Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
I had been working at my friend’s father’s carpet store during breaks from school, but it was not a job I necessarily loved. He, of course, had the desire to really build this little business and make it everything it could be. When he was there, we always worked. It did not matter that we had very few customers. If there was not someone to wait on, then there was product to move and displays to rearrange and inventory to take. His attitude was in stark contrast to mine. Sometimes I would go to the back room to rearrange rolls of carpet, but I actually would spend my time napping on those very rolls. I guess you could call me a helper, but I certainly was not a steward of that store. I was not focused on making it grow and be successful in the long term. My only goal was to put a few bucks in my pocket and do as little work as possible for it.
The shepherds who are true models of the good shepherd will take their stewardship of the flock very seriously. Jesus says that his sheep know his voice, and that should be true of the shepherds who lead us under him as well. Certainly we want to make sure that we have a good personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but we also want to make sure that our leaders have those same relationships with him. We can learn whether our leaders are sheep of the good shepherd himself simply by what they tell and show us. From the doctrine they teach to the words they say to the things they do, all of this should indicate to us whether those we follow are listening to the same voice we hear. When their behavior tells us that perhaps they are listening to another voice or not keen on doing this work as the good shepherd would do, we must be able to discern that.
The thing is, every shepherd who leads a flock of Christians on this earth is also part of the flock. Every shepherd is also a sheep. We are all sheep who should be following the good shepherd, so there must be some obvious commonality between us and our leaders. As much as we monitor our own spiritual growth, we also must watch for spiritual growth in those we have allowed to be in authority over us. The voice of Jesus is clear in scripture, and his message does not deviate one degree in any direction. His voice is constant, his words are constant, and his message is constant. We should be growing together as we follow the good shepherd. Father, bring a united growth in spirit to the shepherds and the sheep that it would be clear we are listening to and following the same shepherd’s voice.