CHATTING with a farmer, I asked if he’d ever kept sheep. He replied that he'd bought some once, but soon got rid of them as they were "stupid" animals.

Although I am no expert, I come across various breeds during my walks. I can see how initially they could be considered weak and feeble, running in the opposite direction of any possible threat. However, as I’ve got to know them, my respect has grown, especially for my favourite the Herdwick, surely hardiest of them all, who can tough it out in the severest weather, on the steepest slopes and with the poorest pasture. They know the best spots to shelter, where to find tasty patches of heather and when to sit down and take it easy when the sun shines. It seems to me that fear makes them appear stupid, especially when they all go running - following the first that panicked.

So why does Jesus refer to his people as sheep so often? Perhaps because we are influenced by our peers more than we’d like to admit, and try to find solace in others when things go wrong in our lives. Maybe because, like sheep, our strength is not in our ability to stand up to ‘darkness’ (Psalm 23) but to simply trust in our shepherd who leads, protects and ensures his sheep have enough ‘feed’.

So who is your shepherd? Does he know your name and lead by example? Has he sacrificed his own life for yours and secured your life for eternity? Don’t settle for anything less.

David Tomison, Pastor, Hope Church, Grange-over-Sands