There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
One of the worst experiences of my life occurred on a chapel choir tour—not as a student, but as an adult. The year was 1978. Dr. W. A. Criswell had just hired me as youth minister at First Baptist Church of Dallas, and he said, “Now, son, your first job is to go with that chapel choir to Russia.” They were going to take a tour of the Soviet Union, so Amy and I scrambled for passports and left with the choir on that tour. If you remember, 1978 was a time when tensions between the US and the Soviet Union were at a zenith. And we felt that oppressive atmosphere when we were there. During one Wednesday night service, the doors flung open, the KGB came in, and they shut down the service and demanded we go back to the hotel.
We were relieved when it was time for us to leave the Soviet Union. We were scheduled on a midnight flight from Moscow to Rome. When we arrived at the airport, the students went through the passport control while Soviet soldiers stood by with machine guns. Then the sponsors went through. I was the last one to go through passport control. I reached into my pocket for my passport and it wasn’t there. I frantically searched my other pocket—no passport. All the kids and sponsors were on the other side getting ready to board the plane to Rome. I explained my plight to the soldiers, but they were unmoved by my pleading. I had visions of spending my life in a Siberian work camp. Suddenly, a sponsor on the other side began to laugh. He reached into his pocket and pulled out my passport. A few hours earlier on the bus to the airport, it had gotten loose from me, so he picked it up and decided to have a little fun with me. I’ll assure you, my thoughts were not holy at that moment.
When I was reunited with my passport, what did I do with it? Did I throw it down in disgust and say, “If you want to separate from me, so be it! I don’t ever want to have anything to do with you again”? No, I felt a great sense of relief when I was reunited with my passport. I held onto it and vowed never to let it out of my sight again. You see, when we lose something of value, we don’t hate it. Instead, we search for it and we are overjoyed when we find it. Lost things have great value to us.
Lost things have great value to God as well. In Luke 15, we discover the value of lost things.
In Luke 15:4, Jesus says, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?” If a shepherd loses a sheep, does he say, “Sheep, if you want to wander away, so be it. I hope you get eaten by a wolf.” Is that his attitude? No. He leaves ninety-nine sheep to search for that one lost sheep. And when he finds the lost sheep, does he punish it? Does he seek revenge? No. He loves that lost sheep and rejoices when he finds it. Jesus says, “When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (vv. 6–7).
Then Jesus gives another parable. “What woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’ In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (vv. 8–10). She doesn’t say to the missing coin, “If you want to escape from me, so be it. I’ll just keep the other nine.” No, she searches for that which is lost—and when she finds it, she celebrates with great joy.
The point is this: God does not hate those who are lost. He loves them. He searches for them and is overjoyed when He finds them.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Value of Lost Things” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.