Fighting sheep are strange animals and fighting Christians are self-evident contradictions. They have forsaken the Master’s way. They have gone off from the platform where He stands whenever it comes to carnal weapons. It is ours to submit and to be the anvil which bears the blows, but outlasts all the hammers. After all, the wolves have had by far the worst of it—the sheep are multiplied and the wolves grow fewer and fewer. As a matter of fact, the sheep have lived in this country to see the last of the wolves—and they will in other lands. The wild dogs of Australia are very fierce against the sheep, but the sheep will surely in the end live and the wild dog will die. Everywhere it is so. They are weak in themselves and yet they conquer the strong. “Ah,” you say, “it is the shepherd who gives them this victory.” Precisely so and that is where our strength lies, even in “that great Shepherd of the sheep.”
Though called to bow down as the street that men may go over us, by this endurance we conquer. In suffering we are invincible and in this sign we conquer—the cross of self-denial and self-sacrifice leads the way. “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves,” not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing. Being provoked, you return gentleness and being persecuted, you pray for your enemies. “Ah,” says one, “I do not like the look of such a mode of warfare.” I thought you would not and you may go your way. As notice was given of old in the camp of Israel that he who had lately married a wife, or built a house, or was fainthearted, might go home, so do we say, “To your beds, you cowards! If you cannot undertake this for your Master, He does not need that His host should be encumbered by your presence.” Our Master calls out men to whom He gives grace that they may be strong to endure even unto the end. The Spirit of the Lord gives patience and forbearance to those who in true faith seek to be like their suffering Lord.
Brethren, it is trying work for the sheep to go forth among wolves, but it has to be done. Picture it in your mind’s eye. The timid sheep trembles at it. The wolves are rough, unmannerly, coarse-minded, irritating, annoying. The poor sheep does not feel at home in such company. He sees every now and then the white teeth glittering within the wolf’s mouth and he is ill at ease. The sheep wishes he were back in the quiet fold among his happy brethren, but the Shepherd knows what He is at and it is the duty of the sheep to obey and to go into the midst of the wolves if his Shepherd bids him.
It is very testing too, because if a man is not truly one of God’s own, he will not obey so trying a command, but will neglect duty and seek comfort. It will try even you who are most sincere. You think you have much patience—get among the wolves and see how much is left. You fancy you could put up with a great deal of annoyance—let it come upon you and you will see how it torments you. When it comes to the loss of your good name, to downright lying and slander against the tenderest part of your character, when it comes to bitter sneers and sarcasms and words which eat like acid into the flesh and burn like coals of fire flung into the bosom, it is not easy then to maintain the love which hopes all things, endures all things. Grace alone makes believers press forward in their work of love, seeking with gentleness to win souls. Oh to say—though the wicked man curses me and foams at the mouth with rage—I will still seek his good. This is the victory of faith, but the battle will test all your graces and make you see that all is not gold which glitters. You will soon see whether the Spirit of God is in you or not, for patient love is not natural, but supernatural, and only he who is filled with the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit will be able to live as a sheep among wolves.