Psalm 23: From Failure to Shepherding


If John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the New Testament, what some have endearingly called the “end zone gospel”, then the verses of Psalm 23 must be the Old Testament equivalent.

With soldiers, guidance counselors, and everyone dealing with difficult situations of loss or discouragement, this chapter surely has been flipped to.

Enjoying Christ as our Shepherd

Psalm 23 presents Christ as the Shepherd. What could be more comforting? In this Psalm there are 18 personal statements- my Shepherd, I will lack nothing, He makes me lie down, etc.

We will never graduate from our need of Christ’s personal shepherding. Jacob’s life testifies of this- near his end he recognized God as the One who had shepherded him his whole life (Gen. 48:15). Even for eternity the Lamb will shepherd us to springs of water of life (Rev. 7:17).

But eventually our Christian life needs to turn to shepherding others.

Becoming Shepherds

John 21 is the addendum to Psalm 23.

In John 21 the Lord charged Peter to shepherd His sheep. That was a real low point for Peter. He was recovering from the major failure of denying the Lord three times. Peter must have thought his spiritual career was over. How could he be useful to the Lord after such a blatant, repeated denial? How could he go on personally, much less take care of others?

Anyone who hasn’t had this kind of experience cannot shepherd others. His “care” would be tainted with self-righteousness, condescension, maybe even disgust.

If we pray that the Lord will make us shepherds, we may enter into a period of failure and disappointment. This is because we learn to shepherd by being shepherded.

We learn the divine medicine not by study, but by being patients.

It’s encouraging to know that only recovered failures can shepherd others. Peter’s failure was really the beginning of his usefulness. It stripped him of his natural self-confidence and pride. It humbled him. This is where true shepherding begins. Only then could Peter say, “Shepherd the flock of God among you,” not below you (1 Pet. 5:2). “Among you” doesn’t merely refer to geographic proximity. It implies a realization that is crucial to shepherding- that there is no hierarchy in shepherding. That all are on the same level and in need of shepherding.

Learning to Shepherd

We all need to learn to shepherd. Shepherding is not just the job of a few hired pastors at a church. Every born again Christian has the capacity and responsibility to shepherd others. If we would extend the sphere of our concern beyond our self and learn to shepherd others, then the church would experience a long-lasting and dependable revival.

Revival meetings would decrease- in a good way. We wouldn’t need them anymore.

This would be a revival from the bottom up. Based on the realization that we really need each other. That all are on the same level. Based on the mutual dependence of the members in the Body of Christ for supply and care, rather than based on an emotional, knee-jerk response to a touching message.

There is a profound duality in the New Testament where we are simultaneously sheep AND shepherds. The Lord Himself experienced something of this duality. He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20).

Shepherding was the last burden on the Lord’s heart at the end of the Gospels. Every writer of the New Testament mentions shepherding except James. And according to the significance of this cluster of Psalms, shepherding is the bridge to bring in Christ’s second coming mentioned in Psalm 24.

Obviously, it’s a big deal. Don’t let your personal failure become bigger.

13 thoughts on “Psalm 23: From Failure to Shepherding

  1. This is timely. I was just feeling inadequate to take care of some college students that we’ve been reading the Bible with.

    I didn’t realize my failures were actually prerequisites to shepherding others. That precious blood comes in handy again and again. Brings me back to God so that I can keep being shepherded and keep shepherding others.

    Thanks for the shepherding Kyle!


  2. Amen, brother what a view of the shepherding of Christ! Even after his great failure of denying the Lord three times, the Lord Jesus called Peter to shepherd His sheep. We are just like Peter, failures – but the Lord shepherds us personally where we are, and He wants us to cooperate with Him in shepherding others!

    Today we can be those who cooperate with Christ in His heavenly ministry of shepherding the church by shepherding others with the shepherding we received from Him! What a privilege!


    • I guess part of the point I was trying to make was this:

      When we hear “cooperate with Christ’s heavenly ministry of shepherding” we think “Sounds great! I’d love to shepherd some people.” But we don’t realize that we are the biggest frustration to this ministry. So when we pray to become a shepherd to others, the Lord may allow us to fail SO THAT we need to be shepherded and so that He can actually answer our prayer. When we fail though, we may give up hope and stop short because now we are exposed. But this is exactly where the Lord needs us be to begin to produce us as true shepherds. Shepherding is not something we do or turn on and off, like “Oh now I will go shepherd that person.” Shepherding is what we have become by the Lord’s mercy and petition (Luke 22:32).


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  6. Yes Kyle, i have to agree with Clark, very timely! It’s sweet to see that the Lord is faithful to his word of all things working out together for His purpose. May we continue to stay open & enjoy His shepherding directly & through the Body. That we may produced as His shepherds that satisfy Him & hasten His return.


    • Amen Mari! The Lord is so intent on having a shepherding ministry in His Body that He will even use Satan to sift us temporarily so that we would be perfected and established. We should receive the grace to remain in His wise hands. This is the safest place on earth.


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