- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2003

Excerpts from a sermon yesterday by the Rev. Dale O’Shields at the Church of the Redeemer in Gaithersburg.

I want to talk about preparing for the future. Many of you are familiar with the passage of the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the quiet waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valleys of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.”

Most biblical scholars believe David wrote those words in a time of great stress in his own life. He is reminded of what it means to be a shepherd. He is reminded of the reality of what it means to be a sheep. Given all the stress that he is going through, he wrote the words, “The Lord is my shepherd.” God is the shepherd over my life in the midst of this stress.

We need to identify a number of principles that we can see here in this passage. In verse number five, David wrote: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.”

There are three things that gives us confidence about our future.

First of all, we can be confident about our future because our shepherd always goes before us. You see, every shepherd, before he would take his sheep to the higher tableland, would go and scout out the territory and make sure the land was rich and proper for his sheep. And the same is true for us in our spiritual journey. Wherever you will go in your future, you have to have the absolute assurance that God has gone there before you. He has always gone before you.

There is no place that God will lead you that is not carefully planned for you. Psalm 40:5, “You have done many things for us, Oh Lord Our God. There is no one like you. You have made many wonderful plans for us. I could never speak of them all; their number is so great.”

Remember that there is no situation you will face that He has not already faced. There is no test or temptation that you will ever face that He has not already conquered.

Hebrews 4:15-16 gives us assurance: “This high priest understands our weakness and faced all the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy and find grace to help in the time when we need it.”

The second thing is that we can be confident about the future because our shepherd prepares the way for us.

God prepares your future in advance before you arrive, and He also prepares you for them. He is getting you ready so that when you arrive there, everything will be as it needs to be so that you can be all He wants you to be to fulfill that plan for your life.

It is one of the ways that He is showing that he cares about you. The shepherd makes sure there is adequate provision for sustenance. Jesus says the Father takes care of the birds of the field and the flower of the grass. How much more will He take care of you, oh ye of little faith?

He removes the potential hazards to our spiritual health and safety. As you go ahead, there are going to be dangerous things in your life. But know that the shepherd has gone before you to protect you from hazards and harm and dangers. That is a surety you can rest in.

The third thing: We can be confident about our future because our shepherd has provided the resources to help us.

We learn from the shepherd that we have the resources that God provides us with so we can be where He wants us to be. He gives us the strength and resources necessary to make it.

Listen again: “He prepares a way before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.”

Oil all through the Bible always symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that what we all need to do as believers is to get an appetite, a hunger in all of us to continue to be filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Because only then are we going to experience the full benefits of the spirit of God’s work in us.

The way that we find that preparation for our future is to know that the shepherd has gone to the land before me, know the shepherd has prepared the way for me, and know that when I get there, He is going to anoint my head with oil so that I will have every resource necessary to be able to make it wherever He leads me and guides me in my life. And the only way that He can be your shepherd is to invite Him into your heart and say, Jesus, be Lord of my life. Once you have done that, He is your shepherd, and He has great plans for your life.

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