I recently wrote about leaving the 99 to visit a friend in need. Two weeks after that visit, I returned to my friend. Binding wounds takes time. Ministering takes time. It also takes initiative to go.
As I prepared to return home Sunday morning, my friend startled me with urgency in his voice: “I’m going to need your help!”
“Of course,” “How can I help you?” I suspected he might have been battling the thoughts in his mind.
“The cows got out.”
Suddenly, “leaving the ninety-nine to find the one” took on a new meaning.
I’d asked God to minister to me during my trip. Predictably, He saved one of the most impactful lessons for last.
A powerful, overnight thunderstorm drove away the two cows. We quickly spotted the point of escape: a weak part of the fence. This was lesson one: When the storm rages, we often abandon our abode in Christ by following the weaknesses in our minds. We stray through common temptations or erroneous thoughts.
Ezekiel 33:4 says, “The weak you have not strengthened . . .”
A good rancher keeps good fences. How often do we check our own fences? Are we secure in God’s truth? Do we know our own weaknesses? Do we share our weaknesses with our friends so we might strengthen one another?
Will You Wander into the Swamp?
It’s naive to think searching for the lost will always be a walk through a pristine prairie pasture. Sometimes those we seek wander into treacherous places- places we’d normally avoid.
When I think of a north Florida swamp, I think gators, snakes, ‘skeeters, and soaked sneakers. I can’t explain why anyone would want to live next to a Florida swamp, but that’s where we were.
We’d spent the previous day clearing briers, vines, small trees, and other nuisance undergrowth from the swamp. We labored, sweat, and bled. Guess where we found those cows? Yep. They’d wandered deep into that thickly vegetated swamp.
Years ago I’d underlined Ezekiel 33:6 in my Bible: “My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every high hill; yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.” In the margins I wrote, “I will. Send me.”
That weekend, God sent me to seek and search for the lost- not just a couple of lost cows, but lost people too.
That’s lesson two: Sometimes we must be willing to leave our comfort zone and venture out into the unknown. Sometimes we must go into places we’d normally avoid. But the lost are in those places. We’ll sweat, bleed, and soil our feet, but there are people out there who need us to be the hands, feet, and voice of our Shepherd.
That’s what Christ did for us on the cross. The thorns that pierced us were nothing compared to the crown of thorns pressed into our Savior’s head. The blood we shed was nothing compared to the amount of blood Jesus gave as he took the vicious beating and piercing for us.
Isaiah 53:5-6 says, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was pierced for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Our Savior-Shepherd shed His blood for me. He shed His blood for you. And He suffered for the one astray deep in the swamps of life.
Let’s go find them and bring them back.