God Rescues Through the Storm
“Leave Ninety Nine for One” Matthew 18:10-14 9-10-17 God Goes Through the Storm to Rescue Us
There is a truth that I know deep down- that God is at work in the midst of a storm. For many, they blind themselves to this- all they see is the devastation. There are those who cannot see God at work through Job, or God at work through the cross, or God at work through hard human times. But it is often in the hardest of times that we call out to God more, and we see God more. So today, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the approach of Hurricane Irma, I wanted to share a few hurricane stories as I preach on this wonderful text of Jesus leaving the 99 to go after the 1 who is straying.
Gregg and Andrea Smith were both doctors and had two miscarriages. She was due when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. She had lost two babies in miscarriage and longed for a baby. They turned to their faith in God and the pregnancy went well but was complicated. Then the floods came and the baby wanted to come too. They at first wanted to just have the baby in their apartment but it was flooding too quickly and they needed to move. They sent word out to their neighbors. The neighbors called for a huge dump truck to come. When it arrived the neighbors one by one formed a human chain to carry the wife to the dump truck which took the family to the hospital where little Adrielle was born safely. The husband said that God was all in this. The name Adrielle means, “She belongs to God.” Now those neighbors could have gone about their business. Certainly there was a lot of other things- including their own flooded welfare to care about. But they stopped what they were doing to care for one pregnant woman. The care for the One who is hurting is important.
In this story what is Jesus trying to convey? He is talking about caring for the wandering heart, caring for the lost child, and making caring for those who are wandering away a priority.
1) The One is the Wandering Sheep- Jesus said, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” He cares for each one of us. I think we are beginning to see that this is possible today. Just as you cannot escape the eyes of Google, or the eyes of the credit monitoring agencies when you use a credit card, so you cannot escape the eyes God is the Good Shepherd who isn’t just paid to take care of the sheep. God is not some flim flam man who wants to scam you out of your life or out of your hard earned money. He is the owner of all, and wishes you to recognize that.
I think it is important for us to think about how sheep wander off. They usually don’t just run away- unless they get scared. Usually they just graze away. They eat a little bit, then go a bit further, the grass seems a bit greener in another field, and soon they are in the woods or on the edge of a cliff and cannot see the shepherd or the flock. The grass becomes their priority instead of the voice of the shepherd. But it is the shepherd who leads them to the green grass and quiet waters. Most of the time the wandering sheep have no idea that they are lost and do not care until they get stuck or are in real danger. It is the same with us. Most of the time when we wander from God we do not realize how far away we are, or in what kind of spiritual danger we are in.
Two out of every three flood related deaths in a hurricane occur when people get stuck in their cars and the normally dry streets turn into a river- sweeping their car away. Most think they can make it, they leave their safe place to get on the street or they waited too late to be in a safe place and hit the road trying to find one. Studies show that there were repeated warnings not to drive in Hurricane Floyd and Hurricane Matthew- but people who would have normally been safe deliberately tried to drive anyway in flooded streets (Traffic Injury Prevention study). Two Tuesdays ago an elderly man decided he could drive his car in the 40 inch flooded waters of Hurricane Harvey. He got stuck and fourteen people formed a human chain to get him out.
Most of those who are flooded out think they will make it. They wander off oblivious to the danger. People do the same thing spiritually. We think we are okay, but we do not guard our hearts, Then we look around and we are in a tough spiritual situation and in danger of losing our soul.
2) The One is a Child- Jesus begins this teaching by saying, that he cares about the little ones.
Perhaps Jesus was encouraging us to do the hard work of raising children in the faith. I know you heard about the sad yet inspiring story of a mother and her toddler daughter who were found in a canal in Beuamont Texas. The mother saved her toddler’s life at the expense of her own. The mother wanted her child to live. We should also want our children to live with purpose, direction, and for eternity. It takes sacrifice to raise our children for the Lord- to read them Bible stories and pray with them.
There are children all around us who are not hearing about Jesus. All these subdivisions who are building up around us, can we reach them? Many are coming here because of the schools. Chapin High will be 5A next year and has 1400 students. LMES has over 1100. My concern is not how big these schools are as much as are we reaching these kids for Christ? If all the churches in Chapin are growing by 3% and our area is growing by 10% then our area is becoming more and more secular. The problem is not just the statistical problem that when faith is lacking crime grows. The problem is that children are not being reached. Would we say the priority is the comfort of the 99? One reason we are starting a new daughter church is statistically it is by far the best way to reach people for Jesus Christ.
3) The One Teaches us Priority- The priority is to not be lost; In our day, we see the lost. We see things that two generations were never seen. We see gangs, we see violence and crime fueled by drugs. Can we also not see the need to keep the faith to prevent such things. People of faith are not in gangs. Our call is to uphold life not destroy it or waste it. So first, don’t wander off yourself- be part of the 99.
The second priority is to Rescue the perishing. We follow the shepherd who came to rescue us- risking His life, but believing the Father would rescue Him. The priority for Jesus is the hurting, the lost, the wandering. It might go unnoticed, but it is inconvenient and dangerous for the shepherd to leave the comfort of his own barn to find the stay sheep who is in a dangerous place. It is our call to focus not on more and more comfort but on comforting the hurting and reaching the ones who have wandered.
Maybe you heard the story about the lady, Pam Brekke, who travelled 30 miles to get a Generator at a Lowes in Orlando last Thursday. They brought in 216 and she was number 217. She was the first in line not to get one. She broke down in tears because she was getting it for her father who was on an oxygen machine. A total stranger, Ramon Santiago, who was about to buy a generator saw her tears, and without knowing her full story, let her buy his generator- walking away with nothing. He said, “You need it more than me.” Pam cried again, this time tears of joy. She called him an angel and said, “God will bless that man.” Friday night the Lowe’s manager called up Santiago and the store bought and gave him a new generator when the next shipment came in. God blessed him for his generosity in the face of a storm. When we care more for the hurting- the one before us- than we do for ourselves, When we care for the one who is hurting and lost more than we do for those who are comfortable. When we care for the wandering and hurting heart we become closer in spirit to the Good Shepherd.