1There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: 2a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
The admonitions contained in verses 4 and 6,: “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”, and also “a time to search and a time to give up”, have particular relevance for my family this day, and especially for my sister.
You see, as if to add the proverbial “insult” to “injury”, the recent sickness and death of our mother was capped off for my poor sister by the loss of several of her most beloved pieces of jewelry, and of her wedding ring in particular.
Upon discovering her loss, she spent days looking every conceivable place for their whereabouts. My other sister and my wife both joined in the search with her. In the process, they turned the house upside down, as it were. But they never found the missing jewelry.
As the days and weeks passed, the gravity of this loss set in. In truth, few things are as cherished as are wedding rings. For this reason, their loss only served to exacerbate her grief and weigh further upon her heart. Until today, that is.
Late this afternoon, the various smart phones within our family begin blowing up with the news - the exultant news - that my sister's missing jewelry had been found! It was discovered rolled up in the folded sleeping pad of her granddaughter, right where it had inadvertently been placed late one evening at the end of a stress-filled day some three and a half weeks ago!
Needless, to say, the joy in both my sister’s voice and heart was palpable, even from an entire state away!
As I rejoiced with her in her good news, I could not help but think of a parable that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, once shared. In the New Testament Gospel of Luke, chapter 15 is often referred to as the lostness chapter.
Here, Jesus relates three successive stories designed to illustrate just how much God loves us and rejoices at our salvation. In the two more well-known stories of the three, He relates how a shepherd rejoices at finding a lost sheep and how a father rejoices at the return of his long lost “prodigal” son.
But sandwiched between these two, and often overlooked, is a third story – about a woman who finds a lost coin of great value. In Luke 15, verses 8-10, we find the following:
8“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins 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.”
I am thankful that the woman in this story persisted in her exhaustive search until the found her treasured lost coin. I am thankful as well that my sister persisted in her search until she found her beloved lost jewelry. But above all, I am thankful that my Heavenly Father persisted until sinners such as me, who were lost, were eventually found!
No joy on earth compares to the joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents and comes back to God! And while there are joys in this life, there is surely none greater than that of a lost sinner who repents and finds his or her way home, of one having been lost only to be found by God!
The famed hymn-writer of old, John Newton, understood my sister’s exuberance. As did he that of the shepherd, the woman, and the father in the three stories Jesus related. In a combination of inspiration and eloquence rarely equaled in the English language, he stated it thus:
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.
Little wonder then, that Newton’s famous hymn concludes with an equally inspired stanza:
When we've been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise,
Than when we first begun.
I do not know if my sister’s jewelry is singing her praises right now. If I were a diamond, made to shine in radiant splendor, and I suddenly found myself ignominiously lost under some sleeping pad, I would rejoice to know that I had been diligently sought by my owner until found, and then put proudly on display for all the world to see! I would sing her praises forever!
But this one thing I do know. I am not a diamond. I am something worth far more than mere carbon crystal! I am a living, breathing human being created in the image of Almighty God!
And as so, I am of such inestimable value to Him that even though I was lost in the dregs of sin, He sought and sought until He found me. And having found me, He redeemed me! To quote another famous hymnist, “He sought me, and bought me, with His redeeming blood!”
And for this reason, above all others, I rejoice today! For I know first-hand what it means to have been lost, and then to have been found!