“I heard from a friend yesterday” Stan said with a big smile. “He gave me a call and we talked for about an hour, getting caught up.”
“How long had it been since you talked with him?” I asked.
“Not sure, but it’s been quite a while. We mainly keep in touch by email or text, but yesterday he called.”
“Any particular reason?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t have remembered,” Stan replied, “but my friend said it was the anniversary of when he came back to God.”
“Came back to God? What did he mean by that?”
“Well,” Stan said, “it’s kind of a long story, but in a nutshell, he had walked away from God after God didn’t do what he wanted. Rather than just let him walk away, I pursued him. He eventually came back to God. Yesterday marked the tenth year and he wanted to tell me again how much he appreciated that I had not given up on him.”
“Did you ever think about giving up?” I asked.
“Sorry to say, but, yes, I certainly did think that. When he first walked away, saying that he had given up on God, I have to admit that my impulse was to think that he’s an adult and has free will. Let him do what he wants.”
“Was there something specific that changed your mind?”
“There was,” Stan replied. “And I remember it as clearly as if it happened yesterday. At that time in my journaling, I was in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew where Jesus was talking about the one sheep out of a hundred that wandered away.”
“About how the shepherd would go looking for the one?”
“That’s right,” Stan replied. “In addition, I focused on what Luke records in a parallel verse. That’s the verse that really got me and convinced me that I wanted to be a part of something special.”
“What something special?”
“Luke records that Jesus said there is more joy in heaven over the one who repents than there is over the ninety-nine who need no repentance. I decided I wanted to be a part of the joy in heaven if my friend would repent and return.”
Concluding, he added, “If I would have chosen to let my friend wander away without trying to bring him to repentance, look what I would have missed. I’m so grateful the Holy Spirit kept after me, encouraging me not to let my friend go away.”
“And,” I responded, “I would guess he’s grateful as well!”
“That’s what he called about!”
Bible verses to consider:
What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search for the one that is straying? And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. Thus, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. Matthew 18:12-14.
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. Luke 15:7
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you want all to come to repentance and accept by faith your provision for life eternally with you when it’s time. Thank you, too, that you want all who believe to pursue the eternal life of knowing you and your Son in an ever-deepening personal relationship. Thank you that you want those who wander away to come back in repentance so there can be joy in heaven. Please help me in being a part of that joy by following your lead in reaching out to anyone who has wandered away. Help me to not give up on them, but to pursue them as you intend. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Do you know people who have wandered away from their faith? If so, have you tried to reach out to them? If not, why? If you have, how did that work out? How do you think God wants us to respond to such people? Should we just let them go with the idea that they have free will and can do whatever they want? Can you imagine the joy in heaven over one who repents? What does that look and sound like to you?