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Protection for the Defenseless


By Ted Schroder,

Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." (John 10:27-30)

Sheep are helpless creatures. They are not able to protect themselves. They have no weapons, no protective armor, no ability to strategize or to outwit their enemies, no speed to outrun them. Predators have a field day with sheep. Evolution doesn't work for sheep. It is not a question of the survival of the fittest. Having been bred for human convenience the wooly animals are completely dependent on their shepherd.

This is the analogy Jesus uses to remind us that we are helpless in the face of those things that prey upon us, those things which threaten our security, those things which frighten us and destroy our peace, those things that seek to snatch us out of the hand of God and destroy our faith, hope and love.

Our natural predators are doubt and despair, anxiety and fear, bitterness and resentment. We are vulnerable to financial setbacks, to unexpected health problems, to relationships that disappoint us, to accidents and tragedies.

It is possible for us to do something about protecting ourselves from known dangers. We try to secure ourselves against disaster - we would be irresponsible and shortsighted if we didn't. But no one can completely control all the circumstances surrounding them. We cannot dictate the conditions of the economy, or the actions of other people.

We cannot force other people to fulfill our expectations. We are interdependent. If we place our total and complete trust in what other people may or may not do, in the reliability of companies or politicians, and they prove unable to protect us, we panic. We can't altogether trust in continued, increasing prosperity, in continued good health, in continued peace in the world.

Faith in God cannot prevent bad things happening to us. "God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matthew 5:45) Life can be full of suffering. How we handle it is the test of our faith.

Lil Holley was a short, buxom lady who reigned over our kitchen. As a child I spent a great deal of my time in that kitchen with the staff. They were part of my extended family. Lil was given to strong language at times when she was exasperated. One lunch-time, I was home from high school, when, with her head in the oven, she started cussing me out for no apparent reason. I was standing on the other side of the kitchen, minding my own business, and could not understand why she should light into me in such a fashion. She thought I was standing behind her and pushing her into the oven! When she realized that I was on the other side of the room, she started to wonder whether she had suffered a fainting spell. Then we all felt it. It was an earthquake tremor.

My mother was sick in her bedroom upstairs at the time. I thought she might be frightened, so I ran out the door and up the back staircase, which kept moving on me, in a strange way. When I arrived at the bedroom I found my mother half out of the bed to unplug an electric heater so that a fire might not be caused. We had all heard about fires following earthquakes and devastating badly damaged towns. I went back down the front staircase, and saw the unmistakable sign of an earthquake - the light fixtures were swaying to and fro. Bottles had crashed down from the shelves, making an awful mess on the floors. Then the quake stopped, to be succeeded by a quiet, as everyone caught their breath, and wondered what damage had been caused. For several days aftershocks would occur, but none as violent as the first.

The chief question on people's minds was, "Where was the epicenter?" for we knew that the damage would be greatest there. On this occasion the epicenter was found to be offshore in the Tasman Sea.

In Florida, a different kind of earthquake can happen. As underground streams dry up in droughts, the limestone aquifer will contract, and a sinkhole suddenly can form. The earth caves in, taking anything that sits upon the surface. Houses, roads, automobiles, can disappear into the sinkhole.

Earthquakes are the result of the expansion and contraction of the earth, the shifting of the tectonic plates that make up the surface of the earth. They are completely outside human control. No one can forecast when an earthquake or a sinkhole will happen. It could happen tomorrow, or not for ten years. It could happen where we live, or somewhere else.

Jesus tells us that ultimate protection and peace of mind is to be found only in the Lord. We are truly helpless apart from Christ. It is he who gives us the security of eternal life, the guarantee that we will not be snatched from the protective power of God. When Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand", he is telling us that he will give us a life that is full of the splendor and magnificence of the life of God. He is telling us that he will give us a life that none can ultimately destroy, or diminish, or degrade; a life that is everlasting, that endures into the glory that is heaven. He is telling us that he will give us a life that is secure, in which there is no deprivation of the presence and the power of God, a life that will know the serenity of God even if the world collapses around us.

How can this be so? Jesus says: "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." We can be confident in the power of God to protect us because he is greater than all the problems that could prey upon us, and that he has given us into the care of Christ, who is one with him in this care and concern.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? ... For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35,38,39)

There are two errors we tend to fall into.

First, we tend to over-estimate our own ability to protect ourselves. We think that we have the personal strength to be self-sufficient. There are many people who think that they can survive in their own strength, and beat the system by themselves. The image Jesus uses is telling - we are sheep, and ultimately, when trouble looms in our lives, we are helpless on our own. We just don't have the ability to fend off the predatory elements.

We are fragile creatures, vulnerable to attack. We are not made to survive on our own.

Secondly, we under-estimate the ability and desire of God to protect us. Jesus said, "I know my sheep." God knows everything about us, even to counting the numbers of hairs on our heads. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without him knowing it. Jesus promises us protection. We need not fear. Yet we are often unwilling to admit our need, and to acknowledge that God can take care of us and will if we let him. The message of the Scriptures is, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

What is it that is preying upon you, upon your mind? What is it that seeks to snatch you out of the hand of God? What is it that seeks to destroy your peace and assurance of God's love?

Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice and follow me." Listen to the promises of Jesus rather than the voice of your fears. Follow him in faith to the way of safety.


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