There’s a little baseball field across the street from my house where a couple of Little League teams practice from time to time, and it’s also used as an improvised driving range a couple of times a week by some local golfers. I often go walking over there with our granddaughter and it was during one of our walks that I noticed the baseballs and golf balls that were being left behind. They were laying out in the open where the field was mowed and well maintained, so they weren’t hard to spot.
It seemed a shame to leave them out there to rot or get run over by a lawn mower, so I started picking them up and taking them home. It became a weekly thing for my granddaughter and me, scavenging for baseballs and golf balls. At first we brought home about two or three baseballs and maybe four or five golf balls every week. One day though, we were walking along the edge of the ballfield and I just happened to look over into an adjacent field that’s part of the same property. It’s just an empty field that’s seldom ever mowed. The grass and weeds are overgrown and are almost knee deep in some places. I looked over there and hidden in the weeds was a baseball that was almost brand new. I’d probably walked by it ten or twelve times but never noticed it. I looked the area over a little closer and found several more. Some had been there a while and had rotted away, but there were others in decent condition. They just needed to be cleaned up. So I looked more closely and sure enough, we started finding golf balls also. Most of them were just laying on top of the ground but they were hidden by the weeds and tall grass. All told we took home about eight baseballs and probably more than a dozen golf balls. From then on, I made it a point to check that field every time we went walking over there and on average, we probably found about six to eight baseballs and a dozen or so golf balls every week.
On the opposite side of the ballfield is a side street and on the other side of that street is another empty field. It’s fenced off, but it hasn’t been maintained in years. It’s more overgrown than the other field. We were walking along the edge of the side street when I spotted a baseball just out of reach on the other side of the fence. So I hopped the fence to go retrieve it. As I waded through the waist high weeds, I looked down and saw golf balls everywhere! I hadn’t seen them from the street because of the weeds. After gathering them up, we took them home and counted them. There were over a hundred!
As I picked up all those golf balls, I said to myself, “God, I don’t know if there’s a lesson in this or not, but if there is, let me know.” Well, God heard that, and here’s the lesson: If you want to find the lost, you have to look in the weeds. That sounds simple but think of it this way. The church is the well maintained field that’s regularly mowed and watered. The world……..well that’s easy; the world is represented by the weeds and unmowed fields. SURE, we can spend all our time hanging out around the church, and lost people will come. There will always be some who find their way to the church, and we certainly need to be there for them when they do. But there are far more lost and hurting people to be found out in the world. In other words, there are times when we need to step away from the well maintained fields and go walk through the weeds looking for the ones that are lost.
Jesus said, “If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is lost?” The shepherd in that parable wouldn’t be searching for his lost sheep in the barn. He would have to go look out in the wilderness if he had any hope of finding the lost sheep and bringing it home.
And sometimes, it gets messy. That pasture was choked with weeds that produce those little burrs that stick to your socks and shoe strings and my socks and shoes were covered with them. But the the deeper I went into the tall grass and weeds, the more lost balls I found. God was showing me it’s the same when reaching out to the lost people of the world. A small number of them will always find their way to the doorsteps of the church, and it’s vital that we be there to reach out to them and bring them in. But far greater is the number of hurt and lost people to be found out in the weeds of the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mission trip to a downtown gospel mission twenty miles away, or if it’s a mission trip half way around the world. What matters is finding those who are lost and who need the hope that’s found in Jesus Christ!