One distinguishing feature of our way of life is the increasing number of people who are involved in sports or athletic competition. Most young people now participate in some form of organized sports program. And, of course, spectator sports have become a major focus for the use of leisure time in many of our lives.
There are many positive results that can come from athletic competition. The rewards of disciplined practice, the thrill of pursuing an objective as a team, and the wisdom gained from the inevitable wins and losses are among those benefits.
There is another important lesson that successful athletes must learn. Regardless of the athletic powers or native ability, every individual who has aspirations to succeed in the world of competitive sports must first learn to listen to the coach - to listen to the person who has been there before, to the person whose judgement is born of long seasons of preparation and experience. In the coach's advice and counsel that must be place before the noisy urgings of the crowd or even before one's own instincts.
Life, too, demands of us the same lesson, we who participate in this most important contest of living must also learn to heed the voice of the coach; our success and happiness depends on it.
And so we turn to the Mentor of Life for counsel concerning the rules and strategies for success in this existence. Those who knew Jesus best referred to him as the good shepherd. This title was used because of the Savior's wise advice and admonitions. Just as the shepherd would lead his flock to green pastures and sufficient water, so, too, will heed the advice and words of the Master Teacher lead us to an abundant life.
And yet, many times instead of recieving counsel from the Author of Life, we accept advice from those who may know little or nothing about the ways to happiness or eternal life. For in the place of the wise guidlines for successful living that Jesus left us, we many times substitute the unwise persuasions of friends, the urgings of fad or fashion, or the tenuous logic of our own reasoning. And in so doing, we run the risk of losing the rewards of obedience to true principles.
And so, just as the best athletes in the world listen to the coach, may we seek to know and then follow the Shepherd of mankind.
-Pastor Hans Lillejord