The Value of One
Never Devalue the Value of One
“So it is not the will of our father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”
For those involved in ministry, whether a pastor or a Sunday School teacher, it is easy to get discouraged when we do not see visible, outward results. This is especially true in the small church. We see the growth of other churches; we hear of the dramatic effects that others achieve and become discouraged because we do not see those same results. We would like to be the one others talk about for our dramatic results. Thus, we struggle with the question, “Is my ministry valuable when just a few are influenced by the gospel?”
In this parable, Jesus compares his attitude to that of a shepherd. In the story, one of his sheep has gone astray. Instead of worrying about the ninety-nine sheep and their safety, he immediately searches for the one that is lost. What is remarkable about the story is that the flock is still on the mountain, presumably far from the safety of the sheep-fold. For the shepherd to leave the ninety-nine implies some level of risk. However, the focus is not on the flock but the missing one. He is prepared to leave the rest of the flock at some risk to find the missing one. When he finds the missing one, he rejoices over it even more than the other ninety-nine. This does not mean he does not care about the rest of the flock. Indeed, he does. The point is that the one individual sheep is equally essential as the whole flock.
Christ is making a point that his concern for people is not for the masses but for the individual. God is not playing a numbers game. Instead, he is focused on each individual needing salvation. God values individuals so that each person is of infinite worth to God. Peter points this out when he states that God desires no one to perish and God does not take pleasure in the judgment of sinners (2 Peter 3:9). So also God says in Ezekiel 33:11, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.” God is a holy God who will judge sin and will judge those who reject his offer of salvation. However, that is not his delight; his delight is when people accept his grace and embrace the salvation he offers.
This story provides us with an important lesson regarding our ministry. It is not the size of our ministry, or even the numbers reached with it that determines God’s approval. What matters is now how many, but who. If all we do is reach one person with the gospel and bring them into God’s kingdom, God rejoices with the same joy as he would if we thousands. For each person transformed by the gospel, the heaven breaks out into a celebrative shout of joy. Jesus states in Luke 15:10, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” If all we do is reach one person with the gospel through our ministry, for that one person and our God, our ministry has infinite and eternal value, and God himself shouts for joy. It is easy to get discouraged when the numbers are few. It is easy to question the value of our ministry when only a few people respond. However, numbers are not important to God. Individuals are essential to him. It does not matter if we have 100 kids coming to the Awana program or 10. The question is not the number of children who attend, but individuals reached with the gospel. If we only see one child come to Christ due to our ministry, our ministry is still worth it and a success. This story reminds us that we should never devalue the value of one.