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SHEPHERDS: GODLY, NOT GIFTED
by Philip Owen

          Most of us, I am sure, have been guilty of wishful thinking.  If only I’d had this preparation, that opportunity, this advantage, or that ability, we lament.  In so doing, we manifest the impudence of the clay saying to the potter, “Why did you make me like this?” (Rom. 9:20).  We may disguise our dissatisfaction in grandiose notions of being better able to serve had we been born on the right side of the tracks, had the cultural benefits of a wealthy family, and had the privilege of a better education. But such reflections are self-righteous and self-serving.  On the one hand, God certainly makes greatly-talented people and gives some of them “big” opportunities to serve.  On the other hand, it greatly pleases Him to use ordinary, even lowly, people to glorify Himself.  We need look no further than the account of Christ’s birth to be reminded that what impresses men does not necessarily glorify God.  And whether we were born with the proverbial silver spoon in our mouths or only a plastic fork, we can discover what God treasures by considering “some shepherds staying in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night” (Lk. 2:8).  Would you be used by God and blessed by Him?  Then have the heart of those shepherds.  

1. The shepherds heard.  Those shepherds were not men trying to manufacture a better life, climb the corporate ladder, or learn the secret to their “best life now.”  They were faithfully doing their lowly jobs when they heard a message from angels.  It was that fact alone that launched them.  Other shepherds may have been equally faithful and industrious.  But these particularly shepherds heard a message from heaven; God spoke to them, and they heard what He had to say.  No amount of human preparation, natural giftedness, nor earnest desire can provide the impetus to serve the Lord.  The servant of the Lord is simply the recipient of a gracious gift from God:  the eternal truth of His Word. 

2.  The shepherds hurried.  Those shepherds believed God and what His angels had revealed to them.  “That’s not what this paragraph heading says,” you might object.  But the fact that they hurried captures the reality of their faith.  Luke tells us that “the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight [that’s hurrying] to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’  So they came in a hurry and found . . .  the baby” (2:15, 16).  Note that they did not hurry to Bethlehem in order to ascertain if “this thing” had happened.  Rather, they went because they believed what “the Lord” had “made known” to them.  Though many hear, ultimately only those who not only hear but also believe and hasten to obey will be used by the Lord. 

3.  The shepherds heralded.  Some may pout that they cannot perform on stage with strobe lights and smoke.  The shepherds didn’t look for a platform, a microphone, and a huge adoring crowd; they simply “made known the statement which had been told them about this child” (Lk. 2:17).  Without doubt they must have mentioned that the sky had been filled with angels, but the crux of their message and the thrust of their ministry was that it had pleased God to reveal to them the fact that He had finally sent the long-awaited Messiah.  Everywhere they went, they proclaimed this message that had transformed their lives so that they could not refrain from “glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them” (2:20).

The youngest, weakest, least gifted of saints can do what the shepherds did:  hear, hurry, and herald.  If we will be careful to hear accurately the Word of God, hurry to believe and obey it, and then herald its truth to those around us, we will, like the shepherds, be of far greater blessing than powerful King Herod who wanted to destroy the truth, or the self-important Pharisees who disbelieved it.  Godliness, not giftedness, best serves God.     

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