There's No Barrenness in Barron!
Read Philippians 1:12-18; Matthew 28:18-20
I was wrong, and what a wonderful thing it was. Usually being wrong doesn't feel so good, but not so this time. Almost three months ago in Barron, Wisconsin, Denise and James Closs were shot and killed in their home, and their daughter 13-year-old Jayme went missing. I think I prayed for the little girl when I first heard the terrible news story, but when I heard the occasional up-date, indicating that Jayme was still missing, I must admit that I thought that she was probably dead. Praise the Lord for the fact that this was not true. She is alive, and yesterday, my husband and I listened as many of the leaders in Barron gave what details they could concerning Jayme's having escaped from the house where she had been kept, as well as the details of the community's having worked together throughout the days of waiting and searching for her. No matter which person spoke, their words were laced with honor and respect for all who helped throughout those long 88 days of sorrow and hope. There was thanks expressed to God for answered prayer and gratefulness to those who brought food to those who worked with the sheriff and with the other agencies. Those who spoke expressed gratitude for those who worked out of different agencies than their own, and the leaders were grateful to all who called the tip line and for the community's watchfulness during those long days.
I know we can't know all that happened during this very difficult time, but it appeared as we listened to those who spoke yesterday, that people kept their focus on the goal. Jayme being restored safely to her family. I wonder if having a common precious desire helps keep people from being diverted and divided by unimportant things? Even while they prayed, worked and waited the people of Barron kept their hopeful focus. In mid-December, a 16-foot Christmas tree was donated. They called it the Tree of Hope. Jayme's classmates decorated it with homemade ornaments and notes to Jayme and her family. One said "Come Home Soon", a reminder that they continued to keep their hope alive. They believed that Jayme would be restored to her family. How beautiful it is to know that Jayme is now safe with her aunt.
As I listened to that news conference and the joy they all expressed, I couldn't help but think of those of us who belong to Jesus. Like those in Barron, we also have a common goal and mission. It was given to us by the Master right before He went back to heaven, Matthew 28:18-20. Although those we are to go to and tell about the Savior aren't often in physical danger as Jayme was, they are in need of rescuing, something only the Lord can do. God has given us each the job of being His ambassador. Because of this, the scriptures make it clear that the Lord is pleading through us concerning the necessity that men, women, boys and girls be reconciled to Him, 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. That means that every believer, no matter either his giftedness or her flaws has the same responsibility and privilege.
What a precious mandate we all have from the Lord, and, along with this incredible Gift we have to share, we can't forget that we have an enemy who opposes us, 1 Peter 5:8. In Philippians 1:12-18, we see one of his tactics and how Paul was not ensnared by Satan's trap. It is generally believed that Paul was under house arrest, chained to guards, when he wrote Philippians. He wrote several of the epistles that we have during this time, and he was allowed to have friends come and attend to his needs. Yet, he was not free to come and go. In this section of Philippians 1, the apostle spoke about two different groups of people who had two different agendas and motives. Some believers, knowing his chains, had become bold, telling others about Jesus. They wanted to bring Paul joy. On the other hand, others shared God's word while speaking ill about Paul. They wanted to bring pain to him. Knowing this, Paul had a choice. Would his mind be diverted and would he become embittered against those who had bad motives toward him? Would his eyes get off Jesus and His work and would he focus, instead, on the wrong motives of men? In this case, the apostle kept his focus on the goal, the sharing of the Gospel. His vitality and energy, as far as we know from the scriptures, was not wasted by his being sidetracked by the duplicity of some men. Therefore, he rejoiced, regardless of the motives of those who shared the Good News.
Something else came out in yesterday's news conference. The people of Baron were alert, and they kept looking for Jayme. They knew what she looked like, and when she got away from her kidnapper, she was recognized. We too need to be watching so that when God places someone in our path who needs His love, we will recognize the Holy Spirit's leading and act upon it. This is another time when Satan would like to trip us up. If he can turn our focus on to our own desires or our disappointments with other people's actions, chances to act as God's ambassadors can slip away.
Father, Thank You for Jayme's being rescued. Please help her each day, according to the need. Also, please help us to keep our focus on You. Help us not to miss Your leading, and if we do, help us up again, ready to hear Your voice.