Every fortnight people from a farming background, or who have a heart for the countryside, offer a personal reflection on faith and rural life. They hope that you will be encouraged by it.
They say a man’s best friend is his dog, and there must be no better example of the bond between humans and animals than a shepherd gathering his sheep with a well-trained Border Collie.
When I was growing up, teatime on Saturday coincided with the BBC’s One Man and His Dog on television.
I couldn’t help but admire the connection between man and dog as they negotiated the course - the dog setting off at pace on the out-run, skilfully guiding the sheep through the drive gates, carefully separating the collared sheep in the shedding ring, and finishing up at the pen.
Of course this partnership doesn’t just develop overnight. Many hours of training and hard work are needed before a dog is fit for work, especially when it comes to trialling. Most of us will have known and loved a ‘good’ dog in our time and persevered with a ‘bad’ one. What’s the difference? One listens and heeds, much to the delight of his master, the other either can’t hear - or refuses to listen.
Just like the sheepdog, we all have this decision to make. Do we heed the Master, or do we ignore His voice? As we study the Bible, we learn that God created mankind to serve and worship Him. But He also gave us the free will to choose between His way and our own way.
So what does Jesus command of us if He is our Master:
COME – “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). Jesus doesn’t promise an easy life, excellent health or endless wealth, but He gives something more valuable – eternal rest.
LIE DOWN – “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3). Jesus, the Good Shepherd, promises to supply our needs and bring about restoration of our innermost being.
A-WAY – “I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me (John 14:6). The eternal peace that comes with forgiveness of sins and the promise of Heaven comes only through Jesus. Yet when we accept Jesus as the only Way, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1). No, we must cast off our sin and flee from it.
STAND – “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm...Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Just like the best sheepdogs, we must learn to stand - stand firm on the truths of Scripture and in our faith in the Saviour.
THAT’LL DO – “Well done my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). At the end of the day, when we have finished ‘the course’, we will hear the Master’s praise in these few words if we obey.
If you choose to come to Him, allow Him to cast away your sin, by His help stand firm, and lie-down in the rest that only the Good Shepherd provides, then one day you can look forward to hearing those coveted words: “that’ll do, come home.”
Ronald Annett works for a local animal feed company and helps out on the family farm in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains. He is a member of Mourne Presbyterian Church in Kilkeel, County Down.
If you would like to talk to someone about any of the issues raised in this article, please email Rev. Kenny Hanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 028 9753 1234.