“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.” — Matthew 18:12-14
When three American soldiers were held as prisoners in Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis, their loved ones in the United States tied yellow ribbons around the trees in front of their homes. We’ve seen yellow ribbons before when loved ones are being held prisoner.
I think my first recollection of seeing them was during the Iran hostage crisis when the American embassy staff in Iran was held hostage for many months. Now, the people who loved those being held hostage tied these yellow ribbons around the trees in their yards – and they wouldn’t take them down.
The yellow ribbons were a symbol of their hope that the one they loved would be back home. And when those hostages finally did come home, man, there were yellow ribbons everywhere!
Now, it may be that someone you love is a prisoner of war – the spiritual war that is raging for every soul, the battle between Christ, the life-giver, and Satan, the life-taker. It could be that someone you care about is, in a spiritual sense, being held as a prisoner of war by the enemy– someone who knows Christ but is away from him, or maybe someone who doesn’t know Christ and seems like they’ll never come around.
Like the people who hung those yellow ribbons, you need to keep your hope alive for the return of the one who’s a spiritual captive right now. Why, because of the wonderful promise of Jesus in Matthew 18.
Now, Jesus is in pursuit of the one you love who is away from Him– active pursuit– aggressive pursuit. He is, as that classic poem says, “the Hound of Heaven.” Even though your loved one doesn’t know they’re a prisoner, even though their heart seems to be getting harder and harder, even though the battle for their soul has gone on for a long, long time, Jesus knows how to bring that dear one home.
He is moving people and circumstances around so they will end up face-to-face with Him. He will bring them home, not you. You just keep loving them, just keep believing God for them, and don’t try to pursue them yourself with spiritual nagging.
Don’t take your yellow ribbon down. Don’t give up hope. There may not be much visible reason for hope, but your hope is based on the promise of the most powerful Person in the universe – that He is passionately pursuing that one that you love.
The rescue team has been dispatched from heaven on their behalf. You can’t see what God’s doing, but you can be sure He is throwing everything into the rescue operation that you’ve prayed about so many times.
So don’t stop pouring out your heart in prayer for your prisoner of war. Don’t lose faith in the power of your Savior’s stubborn love to change their heart. That son who’s away, that daughter, that grandchild, your mom or dad or husband or wife, your sibling, your friend – Jesus knows exactly how to find them and how to bring them home no matter how long it takes.
He responds to our faith, so don’t stop believing God for their rescue. Jesus taught us, according to Luke 18:1, to “always pray and not give up.” After the days of heartache and waiting, trust God for that glorious day when the prisoner of war you love will be gloriously welcomed home.