Since husbands and fathers are called to be the shepherds of their families, it makes sense that we would look to the Good Shepherd to learn how to do this well. In John 10:1-5 we find these words of Jesus:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger the will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (ESV)
One key lesson we learn here is that a faithful shepherd knows those he is leading.
Do you see how the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus, relates to His sheep? He calls them by name. They are not just a flock of sheep to Him. He knows each and every one of them personally. He cares for them individually.
Have you ever thought about this? Jesus does not relate to His people only as a group. Yes, Christians are part of His Church, His Bride, His Body. Yes, those who believe on Jesus are one people, united together in one family. But even as Jesus cares for us corporately, He also cares for us individually. He knows who we are and He knows us thoroughly.
Christ knows your strengths and talents, those areas in which you are thriving. He knows your weaknesses and inadequacies, those areas in which you need greater care. Christ knows your every struggle with sin. He knows the thoughts that occupy your mind, the feelings that occupy your heart, the desires that you have within you. He knows your personality and everything that makes you unique and different from His other sheep. In fact, He knows you so deeply and intimately that His knowledge of you surpasses your knowledge of you. He knows you better than you know yourself. Every moment of every day He knows you, and He knows what you need, and He cares for you as a faithful Shepherd.
The Bible speaks of the shepherd who was willing to leave the ninety-nine behind in order to find the one. In the same way, while it is absolutely true that His people as a body are precious to Christ, it is also true that you as an individual are precious to Him. Dear Christian, He has set His love on you, and He died for you. In a world of 7.5 billion people, you are not a nameless face in the crowd. Christ knows you intimately, and therefore leads you perfectly.
Husbands, how can you lead your wives if you do not know them? How can you help your wife grow in her understanding of God’s truth if you do not know what truths she struggles to believe? How can you help your wife gain victory over sin if you do not know what sins she is currently fighting? How can you be a strength and support to your wife if you do not know what burdens are weighing her down?
1st Peter 3:7 tells husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way. We make jokes about how men are from Mars and women are from Venus, how wives seem so difficult for their husbands to understand. Yet husbands are to make it their life-long project to gain an understanding of their wives. What a joyful, exciting project this should be! We are to know our wives better than we know any other person on the planet.
Husband, you should know what makes your wife tick and what discourages her. You should learn her tendencies, both her good and sinful ones. You should know what thrills her heart and what brings her despair. A godly husband seeks to know the deepest desires of his wife, her dreams and goals, her needs and wants. Only in knowing our wife well will we be able to lead her most effectively.
I was talking with someone recently about a diagnosis which a doctor gave her over the phone – a diagnosis given though he had neither seen her nor examined her. Not surprisingly, the diagnosis proved wrong. Men, how often are we like that? How often are we trying to give our wives counsel and advice before we’ve taken time to really understand the problem, what she is facing and what issues are at play? I wonder, how often do you take time with your wife to ask her questions and to listen to her. Follow the example of Jesus – He leads us well because He knows us well.
This applies to our children as well. We are called to be intimately involved in the lives of our children, observing them as they grow and their characters develop. Every father should be active and intentional in regularly spending time with his kids, with an eye on seeing what qualities are being cultivated in their lives. Children are not the same. Every child is different, and fathers cannot lead all their children the same way. One child needs a strong word from the father or he will not the take father’s leadership seriously. Another child will be crushed and paralyzed by a strong word, and must be handled with greater gentleness. Fathers must learn how their children are different from one another, and seek to lead each one in the way that suits them best. This requires wisdom, and of course, lots of prayer.
Fathers, do you intentionally take time to talk with your children about what is happening in their lives? Do you talk to them about the books they are reading and the subjects they are learning? Do you know whether they are thinking biblically or secularly about various issues? How is your child doing emotionally? Is there confidence or is there fear? If there is confidence, is it confidence in self or confidence in Christ? How can you know how to lead your child if you do not know your child?
Do your children know that you have an open door policy towards them – that they can talk to you anytime something is on their mind or heart? Do they know that you want to talk to them, want to listen to them, that you will move heaven and earth to give an ear to them when they need a father to listen? Make sure they know that. A faithful shepherd knows those he leads, and he knows them intimately and deeply.