The Pastured Sheep
“He shall go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
How shall we grow strong and “find pasture”? The believer is a priest of God. As the priest goes in to God and goes out to men, so must it be with the believer. He must go in to commune; he must go out to serve. He must go in, in faith; he must go out in love. He must go in to get from God; he must go out to give to men….
This is his balanced life—to go in and to go out. As he does so, Christ says, he “finds pasture,” he feeds, learns the secret of growth and gain in Christian life.
Let us think awhile of him in this relation Godward, in his life of going in. And let us note first, that—We must go in—to feed on the Word… [and] to drink of the Spirit…. It does not take long to GO IN.
Perhaps…you picture the secret closet of prayer where men spend hours with Him. You dream of some mountaintop where, in the stillness of the desert place, God speaks so clearly to your inner soul as you are shut off from men…. [But] God is so near, and the arrows of prayer so swift in their course, and our Father so waitingly intent for every cry of prayer that starts on its upward way, that it does not take long to go in….
Amid the rush of traffic, the fever of a hurried day, the pressure of a strained and suffering one, you may go in, if for but a second or two of precious approach. You may lift your heart in it all and whisper—“God help me; deliver me; give me strength; guide me; suffer not my foot to slip.” And He will hear you. And you will learn the sweet lesson of how quickly and how easily we may go in, in this so sorely needful life of prayer.
But it is not enough to go in; one must also GO OUT.
Do you remember Caleb’s choice of inheritance in the land of promise? He asked God for a land that had “upper and nether springs.” There is a beautiful spiritual teaching here. God indeed has sky-springs. Ever and anon the heavens open and pour forth their rains upon the thirsty earth, making the fields to spring up in fragrant flowers. But God also has lower springs. Right in the pathway of our daily toil…. So of the spiritual life.
He who goes in to the secret place of prayer does indeed drink of the fountain of God’s life. This is God’s upper spring, always flowing for those who go in. But God has His lower springs, too, which burst from the ground by the pathway of our daily service…. We wax strong and grow in grace not only by the in-take of communion but by the out-give of service…. It is not the sweep of service but the act of serving which brings the soul-growth. Steady, persistent service seemingly of the most trifling kind will be pasture to your soul and bring growth to your life.
Aim to be faithful in your sphere. Leave to God the expansion of that sphere. To teach the class, visit the sick, comfort the sorrowing, cheer the downcast, minister on all sides in the little things which come daily to your willing hands—all this sort of going will feed your inner life, and steadily advance you in Christian growth. “If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them.” It is in the doing of little things rather than in the dreaming of great ones that we find pasture and most perfectly fulfil the conditions of growth….
Therefore upon the outside of the door to your chamber of prayer write these words, “Go in.” ….And then on the inside of that same closet door write, “Go out.”….For here lies the balanced life; the life which “finds pasture”; the life which grows rich and steady, and strong in its Lord. It is the life which not only goes in to receive from God but goes out to give to men.
This excerpt was taken from “The Pastured Sheep,” which appeared in the periodical Living Water, December 5, 1912, pp.1-4.
James H. McConkey (1858-1937), a Presbyterian writer, author, and lawyer, played an influential role in the YMCA and in founding the Africa Inland Mission.