The Lost Sheep
David S. McKeny
While opening the door of our house recently, Maggie, our black and white three-year-old Shih Tzu, bolted out of the door as I opened it too wide. Already in a hurry, it was a little aggravating having to chase her down. She decided to run down the street and take a tour of the entire block.
We went down the street and into someone’s front yard. Of course we also took in a flowerbed while we were out–all of this to chase Maggie and bring her back home. Was it worth it? Absolutely, because Maggie is special and regardless of how far we might have to chase her, things wouldn’t seem right at home without her watchful eye over us.
It’s like this, as aggravating as it can be, everything comes to a stop when Maggie bolts like this. If we’re running late, then you can just count on us being later. If we have someplace we need to be, we’ll get there as soon as we make sure Maggie is safely put in the house. We might not like it when she takes off on her little outings, but the bottom line is that she is too important for us not to go after her.
I have never gone after a lost sheep like Jesus talked about, but I have had to chase Maggie, Ashton (another dog I used to have), and more recently, Brinx, our newest Shih Tzu who has just learned the fine art of running from us.
You honestly want to ring their sweet little necks, especially if they lead you into some mud like Ashton did to me. I chased him all the way down the street one day, all through neighbor’s yards, into the woods, and back out to the street.
A lot of effort has been put into going after them and bringing the pets back home. The reason is that all three of them are so special. We wouldn’t want to live without them. I remember once when Ashton had run off I searched neighborhood going up and down every street. It was cold, snowing, and the wind was blowing hard. The thought of going home without him never crossed my mind. He was part of the family, and it was going to stay that way.
Somehow something is wrong with a picture if a person will drop what they are doing to chase a dog and go anywhere the dog goes, but this same person has no time to look for a spiritually lost sheep.
The lost sheep Jesus spoke of is a backslider who has wandered off and become lost. It’s obviously nowhere in sight. Jesus knows that little sheep is out there someplace, and He’s made it clear that He’s going to find it.
The lost sheep isn’t limited as to where it can wonder off. It can go basically anywhere it can get to. What Jesus is telling us in the parable is that we need to go after any and all of the lost sheep. This would mean even to the point of leaving the other ninety and nine to search for this one lost sheep.
There are no lines drawn as to when to stop looking or where we can’t go to look for them. Every cave, mountain, valley, cliff, even the briar patches are open game for the search. It may take a few minutes to find the lost sheep in an easily accessible place, or it could be a briar patch in a valley where you may have to climb onto some very rough rocks. You may have to walk along a cliff or wade through a stream. It may take days, weeks, even months to find the lost sheep.
This lost sheep is part of the fold and is important. The family wouldn’t be the same without it. There’s a love that drives you and keeps you going until you find it. There’s no way I am going to chase a dog down the street and ignore a backslider when they wonder off.
I realize the sheep wandered off on its own accord. It made its own decision, even picked a direction and then ventured out. It may have even determined to be gone as long as it wanted to. You may be shocked at the nerve of the sheep being so insensitive and not caring about worrying the Shepherd. It didn’t even leave word of its whereabouts. Yet Jesus made it clear that we’re to search for the sheep that’s lost until it’s found.
In the eyes of the Lord, it doesn’t matter whose fault it was or why the sheep left. It doesn’t even matter what it’s now doing. The issue is to find it. He’s so blunt in this parable letting us know the joy of finding a lost sheep that has gone astray. In order to find them, we must go looking for
The Shepherd shows the signs of urgency and almost desperation in the search for the lost sheep. I began to wonder if sometimes I have lost the urgency that God intended for me to have in seeking out the backslider. In other words, if it isn’t convenient we excuse ourselves from this mandate and assume God understands.
God has convicted me of this very thing. For too long we have tried to decide what God understands and what He doesn’t understand. As I looked at this parable I realized the Shepherd no doubt had plans and duties to fulfill in watching the flock. All that came to a halt when He discovered one of his sheep was missing. He dropped what He was doing and began to search. He went so far as to leave the ninety and nine to completely focus on finding the one that was lost.
When I saw the level of priority Jesus put on finding this lost sheep and how carelessly I had treated this in my own life, I determined to get busy making contact with backsliders, sending cards, reaching out and following the burden I felt on my heart. I wanted to reach someone that was wayward. Yet when it came down to it, I hadn’t followed through. Still I soothed myself reminding myself how busy I had been and that there was only so much time in a day! What an awakening I had when I realized my attempts to reach a person fell far shorter than Jesus’ example of the lost sheep.
This subject has grieved me for a long time, and I have been convicted over and over for going along with whatever was the “status quo.” I can no longer excuse myself and pretend I’ve done all I could to reach out to backsliders. Jesus said the Shepherd rejoiced over finding the lost sheep. It was probably dirtied, matted, muddy, and smelly but none of this mattered to the Shepherd. The shape the sheep was in wasn’t a factor in whether or not it was worth the effort and time. Dirt, sin, mud, and attitudes can be cleaned up and changed.
Jesus went so far as to say He rejoiced more over the sheep He had just found than over the ninety and nine that never left the fold. Do you know why? It’s because the ninety and nine were doing what they were supposed to do from the start! We get some kind of idea that we’re supposed to receive credit and acknowledgements over things God expects us to do like being faithful, loyal, serving others, and living for Him with all our hearts. Some people are bothered by all the fuss and attention that is made when they see a backslider comes home.
The Bible tells us that promotion comes from the Lord and that He “rewards them that diligently seek Him.” You’ll receive your reward but it will be in a different fashion than the praise and attention of man; it will be in the form of God blessing you most likely in ways that aren’t seen by others.
If seeing someone rejoicing openly over a backslider coming back bothers you then I suggest you search your own soul because this is something Jesus told us to do. How can we criticize something the Master has told us to do?
I was at the church praying one Saturday evening and the Lord dealt very strongly with me to call a young man in my church to tell him to stop by. I got him on his cell phone and asked him to stop by the church. He was no doubt on his way to a party he’d looked forward to all week. He stumbled with his words for a few minutes and then assured me he would be by in the next 20 minutes. I continued to pray.
He awkwardly walked into the dimly lit sanctuary and took his ball cap off. I greeted him and thanked him for coming by. I said that I wouldn’t keep him long but that I just had some things I need to tell him. I began telling him how precious his soul was and how I would do whatever I had to do to make sure he gets right with God.
I brought up the fact that he and some of his friends had involved some of the youth in the wild parties they were going to. I told him how this bothered and grieved me. I let him know that I was troubled that they were playing with eternity like that. I told him to be warned. I would show up when he least expected it. I would crash a party or walk into a bar to come and find him and any of our other young people.
I told him I’d served notice on hell that they couldn’t have him or anyone else in our church. He broke down and began to weep. I laid my hand on his shoulder and began to pray for him. He prayed for a little while and then pulled himself together. He wiped his tears and thanked me for loving him enough to call him and pray for him.
It was still a while before he got back in church. But I wondered how many parties he attended that my words haunted him. How many times did he look towards the door in a bar to see if I was coming in after him? The result I wanted finally happened and he got back in church. He is now living for God and happily married with a baby.
This story is a perfect example of why we must keep reaching for the backslider and why we must keep going after them – one day we will get them back!
The above article, “The Lost Sheep” was written by David S. McKeny. The article was excerpted from McKeny’s book Reharvested Fields.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”