Life-Transforming Ministry to a World Scarred and Marred by Sin:
An Exposition of Psalm 23
Canon Glenn E. Davis
Proposition: What is supernatural ministry? What constitutes a vibrant personal ministry? Specifically, how can I have an effective ministry that changes lives and gives hope to the hurting?
Fallen Condition Focus: We all struggle in ministry: What do we say? How do we say it? Can we say anything that would change a life? Yes, we can meet Christ and through us, He can change lives.
Illustration: Johannes Tauler was broken by God of his arrogance and pride; as a result, become a vessel for God’s use: a life poured out without reserve to God.
‘Master Tauler,’ he [Nicholas of Basle] said, ‘you must die!’ ‘Die,’ said the popular Strasburg preacher, ‘what do you mean?’ The next day Nicholas came again and said: ‘John Tauler, you must die to live.’ ‘What do you mean?’ said Tauler. ‘Get alone with God,’ said Nicholas, ‘leave your crowded church, your admiring congregation, your hold on this city. Go aside to your cell, be alone and you will see what I mean.’ His plain speaking at first offended Tauler, and his resentment only proved how accurate was the diagnosis at which Nicholas has arrived. Tauler was a long time coming to the end of himself.
Johannes Tauler cited in J. Gregory Mantle, Beyond Humiliation: The Way of the Cross (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Publishers, 1975), 143.
Definition: Brokenness is a heart yielded to God; ready and willing to obey the Holy Spirit whenever and wherever He directs. Brokenness is a work of grace achieved by the Cross and established by the Holy Spirit. “By nature we are so strong, so able to think and plan and do, and God must bring us to the place of weakness, the place where we cannot think or plan or do apart from him.” [Watchman Nee]. (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
Definition: Consecration is the abandonment of my life without reserve to the loving purposes of God. A conviction held deep within my being that my life is God’s. I do not reserve from Christ’s Lordship any rights, gifts, possessions, relationships, or privileges. “The whole man must make the decision before the heart can know any real satisfaction. God wants us all, and He will not rest till He gets us all. No part of the man will do” [A.W. Tozer]. (Phil. 3:7-9).
Testimony: In my own life, the Holy Spirit brought me to a place of utter and complete surrender.
The night I came to Christ, the Lord spoke, “Do you love me more than your fears?” He gave me grace to die to fear and live for him. At that moment, I surrendered all my fears and met Christ as my Shepherd—the warrior king of my heart.
When the Holy Spirit brings us to that place of utter surrender, then and only then, are we able to understand the truth of supernatural ministry found in Psalm 23.
An Exposition of Psalm 23
1. My Shepherd Satisfies: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want” (v.1). His love, grace, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness satisfy the deepest longings of my heart. “My” is personal, experiential knowledge of God. Gone are the days of living off someone else’s relationship with God. Gone are the days of knowing about God. Now, I know him by personal experience --his holiness, beauty, love, and grace. God’s heart becomes my place of refuge. I know him as the love of my life. My “Shepherd” is Jesus being my leader, my provider, my comforter, my lover, and my sacrifice. “I shall not be in want” is an expression of satisfaction and delight in God. Yes, my material needs are met, but more importantly, my love needs are found in him. “God is most glorified in us when we are the must satisfied in him” (John Piper). Finding my satisfaction in Jesus is declaring to the world that he is supremely delightful.
2. My Shepherds Cares: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul” (v.2-3a). I do not know what is best for me; I wander throughout life looking to people and things that can never fulfill. Even as a Christian, I roam back and forth from things to people, from people to things looking to end my loneliness and fill my spiritual emptiness. “He makes,” By His great grace Christ hems be in, behind and before, forcing me stop to wandering and to start embracing Him. The Lord sovereignly cultivates my circumstances, so that, I would be boxed into him. Out of love for me, he forces me to a place of rest in what truly satisfies—His presence. He is a jealous God and he wants me for himself. The “green pastures” are quiet times, study of the Word, prayer, sacraments, public worship, etc. The “quiet waters” is the place of refreshment, the place of restoration, the place of Holy Encounter—the place of Holy Communion. Sacramentally, we are reminded of our baptism: our sins were washed away and we were united to Christ.
Definition: Communion is a personal sharing in the presence of God: speaking and being spoken to by Him. Communion is participating in the life of God: an encounter that is loving, grace-filled, and life changing. By sharing in the presence of Christ, I encounter a love that calms my fears, heals my hurts, forgives my sins, and renews my calling.
Summary: Supernatural ministry begins by looking to Christ to be my satisfaction and continues in seeking him to be my daily source for encouragement and renewal.
3. My Shepherd Guides: “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (v.3b). I am not left alone, the Lord is here guiding in even in the most mundane things of life.
Definition: Guidance is God’s promise to lead and direct me by His personal presence through the joy and chaos of life.
The Lord is personally concerned about my personal concerns (1 Peter 5: 7). Therefore, he leads me in and through the minor and major choices of life: marriage, jobs, schooling, etc. I am never alone when contemplating decisions at the major (and minor) crossroads of life. Not only does he guide me, but also he leads me to keep his commands, “paths of righteousness,” by showing me the way to Christlikeness. “For his name’s sake,” I cannot keep God’s commands in my own power. I cannot live the Christian life: only Christ successfully lived the Christian life. Therefore, my friends and family know that any righteous responses I make must be by God’s power. Consequently, God receives all the glory, “for his name’s sake,” that my life is in some way reflecting Christ.
Summary: For God’s praise, the Lord directs me to make moral choices that reflect his character and honor his commands.
4. My Shepherd Protects: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (v.4). Even in my greatest trials, nothing can separate me from my Shepherd (Rom. 8:35-39). “The valley of the shadow of death” is a wadi where bandits, thieves, and fierce animals can attack and kill in the midst of the darkness. “I will fear no evil,” in Christ, I can be free of fear and the bondage it creates. For many, life’s joys have been lost because of debilitating apprehension over just the possibility of a tragic event. Fear immobilizes us over the dreaded, “what if” scenario. This incessant trepidation prevents us from trusting God with the uncertainties of life. However, Jesus frees us from our fears for he is our Shepherd that protects us from all harm. He is capable of handling all our problems: real or imagined. Though unseen, Jesus is walking with us. He never neglects us or forgets our need.
Definition: Fear is overwhelming anxiety and worry that immobilizes my spirit into believing that my circumstances are bigger than God’s provision. Giving into fear is failing to consider that God is adequate for my needs and can overcome any of my difficulties. Fearful feelings are not the same thing as the sin of unbelief. One may feel extremely fearful, yet choose to stand on God’s promises, rather than sink into the pit of despair. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9).
“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Your protection and your guidance never depart from me; therefore, my fears are alleviated by your presence. Like wandering sheep, the Lord protects me from various enemies while leading me to places of safety and provision.
5. My Shepherd Ministers: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (v. 5). The “table” is a place of communion: sacramental and personal. In this verse, Christ is now the host and I am his most honored guest. He is my shepherd and he is my host, in both roles, I experience Christ: he makes himself available to me in grace. My enemies have been bound and gagged and they squat outside the tent. The Lord has won the victory for me and I enjoy the benefits of his triumph. Like the Cross, Jesus has defeated my worst enemies: the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil, and now, I now enjoy all the blessings of Christ crucifixion: the forgiveness of my sin, the putting away of my sin, and the power to overcome my present battles with sin.
Definition: Communion is sharing in the presence of God: speaking and being spoken to by Him. Communion is participating in the life of God: an encounter that is loving, grace-filled, and life-changing.
“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (v.5b). “Oil” is poured upon my head as I yield my will to Christ. While communing with Christ, I encounter the presence of the Holy Spirit. As Christ targets my fleshly attitudes and actions (i.e., brokenness), the Holy Spirit cleanses my sin, renews my sin-ravaged heart, and empowers me to obey Christ’s commands. In the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I find Christ as my strength, sufficiency and overcoming victory. The more I am transformed by Christ, the more anointed in the Holy Spirit my ministry becomes. How? As Jesus lives his life in and through me, my ministry becomes life-changing because Jesus is always anointed of the Holy Spirit. “My cup” is my life lived in Christ in the midst of a fallen world. “Overflows,” the overflow of my communion-life in Christ is my ministry.
Definition: Ministry is the overflow of the Life of God in me. I spend time with Christ, Christ reveals himself afresh to me. The overflow of that experience is life, that life encourages and blesses others. Ministry is communicating “life information” to others: why God loves, what he does, when he speaks, where he works, and how he transforms.
6. My Shepherd Abides: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v.6). “Goodness and love” are Fruit of the Spirit manifested by my life as result of communing with Jesus. Consequently, my life becomes a place where God dwells—his Holy Temple—“the house of the Lord.”
Illustration: Not scholars, experts, or mighty leaders but the Corrie Ten Booms, Amy Carmichaels, Bertha Smiths, Catherine Marshalls, etc., are the true ministers of the gospel. Why? They were yielded to God’s will living lives consecrated to His purposes, as a result, they enjoyed the constant, conscious presence of Christ thereby overflowing with the Holy Spirit’s ministry, in turn, touching the lives of others.
1. Draw your satisfaction from the Shepherd
2. Devote time to your Shepherd.
3. Delight in the Shepherd’s heart.
4. Dispose yourself to the Shepherd’s will.
Conclusion: A supernatural ministry is found in the overflow of a life-communion relationship with Jesus, the Great Shepherd of My Soul (Heb. 13:20).
Three A. M. Rule: Ministry is the overflow of my relationship with Jesus. Ministry is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
 Watchman Nee, Changed Into His Likeness (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1987), 128.
 A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1984), 107.