A few years ago, I found myself sitting across a friend in a coffee shop who was unfolding a story to me. His words became branded upon my memory forever. This is the story he shared with me:  

A young preacher was standing behind the church pulpit one Sunday morning, flipping through his Bible with a smile. He was an exceptionally gifted communicator, so the senior pastor invited him to lead the opening devotion for the service. The young man took ahold of the microphone and began to excitedly declare, “The Lord is my Shepherd! I shall not want!” His voice was booming and full of strength. The congregation erupted in clapping as the young preacher began to jump up and shout aloud, “He makes me lay down in green pastures! He leads be beside still waters!” Everyone got on their feet and roared with applause as the young man continued preaching through Psalm 23 with fervor.  

Once he finished, in the height of the congregation’s cheers, the young preacher handed the microphone to an elderly woman who lead the church’s prayer ministry. It was her first time speaking publicly. The woman’s frail hands shook, and her voice trembled as she began to quote the same psalm, “The Lord… is… my Shepherd.” A hush fell over the room as her voice choked up with tears. Once she finished the psalm, the entire church sat still and speechless. Everyone could sense the awe of God and His nearness in the room.  

The young preacher, very disturbed at what he was witnessing, leaned over to his senior pastor and said, “I don’t understand what’s happening here. I gave that psalm my all! I spoke with passion. I communicated with excellence. Why is God responding to her words and not mine?” The senior pastor leaned over and whispered to him, “Son, you know the 23rd Psalm. She knows the Shepherd.” 

As we enter Youth Sunday, my prayer for all of us is that we would be a people who truly knows Jesus by personal experience. Quoting scriptures and knowing things about God is not the same as knowing Him. John 10:27 says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” May we allow our lives to be so completely wrapped up in the goodness and voice of the great Shepherd that those around us cannot help but experience Him when they interact with us.