“There are so many who need rescuers … . Each of them is God’s missing treasure.”
Excerpted from Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do (Zondervan)
“Send Me” Means Reaching Out to the Lost
It’s so natural, after being rescued, to simply go back to your life, to business-as-usual. After a harrowing experience, you’re yearning for normalcy. You want to—and sometimes do—forget that hopeless, horrifying moment of being forgotten in darkness. Going back there to warn others is hard work—and trying to rescue others in those perilous places sounds risky.
That, I believe, is why Jesus told story after story about how easy it is to be lost—and how remarkable it is to be saved. Stories of people hopeless and hurting. People who need living water, people whose souls are tattered, with the dark closing in around them and time running out.
In Luke’s gospel, chapter 15, he tells of a lost sheep—and then, as if he sensed we’d miss the message, he tells of a lost coin, and then of a lost son.
These stories, he says, will remind you of something I want you always to remember: No matter how deep the pit or dark the night, I will always look for you and rescue you because I love you with an everlasting love. You are precious to me. Even when you mess up, even when you’re careless or mistaken or afraid or broken or weak, I still love you. Even when you are incapable of doing anything for anyone, including yourself, I still love you. And just as I come for you, I come for all those who have made mistakes, and those who are overlooked, for those devalued and despised. I come for all the wrong people—the careless and uncared for, the merry and miserable. I come for the lost, whether the lost is a silly sheep, a silver coin, or a squandering son.
“Send Me” Means Looking for the Lost, Even if It Is Only One Person
If you have one hundred sheep and one wanders of, Jesus tells us, that’s the one you go after to rescue. Isn’t the one as valuable as each of the ninety-nine?
In natural disasters and in time of war, medical personnel often perform something they call triage. It means that they examine the injured and determine which have the best chance of living. They concentrate their efforts on those they think they can save—and, with regret, allow the others to die, or perhaps to rally and recover on their own.
Jesus doesn’t do triage. He leaves the healthy ninety-nine safe in their pen while he goes out into the night looking for the one who’s lost, sick, depressed, disappointed, wounded, enslaved. And when he has found it, he lays it across his shoulders and in celebration calls together his neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep” (Luke 15:6).
How could an almighty God do any less? Can you imagine what his message to us would be otherwise? “I’ll come after you and save you—if I’m not too busy saving others, and if my attention isn’t needed keeping the ninety-nine others safe. After all, you probably got into this mess yourself, and it wouldn’t be fair to deprive the others, who are being good, of my time and attention just to keep coming after you. I’ll help you if circumstances allow. Otherwise, you’re on your own.”
Never in Scripture does Jesus give a message anything like this. Instead, he promises to come after the one, because each one is precious to him. Each one.
“Send Me” Means Seeking the Lost—Even if We Fear Them
It’s true—many of us fear the lost, and because of that, we’re reluctant to go out into the world to seek them.
Why would we fear the lost? Many reasons. Maybe because, often, they’re so needy and desperate. We’re afraid that they will attach themselves to us, leech-like, and beg for one thing after another: our time, our money, our emotional support, a place in our home (“just until I get back on my feet”), a ride to work—and on and on.
Maybe we fear them because they are so “other” than us. A different lifestyle, different life choices, different language and clothing styles and foods and music and sense of humor.
Will they accept us? Will they laugh at us behind our backs? Will they despise us even as we sacrifice for them? Are they, perhaps, even a danger to us? Might they be willing to take by force those things we don’t offer freely? Will we feel uncomfortable, uneasy, in their midst?
When Jesus urged Peter to feed his sheep, he didn’t offer a list of excuses he would accept. “Feed my sheep—unless it becomes inconvenient or the sheep become too demanding. Feed my sheep—unless you’re afraid of the big ram who protects the flock. Feed my sheep—unless you’re afraid that they’ll charge you, snatch the food out of your hand, and trample you.”
He just asked Peter to feed his sheep.
“Send Me” Means Seeking the Lost—No Matter How They Got Lost
In the story of the lost coin, the coin didn’t lose itself. A woman who had ten silver coins lost one. Was she so busy she forgot where she’d placed it? Did she take her eyes of her treasure for only a moment—and a thief snatched it? Did she trip, spilling all her coins onto the floor, where one rolled out of sight? Did an addiction cause her to gamble away a part of her money—and then even more, in a desperate attempt to win it back?
Some people are lost not because of something they willfully did, but because of a place they fell into, or because of circumstance. They are lost because of the words of an insensitive teacher, the neglect of an absent parent, the malice of an abuser. Maybe they’ve been abducted by a trafficker who sees them not as persons but as commodities to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. Maybe a corrupt ruler has mismanaged all of their country’s resources, leaving the innocent poor with no food, no water, no health care or education or basic human services. In any case, the lost are people who have lost their purpose, their potential, perhaps even their destiny.
Maybe the one is a single mom whose income pays only some of the bills and is maxing out her credit cards to cover the rest of her family’s necessities. Or maybe the one is the couple working so hard at their jobs and managing their home that they’re drifting apart, and the intimacy of their marriage has been lost. Or maybe the one is the CEO who has worked his way to the top of the corporate ladder—but is experiencing such dissatisfaction and malaise that he’s wondering whether that top rung is actually up against the right wall.
The one may be someone who has lived a life of crime that has landed him in jail. The one may be someone who has willfully hurt another. The one may be selfish, addicted, immoral, arrogant, a mocker, a scoffer, a murderer or a prostitute. If our example is Jesus, who stood up for the woman caught in adultery and the greedy, dishonest tax collector and the thief on the cross, then we won’t distinguish between the one who is lost because of circumstances beyond his control and the one who willfully and willingly put himself there.
The third “lost” story Jesus tells is a famous one—about a son who has been given everything, not only his father’s resources, but his heart and blessing, and then squanders it all and descends into humiliation and poverty. The father is willing to overlook his son’s transgressions because he’s so glad to have back the son he loves so much.
Let’s face it: Many of us secretly feel—as did the older brother in the story—that the younger son had made his own deathbed, and he ought to sleep in it.
No, Jesus says. The squandering son is as important and beloved as the dutiful older brother, or the little lost lamb too preoccupied with lunch to keep up with the flock, or the money misplaced by circumstance. Why do we sometimes feel that the seriously, deeply lost should be on their own—that they got themselves into this mess of their own volition and should get themselves out or stay that way? Can you imagine if the rescue squad sent for my friends and me had said: “Sorry, no can do. We can’t rescue those who get lost because of their own stupidity. Those people can just die and face the consequences of their actions.”
No. When someone is trapped in a burning building, you don’t try to work out what caused the fire and then decide whether the people inside get your sympathy. When people are in danger of burning up, you rush to save them. Especially if you remember how much it hurts to be burned.
No matter how the treasure of a soul comes to be lost, our job is to go and rescue and save what is precious.
Were you blameless when Jesus came for you?
Jesus says that even God calls the angels together to rejoice over the precious soul that’s been found (Luke 15:7, 10). We were made from the dust of the earth—and yet even the humblest and least deserving of us are of such value to heaven!
The Love of God Is Deeper Still
You understand Christ’s deep desire to find and rescue the one when the one who’s lost is someone you love.
I was in a London bookstore on Oxford Street, one of the busiest streets in the world, when I lost my precious one. I’d looked away from my little girl for just a moment, and when I turned back around, Catherine, three years old at the time, was gone. Vanished! I looked out at the teeming sidewalk of people, first confused, then frantic. She was so small, and the crowd so big! I ran outside in search of her. I didn’t care how I looked, how I sounded, what people thought—I just wanted to find my girl. I climbed on top of a mailbox, screaming at the top of my lungs: “Catherine! Catherine!” I stopped strangers, demanding: “Have you seen my daughter? Have you seen a tiny three-year-old girl? Have you?”
I would have kept it up—and even gotten louder and more obnoxious—until I found Catherine.
And then I saw her. She had just walked around the corner to the children’s book section and was sitting behind a bookshelf, mostly hidden. While I had been frantic, she had been reading, happily oblivious to my anxiety.
I will never forget that feeling of panic. My child is lost! Where could she be? Does someone have her? Is she in harm’s way? What’s happening to her? Is she frightened? Is she calling for me? Does she know I’m looking for her? There was nothing I would not have done, if in fact she had been lost or taken, to rescue her! I was desperate. I wanted my child. There were thousands of people around, but I was desperate to find just one—my daughter.
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar yourself. It’s the most horrifying feeling. You feel physically ill. Your adrenalin starts going into overdrive, your mind races out of control, imagining every possible worst scenario. Your heart beats so violently you think it will pop out of your chest. You feel hopeless and helpless and crazy to find your one.
Magnify that feeling times a thousand, times ten thousand. God loves each one of us, each child and each parent and each cop and each bureaucrat and each drug dealer and each retail clerk and each athlete and each murderer, that much more than we love our children, even our spouses. And his drive to save each of us is far stronger than my drive, that day, to find and rescue my daughter.
God’s heart beats for every lost person every single second of every single day. He misses the lost. The world is such a dark place, dense and full of danger. The warning signs are not always clear or noticed. There are so many who need rescuers, so many who need others to help their wandering ways, so many who are simply foolish, careless sheep. Each of them is God’s missing treasure, his beloved though willful and prodigal child.
There are so many like we, too, were once.
That’s what he wants us to remember. We, too, once were lost and now are found. And because we’ve been found, we are part of his search-and-rescue team. The light we craved once, the light he brought to us to illuminate our own rescue, is what he sends us back into the dark to carry.
“You are the light of the world,” he says (Matthew 5:14). You have what it takes to bring home my precious ones—you have me. When you walk with me, you shine—because whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Just as I helped you, in turn you can help others.
If I’m ever tempted to lose sight of what a sacred privilege it is to be sent out by God to find and rescue his lost sheep, I just remember the urgency and panic I felt when it was my own child who was lost.
This excerpt is taken from Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do by Christine Caine. Copyright ©2012 by Christine Caine and Equip & Empower Ministries. Use by permission of Zondervan.
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