As I was shearing one of the ewes today I had a lot of time to think. Shearing is usually done in the spring of the year as the weather heats up. This year I ran late with the extra activities that our family had this year. Some years ago as I learned to shear it was not so peaceful a task. The first time I tried it I did a poor job. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth (mostly mine) and the sheep did not enjoy any part of it. It turned out to be a family affair though as I had daughters on every leg and a wife encouraging me along. We used several ropes and the animal fought us fiercely. Today was completely the opposite.
Before I get into the spiritual side of shearing sheep let’s look at a passage in Hebrews 12:1. The writer pens that as we look to the great cloud of witnesses before us (as revealed in chapter 11) we must lay aside every weight and run with patience the race that is set before us. The image here is the race and getting to the finish line. Runners understand that every ounce of extra weight they carry, whether in body weight or things they take burdens them down and inhibit their chances of finishing the mark. Please get that mental image of the runner. He is off to a good start and we assume he has training for his journey. The only problem is that in this case we are in a race in which we may gain burdens along the way. Have you ever seen a race where somewhere along the way the runner is handed drinks or energy food? On long marathons they might even get raingear if the weather changes. These might have been necessary at some time but as we approach the finish line we are told they must be discarded.
I have been studying the Christian walk most of my entire life. As a young Christian I watched as older men and women walked the path. Down the road I was dismayed as some strayed from that path. In each case I have studied and tried to determine where they got off course. It was my goal to learn from mistakes to make sure I made it to the finish line. Try as I may I wandered from the path of righteousness on several occasions and had to be restored.
What takes place in us that carries us off course? A modern airplane has many technological devices that allow the pilot to find his way. Still, we often read of crashes in spite of these. Pilots sometimes misread their instruments and have accidents.
Going back to Hebrews chapter twelve it says that we must lay aside this weight and sin. It is clear that our will is involved in this. When you were born-again you were washed clean and your sins were taken away. As you continue to grow you still have a free will to do what you want or don’t want. There are some who believe that Christians can no longer sin. In Colossians chapter three Paul makes two statements. Starting in verse one he begins a segment on what we must stop doing. He tells us to mortify (put to death) certain actions. Down through verse eleven Paul talks about things that we, as Christians, should stop doing. In verse twelve he begins to discuss things that we should start doing. I think its significant that he uses the phrase “put on” translated from a Greek word meaning to clothe yourself here. So this walk in God involves putting off old garments (the flesh) and putting on new ones (spiritual fruit).
It’s a life long process. We are to spend our lives striving for perfection. Our new-birth is only the beginning. Getting back to the shearing process today let me tell you that it is harder on the shearer than it is on the sheep. Even now my back remembers the job. Angie and the girls all went swimming and I decided to stay here. While I can swim, it’s not a passion for me. I don’t enjoy it and would rather fish. I went down to the barn and worked and got my gear together. The sheep were lying in the shade and panting heavily. Their thick wool coats were four inches thick and it made me even hotter just looking at them.
I found a tree close by with a flat spot and spread my tarp. One of the ewes came up to me (almost as if she knew what was going to take place) and I put her on the tarp. It took a few minutes for her to calm down and stop kicking. As I began to cut into the wool I concentrated on cutting it only (and not the sheep). The first few cuts are difficult, finding out which part is sheep and which isn’t. Once I got my rhythm going and she calmed down it went fairly easy. I talked to her calmly and occasionally she rose up and looked at me as if to ask “are you sure?”.
As I trimmed the wool up I exposed her body. The air hadn’t been on it since last spring. Often, I discover “things” inside that worked their way in and couldn’t get out. A beetle or stick, a rock or matting of manure; these are all buried inside her own, beautiful wool. As the air hit her she began to shiver. I could feel extreme heat radiating from her body. Every time I do this I am amazed at how they tolerated the burden for so long.
But they have no choice, do they? I mean, sheep depend on a shepherd. They are helpless and suffer if they can’t get the wool removed. InAlabamaright now it is reaching over a hundred degrees. I should have taken care of this several weeks ago but I was too busy. The ewe had somehow made it through.
Pastors could learn a thing or two from shearing sheep. I saw a really bad shearer once and had to leave in tears as the Holy Spirit told me “this is a shepherd who doesn’t care about his sheep”. The shearing was at a craft show. The shearer’s wife was a weaver and it seemed that he was coerced into being there. When he brought the animal out he did so by dragging it. He used electric shears and within minutes he had nicks and blood all over. The poor sheep looked more pitiful than relieved.
I’ve seen pastors who were rough with their flocks. They were aggravated at having to deal with something and in the process they caused pain. They looked more like they were coerced into being pastor than called. It was no wonder the sheep didn’t want to be there.
What a difference today’s job was than the first time I did it. As I stated above, it was ludicrous at best. We did the job and the sheep was sheared but my inexperience was obvious. I’m still a very slow shearer. I take my time and am in no rush. My goal is not speed but to completely shear the sheep without nicks. I still do nick them sometimes but always doctor them afterward. When they understand that I’m helping they calm down.
Hebrews twelve (again) says that we should lay aside the weight and sin that besets us. That word “beset” comes from a Greek word meaning “to surround”. What a parallel to the wool today! It slowly grew from last year and completely surrounded the sheep. It was heavy and burdensome. There was no way for the sheep to get rid of it herself. Sin is that way, isn’t it? It slowly grows around us, without us ever noticing any changes. At time we might even get comfortable in it. The day comes when we realize life isn’t pleasant but we don’t know what to do. We must go to the Shepherd!
Paul’s admonition to walk in righteousness (Col 3) was not a do-it yourself religion. If you could have been good enough to live righteously Jesus would have never had to die on the cross. He did not give us a list that we had to do on our own. We must go to the Shepherd and take off that old garment and put on the new.
When I finished with the ewe today she stood up and looked around a few minutes. She didn’t take off running like a frightened animal but rather stood in the corral for a minute before joining the flock. They came to her, sensing something was different. Another spiritual point-once we have put off the old it will be obvious to all those around us. Our lives will be different and someone will notice. That is the greatest testimony to the Power of the Cross—a life changed!
As a shearer let me say that I cannot shear without the cooperation of the sheep. In all my years of shearing I’ve only had one animal that would not cooperate. She kicked and kicked and would not stop. I kept trying to help her but she refused to let me. I got most of the wool off but she eventually kicked her leg into the tip of my shears and it bled pretty badly. All the rest of our flock does settle down after a few minutes of holding them but for some reason she refused to.
Let me ask you this-when God tries to remove sin and burdens from your life do you resist Him? When that day comes and you know life cannot go on like it is are you willing to approach the shearer? As an act of your will you can allow Him to change your life. He is a loving Shepherd who never does anything that isn’t for your good. At times He may seem to do things that you don’t understand. Trust Him-He loves you like no other. When the shearing is taking place understand that it takes time. –Isn’t it time you went to Him?
Prayer-Father, as the Good Shepherd we understand that we are Your sheep. Sheep need a shepherd as we need You. You lead us to greener pasture and Living Water. You shear us when we need it. Today I pray for those who have put off the shearing. They thought they could go on as they were. The sin that surrounds them has grown through time and now the heat is here. May they see Your great deliverance today through Jesus Christ. May they give it all up to Your care.
In Jesus’ Name-Amen
Filed under: Messages