Jump Start # 2259
Hebrews 13:17 “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”
I’ve been working all day on shepherding material. I head to Texas to talk to a group of elders, shepherds, who want to improve and do their work better. I have put together a massive notebook of articles and have a series of lessons that I have developed to share with each one of them. When I do things like this, I like to put an attractive cover on the front. I found a picture of a sheep. That’s what shepherds are interested in, sheep. It’s not budgets, painting the church building, or so many of the little things that side track us from the main duty, shepherding.
So, the cover picture I chose for their notebook is of a sheep. He’s standing on a rock. He’s standing on a rock that is perched between two other rocks. The rocks are obviously high up in the sky. It looks very dangerous. I wouldn’t stand where that sheep was standing. I wonder if the picture was photoshopped. Just looking at that picture creates all kinds of questions, such as, How did you get up there? And, don’t you realize it’s dangerous being there? And, how am I supposed to get you down?
I chose that picture because so often that’s us. We get ourselves in the worst jams and the shepherds just shake their heads wondering how and why we did that. They are left with a bigger problem, how are they going to get us down safely. Oh, the things we do. I’ve been reading a book about situations that elders face. It’s the very thing that keeps them up all night, which has become the title of the book. I don’t know if someone made up these situations or if they are real, but they are just like my picture of the sheep standing on a rock high up in the sky.
This is where our verse comes in. We have a responsibility towards those who have entrusted their lives in protecting us. They are trying to keep us safe, and there we are climbing up on dangerous rocks. They are trying to keep us all together, and there we go chasing the latest religious fad. I sure hope when this life is over that the Lord doesn’t say to me, “Roger, you caused those good shepherds of mine to lose sleep because of what you were doing. What were you doing up on that rock? You have no business being up there.”
Our verse reveals two special ways that we show our love, appreciation for our shepherds. This isn’t hard, but we make it that way.
First, obey them. They know what they are talking about. Their very qualifications put them in a special place spiritually. They are experienced, talented and knowledgeable. They know what they are talking about. They didn’t get where they are by climbing up on dangerous rocks. Oh, we think we know better. We don’t. We think we will be ok. We won’t be. They beg us to come to services, but we fight them. They beg us to read God’s word, but we don’t. They encourage us to forgive, but we’d rather hold grudges and be bitter. And, we wake up one day, standing on a rock high in the sky. Our kids don’t know Jesus. Our marriage is a mess. Our finances are a disaster. We are worried about everything and anything. We are stressed, troubled and scared. And, please don’t mention death. Maybe it will just go away and miss us. And, why are we this way? We’ve climbed high up on dangerous rocks rather than following our shepherds. We haven’t obeyed them.
Worse, some have had the gall to back-talk God’s leaders. Had they been with David in that cave with King Saul, they would have hurled a spear at the king. David wouldn’t do it. He had ever reason to, but he respected the anointed position of God. We’ve forgotten that. Shepherds are an anointed position of God. Our complaining, criticizing, and blaming them hasn’t made us better. And, worse, we haven’t found a better and more Biblical way of pleasing God than what they are doing. It’s time to climb off that rock and start listening to the very men that are trying to get you to Heaven.
Second, our passage tells us to submit to them. Submit, most believe that only belongs to wives. How wrong they are. We are all to submit and here in our passage, we are to submit to the leaders. What’s the difference between obey and submit? Is he repeating himself? No. Submit takes place on the inside and obey on the outside. A person may obey without submitting. That happens just about every night in homes. The kids want to stay up and the parents tell them it’s time for bed. They go, but not happily. They obey, but it’s not what they want to do. The word submit means to bend your will. It means I go along with you. Rather than dig my heels in and demand you go with me, I choose to go with you. From submission comes obedience.
Now, this is how it works with shepherds. They have something special that they feel I need and that will help me spiritually. I don’t see it. I don’t want to go. But when I consider who and why they are doing this, I change my tune. I go along with them. I submit and then I obey. And, what happens is that I find my life not dangerously high up on some rock. I am safe. I am strong. I am growing. That’s what happens when I listen to my shepherds.
Now, submission is unknown in our culture today. You never hear that word in weddings anymore. And, our times are all about me doing just what I want and that’s it. No team player. No listening to others. My way and always my way. And, do you know where that puts you? Yep. Standing on a rock, dangerously high up in the sky. And, it’s from there, I feel that my life is falling apart. And, I ought to feel that way because sheep are not supposed to be mountain climbing. We are not mountain goats, we are sheep.
In all my years working with brethren, I’ve never heard of a church disciplining someone because they were not submitting to the leaders. Never heard that. I expect one reason we don’t do that is because there wouldn’t be many of us left. We come and go as we please, giving no thought to the wonderful work, the many prayers and the sleepless nights that our shepherds have trying to keep us off the rocks. They warn us about rocks. They teach us about the wonderful green pastures that will nourish us. They tell horror stories of those long ago who fell climbing those rocks. But what do we do? We go ahead and climb them. Then we cry for help. Our marriage is falling apart. Our kids are marrying pagans. They find out that we have been drinking, when we should have been praying. We have been to the ballgames but we couldn’t make it to services. Our lives are empty, shallow and without purpose. Why? Because we would rather climb dangerous rocks than listen to spiritual leaders who know how to be saved.
Our verse ends with a warning. Don’t cause grief for the leaders. If you do, this will be unprofitable for you. What is meant by that? More than anything else, God’s going get you for being in places you shouldn’t be. You ignore God’s leaders and you’ll get it.
Sheep standing on dangerous rocks. When will we ever learn?