The Search for a Lost Sheep
In the parable of the lost sheep, the Good Father is the shepherd who searches for the one that has gone astray—but not before He made sure the ninety and nine were securely tucked away in the sheepfold. Parables are word pictures, often taken from actual happenings, which provide a moral and/or spiritual lesson. It is a memorable means to teach a truth, making it more palatable to wicked men and women and more understandable to those with little skill for reading or writing.
The Good Shepherd didn’t abandon the lost sheep; He went in search of the one. The sheep didn’t know it was lost; it was simply enjoying the richness of grass found perhaps near the edge of a precipice. It is reminiscent of a painting by Alfred Soord, a British artist whose most noted work pertains to this parable. It depicts a shepherd clinging to the edge of a cliff while reaching downward to snatch a sheep back from a disastrous fall. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11 NKJV). The sheep was not seeking the shepherd; the diametric opposite was true. The shepherd had gone out into the night to seek and save the wanderer. It is not necessary that you and I mount a comprehensive search for the shepherd.
He was in the midst of the Red Sea with Moses, atop Mount Moriah with Abraham, in the stone that David hurled at Goliath. God was in the pit with Joseph, in the lions’ den with Daniel, and in the fiery furnace with the three Hebrew children. He was in the garden with Jesus and in the dungeon with Paul. In Psalm 139:1–7 (NLT), David penned these words regarding the omnipresence of the Good Father:
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand! I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!”
The sheep has no awareness of the pitfalls, precipices, ravines, and rivers that lie before it. Its focus is only on sating its appetite. The shepherd is intent on only one task: finding the lost sheep. The sheep has no part in its salvation—that role is reserved solely for the shepherd. He is the one who is diligently searching for the sheep.
In His search for us, our precious Lord was betrayed, beaten, bruised, battered, and then put to death. We are captured by the horror of the depths to which He had to go; and yet, the tomb was not the end of the story. Three days later, He arose!
What is forgiveness? Simply stated, it is giving up my right to hurt someone else for having hurt me. Forgiveness, like the law of gravity, is one of the foundational principles God has woven into the fabric of our universe. We can choose not to forgive, just as we can choose to ignore the laws of gravity, but we do so at our own peril. Forgiveness means bestowing freedom instead of the punishment my abuser deserves. Forgiveness means giving love and understanding when the enemy expects only hatred and revenge. Forgiveness means turning over to God my desires to blame, defame, and punish my offender. I cannot be released from my offender or from the anger-arousing, shame-evoking, esteem-shattering memories connected with his/her offenses against me until I accept wholeheartedly God’s way of forgiveness. Forgiveness is a releasing, transforming experience.
Time spent tending the foul crop of hatred, resentment, and grudges is time spent in futile, senseless pain. So, hurry to forgive as soon as you are offended…before the first root of bitterness begins to take root. Even though you extend love and forgiveness to your offender, you have no guarantee that you will not receive evil in return. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies, and love is not some temporary strategy or a clever form of manipulation. Love is supposed to be the Christian’s way of life.
When we extend forgiveness and show love, we have no guarantee that our offender will repent or beg our forgiveness. But we are not responsible for the offender’s actions. We are only accountable for our own. We must beware of pressuring ourselves or others to forgive and forget. Forgiving does not change the past. Facts are facts; events happened. The past cannot be altered, but when we truly trust God’s promise that He makes all things work together for good, the meaning of the past can be changed, and the painful sting can be removed from our memories.
We must not struggle to hasten the process of healing by attempting to force forgetfulness. Stubbornly insisting that forgetting must come first is like trying to pass the final exam before you have enrolled in the course. Constantly fretting and trying to forget just short-circuits and undercuts the healing process. Although God sometimes heals instantly, removing all the pain, guilt, and grief in one miraculous moment, for most of us the healing process takes time. You and I can will ourselves to forgive, but only God can make us forget. And what is it that we forget? The memories themselves? Probably not. But God helps us forget the raw, stinging pain of those memories.
Gradually, the memories that pop into our minds begin to decrease in frequency and intensity. No longer do we constantly recall, rehash, and relive the events. Instead, as the healing process nears completion and the last of the poison is drawn from our souls, we find ourselves occasionally recalling the memories, but in a vague, detached sort of way, almost as if the experiences had happened to someone else. They no longer have the power to infect or agitate. If you have been unable to escape the pain of the past, take a moment to meditate on these beautiful words from missionary Amy Carmichael:
- “If I say, ‘Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,’ as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”
Never doubt that your Good Father can perform that wonderful, cleansing work within you.
Encourage yourself in the Lord. In 1 Samuel 30:6, we read that although David was greatly distressed, he encouraged himself in the Lord. Let me ask you this: Who says we must depend upon each other for encouragement? The world around us is totally co-dependent; it knows nothing of the Good Father’s Word and His ability to encourage and strengthen us. There is a dynamic truth in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Word that you learn when you are discouraged. Let me give you an example: When you die, I can’t do anything about it. No one can carry you through the valley of the shadow of death, except Jesus. This is a private matter between you and Him. You can reach out to people for support, but there is a great difference in having a support system and being co-dependent. Encourage yourself in the Lord.
Ephesians 3:16 says, “That he would grant YOU, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” Verse 20 says, “Now unto HIM that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us”(capitalization added). One of the main reasons some Christians live in continual defeat is because they are ignorant regarding the sovereignty of Christ. They have not developed an intimacy with the Lord Jesus Christ. They do not walk and talk with Him. How can you encourage yourself in the Lord? The only way is to spend time with Him.
You cannot be encouraged in the Lord if you are not nurturing your relationship with Him. You encourage yourself when you are walking with the Lord. If you are going to walk in the kingdom of God on a daily basis, you cannot make the church or any individual your source. You cannot make your wife or your husband your source. No one can be your source but the Lord. If you make the Lord your Source, you will have a breakthrough. Encourage yourself.
Get alone and begin quoting Scripture and saying the same thing that God says about you. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; they are not rejection, a bitter attitude, or a desire to play childish games with people. Love will begin to flow from you—unconditional love. There will be peace, contentment that comes when you are settled, a sense of calm, a quietness or stillness in your spirit—and there will be strength. Why? You have encouraged yourself in the Lord. You have built yourself up by your relationship with Jesus.
What was your first memory of your father? Was he a good, kind, loving father, or was he cold, unloving, and abusive? My father was away from home a lot, and when home, he was all too often in a drunken rage. When I was a small child, we moved into the Projects, Duggan Park, at Paige Boulevard and Godwin Street in Indian Orchard, Massachusetts. The buildings had been erected in the fall of 1951, mostly for veterans returning from World War II and who had little income.
Like many such housing developments, crime, drugs, and appalling violence pervaded Duggan Park. I remember the first week after we moved into our place: Our next-door neighbor hanged himself in desperation. We never went to bed hungry because Dad brought home food that he had scavenged from the local dump. He was working there at the time, and when food was thrown away, he would collect it.
My father did not believe I was his son and violently abused me, two times almost killing me. The second time, I awoke in a fetal position covered in my own dried vomit and crying out, “Why was I born?” My first thoughts of God were exactly the same as those of my earthly father: an angry, mean, judgmental entity whom I could never please and who would just as soon cast me into hell as not. When you have no memories of a good father, how can you embrace Father God and trust Him to be a Good Father?
Hopefully, you have not endured the physical or emotional pain that I have. You may, however, have experienced rejection and been wounded. It may be difficult for you to view God as a Good Father. My prayer is that God will open your eyes and spirit to how beloved and cherished you are.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. —1 John 3:1-2
When Carolyn and I started out our life and ministry together almost 50 years ago, we lived in a tiny mobile home that God gave us. We were so thrilled to have it. But the ceilings were six feet high, and I’m 6 feet, 6 inches tall. I called that trailer the world headquarters for our ministry to Israel. One pastor laughed at me and called me delusional, but I believed God was going to do something amazing.
After we had lived in that trailer for several years, I felt the Lord say, “Believe Me for a house.” We started looking and found a little house for sale on Dream Lane. The asking price was $10,300. We met with the owner, and he agreed to finance $7,000 if we would put down $3,300. This was on a Friday. He said, “Do you have the money?” I said, “Yes. We’ll give it to you on Monday.”
When we walked away, Carolyn looked at me. She knew as well as I did that we only had $100 in the bank. I told her, “I am pregnant in faith with the money. It’s in my spirit, it just has not come forth yet.” There was a tidal wave of faith rising up in my heart. I was completely convinced that God had picked out that house for us, and so I was completely convinced that we would have the money. I didn’t lose a moment of sleep to worry that weekend. We didn’t have the funds, but I believed that the answer was already on its way.
On Monday I went to the mailbox, and there was one envelope inside. It didn’t have a note or a letter or any explanation. The only thing in that envelope was a check. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that it was for exactly $3,200! I went to the owner rejoicing and paid the down payment on that beautiful little house. God provided. The man’s name was Charles Capps, a cotton farmer in England, Arkansas.
I hadn’t told him what we needed. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone about our need except God. I didn’t have any resources or expectation apart from Him. But He is always more than enough for every need, and those who trust Him find Him faithful.
I thought about that story when I looked at the calendar and realized that Easter is not far away. My beloved friend and partner, we serve a living, powerful, victorious, and overcoming King! All of the power of death, the grave, Satan, and hell could not hold Him. He was dead, but He is alive forevermore.
Up from the grave He arose
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,
He arose the victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign;
He arose, He arose, Hallelujah Christ arose!
There is no challenge that you face today that exceeds God’s ability to meet it. You have all the resources of heaven at your disposal when you act in faith, and today I’m inviting you to join us on an incredible faith journey.
As I am writing this, I am hearing the Spirit of the Lord say to you, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19). When God’s resurrection power begins to work in your life, nothing will ever be the same again.
Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). God can make your past life up to you. King David declared, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:5). David was rejected by his own father when Samuel asked Jesse to bring all his sons to stand before him. He had been rejected by his own brothers.
The Good Father can break generational curses. God has taken into account everything you have not received and every person who has wronged you. The Good Father is watching over you and has designed a plan for wounded men and women. God will send the right people to make it up to you, the same as He did for me.
Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t become bitter. Don’t be a victim. You are a masterpiece; people could not stop your destiny. God is taking everything into account, and He does have favorites—hurting people are His favorites. He will make the Enemy pay. The Most High God, the Good Father, is for you. The most important revelation I have received is the affirmation of the Good Father. God has a good plan for your life.
Let me tell you about a dream my father had just a few days before he died—a dream about black stones and white stones. In the dream, his grandfather handed his father two black stones. In turn, his father handed those stones to him. But when he tried to hand them to me, I wouldn’t take them. Instead, I showed him two white stones already in my hands.
“What does that dream mean?” he asked me. I told him that the black stones represented a curse that had been on our family for generations…a generational curse of anger and pain and bitterness and destruction. Then I told him that the white stones were a symbol that curse was broken and would no longer have power over us!
The Friday after my father died, our grandson Michael David Evans III was born. He will never know that curse…he will know the blessing! It is a bloodline blessing that is passed down from parents to children through the generations.
This blessing is not just for my family…it can be a blessing your family experiences for years to come as well.