment is also of the head and it is called the nose fly. In application, the world of sin usually attacks our heads (minds) first. We must have our noses oiled by the repellent of God’s Word and our heads washed with the healing cleansing of the Holy Spirit.
If they are not guided they drink fouled water and develop liver flukes that slowly kill them.
If they are not oiled in the summer with special oils they are distracted to sickness and even death by the nasal flies that lay eggs in the soft tissue of their noses. The eggs hatch into larvae which burrow up into their sinuses and cause they run hit their head on rocks, rub their noses until their raw, or even get infected to the point of blindness and even death.
Ancient and modern shepherds have made oil with sulfur and spices that repels the flies, prevents the eggs from being laid, and calms the sheep in the summer “fly season”. Without protection the sheep are irritable, fearful, and restless. They run from the flies, tossing their heads for hours, rubbing their heads, hiding in bushes and just acting panicked. This leads to lack of nourishment, abandonment of care for the young, and general weakness. The application of oil is astounding, the flock grows quiet, the sheep return to eating.
So in our lives the anointing of the Holy Spirit is the moment-by-moment appropriation of God’s power over the pests that irritate and nag us in life. Only the oil of the Holy Spirit can free us from frustrations and irritations. Only the Holy Spirit can quiet us and bring us to contentment.
At salvation we received all of the Holy Spirit. But to possess Him and to be controlled by Him are two vastly different conditions. Shepherds can carry gallons of nasal fly oil but until it is applied there is no relief.
It’s the application that matters.
To be safe from all wounds, pests, diseases, and dangers they learned to trustingly pass under the rod of their shepherd as he moves the rod and his hands over their fur to check and clean and protect them. Sounds like the prayers of David in Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. NKJV
To us that means awareness of the presence of God’s Spirit, daily application of His power, His Word, His control.
To us that means asking for the Holy Spirit’s control, filling, and leading – and then living under His guidance!
It means bowing my infected head for His daily inspection and cleansing. It means submitting my rebellious will for a periodic dip to purge the sin. It means being filled by God’s Spirit moment by moment.
Only God’s Spirit can calm the irritations of life.
Only God’s Spirit can bring peace to my world.
Only God’s Spirit can restore me to regular feeding and growth.
Not just in summertime do we need anointing, we need Him DAILY!
MY CUP OVERFLOWS
As the shepherd anoints his sheep, pouring oil over their heads, rubbing their wounds, anointing their noses, something wonderful takes place.
The animal’s entire personality changes.
Frustration ceases. Hostility departs. Focus returns.
Sheep feed and grow.
The nose flies of the Christian life are cataloged in Galatians 5:19-21. They are called the works of the flesh. There are 15 named:
- OUTBURSTS OF WRATH
- SELFISH AMBITIONS
Most Christians usually shun seven of these nose flies. We are proud we don’t do them. But eight reflect the irritations of the flesh of which most of us are guilty.
These pests are constantly buzzing around us and within us, casing unceasing harassment. We can swat at them, run from them, and try to hide from them. We can pretend they aren’t there – but we can’t eliminate them.
They create guilt and anxiety within and hostility without.
The only solution is found in Another.
My irritable personality must be exchanged for Another’s.
The fruit of the Spirit is actually a list of Christ’s personality traits when the Holy Spirit runs our lives. There are 9 evidences called the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22- 23:
The Holy Spirit pours His oil of LOVE over the nose fly of STRIFE, and brings PEACE. The Holy Spirit pours His oil of JOY over the nose fly of ENVY, and brings PEACE. The Holy Spirit pours His oil of PEACE over the nose fly of DISPUTES, and brings PEACE.
The Holy Spirit replaces my personality with Christ’s.
The results are dramatic, life changing and overflowing.
There is always enough anointing left over for others, overflowing cup is meant to be shared.
The anointed head is for me.
The overflowing cup is for others.
ONLY THE LIVES OF RIGHTEOUS SHEEP CAN OVERFLOW.
Sheep will blindly, habitually follow one another along the same little trails until they become ruts that erode into gigantic gullies, so we humans cling to the same habits that we have seen ruin other lives. The difficult point is that most of us don’t want to come. We don’t want to follow. We don’t want to be led in the paths of righteousness. Somehow it goes against our grain. We actually prefer to turn to our own way even though it may take us straight into trouble. Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
- The stubborn, self-willed, proud, self-sufficient sheep that persists in pursuing its old paths and grazing on its old polluted ground will end up a bag of bones on ruined land. Psalm 106:15 And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul.
- The world we live in is full of such folk. Broken homes, broken hearts, derelict lives and twisted personalities remind us everywhere of men and women who have gone their own way. We have a sick society struggling to survive on beleaguered land. The greed and selfishness of mankind leaves behind a legacy of ruin and remorse.
- In brief, seven fresh attitudes have to be acquired. They are the equivalent of progressive forward movements onto new ground with God. If one follows them they will discover fresh pasturage; new, abundant life; and increased health, wholesomeness and holiness, in their walk with God. Nothing will please Him more and most certainly no other activity on our part will or can result in as great benefit to other lives around.
o SACRIFICE SELF FOR CHRIST’S SAKE – Instead of loving myself most I am willing to love Christ best and others more than myself. The moment I deliberately do something definite either for God or others that costs me something, I am expressing love. Love is “selflessness” or “self-sacrifice” in contradistinction to “selfishness.” Most of us know little of living like this or being “led” in this right way. But once a person discovers the delight of doing something for others, he has started through the gate being led into one of God’s green pastures. Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
o WALK Christ’s PATH INSTEAD OF MINE – Instead of being one of the crowd I am willing to be singled out, set apart from the gang. Most of us, like sheep, are pretty gregarious. We want to belong. We don’t want to be different in a deep, distinctive way, though we may wish to be different in minor details that appeal to our selfish egos! But Christ pointed out that only a few would find His way acceptable. And to be marked as one of His would mean a certain amount of criticism and sarcasm from a cynical society. Many of us don’t want this. Just as He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, so we may be. Instead of adding to the sorrows and sadness of society we may be called on to help bear some of the burdens of others, to enter into the suffering of others. Are we ready to do this? Mark 2:14 As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
o JESUS-OTHERS-YOU = JOY – Instead of insisting on my rights I am willing to forego them in favor of others. Basically this is what the Master meant by denying one’s self. It is not easy, nor normal, nor natural to do this. Even in the loving atmosphere of the home, self-assertion is pretty evident and the powerful exercise of individual rights is always apparent. But the person who is willing to pocket his pride, to take a back seat, to play second fiddle without a feeling of being abused or put upon has gone a long way onto new ground with God. There is a tremendous emancipation from “self” in this attitude. One is set free from the shackles of personal pride. It’s pretty hard to hurt such a person. He who has no sense of self-importance cannot be offended or deflated. Somehow such people enjoy a wholesome outlook of carefree abandon that makes their Christian lives contagious with contentment and gaiety. Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
o GO TO THE END OF THE LINE -Instead of being “boss” I am willing to be at the bottom of the heap. Or to use sheep terminology, instead of being “Top Ram” I’m willing to be a “tail-ender”. When the desire for self- assertion, self-aggrandizement, self-pleasing gives way to the desire for simply pleasing God and others, much of the fret and strain is drained away from daily living. A hallmark of the serene soul is the absence of “drive,” at least, “drive” for self-determination. The person who is prepared to put his personal life and personal affairs in the Master’s hands for His management and direction has found the place of rest in fresh energy to please others. Luke 14:7-11 So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: 8 “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9 and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
o PRAISE INSTEAD OF POUT- Instead of finding fault with life and always asking “Why?” I am willing to accept every circumstance of life in an attitude of gratitude. Human beings, being what they are, somehow feel entitled to question the reasons for everything that happens to them. In many instances life itself becomes a continuous criticism and dissection of one’s circumstances and acquaintances. We look for someone or something on which to pin the blame for our misfortunes. We are often quick to forget our blessings, slow to forget our misfortunes. But if one really believes his affairs are in God’s hands, every event, no matter whether joyous or tragic, will be taken as part of God’s plan. To know beyond doubt that He does all for our welfare is to be led into a wide area of peace and quietness and strength for every situation. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
o LIVE THE CRUCIFIED LIFE – Instead of exercising and asserting my will, I learn to cooperate with His wishes and comply with His will. It must be noted that all the steps outlined here involve the will. The saints from earliest times have repeatedly pointed out that nine-tenths of religion, of Christianity, of becoming a true follower, a dedicated disciple, lies in the will. When a man or woman allows his will to be crossed out, canceling the great I in their decisions, then indeed the Cross has been applied to that life. This is the meaning of taking up one’s cross daily -to go to one’s own death -no longer my will in the matter but His will be done.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
o GET MARKED IN THE EAR AND FOOT – Instead of choosing my own way I am willing to choose to follow in Christ’s way: simply to do what He asks me to do. This basically is simple, straightforward obedience. It means I just do what He asks me to do. I go where He invites me to go. I say what He instructs me to say. I act and re-act in the manner He maintains is in my own best interest as well as for His reputation (if I’m His follower). Most of us possess a formidable amount of factual information on what the Master expects of us. Precious few have either the will, intention or determination to act on it and comply with His instructions. But the person who decides to do what God asks him has moved onto fresh ground which will do both him and others a world of good. Besides, it will please the Good Shepherd no end. God wants us all to move on with Him. He wants us to walk with Him. He wants it not only for our welfare but for the benefit of others as well as His own dear reputation. Perhaps there are those who think He expects too much of us. Maybe they feel the demands are too drastic. Some may even consider His call impossible to carry out. It would be if we had to depend on self- determination, or self-discipline to succeed. But if we are in earnest about wanting to do His will, and to be led, He makes this possible by His own gracious Spirit who is given to those who obey (Acts 5:32). For it is He who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2: 13) . Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 1 Timothy 6:8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
ONLY THE LIVES OF SECURE SHEEP CAN OVERFLOW
Matthew 10:28-31 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Sheep are defenseless animals; they can’t bite like dogs, scratch like cats, kick like horses or even snap like turtles. They are defenseless; their list of enemies is great.
- Cougars track sheep for days, returning to kill sheep each night. Sometimes they drag a sheep for miles to their lair.
- Coyotes go to the weak on the fringe of the flock, grab an ewe or lamb by the throat and run away at speeds in excess of 30 mph.
- Eagles can steal and fly away with a small lamb, crows can pull out their eyes, flies can cause blindness and even death.
- Poisonous weeds abound, steep edges dropping to deadly depth always loom.
Sheep are defenseless but their shepherd defends them. Our enemies surround us, they hover around us, and they slither beneath us. John the Apostle identifies our enemies as:
- The World system that governs the earth in greed, controlled by legions of demons, controlled by Satan. The world surrounds us always reminding us that we never quite have enough.
- The Flesh is our insatiable appetite inherited at birth and never completely gone until death.
- The Devil is that most powerful created angel that opposes all that is of God, and goes to any length to steal our affections and devotion away from God!
The Lord’s Table is set for us to remember the only One who as our Shepherd defends, protects, and feeds us – even though surrounded by enemies!