The Voice of Truth

            This Lent has been eventful, hasn’t it? Four weeks ago when we started our Lenten journey, we began a series called “Jesus is…” Our prayer and hope were that by walking through some of the Gospel that John writes, we could have a deeper understanding of whom Jesus is and what this does for our lives. Little did any of us know that in the midst of this Lenten journey we would have to stop meeting together in person due to the need for social distancing in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Little did we know that our worlds would be changed and the concept of a new normal would be setting in. Little did we know that we would have a lot of fear and uncertainty in our lives. It’s so uncomfortable, isn’t it?

            Uncertainty is tough. I know that the biggest source of anxiety in my life is uncertainty. I don’t need to know everything to be comfortable, I just need to know most of it! Seriously though, I struggle driving if I don’t know the directions. I struggle to build things if I can’t imagine the end result. Uncertainty makes me worried about failures and disappointments, mostly my failing and disappointing others. 

            I don’t think my struggles with uncertainty are unique. I would imagine that a few of you all watching have the same struggle. Sure, we have different things we are concerned with, but we have concerns. We have concerns about paying bills, raising our children, improving the world, helping others, and so on. The uncertainty comes in regarding will I do enough, know enough, be enough, or help enough? Will I be good enough? Uncertainty sees, it’s a thing.

            Now, these days so much is uncertain. How long do we have to isolate ourselves? For some of us, we can adapt in many ways. I’ve started seeing clients for therapy over video. It’s not ideal, but it works. My wife, who is very busy this time of year, is able to work from home now. Even our kids are still learning through digital learning days. However, how long will this last? What will be the impact? Where is all the toilet paper? These are questions we have and unfortunately, we don’t have answers for them. And, we have no idea of when we’ll have these answers. 

            That brings me to a passage from John. I figured it would make sense to refer to the book we are sitting in during Lent. In John 10, Jesus says these words, “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

            There are a few principles of certainty that I find in the words of Christ. First, I see that God has an intended way for us. He tells the Pharisees that when people try to enter God’s kingdom in unintended ways, they are thieves and robbers. I say this a lot on Sundays that God has an intended purpose for everyone. I believe that when God began creating the heavens and the earth, He had a dream of what your life could be like. In that dream is a way for you to make a difference in this world that helps make it more like the kingdom of God and less like a broken mess of thieves and robbers. The struggle is that the way to enter this purpose requires trust and faith. We have to have faith in the plan of God. We have to have faith in the provision of God. We have to have faith in the purpose of God. If we try to make life about our goals and desires and trying to fit God into that, we are robbing ourselves of the fullness of God’s design for our lives. If we try to fit God into what we want instead of entering His will, we are thieves. We are thieves that steal an eternal purpose. We steal the difference God wants us to make. We steal that opportunity to help change someone’s eternity. We steal that opportunity to change someone’s today. Whether we are like the Pharisees that tried to hold onto their own definitions of God and His Kingdom, or we are being typical people trying to hold onto control, I know for certain that unless I operate in God’s will, entering His purpose as He desires, I am a thief of the presence, power, and peace of God.

            The second principle I see in this passage is that we are designed to know and trust the voice of our Shepherd. One of the most popular and well-known verses in the Bible is Psalm 23:1 that says “The Lord is my shepherd.” And, I am made in the image of my shepherd. This means that deep inside of me there is a reflection of Him and an intimate knowledge of who He is. This knowledge is deep and sometimes beyond my understanding. When Jesus talks about the sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice and how this causes the sheep to follow Him, I am comforted that because of my creator’s passion for me, I have a life to follow that is better than my own. More than certainty, I desire purpose. I want to know what I am doing matters. I want to know that my struggles and mistakes can be redeemed for something eternal. I know that by following my shepherds’ voice, I am following a path that has meaning. Psalm 42 tells us that “deep calls to deep.” The Hebrew word for deep here is Tehovem, which references the primal deep of life. The Hebrew word for calls is kovre which means to call and proclaim. There is something in us that calls to our Creator, sometimes when we don’t even realize it. What gives us safety, peace, and hope is the return of the voice we cry out to that proclaims our purpose.

            That leads to my last point. In John 10:10 Jesus tells us that He came to give us life to the full. When we try to fit God’s plan into our desires, we do not have a life to the full. When we fail to recognize the voice that calls us, we are missing out and thus not full. However, when we follow the voice of our shepherd and creator, we are on the path to that full life. A full life where we can be free of the uncertainty of our eternal future. A full life where we can be free of the uncertainty of our significance. A full life where we can free of the uncertainty of Who is on the throne.

            So, as we face very uncertain times, may we all be strengthened by the words of Jesus, our Shepherd, who knows us and calls us. May we delight that even in our brokenness, He still calls us to follow. Even in our fragility, He traded His life for ours. Even when we think that the world will never be right or whole again, He is still King of Kings and Lord of Lords. So may Lent not just be a time that leads to Easter. May Lent be a time that leads into a fuller life and walk with God. Let’s pray.

            Heavenly Father, we don’t know why this is happening. We don’t know what the end of this will look like. When we hear voices trying to tell us all the truth, may we all seek you for truth. The truth of your plans for our lives. The truth for the promise of your salvation. The truth of your provision of protection and presence. And in this truth may we find the only thing louder than uncertainty, peace. Amen.