Saturday, July 23, 2016

Matthew 18:12-14 -- On Being God's Hands

"How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish."
Matthew 18:12-14

This is an interesting story that is often interpreted as being about finding the lost sinner and bringing him or her back to the fold, and that is a good interpretation.  God definitely doesn't want any of us to perish, and he takes time to communicate with each of us, and bring us back to him if we are listening.  I think also it is a great lesson about how each of us matter.  Not only when we are the one out on the mountain alone, but even when we are with the rest of the flock.  God truly cares for us as individuals, and he has a work for each of us to do.

On my mission, in my very first area, I met a woman who belonged to a local church that was known for its charismatic leader, and also for stockpiling weapons.  She wasn't sure about it being the place that God wanted her to be, but in talking with several other missionaries, she wasn't sure if our church was where he wanted her to be either.  The first day I met her, we started talking, and it was the first (and maybe last) time that my mission seemed to have anything in common with what we had learned in the Missionary Training Center.  As I talked to this woman, she would ask the exact question that would lead to the next point of the discussion, and she just wanted to know more, more, more.  I couldn't understand why the other missionaries had not had success.  Later I found out that the night before I met her, she had written a letter to Jesus.  She asked him to send her someone that could help her get close to him, and she told me that I was the answer to that prayer.

I was new on my mission, and I was a mess.  I missed having a support system, the excessive rules were getting on my nerves, and I was rebelling against my trainer's authority.  I wasn't in any way ready to be the answer to someone's prayer.  But there I was, and there she was, and I knew that I had to step up... but I also knew, very clearly, that God knew who I was, and who she was, and that we both mattered to him, and that he had arranged this meeting.

We all have jobs that God wants us to do.  We get lost sometimes, definitely, and he comes and finds us, usually with the help of other people who help us to get back on track.  But when we aren't lost, he is also mindful of us, teaching us and helping us so that we can also help him as under shepherds, finding, loving, and serving others.  He is going to send us people to help, and we need to be ready for that.  Ready to set a good example, ready to love, ready to help.

Today, let's come back from wandering in the mountains if that is where we are.  And then let's prepare for the next job that God has for us.  Let's learn a little bit more of the gospel, let's read our scriptures more, let's pray and develop a closer relationship with God... so that when the times comes for us to be the answer to someone's prayer, we will be ready for it.  It won't always be a conversion story, but it will always be someone that we can love and that we can help in some way.  Let's be God's hands in this, and willing to do his work.

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