When I was growing up I collected and traded baseball cards. Living in southern Ohio during the 1970s, my favorite team was the Cincinnati Reds. I traded for some really good, valuable cards. I even had a Pete Rose rookie card, among others. I decided to hide these valuable cards in my basement above the furnace ductwork. I had about 50 cards wrapped in a rubber band. No one wold ever find them. In fact, I never found them again. I lost them.

I looked and looked for those cards. Even after I went to college, when I returned I would give one more look to see if I could find them. I never did. They were lost forever.

Have you ever been lost something valuable. It may have been a cell phone or expensive jewelry. I am sure you searched for your valuables just like I searched for my baseball cards. I hope you found it. I’m sure you were thrilled if you did.

Sometimes people get lost. I’m not talking about lost in the woods. I’m talking about those who are spiritual lost. They look like you and me and they appear to be okay. But they are wandering through life far away from God and need help. Maybe this is your experience right now.

In Luke 15, the Pharisees found fault with Jesus for associating with people they felt were beneath Him. Rather than a direct statement, Jesus told some stories that illustrated God’s love for these lost sinners. What can we learn from His story about the lost sheep (v. 1-7) and the lost coin (v. 8-10)

1 – Like sheep, people are lost.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “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? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I 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. (Luke 15:3-7)

The sheep was lost because it was foolish. Sheep have a tendency to go astray and wander into danger. They need a shepherd who will search for them and rescue them. People are the same. If a human shepherd will rescue his sheep, isn’t God better to rescue humanity. Jesus came to “seek and save them that are lost” (Luke 19:10). Notice what happens: rejoicing – the shepherd rejoices, the neighbors rejoice, heaven rejoices.

I just finished a book written by a friend of mine. ‘Broken vessels’ is the journey of Joey Candillo. He grew up in a messed up family. His dad was a truck driver, gone a lot, and an alcoholic – a bad one. When he was 4 years old, his family came home from getting ice cream and everyone went inside except his older brother stayed in the back of their station wagon and fell asleep. Joey, remembers climbing into the front seat of the car and playing with the lighter. He caught some papers on fire and it got too big for him so he ran away. By the time he turned around the car was engulfed in flames and his brother died. A few years later, in a fit of drunken anger, his dad screamed at him, “I wish you had died instead of your brother.” Joey felt worthless and began doing and selling drugs. He ended up in prison. One Sunday morning he was lying in bed and heard music. He went down and visited a church service. As soon as he entered he felt a strange feeling and began to cry uncontrollably. The preacher said, “God is ready and willing to forgive you.” But Joey thought, “He doesn’t know what I’ve done.” But finally Joey felt, “If God is willing to take a chance on me to forgive me, I can take a chance on him and risk it.” He ran to the front of the room, invited Christ into his life, and he was changed. A lost sheep was found. Joey is now the pastor of Grace Church in Kansas City.

If you know someone who is lost from God, begin to pray for them. Discover ways to bring them to Jesus.

2 – Like a found coin, there is rejoicing.

“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? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:8-10)

The sheep was lost because of its foolishness, but the coin was lost because of the carelessness of another. The woman lost something of value. Sometimes people are lost because of the carelessness of another. The coin would have the image of the emperor just as a person bears the image of our Creator. We are extreme value and the search is appropriate. She sought diligently – moved furniture, swept the house, looked in every corner until she found it. When it is found, there is extreme rejoicing. It is a common experience that the joy of finding something lost is more intense than the sorrow of losing it.

In 1984 Ted Forbes found a wallet on the streets of Chicago. It contained $3 and an old envelope. Inside the envelope was a “Dear John” letter from a woman named Hannah to a man named Michael. She said she loved him and always would. But her parents forbid her to see him and she was breaking it off. Forbes decided to go to the return address on the envelope and see if he could locate the owner. The people at the address bought the house 30 years before from a family whose daughter was named Hannah. The mother was in a nursing home a few blocks away. At the nursing home, Ted learned that she died but they gave him Hannah’s phone number. The person answering the phone said Hannah didn’t live there anymore but gave him the address of the apartment for the elderly. He tracked her down and went to the 3rdfloor and knocked on the door. A gray-haired woman answered the door and it was Hannah Marshall. When she saw the wallet and read the note she cried. She said the letter was her last contact with Michael and she never married because she never met anyone she loved as much as Michael. She asked Ted if, when if he ever found Michael, he would tell him she still loved him. Ted left and as he walked down the hallway, the janitor saw the wallet and asked him why he had Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. Ted asked where Mr. Goldstein lived. He was in same apartment on the 8thfloor. At the 8thfloor and elderly man named Michael answered the door Ted showed him the wallet and letter. Michael told him his life nearly ended when he lost Hannah. He had never married. Ted walked him to Hanna’s room. The two instantly recognized each other and a 60 year separation evaporated in the warmth of their love. Three weeks later, Ted got a call asking him to be their best man. A 79 yr old man and a 76 yr old woman finally found each other.

Many find happiness in things that will soon dissolve – money, pleasure, fame, comedy. But there is no joy like the joy when you help a person become a Christian. Get involved in soul winning. There is no greater joy.

What can we do? 3 words summarize these stories:

  • Lost: If you realize you are lost, Jesus came to search for you. Turn to Him and rest on His shoulders for salvation.
  • Found: The real challenge for believers is what we are willing to do to find the lost. What do we do to search for the lost that causes others to ask, “Why are you doing that?”
  • Rejoice: If you discover what’s going on in heaven, you will discover what should be happening down here. Heaven rejoices when the lost are found. Let’s find more lost and rejoice like we’re in heaven.

When Betty Goldstein of Staten Island, New York, entered the hospital, her husband Ron wrapped her 3.5-carat diamond ring in a napkin for safekeeping. But in a forgetful moment, the 63-year-old Goldstein threw the napkin in the trash. When he realized his mistake, he dashed outside, only to see the garbage truck rumbling down the street. So he called the local sanitation department and got permission to follow the truck to a transfer station. Workers began sorting through hundreds of garbage bags and recovered the ring an hour later. We are surrounded by people valued at more than that 3.5 carat diamond ring. They are the most precious object in the world to God. Go and search for them.