How often have you been tempted to give up? Perhaps you can look back to a time when you did give up. In life, sometimes you give up on a relationship that you cannot make work or a loved one whose health is beyond medical rescue.
In work you have to give up on a project which cannot make money or an ambition which now cannot be fulfilled.
Giving up feels humiliating, devastating, compromising and, in short, it feels like failure. There is no one who does not fail at some point. Pause this thought for a moment.
The Son of Man describes himself as The Good Shepherd. He contrasts his character with a hired-hand in one fundamental way. It has to do with the word abandonment. The Good Shepherd never abandons or runs away. In fact, so strong is this commitment that it extends to laying down his life to protect and stay.
Check out the wider story. Jesus is tempted in the wilderness but does not give up. He is threatened with stones but does not give up. His friends misunderstand him, his family are mystified by him, his followers desert him, deny him and fall asleep on their watch. He is mocked, abused, harassed and attacked. Finally he is tortured and executed – yet he does not give up.
Don’t be fooled. One of his own betrays him, many desert him, many more refuse his message and others just despise him. Some would judge this as failure. He did not seemalways to succeed.
So a question emerges. When he says of himself that he does not abandon or run away, when he demonstrates that he never gives up, what does he not abandon; what did he not run away from; what did he never give up on?
The first obvious answer is that he did not abandon the sheep – his first followers. He does not abandon future followers – you and me. We are the ones he talks about as “other sheep”. He carried on, laying down his life, never abandoning.
But the first and obvious answer is not necessarily the deepest one. Underlying his actions there is something even more profound that he does not abandon. It’s there in front of you if you will see. The Son of Man will not abandon being the Good Shepherd. He will not run away from being I AM.
It is identity that he will not abandon. For him to run away from anything he would be running away from who he is.
The temptation is to abandon his core identity and become a shadow or inauthentic person. This he will not do.
Please don’t think this was automatic or easy for him. From the wilderness to the garden, this was an immense struggle. Culminating in sweating drops of blood the Son of Man held his ground.
To stay true to his I AM required prayer, discipline, determination, perseverance, trust, energy and a steadfast courage. It required a continual communion with the Father. For him to abandon his identity would be to lose everything.
Now you can see that this perseverance encompasses what even might be described as failure. Having one of your closest associates betray you for thirty pieces of silver could be seen as a failure of leadership, unless you see the I AM in the leader. The Son of Man never gave up on himself.
Now this is a vital principle in your work. You will be tempted, you will not always succeed, but the Son of Man, by the Spirit of God is calling you to stay true to yourself. He is calling you to find the I am within you and never abandon that. It will require courage, perseverance, determination and trust for sure. But once you see this dynamic you will see success and failure differently.
There is, however, one enormous truth that needs to be grasped here. You do not look to your own power to stay true to yourself. The Good Shepherd now works on you from the inside out. Other statements of this help you grasp the truth (I am the vine; I am the way.) But, be assured, the Good Shepherd takes up residence in your soul and empowers you to stay true to yourself whatever happens.
When you go to work this week, become aware of this inner Shepherd who never gives up on you, never abandons you, but continuously teaches you to never give up on who you are, abandon your identity or run away from your character.
Let him do his job in you so you can do yours.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
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