By Mark Dance
I cannot think of a better time to visit Psalm 23 than in 2020—the year of politics, protests, and a pandemic.
This familiar song may be of particular interest to pastors because it takes a shepherd to know a shepherd.
The opening line is perhaps the most personal and powerful.
1. “The Lord is my shepherd”
David wrote Psalm 23 in the present tense, which can be translated as, “Yahweh is shepherding me.”
David wasn’t just reminiscing about what God did in the good old days of defeating lions, giants, and bears, but also what his Shepherd was doing currently in his life.
Even as I write this for you, I’m recalling with fondness how well I was shepherded in my hometown of Tyler, Texas.
There are countless memories of being shepherded well at home as well as by pastors, deacons, and teachers at my home church of Green Acres.
Jesus then continued to shepherd me through college, two seminaries, and three pastorates.
Why would I be tempted to stop trusting Him now?
“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming” (Isaiah. 43:18-19).
Today is a fantastic day to pastor our churches, our families, and each other. It’s an honor to love, lead, and feed people during this monumental moment in history.
We will pastor well in this COVID season, friends, if we first allow the Lord to pastor us.
2. “I shall not want”
I recently asked pastors on Facebook what they needed most right now, and the top two answers by far were wisdom and rest.
In August Barna Research asked pastors, “How encouraged are you feeling today?” Fifty-six percent said they were somewhat/very encouraged, 31% are somewhat/very discouraged, and 13% said their feelings are neutral.
Seventy-eight percent of pastors say parents are overwhelmed by the current moment, which is a double dose of stress for those of you with children still at home.
Does that mean pastors will start bailing out? I don’t think this generation of pastors is weaker than those who have served before us in even more difficult circumstances.
More importantly, I don’t think God is going to bail on our pastors. He’s still shepherding His shepherds well!
The CSB translates this verse as, “I have what I need.” If you don’t have what you need, perhaps it is because you haven’t yet asked for it (James 1:5).
3. “He leads me beside still waters”
Janet and I live in metro Tulsa, and our yard connects to an urban farm with horses, ponies, llamas, and sheep.
The sheep are understandably reluctant to swim in their wool coats—thus their need for still waters as opposed to swift, dangerous streams.
The horses and llamas have no such fear of water and have been wading into the pond all summer.
When the short, portly pony I’ve named Eeyore waded in so far that only the very top of her head was not submerged, I mistakenly thought she was drowning.
But my shepherding instincts were embarrassingly wrong because I know so little about farm animals.
Pastors aren’t called to be competent in every discipline. You have no formal training on pastoring through a pandemic, so give yourself—and others—an extra measure of grace. All of us are pastoring imperfectly by the same grace which saved us.
Our call to salvation and to pastoral ministry are undeserved gifts from our true Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
4. “He restores my soul”
Living in a constant state of anxiety will rob your soul of joy and even damage your testimony. Instead of asking God to bail you out, ask Him to hold you up.
My primary challenge for you is to lie down in green pastures and beside still waters every day for a few minutes and every week for a few hours so your Shepherd can restore your soul.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
MARK DANCE (@markdance) speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats—often with his wife Janet. Mark has contributed to several books and offers weekly encouragement at MarkDance.net. He’s currently serving as director of pastoral development for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.