Shepherding Weak Sheep

Shepherding God’s People Series:

  1. Shepherding God’s People – Overview
  2. Shepherding Weak Sheep
  3. Shepherding Sick Sheep
  4. Shepherding Broken Sheep
  5. Shepherding Lost Sheep
  6. Shepherding Scattered Sheep
  7. Shepherding Young Sheep
  8. Shepherding Standing Sheep

Thank you for joining me on this journey through Scripture as we look at the types of sheep that are mentioned in the Bible. I previously gave an introduction to the 7 sheep in the first lesson and here I will begin with the first type of sheep: Weak Sheep (Ezekiel 34:4)

Remember that weak sheep are not “unruly” or “fainthearted,” they simply do not have the strength to stand on their own without support. These Extra Grace Required (EGR) types need to be shepherded with patience.  It’s important that these individuals don’t become co-dependent on you, the shepherd, but learn to ultimately stand on their own.  It is important to remember this principle – “Weakness prolonged becomes willfulness.” You cannot create a dependency on yourself as the teacher, these sheep must learn to feed themselves and stand on their own.

Shepherd’s Responsibility is to Strengthen the Weak

First, What do Weak Sheep Need? Weak Sheep Need Support – How?

1. Enter into the weaknesses of those you are shepherding (2 Corinthians 11:29) – Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?

What will it take for you to enter into their weakness? Is it an issue of time? Are you too busy during the week to get involved in their lives? Is your shepherding limited to Sundays? Are you aware of any concerns dealing with family, health, life, addictions, finances, employment? What sort of network does your class have? Do you know when or how your people are struggling? How are your lines of communication with those in your group? Who in your group might be the best person to help a weak sheep? Remember that the best person to help may very well not be you, but someone in your class.   

2. Talk about the sufficiency of God’s grace to strengthen us when we are weak.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10; – And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul was struggling with his thorn in the flesh and God focused on the sufficiency of his grace. How can we help our people see God is sufficient even when life does not go well, when life hurts, when times are hard, when tragedy strikes, and when life appears to be unfair? At these times our people can be at their weakest, ready to give up, throw in the towel, and just quit or even end it all. Our sheep need the presence of the Good Shepherd, but sometimes they need a shepherd with skin on. They are weak and need to be strengthened.  

3. Distinguish between those who are weak and those who are fainthearted or unruly (1 Thessalonians 5:14) – We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Some people need to be admonished, (meaning to caution them, reprove them, or to warn them about something).

  • In this passage, Paul FIRST mentions those who are unruly (meaning those who are disorderly, out of ranks [like in the military], irregular, insubordinate, deviating from the prescribed order or breaking the rule). These are to be admonished.
  • SECOND, Paul mentions those who are fainthearted (the KJV translates this feeble-minded, but this word is also translated as “little-spirited.”) These types need to be encouraged.

But those who are weak are not to be admonished nor even encouraged, but rather, they are to be helped (hold fast, or supported, or being devoted to). This word translated “help” is used elsewhere in the New Testament…

  • By Jesus in Matthew 6:24 – No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
  • By Paul in Titus 1:9 – holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

The point is that Weak Sheep need to be helped. You must be devoted to them, hold on to them, and help them in their weakness.

Second, Discern Their Weakness

1. Discern whether they are “carnal weak” or “willful weak.” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) – And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?    

So, let’s break this down a little further.

2. Discern if they are just new babes in Christ [ carnal weak] You must spend time with them explaining their new life in Christ. These Weak Sheep need to be raised in the way they should go. 

3. Discern if they are older Christians that are living fleshly lives [ carnal willful] With these sheep it is much more intimidating, it will require you explaining that their weakness has become willfulness. It may require admonishing them for their unruly behavior. At some point, church discipline might be in order.

Third, there are Sheep Who are Financially Weak

1. Explore the reasons for their financial shortage.

This image summarizes the following section of Financial Weakness
  1. Laziness – Proverbs 6:6-11; Proverbs 12:27; Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 18:9; Proverbs 19:15; Proverbs 19:24; Proverbs 20:4; Proverbs 20:13; Proverbs 21:25; Proverbs 22:13; Proverbs 24:30-34; Proverbs 23:4-5;
  2. Stinginess – Proverbs 11:24-25; Proverbs 19:17; Proverbs 23:6-8;
  3. Hastiness – Proverbs 21:5; Proverbs 28:20b-22;
  4. Stubbornness – Proverbs 13:18;
  5. Dishonest Gain – Leviticus 6:4-5; Proverbs 15:27; Proverbs 21:6;
  6. Indulgence – Proverbs 21:17; Proverbs 21:20; Proverbs 23:21; Luke 15:13; Luke 15:30;
  7. No Sales Resistance – Proverbs 20:14;
  8. Presumption – Proverbs 10:15; Proverbs 18:11; Proverbs 11:28; Proverbs 23:4-5; Proverbs 27:1,24; James 4:13-15; Luke 12:13-21;
  9. Wrong priorities – Proverbs 24:27; Luke 9:57-62;
  10. Oppressing of the poor – Proverbs 22:16;
  11. Poor planning – Proverbs 16:9;
  12. Covetousness – Exodus 20:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; Ephesians 5:5;
  13. Greed – Luke 12:13-21; Numbers 11:4,34; 1 Samuel 14:32; Jeremiah 8:10; Romans 1:29; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:5; 2 Peter 2:3, 14;
  14. Favoritism or Partiality – James 2:1-9;
  15. Indebtedness – Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 3:27-28; Proverbs 22:7; Romans 13:8;
  16. Get Rich Quick Schemes or Gambling – Proverbs 28:20,22;
  17. Lack of Contentment – Philippians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:6-8;
  18. Lack of Christian Unity – believers are in this together and what we do affects others. Romans 15:25-27;2 Corinthians 8-9; these chapters are an extensive teaching on giving and generosity.

2. After you explore the reason for their financial situation, point them to Jehovah Jireh [“The Lord will Provide”] who is their Provider – rather than trusting in their wealth. Genesis 22:8; 14; Philippians 4:19; 1 Timothy 6:17

3. Direct them to a caring ministry in the church or some agency outside the church that could provide sound biblical counsel and financial help. Acts 20:35; Titus 3:14;

Fourth, there are Sheep with a Weak Conscience

1. Accept those with a weak conscience (Romans 14:1) – Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.

2. Avoid causing genuinely weaker brothers to stumble. Romans 14:20-21; 1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 Corinthians 10:32;

3. Intentionally limit your freedom around them (1 Corinthians 8:9) But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble.

4. Don’t try to strengthen their conscience to participate in some activity if they have doubts. 1 Corinthians 8:10-11; Romans 14:23;

5. Train their conscience over time with the Word of God so that they know biblically what is morally right and wrong and where they have freedom. Romans 2:14,15,18; 1 Timothy 4:2;

6. Assert your liberty in the face of weaker brothers who have established a man-made standard to judge the spirituality of others. Colossians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 10:29;

Fifth, there are Sheep that are Weak as a Result of Chastisement

1. Support brothers in Christ who have recognized their weakness being the result of the discipline of the Lord. Come along side of them and give them strength to overcome their weakness. When God is dealing with someone, it become a part of their story. They can embrace it and use their testimony to encourage others when they are weak. 1 Corinthians 11:30; Hebrews 12:12;

2. Challenge Weak Sheep to identify and confess the sins that have brought this chastisement upon themselves. 2 Corinthians 12:20-21; 2 Corinthians 13:1,5; 1 John 1:9;

3. Help these Weak Sheep to rejoice in the fact that this discipline proves that they are true believers. 1 Corinthians 11:32; Hebrews 12:8; Revelation 3:19;

4. Stress the importance of allowing this discipline to produce its intended results rather than running away from it. Hebrews 12:11; James 1:4;

So, it is so very important for the shepherd to help the weak sheep. We must do our homework, engage in prayer, get involved in Christian community, and seek to actively strengthen the weak. It takes time, but it is so worth it.

Thank you for being a part of this study. The verses I did not have time to read are listed below.

Next time, I will address Healing the Sick Sheep.

Credit for the original teaching goes to my mentor, teacher, and friend, Rick Leineweber.

Spread the Community, Faith, Love

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