Leaving the 99

In 2010, 33 Chilean miners were trapped underground for 69 days after the mine caved in on them. One young man, Jose Henriquez later deemed “the Pastor,” was not a pastor by trade, but his outward faith in God during this time led 22 of the 33 miners to make a commitment to Christ. He lived out his faith in the most dire circumstances: trapped underground, little food or water, and no idea when, or if, they would ever see daylight again. Did the Lord allow these men to be trapped to get their attention? To bring them back into the fold? And did he send Jose Henriquez out of his comfort zone, away from his “99” to go and get those 22 lost sheep? 

“‘If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others and search for the lost one until you found it? And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders… In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away.” (Luke 15:4-5, 7)

How much joy must there have been in heaven when the men in the mines turned away from despair and turned to God? And how much joy are we missing out on by not going deep into the mines to find the lost and guide them toward our savior? Obviously, Jose did not choose to go down into the mines for 69 days and convert his coworkers, but he decided against all odds to continue the work of the gospel. He could have chosen to hang out with his fellow Christians in the mine, and pray for rescue, and pray for the other miners, but he chose to act. I am challenged by this thought, in what ways am I intentionally seeking the lost for the Lord?

I attend church regularly, go to a weekly bible study, and help in the youth group. I hang out with my Christian friends, I read my bible, and I pray for my lost friends. I take care of my 99, and I remain with them. We rejoice in our daily victories, and we share our daily struggles, but we are the 99. We are the 99 who remain in the fold with the shepherd. We are safe, and loved, and whole. But what of those missing sheep out there? We’re missing them, the kingdom of heaven is missing them, and we are missing out. 

Jesus’ last words to his disciples on earth were this: “‘Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the son, and the Holy Spirit.’” (Matthew 28:19) He did not say “Therefore, go hang out with others who know me, pray together for the lost, and occasionally invite an unchurched friend to church…” He called us to go and make disciples. Go. Make Disciples. Baptize. Those were his directions. Not stay where you’re comfortable, continue to disciple each other, and just let others do the baptizing. These are all good things. I am not saying don’t fellowship with other Christians, and don’t disciple those who are already found, but Jesus called us to so much more than those things. He called us to go and find the lost sheep, and joyfully bring them home. 

And I also wonder how much rejoicing I am missing out on by simply keeping my eyes on my own walk. Gods work will be done with or without me, but do I want to miss out on the joy of bringing home a sheep to his fold? Do I want to miss out on the joy of a life changed for the better, a life saved? And do I want my friends, my family, who I know have gone astray, or don’t even know they’re lost, to miss out on a life with Christ? A full and abundant life that I know exists. How can I let that remain in my heart and not share it? And even more than that, do I want to miss out on the work in my own heart as I trust God, go out of my comfort zone, and reach out to the lost?

The Lord is calling us to leave our 99, and do the hard work of finding lost sheep and bringing them home. I think I reject this call on a daily basis, we reject this call. We’ll do the other things like not murder, not commit adultery, not steal, but go find a lost sheep and bring them home? Nah, that’s for Billy Graham and my pastor to do. It’s so hard to add more to our already overflowing plates, but we have to do more. We have to do the hard work to reap the great rewards. 

Billy Graham and the pastors of our churches do not take their children to my daughters elementary school. They don’t run with my friends at 5am, or go to the same gym classes that I do. They don’t go to my grocery store at 8am on Mondays. They don’t work at my job with my coworkers. They are not on the sidelines of my daughters t-ball games, or swim class. They are not in my family, with my cousins, my brothers, and my sisters. There are lost sheep everywhere, and we need to open our eyes and our hearts to find them. And then open our schedules and our mouths to invite them into our lives, and give them a glimpse of life with Christ. 

Jose Henriquez did not ask for the mines to cave in on him, but he did open his eyes and his heart to see the lost sheep in front of him. Without a choice, he left his 99 to find these ones. How is God calling you to do the same?

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