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Bryan Clements - Are You Being Followed

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Are You being followed?

Psalm 23.6a

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

As we have worked our way through this Psalm we have seen continually  the emphasis that is placed on the care that is given by a diligent sheepman.  The work and care of the shepherd is essential to the well being of the sheep.  All the benefits that the flock enjoys; contentedness, peace, being well fed and well watered, safety in the tough places and times, all of these are a result of the love and care of the shepherd. 

The psalmist sums all of this up with the statement – Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life!  No matter what comes along the shepherd will take care of him.  He has complete faith in the shepherd to meet his every need and calm his every fear. 

As we read these words that we have read and repeated thousands of times I have to wonder how many Christians actually feel this way about Jesus?  How many of us acknowledge that whatever comes our way we are under the protection of the shepherd?  How many of us acknowledge that no matter how bad we blow it that shepherd’s goodness  and mercy will follow us? 

It’s easy to do this when things are going well.  If my health is excellent, my job and income are good, my family is doing well and my friends like me.  It’s pretty easy to say, “Surely…”

But what about when the pendulum swings the other way?  When our body breaks down? Or a loved one hurts?  How do we react when our job dries up and there too much week left after your money runs out?  What happens when our children don’t make the grades or get arrested?  What do we say when people that we thought were our friends turn out not to be and they turn against us?  In the midst of these situations can we still boldly proclaim, “Surely…”?

When it seems that our entire world is crumbling around us can we say, “Surely…”?  Absolutely goodness and mercy…   Or is this just a nice poem that we have memorized?

Financial advertisements always say "Past performance is not a guarantee of future results." but past performance is a guarantee of future results when we are talking about God.

We can look back over the path of life and think about the calamities that we have faced, we can think about the dark paths that we have been down.  We can’t always understand why we had to go that way or what God was doing with us as we went. At times we aren’t even sure that He does have our best interest in mind.   But in the end we know that He was with us and never left us. 

We have to know that if we are truly in His care that there is nothing that can come our way that God can’t use for His glory.  And we have to know that His goodness and mercy continually flow to us, even though we don’t deserve it.

We see God’s goodness and mercy (lovingkindness) all around us.

In Genesis we see God’s lovingkindness in creation.  God created man so that we would fellowship with Him.  We were created in His image.  He created a paradise where man could walk and be with Him.  But that didn’t last.  Man chose not to live in that relationship.

In man’s rebellion and sin we see God’s lovingkindness.  He didn’t just abandon man.  He provided a way for us to be brought back into relationship with Him.  We find the promise of the one to come in Gen 3.15, the one who will restore the relationship.  The entire OT points us to the promised one and continually reminds us of God’s goodness and mercy.  Throughout the OT we see God’s goodness and mercy, his lovingkindness, time and time again.  Every time Israel rebels we see God providing a way for the nation to come back to Him.  He provides forgiveness and grace.  This goodness and mercy, this grace, follows Israel in every adventure and wrong turn that they make.  Yes, they do receive discipline from God, but He continually invites them to turn back to Him.  He only disciplines them because He loves them.

Some of the OT folks caught this:

Judges 6- Gideon bult an altar and worshipped once he realized he was dealing with God - promised deliverance - goodness and mercy.

It’s significant that Gideon paused to worship the Lord before he did anything else. He was so overwhelmed by the Lord’s goodness and mercy that he fell on his face in submission and gratitude. Joshua did the same thing before taking the city of Jericho (Josh. 5:13–15), and it’s a good practice for us to follow today. We need to be aware of God’s goodness and mercy around us and like Gideon and Joshua, we must first become sincere worshipers.

Psalm 136 reinforces this: It tells us why we should worship:

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
4 To Him who alone does great wonders, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
5 To Him who made the heavens with skill, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
6 To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
7 To Him who made the great lights, For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
8 The sun to rule by day, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
9 The moon and stars to rule by night, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
10 To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
11 And brought Israel out from their midst, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
12 With a strong hand and an outstretched arm, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
13 To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
14 And made Israel pass through the midst of it, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
15 But He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
17 To Him who smote great kings, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
18 And slew mighty kings, For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
20 And Og, king of Bashan, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
21 And gave their land as a heritage, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
22 Even a heritage to Israel His servant, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
23 Who remembered us in our low estate, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
24 And has rescued us from our adversaries, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
25 Who gives food to all flesh, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

We see God’s goodness and mercy in the person of Jesus.    We read about the people that He healed, physically and emotionally; the people that no one else would look at or even give the time of day;  these are the people that Jesus shared his lovingkindness with and who received his grace in ways that people could not even imagine.  When we look back and see Jesus as a servant and then as the sacrifice for our sin we can’t help but see His goodness and mercy. 

We should give thanks to the Lord. Psalm 107 tells us why:

Psalm 107:1 (NASB95)
1 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

We are the recipients of God’s goodness and mercy.  We receive it on a daily basis.  God’s goodness and mercy are not given to us merely to fill us up.  As a matter of fact, we know that it is meant to do more than just fill us up.  Our cup runs over.  Goodness and mercy should overflow from us to others around us.  We get to be dispensers of goodness and mercy.  We get to give it away freely just as God has given it to us freely.  We get to give it away to people who don’t even know they need it.

Do you remember the beggar that called out to Peter and John as they approached the temple?  He asked them for alms, for money.  Peter responds, “I don’t have any silver or gold, but I will give you what I do have.”  Peter then reaches out to heal the man.  Peter was able to show this man the goodness and mercy of God because it was overflowing from His life. 

This should be a picture of us and a picture of every Christian.  Goodness and mercy should follow our footsteps and others should benefit because of this.  This should be our legacy.  What kind of difference would it make around us if we simply offered what we have, that is the goodness and lovingkindness of Jesus Christ, to those who are around us.

Every day we see people who have their hand out.  They are on the street corner, they are outside the restaurants and stores that we go to.  Just like the man in the story with Peter they are just asking for money.  They may not even know that there is something better that they should be asking for.  What would happen if we slowed down enough to offer them Jesus?  What if we slowed down enough to buy them a meal, to quiet their stomach and then offered them the good news of the gospel?  Surely goodness and mercy would follow us.

Maybe if we did these things someone would write about us what is written about Tabitha in the book of Acts:

Acts 9.36 Tabitha was full of works of goodness and mercy, which she was doing.

Are we leaving a trail of goodness and mercy behind us?

We have talked about how when left to their own sheep can destroy the very land that takes care of them.  If they are not managed well they can be extremely destructive.  They can leave a land wasted and barren.  But, if they are managed well, they can be the most beneficial livestock to have on the land.  What they leave behind in droppings is some of the best fertilizer of any animal that could graze the land.  Sheep will eat all of the undesirable plants that might otherwise invade a field and ruin it.  If they are well managed, a flock of sheep can restore a piece of land and increase its value greatly. 

When a flock is well tended, goodness and mercy will follow it.  What they leave behind is far superior to what was there before they came through.  The grass is greener, less weeds. People and animals would want to be there.

We need to be asking ourselves this question, “ is this true of me?  When I leave a place is it better off than when I found it?  Do I leave a blessing and benediction behind me?”

Do I leave a trail of gladness or sadness behind me?  Are people glad to see you go, or sad to see you go? 

In Isaiah 52.7 we read, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace. There are those folks who leave a trail of blessing behind them.

We need to ask ourselves:

Do I leave behind peace in lives – or turmoil?
Do I leave behind forgiveness – or bitterness?
Do I leave behind contentment – or conflict?
Do I leave  behind joy – or frustration?
Do I leave behind love  - or anger?

Some people leave such a mess behind them wherever they go that they prefer to cover their tracks.  those are not the folks who say:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:” But we can!

Then, We find the Shepherd in front to lead, He is by our side to restore us, He is around us to drive back our enemies, and then we find His goodness and mercy closing up the rear “obliterating,” as one person puts it, “the heel prints of past iniquities,” and preventing our failures from overtaking us!

We make mistakes in life.  Things don’t go quite as we planned.  We hurt ourselves and other people in the process.  Our adversary, the devil would have us believe that we have left this trail of destruction behind us and that when we look back it will follow us forever.  But that is not the way it is!

The goodness and mercy that follow us obliterate the past and wipe out the trail of sin that we should see behind us.. Our Shepherd follows us and wipes out the trail behind us.  When we look back the only thing that we should see following us is God’s goodness and mercy.

It should overflow from us and fill the trail behind us. 

We should be able to repeat the words of the Psalmist:

You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life.

If you are a committed Christ follower this should be evident to the people around you.  If you have never chosen to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and follow Him it should be noticeable that there is something different about those Christ followers.  I want to invite you today to be a Christ follower, to allow the Holy Spirit to fill you until you overflow and I invite you to pray that God will use you to have an impact on other people around you. The decision is easy but staying on the trail is not.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NASB95)
20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,
21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
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