Pastor Mark’s Devotions, Aug 4

“Search and Rescue”

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders off, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?” Matthew 18:12


Today is devotion day 99. It seems appropriate and timely to discuss Jesus’ parable about the 99 sheep and the one that wanders away. Jesus’ parable about the Kingdom of God is not so much about the sheep as it is about the Shepherd. All of Jesus’ parables are pictures of how God’s Kingdom operates. The primary point is to understand the Operator, which is God himself. In this case, Jesus is pointing out that God is a Provider and Protector with the picture of the Shepherd. But he is also pointing to the fact that if one of his sheep, wanders off, He will pursue that lost one until it is found. Jesus concludes, “In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. God pursues those that are lost. This make-up of God’s Kingdom is repeated in Luke 19, as Jesus pursues Zacchaeus, the lost Jewish tax collector. At the conclusion of their encounter, Jesus confirms this focused pursuit as he states, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10). Let us never forget, God’s Kingdom is a “Search and Rescue” effort.

The world has celebrated the safe return of Gia Fuda. For 8 days, Search and Rescue teams, scoured the North Cascades near Stevens Pass, looking for the lost 18 year-old girl. Recently graduated from high school, with an independent spirit, when Gia ran out of gas on Hwy 2, she decided to hike into the hills in hopes of finding a trail to Skykomish. Needless to say, she got lost in the mountains and got turned around in every direction. But she kept her wits about her, followed a creek and ate wild berries to survive. When she was found, she had no broken bones, was a bit dehydrated, yet was in pretty good shape. Gia’s mom said that she is as stubborn as a mule and never gave up hope that she was still alive even after being lost for over a week.

Many people have called Gia’s rescue a miraculous story. Very few people are lost in the wilderness for over a week and come out alive. When I first heard the story, I was captured by Gia’s perseverance, strength, mental fortitude and resolve. I didn’t really think much about the “Search and Rescue” effort until a few days later. The reality is, if there had not been a commitment by a Search and Rescue Team to scour the mountains in a thorough grid like fashion – for 8 full days – Gia would still be lost in the woods. If it had not been for the Search and Rescue Team’s relentless pursuit to find the one lost, ultimately Gia would have died alone somewhere in the wilderness of the North Cascades.

All of us have been lost. Some are still lost. Some are still searching for the trail and scurrying about for wild berries. Many are surviving, but still are lost. All of us have been in survival mode at some point in our lives. Perhaps you feel that way right now during this pandemic. Yet the Good News of the Gospel is that we have a Good Shepherd who is in relentless pursuit to seek and save the lost. Since Adam and Eve wandered off the trail in the Garden of Eden, and sin entered into the world, yes, the truth is, all of humanity has been lost, abounding in survival mode. But the deeper truth is that when humanity lost its way, God set out on a Search and Rescue Mission to bring his people home. God has been on a relentless pursuit and is still seeking to save and bring home those still lost in the woods. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, came that those who are lost would follow Him and find their WAY home.

We who have been lost, often can exhibit a strength of character, resolve, mental fortitude and stubbornness. But if not for God’s relentless pursuit, and rescue through Jesus Christ, the reality is that we would still be lost and eventually die a lonely death.

If you are one of the 99 today, celebrate that God has found you and brought you home to Him. If you feel lost today, are still turned around on the trail, take heart, God is still in hot pursuit of you – and He will not stop nor relent until he locates you and brings you back safely!

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:11,10b)

God Bless You All,

Pastor Mark