I want us as a church to be open to the possibility of growing not because I care about numbers, but rather, because we live in a day when many people are wandering from the truth. Many folks are “wandering”…. They need a place to belong, a place to find encouragement and hope, a place to use their spiritual gift among the body of Christ, a community of hope and expectation. As long as there are people around us who are struggling, we must be ready to welcome them…pray for them…
Here are for lessons I take away from this scripture:
- Pay attention to the people in your life and have high standards/expectations
- Never give up on anyone
- Take risks
- Get outside of yourself and look at others
I have no interest in getting into a debate about whether those who wanders away were saved and now they aren’t or if that is even possible. Only God knows the heart of each individual; when I read this scripture all I know is that there are people who look like they are faithful people and then something happens and they drift away. Saved in the first place or not makes no difference to the need to love people no matter what and care about them so much that you take a risk and do what you can to help influence them to come back to Christ. Never give up… Pay attention to the people in your life.
Some who wander from the truth change their church going patterns: You’ve heard the saying, “Going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.” That’s true. But I tell you what. If you are a car, parking in a garage gives you shelter out of the weather, your paint will last longer, you will be protected, it is in a garage that tune ups take place that make your engine purrr, you are away from the rain, vandalism. Just because somebody quits/ slows down going to church does not mean they are no longer a Christian, but it may well be a sign of something wrong. The church is like a garage, meant to aid in the protection of Christians, a place for a tune-up, a place of fellowship. If a garage is available, why wouldn’t you want to get your car off the street? It is in the church that we meet others, help and encourage others. Practicing our faith is never meant to be alone, isolated, vulnerable.
Then there are those who “wander from the truth” that never leave the fellowship. We must all be vigilant, paying attention to one another, never giving up…. Often I get phone calls from one of the elders who will want to know if I have insights into certain people that they have noticed do not seem like themselves. Praying for the straying is a vital ministry.
The word “wander” is used because many people slowly drift away from faith. God knows when a person believes and when they are lost, but with limited insight, all we see are people aimless, searching, questioning. Look out for depression to hit, patterns to change, out of character behavior ~ and other signs of wandering away from faith.
All Christian are called to a ministry of restoration ~ God transforms hearts, but he invites us to partner with him to influence the people around us. Perhaps God will use you as a sounding board while the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those who are struggling. Maybe he will use your God given wisdom, a personal testimony, a word of encouragement… how many people are crying for help and nobody answers the call because we are too busy, absorbed with our own problems… Never give up… pay attention. Pay attention to youself… “If one of YOU should wander….” If I am suffering through a dark night of the soul, I must allow one of God’s wonderful servants to love me back to spiritual health…
One person compared this scripture to God calling all His people to be on a Search and Rescue team. When I was in my teen years my father was on the Whatcom County Search and Rescue team when people were overdue in the mountains. I got in on a number of searches in the days before helicopters and other major advancements to locate people. Massive search parties were formed to travel down every trail and go up and down every logging road. The county sheriff coordinated the search. I remember hiking for several hours on one rescue in the most likely place the lost party was likely to be. No sign of them. I can still see the sherrif at base camp intently pouring over the contour maps, and finally pointing to a massive hill,and saying, “I bet they are way off course on the other side…” He was trying to think how the lost party might think, where they might have gotten off the route they were supposed to be on, which way they might have wandered. Eventually the lost party was found in the vicinity of the place the sherrif guessed. I never saw them, but I can imagine the relief, the joy of being rescued. “If one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back….” James is calling us to a search and rescue mission for those that are spiritually confused.
James uses the word “Truth.” Is James talking about theological truth? Perhaps that is part of it. I think “truth” is a general word involving the way we think and the way we act…if somebody changes their patterns and wanders away from God, if somebody sinks into depression and is despondent, if somebody is no longer interested in the things of God OR, if somebody rejects Christ, his character, his teaching, questioning the Bible, the validity of faith…. Pray for those that are straying…
If you are a Christian, then you’re a member of God’s search and rescue team. It is our privilege and our calling. Never give up on the wonderful people in your life that appear to be wandering away from Jesus Christ. Take that risk of talking to them, encouraging them, telling them what you are seeing…
Can you imagine being lost in the woods, but no one came looking? When you finally manage to get back to civilization, you wonder why no one came. One member of the rescue team says, “It was really cold and stormy, and there was a good show on TV. So I just prayed for you to be okay.” Another says, “I wanted to be sensitive to your feelings. I thought you might be embarrassed if we came looking.” Another says, “I wasn’t sure you were really lost. I did not want to be judgmental and pronounce you really were lost.” That’s not the kind of search and rescue team that I would want if I were lost!
Search and Rescue isn’t easy. We aren’t always sure what we are seeing is correct. If somebody doesn’t want to be found it is an impossible task. The risk of trying to reach a wandering person may bite you ~ like trying to help a wounded dog—you’re at risk to get bit no matter how gently you try to help. However, when you’re successful, it’s a moment of great joy, as when a search and rescue team announces, “We have found him.” The problem: we don’t always know for sure when a person is lost. They could be overdue, deciding to take an extra day on the lake without telling anyone. Searching doesn’t automatically mean success because ultimately the spiritual health of another person is between them and God ~~ but we are called to search anyway….If you know of someone who made a profession of faith, but who has dropped out of the church, you need to go looking for her to find out what’s wrong. Rescue is required because often a straying person cannot find their way back on their own.
I was lost in the woods on a family trip when I was 5-6. I walked slower and slower expecting somebody to catch up with me. I just knew every corner I turned would bring me face to face with a bear, or a lion; my imagination went wild. Back at the end of the trail where I was supposed to be, my father retraced the route, he went up and down the beach where I might be. The person who stumbled onto me was Harold Markham (he’s at the food bank every week)…. And the great sense of relief that came over me…It was impossible for me to find the way on my own…
When you are lost, the enemy confuses your sense of direction. You are embarrassed. When you are spiritually lost your imagination runs wild, you need assurance God is a forgiving God. You need encouragement, help to stay the course, accountability for finding new patterns, you need somebody who knows God and the way back, to teach them God’s ways to avoid and resist sin.
The search and rescue ministry aims to save the wandering from death. READ James 5:20. God has given us the great honor of impacting people with the saving message of Jesus Christ. The only other time James uses “death” (James 1:15 GNT), he says, “Then our evil desires conceive and give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death..” The natural course of unchecked sin ends in spiritual separation from God. This is wisdom ~ there are two roads to travel: death and life. RECITE John 3:16…
Search and Rescue is a sobering task: what road are people traveliing. If they are on a road that ends in a cliff, it is our task to try and stop them. The path of life brings peace and satisfaction, the road of death has pitfalls and sins…. When a sinner turns to the Lord, the Lord forgives. When you re-discover peace with God and the forgiveness of sins, it is as satisfying as being found when lost in the woods.
I have enjoyed the book of James. Thank you to so many of you who have expressed very kind words of affirmation and appreciation for James through-out the weeks. The entire book is a call to discipleship and growing in the Lord. May that be you! What a great calling to end the book with a command to join God’s search and rescue team to help find those that are wandering. Pay attention to the people in your life and their relationship with God. Take risks when you see somebody wandering away from God. Everyone needs somebody who will never give up on them. Amen.
er give up on them. Amen.