The Ultimate Search and Rescue
When we hear on the news that a child is missing, most of us immediately imagine what tremendous anxiety the parents must be experiencing. I recall a time several years ago when two young boys from our church wandered away while their parents were packing up to head home after a vacation. The family had been staying on a homestead in a remote wooded area not far from Astoria on the Oregon Coast. As the parents, Chris and Angela, were loading the car sometime in the midmorning, they noticed that two of their children, Atticus (age five at the time) and Ethan (age four), had wandered away. They searched the nearby area, calling the boys’ names, but with no success.
Of course, the parents were seriously concerned. They called the church requesting prayer, and shortly thereafter, they called the sheriff. Soon Search and Rescue crews were summoned. Before long, there were mounted horses and all-terrain vehicles combing the area, but there was still no sign of Atticus and Ethan.
As I was in contact with Chris and Angela throughout the afternoon, I thought, Surely the boys could not have gone far. Any moment now we will get the call that they have been located. But the hours went by, the afternoon turned into evening, and still the boys had not been located. The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched a Black Hawk helicopter with heat sensing devices designed to detect a person in the darkness. Finally, close to midnight, search efforts were suspended until morning, though rescuers were camped out in a two-mile perimeter that they had established to search with a grid system. We prayed; in fact, prayer was made around the world as the word spread of the missing boys.
By morning, news organizations had converged at the spot. Search efforts resumed, and updates on the hunt for Atticus and Ethan were aired on national news. Around noon, officials expanded the search beyond that two-mile radius. And then the glad word came: rescue workers had found the boys and their puppy, Rocco, on a side road about three miles from the house. More than twenty-four hours had gone by since the boys had disappeared. They were muddy, thirsty, and tired, but they were safe. Oh, what relief we felt when that word went out!
The search and rescue efforts for Atticus and Ethan received nationwide attention, but there is a search going on today that does not make national news even though it is a life-and-death matter. We read in God’s Word, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). This search has eternal ramifications!
While few children wander for any length of time from their earthly parents, everyone in the human family has been separated from their Heavenly Father. The prophet Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Sheep are not known for their intelligence; they wander. There is a reason why the Lord compared human beings to sheep! Mankind wanders far away from God, but Jesus came to seek and to save that which is lost.
To be lost indicates helplessness—an inability to find the right way to go. And that is the state of the human family. Some people are lost and they know it. Atticus and Ethan knew they were lost. After their rescue, Atticus said, “I was praying for the Lord to show me the right way back to my mama.” Some people are lost and do not know it. They are wandering spiritually, far from the God who loves them, but they are seemingly unaware and unconcerned. Either way, Jesus is looking for them, because the Word of God tells us that He came to seek and to save that which was lost.
If you had asked me back in 1974 if I was lost, I would have told you, “Of course not!” I had lived in the home where my parents still live, at 493 Quail Lane in Roseburg, Oregon, all my life. I knew the surrounding area well, so I knew right where I was. When I was invited to my first Apostolic Faith service, if the preacher had come and greeted me, and said, “I’m pleased to meet you, thanks for coming, and by the way, are you lost?” I would have said “Lost? I’ve driven around this area of Roseburg many times. Abby’s Pizza is just a stone’s throw away in that direction. Of course I am not lost!” I was not lost in a geographical sense, but I certainly was lost in the spiritual sense, because I did not know how to get to Jesus. I was one who was lost and did not know it.
It is possible to attend your neighborhood school, or go to the job you have held for years, or walk the aisles of your local supermarket . . . and yet be lost.
If you had asked the tax collector Zacchaeus, whose story is told in Luke 19, “Zacchaeus, are you lost?” no doubt he would have replied, “Of course not! I have walked this Jericho Road many times. My home is close by. I have sat under this sycamore tree often to rest and eat my lunch. I am not lost.” However, he was lost! And Jesus was looking for him.
It is possible to attend your neighborhood school, or go to the job you have held for years, or walk the aisles of your local supermarket . . . and yet be lost. It is possible to sit in a Gospel meeting, perhaps in a church building that you have sat in many times before, and think you know right where you are . . . and yet be lost. It is possible to be reared in a Christian home, surrounded by your family . . . and yet be lost. If you are unsaved, you are lost!
The reason you are lost is because you cannot get to Jesus on your own. In the spiritual sense, that is what being lost means. We cannot get ourselves out of sin. We are helpless, unable to find our way to the God who loves us. There is only one thing we can do if we are in that condition, and that is to drop to our knees before God and say, “Lord, I need to be found! I need to be rescued!”
The day when Jesus passed by on the road near Jericho, Zacchaeus must have thought, I will go ahead of the crowd, and climb up in that sycamore tree. It has low limbs and lots of leaves, and from up there, I can watch Jesus go by. After He is gone, I’ll slip out of the tree and nobody will know that I was there when Jesus passed by.
Zacchaeus did not realize that Jesus was coming that way because He was looking for him. Jesus not only knew Zacchaeus’ physical location—that he was up there among the branches of the sycamore tree—but He also knew that Zacchaeus was lost spiritually. Jesus does not need to look hard to determine where we are spiritually. He knows where we are—every one of us.
As Jesus passed beneath the tree in which Zacchaeus was hiding, He stopped, looked up, and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). Now, Zacchaeus would not have dreamed when he woke up in the morning that he would go to sleep at night a changed man. But something happened that day. He was transformed! Perhaps for the first time in his life, Zacchaeus had genuine joy. He began to immediately straighten up the wrongs that he had done. Before, he had been a greedy man, but in an instant he changed from being a greedy man to being a benevolent man. We know that because of his response to Jesus’ words. He said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “This day is salvation come to this house” (Luke 19:8-9).
Salvation is not a progressive experience. Zacchaeus was converted in a moment of time. When we get saved, we are transformed by an instantaneous work. We pass from darkness to light, from death to life, from being lost to being found. Old things pass away, and all things become new! That was what happened to Zacchaeus, and the same deliverance is available for each one of us.
To be lost in sin is a fearsome condition, because sin’s power is destructive. Sin will destroy us. We may think we can dabble in it; we may think we can control it. But make no mistake, it controls us. We cannot extract ourselves from sin. That is why we need a Savior, a Deliverer.
How do we come to the Lord? We do not have to fix ourselves first; in fact, we cannot fix ourselves. We must admit that we are lost and need help. Nobody casually repents. Nobody casually gets saved. It means abandoning control of our whole life and committing our whole future into God’s hands. We must determine with all of our hearts, I hate this sin. I hate what it has done to me. Perhaps it has robbed us of our dignity, destroyed our home, or impacted our family. Whatever the case, we must hate being lost! We must realize that we need Someone to get us out of the condition we are in.
Jesus is the One. Thank God that our Savior came to seek and to save the lost. He did not just come to look for us. He came to find us and deliver us! He came to change our hearts and set us on the road to victory.
It is a wonderful thing to be found. If we move from being lost to being found today, what can we anticipate in the days ahead? We can anticipate there will be some challenges in life, but we can also anticipate victory. This is not a struggle to somehow avoid the temptations that allure us. No, the Lord delivers us from sin and gives us power not to sin any more.
If you are still struggling through life today in a lost condition, we have good news. Jesus is looking for you! He wants to deliver you! Yield your heart and your life to Him. You do not have to pray an eloquent prayer. Just say, “Jesus, help me!” When you do so with all of your heart, you will not be disappointed. You will look back for the rest of your life to the moment when you gave God your heart and He saved your soul.
Being found by Search and Rescue was a great moment for Atticus and Ethan. Being found by God will be a moment you will never forget!