Many years ago Robertson McQuilkin preached at a Bible Conference in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, and while there, gently rebuked God’s people for the bad habit of placing the but in the wrong place when speaking of the Lord. During one particular morning devotion he said, “Is the Lord meeting your needs or isn’t he? Now, most Christians would say, ‘Why, certainly the Lord is meeting all my needs, but . . .’ and then follow that ‘but’ with all the things that are troubling them. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, but I have not a gift for personal work. The Lord is my Shepherd, but I don’t have a job. The Lord is my Shepherd, but my child is sick.’ You see? You have the ‘but’ in the wrong place. And so I would say, ‘I have tremendous deficits, but the Lord is my Shepherd. I am not very strong, but the Lord is my Shepherd. I am all confused, but the Lord is my Shepherd . . .’”
Some years later, Vance Havner came to the same Bible Conference to preach. During this time he was struggling with the fact that his wife had contracted a rare and deadly disease. Havner is worried and tied up in knots. He cannot bear the thought of losing his beloved. Interestingly, he begins to meditate on Psalm 23. While wrestling with his worries, the Lord impresses upon him that he is acting more like a billy goat than a sheep. In his thinking he was always – ‘butting.’ He knew that the Lord was his Shepherd, BUT . . . he was growing old, who would care for him should he lose his wife, what if he got sick? Thankfully, during a walk in the nearby mountains, the Lord restored his soul’s serenity. Reflecting on 72 years of God’s faithfulness, goodness, and mercy, Havner surrendered his fears to God and prayed, “Lord, help me be a lamb and not a billy goat.”
The stories of Robertson McQuilkin and Vance Havner remind us that when the Lord is given His proper place in our talk and walk, worry dies. When we begin with the Lord, it is the beginning of the end of our fears. David begins Psalm 23 with the Lord, in all His greatness and glory. As he proceeds to reflect on God’s person (v. 1), peace (v. 2), provision (vv. 3, 5) and protection (vv. 4-5), his confidence builds to a point where he dogmatically exclaims, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me, all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6). When David spoke Psalm 23:6, there was no worry in his heart and no wavering in his voice. He was a man sure about God and the love He had for David His servant. There were no ‘ifs’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts’ about David’s trust in God and His ability to take care of him.
In a world that constantly chips away at our confidence in God, may we respond by developing and guarding our confidence in God. Surely: because the past teaches us that God is always victorious. Surely: because God did not spare His own Son. Surely: because God has given us great and precious promises. Surely: because having chosen us in Christ in eternity past, God will not forsake His elect within time. Surely: because God’s reputation is on the line. Surely: because the united testimony of saints and martyrs is that He will never leave us or forsake us.
If the Lord is your Shepherd don’t act like a billy goat!