So often the 23rd Psalm is read at funerals and used as a prayer for those in harms way. It is also a reminder of God’s faithfulness. But have you ever looked at it as God’s guidance to spiritual maturity? Tonight I heard a teaching by my pastor that explores the 23rd Psalm from this perspective, and it was too good not to share it. Keep in mind that fighting the enemies you face on the outside is not as tough as fighting the enemies you keep hidden on the inside.
Stage 1: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…(v. 1)
When you first accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are like a baby whose every need is supplied. You are excited and feel that this period in your walk with the Lord will never end. It will never end, provided you continue to flow in the progression of maturing as a Christian from one stage to the other. However, if you refuse to mature, you are refusing to move to greener pastures with the rest of the flock. As you separate yourself from the rest of the flock, He will cease being your shepherd – not by His choice but by yours, and you expose yourself to predators.
If you accept the maturing process, then provision continues as you move on to the next stage of maturing. Each stage of the maturing process is dependent on the other. As wonderful as the infancy stage is, God is leading you to the next stage.
Stage 2: He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters… (v. 2)
In this stage, God wants you to rest and hear from Him. He wants you to work quietly with Him. He guides you to go deeper into the Word (green pastures). The green pastures of the Word give you nourishment for your spirit, mind, and body. He is also encouraging you to accept the infilling of His Holy Spirit (still waters). The Holy Spirit poured into you works together with the Word of God. If you are faithful to follow God’s lead in this stage of the maturing process, you don’t close the door of the first stage in your life.
God then faithfully leads you on to the next stage of maturing as a Christian.
Stage 3: He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake… (v. 3)
If you are to continue maturing, this stage is a vital one to get through. But it is probably the most difficult stage. God must restore your soul, thereby renewing your strength to go on. Your soul consists of your mind, will, and emotions. Too often, people close off their souls because of damage done to them in the course of their lives and because of clutter picked up along the way.
They often appear to be fine on the outside, but inside, they are hiding hurts. They close “doors” in their lives and lock them up tight to guard against experiencing that hurt again. They have numerous issues they conceal in an effort to not have to deal with them. Who wants to experience more hurt? Regardless, these issues must be dealt with in order to move on.
Along the way, “clutter” is acquired in the form of anger, fear, making light of or making a joke out of a serious situation to avoid crying, to name a few examples. When God starts cleaning out your inner life, all the emotions that are clutter start to explode. Then, you ask, “Where did that come from? I thought I was over that?” In reality, it was just hidden somewhere inside to avoid dealing with it.
God must be allowed to expose these hidden issues, and you must face them head on if you are to move forward. God will expose areas in your life that you believe were healed. In order to dispose of the dysfunction in your life, you need to accept this process no matter how painful.
Refusing to accept this process gives the enemy access to your life. You are giving the enemy opportunities to influence you to go in a direction that is leading you away from all that God has for you. God, as a perfect gentleman, will not impose on you, but the enemy is looking for every opportunity to take advantage of you. God will expose the issues within you to make you aware of them so you can deal with and get rid of them. Face the enemy inside of you in order to eliminate opportunities for the enemy on the outside to destroy you.
You need the restorative work God is seeking to perform in your life to go on and hear from God. You gather strength in the restoration process to continue the flow into the next stage of maturing.
Stage 4: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me… (v. 5)
The world (valley of the shadow of death) offers death spiritually and physically on a daily basis. To overcome the world, you need to draw on the prior stage of restoration.
In this stage, you experience testing. God does not test you. To test you, would be to present temptations for you to overcome. God does not tempt you. Life, however, does test you. It is through these tests that you discover your weaknesses and your strengths. God does not give you the answer to the tests either. That would be cheating. You must pass these tests on your own, but remember, He did give you guidance through the various stages of maturing. Remember the second stage? That stage is a major key to passing the tests that life throws at you.
God’s Word and His Spirit are also His “rod” and His “staff.” A shepherds “staff” is used to guide his flock, and his rod is for correction. To move to the next stage of maturity and to retain the benefits from the prior stages, you must accept His guidance and correction with a willing heart.
Stage 5: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies… (v. 5)
As you successfully move through the stages of maturing as a Christian, you get to a stage where you are rewarded for your efforts. The type of reward will depend on the outcome of your battles. Every time you experience a confrontation with the enemy, God pronounces a winner. You get to look back at your life experiences and determine how you handled those experiences. Either you handled them badly and cease to move forward until you handle them victoriously, or you conquer them and continue the maturing process.
Stage 6: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over… (v. 5)
The level of God’s anointing on your life is based on how you handle your trials. If you are victorious, God’s anointing is an overflowing cup for you – joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction – to name a few.
Stage 7: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (v. 6)
As you reach maturity in your Christian walk, you receive more and more blessings and experience less and less trials.
Maturing as a Christian will be easier for some than for others. The key is accepting all that God has for you, even when He exposes what you have hidden inside in order to cut off opportunities for the enemy to work. Every “shaking” in your life is an opportunity for God to clean one more impurity out of you or to strengthen your trust in Him.
When everything seems to be going wrong in your life, recognize it as the enemy’s attempt to lead you in the wrong direction, and immediately incline your ear to God, remaining stable and fixed on Him. His voice will not lead you away from fellowship with the people He places in your life to support and encourage you. His voice will be the voice of peace that you can trust no matter how you feel or what is happening in or around you. You must welcome the “shaking,” and use it to your advantage. You must stay the course, keep your eyes off of circumstances and focus on trusting Him, accept the restorative work He is doing in your life, and expect to reap wonderful rewards.
This teaching ministered so much to me personally because I am in the "restoration" process, and it is indeed very painful. Some days, it is hard to face what He is exposing in me, but at the same time He is giving me His strength to get through this "stage." Dr. Marc Chironna said on TBN the other night that "recovery" is when He gives us back what the enemy took, but "restoration" is when He gives us what He intended for us all along that we have not had before. I am very much looking forward to moving on!
"As you reach maturity in your Christian walk, you receive more and more blessings and experience less and less trials." That's very inspiring to know. Although my journey of faith is slow, everyday with Jesus is a learning experience for me. Thank you for sharing. Gloria
Amen! Thank you, Sister, for this imformative and helpful perspective on the familiar Psalm. It certainly makes sense to me. I can look back and see those things perfectly where they fit into different times and places within my own walk. In Christ, Treava
Thank you for sharing this beautiful illustration of Ps.23! He does lead us through many stages as He leads us through the Valley! Indeed those hidden areas of the heart are not always easy to look at, but so necessary for restoration of the soul. Praise God He gently restores our soul. Love, Sharon
Joyce, How you will inspire all who read this piece!!!! This is a gift to be shared for it speaks to our faith in a beautiful, yet straight-forward way. Your readers will come away UNDERSTANDING what God's words mean...you are a blessing to all of us and will be to all who read your annointed words! Love, Peggy