Having a “sheep-like faith” does not mean having a “blind” faith, in the sense of following aimlessly without thought or judgement. Unlike many dogs who may willing follow just about anyone, sheep only follow other sheep or shepherds whom they trust, and they trust them because they already know or readily identify with them. I have seen sheep avoid new sheep they don’t know, although they may warm up to a new sheep more quickly than to a new human….or not.
When I visit a friend’s flock, I know if I approach her sheep, they will not regard me as their shepherd. But the moment they see my friend who is their shepherd, they start calling out to her, the same way mine do to me! They know who she is, and they are ready to follow her. They are eager, ready and willing to go where she leads.
“But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
John 10:2-5 (NASB)
Sheep hear their shepherd’s voice, and also many other things: other sheep, lambs, dogs, insects, cars, birds, chickens, whatever is in their environment. Sheep also hear their own inner fears and confusion. While hearing all these things, sheep have feelings about what their vision (which is designed very different than a human’s) tells them and how they are able to interpret that based on their long memories of past experiences. In the midst of all this, a sheep who knows her shepherd zeros in on her shepherd’s voice, because she knows her shepherd. Sheep learn quickly from experience, both good and bad. Based on her experience, she knows the way shepherd leads is the way she wants to go. She wants what shepherd offers, usually leaving behind any green grass she has been grazing in favor of eating what shepherd brings.
Having a “sheep-like” faith means following Shepherd because you know Him, and you want what He provides. It means choosing to follow (obey) His ways and leading, over your own inner fear, confusion, anxiety; choosing to follow Him, not another god, not another person. It means trusting Jesus instead of getting caught up in anxiety over what your eyes tell you your circumstances are. It means hearing and responding to His voice above the daily cacophony of responsibilities, demands, heartbreak and uncertainty. Because of your sure knowledge of Him,who He is, you know when you are afraid, even when your intellect cannot make sense of what He is doing, His trustworthiness is never tainted.
Having a sheep-like faith means trusting yourself to His care and provision, not living on your own as wild sheep do, with no intercessor between yourself and the world’s law of “survival of the fittest”.
“Aren’t sheep stupid?” is a question I am often asked. I cringe when people tell me this is the main take away they remember from any sermon they have heard in church regarding sheep. But God did not use this wonderful metaphor to tell people how “stupid” He thinks they are! Having a “sheep-like” faith is a picture of deep trust that overrides fear, doubt and even instinct at time. Sheep do not develop such a trust in an abusive, rough shepherd. They don’t develop such a trust with a shepherd who spends little time with them. Sheep follow the shepherd they see daily, because he is personally invested in them; the one who calls out to them, and responds to their cries to him in turn.
Are you eager, ready and willing to follow where Jesus leads?