Well first of all I’m a mother and I have four sons. They were born within seven years time and those boys today have grown into big men. They range in height from about 6’1 and 1/2 inches to just under 6’foot 8” and so one way to call them home is food. And so they know when food is being served and especially they know that Monday is my Sabbath and so the end of Monday I start cooking and I start baking. And the phone starts ringing around three thirty, four ‘o clock in the afternoon, “mom what’s for dinner, what’s for dessert?” And then they come and they gather, these big boys. Usually it’s two roasts, ten pounds of potato and two pies or two dozen cup cakes and they still fight. They still fight over the food. They’ll sit there and they’ll go “you know mom,” and let me tell you their names first of all, Jason’s one and then there’s Chris and then there’s Scott and then there’s Nick.
“You know that Nick’s your favorite. You’re always bragging about him. Everywhere we go, we all talk about how Nick’s your favorite.” That’s not true, that’s not true. I don’t have favorites. “Well Jason’s your favorite because you made his favorite dessert. You didn’t make mine.” And then the other one will say “No, no, no Chris is your favorite because he’s going to be a pastor.” And they go back and forth. Who’s my favorite? “You’re his favorite, right?” Am I a bad mom or do any other mom’s have that same kind of scenario where your kids accuse you of having favorites? Yes?
Well, the truth of it is we all know we don’t have favorites. We love all our kids the same. All of our kids are favored, all of our kids are favored, all of our kids are number one in our life. And I really felt that God wanted you to hear today this message. He doesn’t have favorites. You’re all His favored children. And you’re all number one with God. He doesn’t love me more than you. He doesn’t love you more than me. He doesn’t favor any of His children over another. Every one counts with God. Every one is of equal value to God. Every one is favored by God. All of His children are favored; all of His children are His favorite. You’re number one with God and some of you are saying Sheila I don’t believe you. I don’t. If that were true we’d all be equal. We would all have the same income, we would all have the same blessings and none of us would be having. I wouldn’t be having more burdens and more challenges and more trials than this child over here. So obviously I think this child’s Your favorite not me.
And we do the very same thing with God that my boys do with me. We accuse Him of having favorites when in reality His favor, our value does not depend on what we do, how good we are, whether we deserve it or not and our circumstances are not a reflection of His favor on us. His favor is that He loves us all the same. We are all number one with God. Don’t miss count that. You are number one with God.
John 10 tells us that we are sheep, you and me. That’s not necessarily a flattering thing if you look at sheep because sheep are slow. And because they’re slow and because they have no defense mechanisms: they don’t have sharp teeth, they don’t have sharp claws, they have no camouflage to protect them. They are completely susceptible and because they’re so susceptible to predators who can attack them and turn them into mince meat, literally, they are subject to, very, very dependant because they’re so vulnerable; they are dependant on their shepherd.
So we are the sheep. That’s what John 10 tells us. You and me we’re sheep. But God says “I am the shepherd.” Jesus actually said it because Jesus was God. He equated himself with God the Father. He said “I am the shepherd.” And shepherds are strong, they’re steadfast, they’re sure. And you can count on your shepherd. John 10 says that we sheep it’s really important for us to be able to recognize the voice of our shepherd because we don’t want to be following the wrong person. We don’t want to be going down the road after the wrong shepherd and find ourselves all lost. We want to make sure we’re following the right shepherd. And Jesus says “My sheep recognize My voice.”
Do you know how to recognize the voice of your good shepherd? It’s really simple. The shepherd’s voice tells you messages like this and I’ve learned them from my dad, they’re the positive messages I’ve heard my whole life. The message is the voice of the shepherd says you can do it. Don’t give up. You count, you’re important, I love you, I care about you. That’s the voice of the shepherd. Those other voices that say don’t even bother trying anymore. You’ve tried and tried and tried. Give up. Just give in to the depression, give into the discouragement. Those are not the voice of the shepherd. Those are the voice of the liars; The liar who wants to steal and take you away from your shepherd. So all us sheep listen to that voice and take that voice and say is this the voice of the shepherd or is this the voice of the thief. Is this the voice of the shepherd? You will know the voice of the shepherd because the voice of the shepherd is a loving, caring, positive, powerful, faithful voice.
At the age of forty, I went back to become a schoolteacher. Part of being a schoolteacher is you have to be a student teacher. And they put you under the wings of a master teacher for a semester. And I was going towards the end of my semester and my master teacher was in the teacher’s lounge leaving me alone with the children more and more so that I could feel like I was the teacher. And one day I was sitting there in the classroom feeling very far away. Far away from home because I’d always worked in the church and here I was in a public school and I couldn’t talk about God, I couldn’t talk about Jesus and I was just feeling discouraged. It was a lot of work and I sat there at that teacher’s desk and I was like ‘Lord do You still care about me? Do You see me down here? I’m working for You and I just feel so discouraged. I don’t see any results. I just feel like hopeless and helpless and I’m just tired and I’m weary.”
And I had just prayed that prayer when little Jimmy came up to me and he had a bell in his hand. And he said “teacher” he said “I noticed that the bell yesterday was broken” and it’s true. We teachers like our bells to get the kids attention and the clapper had fallen out of the bell the day before.
So he came in and he said “my mom thought you could use a new bell so here’s a new bell for you.” This bell wasn’t just any bell. He handed me this bell and I gulped because I had just prayed and said “Lord help me.” This bell is one of our Eagle’s Club Bells, one of our Eagle’s club bells. God knew months earlier that Sheila was going to sit there in that classroom feeling really discouraged and God said okay I’m going to make sure that one of these Eagle bells somehow maybe through a garage sale, somehow but through Jimmy’s mother to me on that very day. I had no sooner prayed that prayer and God answered that prayer. His voice was heard loud and clear through this bell. It said “Sheila I care about you so much. I care about you so much that I made sure this bell got to you.”
And of course in public schools we’re not aloud to read scripture or pray with the kids but the children came and they huddled around my desk and they said “Ms. Colman there’s words on that bell. What do they say?” Well even in public school when they ask a teacher to read, we read. Because I knew very, very well what the words said on this bell. I said, “Well children it says this” and the words were for me as much as anybody. “They who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint, Isaiah 40:31.” The voice of the shepherd; we just have to listen and He will tell us and He will show us.
Well many of us have been very, very stressed these days; discouraged, depressed, wondering, worrying, fretting. I’ve had my own moments. I have not been losing sleep as many of you have. I’ve been hearing about it. Sheila, I can’t sleep. Sheila, I’m so worried I can’t sleep. Sheila, I wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t go back to sleep. But the shepherd provides. The shepherd provides. And the other day I was going “Lord;” in my prayer journal I was writing “Lord You know I’m really tired and I’m kind of worried about things.” and He said “silly daughter, silly sheep. When you fret and you get tired that’s because you’re trying to do My job. You’re trying to do My job. Let Me do My job and you just count on Me to do My job. Can’t you count on me Sheila to do My job?”
What a powerful statement and I wanted to share it with you today because yes God is there. He is doing His job. The shepherd, the sheep didn’t try to do the shepherd’s job. Wouldn’t they look silly with a staff running around trying to lead, trying to fight off a bear? They’d have no chance against a bear. And we are the same. We just have to be sheep and count on the shepherd to do His job, to provide for us.
I love this little song that was written years ago by Irving Berlin for White Christmas and Bing Crosby sang it. “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep I count my blessings instead of sheep and I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bankroll is getting small and I think of when I had none at all and I fall asleep counting my blessings.” Do you know that the good shepherd, the shepherd has branded you? He’s put His brand on you. Just like we had a working ranch right behind our house when the boys were little and we used to watch those cattle get rounded up. Those cattle did not like being branded, I guarantee you. But why did the rancher do that? Why did he brand those sheep? Those cattle? Because he didn’t want anybody to steal them. It was his way of saying they belong to me. Hands off everybody else - these are mine, these are my cattle. And as God’s sheep we are branded and anybody comes and tries to steal you the shepherd says hands off, my sheep, get away. I’m here, they’re mine. Go! You see because the shepherd is not this wimpy little pastoral type guy that we see in all the pictures, you know? He is a big strong dude. He had to fight with bare hands, bears, wolves, lions. David talked about that. David said I fought; I fought these guys.
I love it when my son Scott, he’s the tallest, just under 6’8” and he’s been through the police academy. My son Scott is not a wimpy dude. I ought to feel really secure when I have Scott at my side. And when Arnold Schwarzenegger came here a few years back they asked for extra security. And so Scott volunteered and he stood out there with these ring of guys, big dudes, a ring to protect Arnold, the governator. And afterwards Scott came home after church and he said “that was the worst. That was the most difficult, the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to do.” He says “I’d rather handle all kinds of bad dudes,” but he says, “don’t ask me to do security at the Crystal Cathedral ever again. It was the worst, the hardest I’ve ever done.” I looked at him, scratched my head, I said “what? Why Scott, why?” And he goes, “the little old ladies.” He says “we’re in a ring and those little old ladies come up and they went with their elbows boom, boom there they went. And what are you supposed to do? You can’t put a little old lady in a chokehold, you can’t tackle her, you can’t strong-arm a little old lady. They all got through. They all got through.” Well God hedges us in and around and nothing gets through God.
And I just want to say today do you need a champion? Is your life so hard, are you facing challenges that you can’t handle alone? You need a champion. I love the fact that I have a champion. And you know Goliath, that big old Philistine at nine feet tall, two feet taller then Shaquille O’Neal and he had a javelin! He had a sword. And he stands out there and he says I don’t like the fact that all you Israelites are down here standing in line. We want this land and we’re going.. he says so send me a champion. Goliath says send me a champion and all those Israelites are just shaking in their boots. Day after day he went out there and he ushered the same challenge and the Israelites are just shaking in their boots, shaking in their boots. Little David goes to bring food to his big brothers and he over hears the challenge and David very presumptuously says what’s going on? How come you’re letting this guy challenge and nobody’s standing up? Don’t you get it? He’s not challenging you, he’s challenging our God. He’s challenging the Lord. None of you are going to stand up for the Lord? I will. I’ll stand up for the Lord because he said the Lord saves and the battle is the Lord’s. No armor, no javelin, just a little slingshot. You all know how the story ends, champion.
Several generations after David, David was the son of Jessie a Bethlahamite, David was the great, great, great, great, great, I don’t know how many great grandfathers of Jesus, our champion. You see in a sheepfold there’s three little short walls and a gate which is really an opening and there’s really not even a gate there and Jesus didn’t even say I’m the gatekeeper, he said “I’m the gate.” Because He lays down His life at the gate and lets nobody over. Nobody in, no thief in, no sheep out. He laid down His life for you and you and you and you because you’re favored. You’re His favorite. You’re number one.
Number one with Jesus in fact if you should get lost and if you should wonder away and if you should say you know what? I don’t trust and I don’t count on the shepherd and I’m going to go off on my own anyway. He leaves all ninety-nine of them behind to look for you because He loves you.
Today walk out of here hearing the message that God wants you to hear. You are favored. You’re His favorite. You’re number one with God.
I’m going to close with a prayer that I wrote that’s in the Power for Life bible. Dear Lord, we come to You today in much the same way that sheep return to their shepherd. I have been stubborn in the past and wandered far from Your care. I’ve gotten confused and lost my way and been thrust into thorns that cut me deep. But today I run to You with arms open wide as a shepherd protects his sheep so You will lift me Lord above the overwhelming times of life in Your protective arms. As a shepherd guides his sheep, so You will lead me away from harm into the bountiful pastures with Your words in the bible. As the shepherd searches for his sheep, so You will seek for me high and low and finding me, forgive me with a merciful hand. Thank You dear shepherd. I will love You and praise You forevermore. Amen.