There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. — Jesus in Luke 15:7
I can only imagine being a gardener in Eden, in that place of perfect seeds and soil and weather. What a different experience from, for instance, planting fifty pepper plants and having one begin to yellow and wilt within a couple days. When something like that happens, I check the soil, try to determine if it’s over-hydrated or dehydrated, add fertilizer, and look for evidence of pests as it continues to wither and turn brown. But then, suddenly, new leaves appear, and I am overjoyed to see tiny green buds protruding slightly from the shoot.
For reasons only the Master Gardener knows, the pepper plant begins to thrive. Why am I so thrilled about that once-sickly plant when I have so many healthy plants? One reason is that I had invested time and energy in that plant. When it came back from the brink of death, I couldn’t help but be joyful.
Jesus knows the far greater joy of having the one lost soul in a group of His followers return to Him. It’s not that He thinks less — or less often — of those followers who are strongly rooted in the faith; it’s that He wants all to be saved and able to spend eternity with Him. Those individuals who have declared their faith in Him are already safe in His care; the sinner whose soul remains lost is the person with the greater need.
As believers, we are to stand beside lost individuals, form a genuine relationship that encourages their growth, and allow them to rely on us for whatever support they need. As the Lord uses us to revive the withering plant — or, to mix metaphors, to search for the missing sheep — may we be mindful that those who are saved will be saved for reasons only the Master Gardener, only our good Shepherd, knows.
As He does His job, we will be doing ours by showing them the same love that people showed us when we were withering or lost.
Lord Jesus, I want to love with Your love those souls that are withering or lost. Enable me to remove any prejudices, judgments, and assumptions from my heart so that I may see them as You do: glorious and beloved children of the Father who have the opportunity for eternal life with Him. Remind me that You love them as much as You do me, and that at some point, You used someone to revive me as I withered and to bring me into Your flock when I was lost.
Excerpted with permission from Devotions from the Garden by Miriam Drennan, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2015.
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