Because I was planning to speak, I had taken my Sermon Planning Notebook with me, along with my individual sermon notes for the message I was to share. Unfortunately, when I returned home, I could not find my notebook.
Now, for the average person, that may not seem like much of an issue. But for me, as a Pastor who speaks multiple times per week throughout the year, it was disastrous. My planning calendar for the entire year, my forms (Yes, Pastors utilize checklists in preparing for worship and preaching!), and lots of thoughts and notes sketched out for messages yet to be preached are all contained in that one three ring binder.
Needless to say, when I realized I could not find my notebook, I panicked. Few things could be as disastrous for me as the loss of that single book. I went thought my luggage. I searched and researched my vehicle. I even got on the phone and called the hotel where we stayed in Florida – but all to no avail!
When I had at last given up all hope, my precious wife came up the steps from my study with the notebook in hand. It had been there in plain sight all along. Somehow, I had just repeatedly overlooked it in my futile search.
All I can say is that the severity of my distress was suddenly replaced by the ecstasy of my delight. I was elated. That which was so valuable to me, and which had been lost to me, had now been found and restored to me by someone dear to me!
I was reminded of the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus tells three different parables, or stories, about the rejoicing that accompanies the recovery of lost things. The first two (in verses 3-10) have to do with a lost sheep and a lost coin:
The Parable of the Lost Sheep
3Then Jesus told them this parable: 4“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
8“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coinsa and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
These two parables set up one of the most famous ones Jesus ever told: that of the Prodigal (or Lost) Son (in v,v. 11ff.):
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
My joy at the recovery of a lost notebook likely cannot compare to that of the woman finding her lost coin or the shepherd his lost sheep, and certainly not to that of a lost child who is found and welcomed home by a once broken-hearted father!
And all of these things only illustrate the joy that our Heavenly Father has when one of us, as His lost children, returns to Him! And how is that possible? By the redemptive work of His Son, Jesus Christ, Who, like the determined woman and the unwavering shepherd, refuses to rest until He has brought home all those who are precious to God! As Jesus himself said (in Luke 19:10): 10“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
For my part, I share the testimony of the great hymn writer of old, John Newton, who said:
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
And that, my friends, is reason to rejoice!
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: http://biblehub.com/niv/luke/15.htm
HYMN LYRICS SOURCE: http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Amazing_Grace/.