I originally published this in September 2018. But I wanted to revisit it because I have been hearing so much lately from fellow believers about trials and suffering (even in my own life) and they are wondering, “where is God in all of this?”. It’s easy to feel abandoned when everything seems to be caving in and piling up all around us. But know for certain that God sees you. He has not left you. The days are quickly coming where our faith will be severely tested. Perhaps today is the day He has chosen to test our faith in the fires of adversity, so that when those days come we will stand firm and steadfast in Him.
While this account in the gospel of Mark is primarily concerned with salvation, it is just as relevant in our lives as believers and clearly portrays our Savior as El-Roi, The God Who Sees. There is a day coming, either in this life or the next when we will be completely set free from all suffering, sorrow, and bondage. This world isn’t the endgame for us. Let’s determine to look forward to the day when our faith will be sight and all will be made new and right.
“What do you think? If someone owns a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go look for the one that went astray?” ~Matthew 18:12
Maybe you’re like me and when you first read this verse you thought, “This is such a comforting promise, that Jesus would come in search of me if ever I go astray. Even to the point of leaving those who have never gone astray.” And while that is a very comforting thought, and certainly true, I believe this verse conveys a larger and more magnificent message than we might initially understand.
During His time on earth, Jesus made it clear that it is not us who choose Him – but that He chooses us. We could never make the choice to come to God on our own. Maybe you came to know Christ because someone shared the gospel with you personally. Or maybe you heard of Him while surfing the radio and stumbling onto a Christian radio station. And just maybe it was something more supernatural such as a visitation in a dream or a vision. Maybe you don’t yet know Him as your Lord and Savior. Whatever the situation, you can be assured that meeting Him is never by happenstance.
A Random Encounter
In the following story, Jesus seemingly happens to visit a random shoreline where he runs into a random man who has been possessed by demons for so long that his body is all but destroyed, and he is no longer in control of his own mind.
So they came to the other side of the lake, to the region of the Gerasenes. Just as Jesus was getting out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came from the tombs and met him. He lived among the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For his hands and feet had often been bound with chains and shackles, but he had torn the chains apart and broken the shackles in pieces. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Each night and every day among the tombs and in the mountains, he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him. Then he cried out with a loud voice, “Leave me alone, Jesus, Son of the Most High God! I implore you by God—do not torment me!” (For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of that man, you unclean spirit!”) Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” He begged Jesus repeatedly not to send them out of the region. There on the hillside, a great herd of pigs was feeding. And the demonic spirits begged him, “Send us into the pigs. Let us enter them.” Jesus gave them permission. So the unclean spirits came out and went into the pigs. Then the herd rushed down the steep slope into the lake, and about two thousand were drowned in the lake. Now the herdsmen ran off and spread the news in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man sitting there, clothed and in his right mind—the one who had the “Legion”—and they were afraid. Those who had seen what had happened to the demon-possessed man reported it, and they also told about the pigs. Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their region. ~Mark 5:1-17
Yes! And it’s even more awesome when you step back and read what Jesus was doing just before and then after this encounter. Chapter 4 of the book of Mark tells us,
Again [Jesus] began to teach by the lake. Such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there while the whole crowd was on the shore by the lake. On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” So after leaving the crowd, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat, and other boats were with him. ~Mark 4:1,35
Jesus started and spent His day teaching by the seashore with a very large crowd gathered around Him. We don’t know how long He was there before He decidedly leaves the crowd for the other side, but it’s clear the crowd was still there and had borne the heat of the day to be with Him and hear Him teach. So devoted were they that some even decided to follow Him in their own boats. It’s at this point, where the story above picks up. Fast forward now, and Jesus is getting back into His boat after his encounter with the man in the tombs:
As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. And He did not let him, but He said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore. Mark 5:18-21 (NASB)
Did you catch that? “When Jesus had crossed over again in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him; and so He stayed by the seashore.” Mark 5:21
“So… Jesus was on the shore teaching a big crowd of people then abruptly decides to leave them and go to the other side?” Yes! “Then He just happens to run into a demoniac, casts out his legion of demons, heals him and then goes back to the other side to pick up where He left off?” Yes!!
He left the ninety-nine. The thousands who had come to hear Him teach. The crowd that was so dedicated to stay with Him all day long. To seek out ONE man, in a region mostly inhabited by pagans, living in the tombs and possessed by a legion of demons. And He healed him, saved him, and sent him back to his home to tell about the wonders of God! Then, as if nothing at all had happened, He returned to the crowd that was waiting for Him and picked up where He left off!
Think about this..
Before this man was born, his appointment with the Savior was set. This was no random encounter. How do I know that? Because the Bible tells me so:
“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” ~Psalm 139:16
In a world of almost 7.6 billion people it’s easy to feel invisible and insignificant. But to Jesus, each of us is that ONE precious sheep, set apart from everyone else. And each one of us has an appointment with Him that has been set from the foundation of the world. Just you and Him. Just me and Him. Our special day, where He leaves the 99 to bring us into His fold.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” ~Isaiah 53:6
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” ~Luke 19:10
And it doesn’t stop there
What does the Bible say about those who belong to Him?
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. For God achieved what the law could not do because it was weakened through the flesh. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and concerning sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the law may be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:1-4, 38-39
Absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love
Not even ourselves. And although this side of heaven we will experience suffering, pain, and loss –because we live in a fallen and sin-filled world– the Bible tells us that even this suffering will result in our good when all things are made new:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” 1 Peter 4:12-13
So let’s continue to fight the good fight and to take up our cross daily, knowing that we are precious to God; and that whatever we might be going through, our sufferings in this life cannot begin to compare to what awaits us in glory, Romans 8:18!
- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.