Shepherds After God's Heart
by Ben Gumienny
3 Crucial Steps to Becoming Shepherds After God’s Heart
At the beginning of 2017, PenHOP and KLHOP held a joint retreat where a definite theme began to emerge through numerous seemingly unconnected sources. A few days prior, at Onething 2016 at IHOPKC, Corey Russell had preached a prophetic sermon from Jer. 3:15 titled “Shepherds After God’s Own Heart”. Not knowing this, the lectio divina passage that was chosen for the retreat was Psalm 23. Even Our Daily Bread got on board by making that same Psalm their scriptural basis for the first day of the retreat. God was already shepherding us into this focus!
When I finally got around to watching Corey Russell’s sermon (which I highly recommend), it was filled with timely challenges for everyone and especially for those in the prayer movement. Here are three crucial steps that stood out for those who want to become shepherds after God’s own heart:-
The Furnace of Prayer
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt.9:36-38 ESV)
In this passage we see Jesus looking at the multitudes with compassion as He sees them looking lost and harassed because they are aimless and unprotected like sheep that don’t have anyone to look after them. What is to be our response when we see the need around us that breaks our hearts? We are driven to the place of prayer to beseech God to send labourers and shepherds to look after the lost sheep.
Corey pointed out that God is the sender and that He isn’t looking for volunteers but for those who will be shaped in the furnace of prayer. If we truly want to be shepherds “after His own heart” then we must first grasp that heartbeat of God. It is in faithfulness to the secret place that our hearts are transformed to be after His and from which true shepherding flows.
The Readiness to Die
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (Jn.10:11-13 ESV)
We often talk about a willingness to lay down our lives for the sake of the Gospel. In our context in Malaysian houses of prayer, martyrdom may even be a reality in regard to places with real hostility where God may call us to proclaim the name of Jesus. However, as the old saying goes it is sometimes easier to consider dying for Christ than to actually choose to live for Him. This is not to negate the struggles of the persecuted Church in any way but to challenge us to bring a present lifestyle to our future-oriented promises to the Lord.
In the above passage, we see a fundamental difference between a shepherd and a hireling is that ownership leads to a willingness to sacrifice. This is not only when danger arises but a commitment to care for and protect the sheep no matter what comes. This means laying down our lives and dying to ourselves daily for the sake of those that the Lord has placed in our care. Are we ready to die?
A Shepherd is as a Shepherd Does
“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jer.3:15 ESV)
Corey commented that God was raising up musicians and worshippers that would be shepherds in these days. I was struck by the thought that being shepherds after God’s heart means that this underlies everything we do. True shepherding is more an identity than a vocation. We don’t just put on our “shepherd hat” during “shepherding time” and then go back to our own lives afterwards. When our hearts become like the Good Shepherd’s, then this will be the outflow of our life in all that we do.
When we minister in Prayer Room sets we rightfully see it as a ministry unto the Lord. However, this time in the place of prayer, playing music, singing and praying can also be a ministry of shepherding as we feed God’s people (and each other) with wisdom and understanding. This focus drives us deeper into the Word and prayer that we may be a source of nurture to those around us.
While these three steps are not exhaustive, they can act as landmarks by which we plot our journey forward. Shepherds are needed for the lost and aimless, both Christians and not. Labourers are needed for the hard work of the harvest as the fields are whitening all around the world. God is the Sender of workers who will persevere and the Giver of shepherds who will care for the sheep in the way He desires. Let us draw near to Him to be molded and shaped into the very answer to our prayers.