Day 23 – Leaving the 99

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost.” ~Matthew 18:12-13

When I started writing this devotional, it was my prayer that it would reach a lot of people.  However, I’ve matured enough to understand that God will have me write a 30-day devotional to reach one person.  One person. That’s the kind of God we serve. We each matter to God.  He loves us very deeply.  Even when we wander away from Him, He doesn’t hold it against us.  Because of Christ, He only sees a lost sheep that He wants to bring back into the safety of His fold. 

The bible tells us there are three specific things that cause us to wander from God’s safety and guidance.  “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16).  Basically 100% of the problems and situations we face in life is underpinned by one of these three evils.  They lead us down paths that God, in His infinite wisdom, attempts to steer us away from for our own good.  Yet, we tend to wander away; pursuing our will rather than our Father’s. In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” (Psalm 10:4)  

God gave us the gift of Jesus because He already knew we were going to wander away in pursuit of our fleshly desires.  He also knew, sooner or later, we would get in trouble, lose our way, and call out to Him. And guess what happens when we call?  He answers.  It doesn’t matter how far off course we’ve wandered.  The instant we cry out, God answers.  “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.” (Psalm 86:7)  God’s unending love, compassion and mercy towards us makes me think about the story Jesus tells in Luke 15:11-32.  It’s the story of the prodigal, or lost, son. The son demands his share of his father’s estate, leaves home and squanders his inheritance.  At his lowest point, he returns home, repentant; feeling completely unworthy because of his failures. But when he arrives home, he finds the wide open arms of his loving father who throws a party to celebrate his son’s return.  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) “….We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.” (Luke 15:23-24)

I believe Jesus used this story because God’s relationship with us mirrors the parent-child relationship.  The love of a parent for a child is nearly indescribable, and yet it doesn’t come close to how much God loves us.  He has defeated hell and death, given us His Holy Spirit, all because He first loved us.  So, it doesn’t matter how far we’ve wandered or where we’ve wandered.  There’s nowhere we can go where He is not. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7)  We serve a God who will, without question, leave the 99 to go after the one.  And when He finds us, He receives us, and our repentant hearts, with great love and celebration. “In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!” (Luke 15:7)

Prayer:  Father, I praise your holy name.  Thank you for loving me the way you do.  Forgive me for all the times I strayed away from you. Thank you for coming after me when I lose my way.  If I should ever stray again, help me to remember that you always stand ready to receive my repentant heart in your loving embrace.  Thank you for the blood of Christ, which makes this wonderful relationship with you possible. You are such a good, good father.  I love you with all my heart.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.

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