He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:3
The mercies of the Lord’s restoration and refreshment are not the end of our Shepherd’s guidance, but rather the means to an end, and that is—work. Life is not a fold for the sheep to lie down in but a road for them to walk on. When joy fills the heart and life is bounding in the veins, we have to learn that these are best used not for pleasure only, but for pleasure in order to empower.
This is emphatically true in the spiritual life. Its seasons of communion and hours on the mount are to prepare for the sore sad work in the plain. He is not the wisest disciple who tries to make the Mount of Transfiguration the abiding place for himself and his Lord.
Our primary question should not be, “How may I enjoy God?” but, “How may I glorify Him?” Joy in God is the strength of work for God, but work for God is the perpetuation of joy in God.
Here is the figurative expression of the great evangelical principle, that works of righteousness must follow, not precede, the salvation of the soul. We are justified not by works but for works. Or, as the apostle puts it in a passage that sounds like an echo of this psalm, we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The basis of obedience is the sense of salvation. We work not for the assurance of acceptance and forgiveness, but from it. First the restored soul, then the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake who has restored me.
Good shepherds don’t look down on lost sheep; they look for them. —David Roper