For weeks, the entire world watched and listened for updates on the group of young men who were part of a soccer team that had gone with their coach into a cave in Thailand. The first we heard of them was when it was discovered they were stranded in that dark cave. Then came the encouraging and exciting word that they had been located and were alive. As the story unfolded, it certainly became more intriguing because they had been lost for nine days in a cave where the rising waters had pushed them farther and farther underground. They were in total darkness, unprepared for the moment, and it was unthinkable what twelve young men and their coach were going through. They could not escape. They had no food. They were desperate. All they could do was wait.
After nine days, the word went out across news outlets that they had been found. Oh, what a relief that was! In a sense, though, that was only the beginning of the story. They were found but at the time, it seemed impossible that they would be able to get out. All the rescue people started gathering to try to figure out how they could go about rescuing them from their dilemma. If it were possible for us to spend maybe an hour or two hours in total darkness, cold and hungry with no contact with anyone outside the folks in the same condition we are in, wondering if anybody was trying to find us, wondering if we would ever be found, or if there would ever be the possibility of escaping.
The highly trained Thai SEALs and other divers from across the world no doubt realized that it would be almost impossible to get them out. Most if not all the boys could not even swim. To get them out of the cave meant the boys were going to have to go underwater through some areas and swim across other areas to get to the cave opening. Monsoon rains were predicted. The water would rise even higher. One of the possibilities being discussed was drilling a relief hole which, if they were to get all the equipment to the mountain above the boys and start drilling down, would probably take months. The whole world was captivated by this unbelievable scene.
The boys were not in good shape, having gone without food and good water for so long. You begin to wonder how in the world did they even exist through nine days until they were discovered there in that cave. For me, I got conditioned that every time the news was on I would want to hear about the boys, their conditions, and the possibilities of them getting rescued. While there was a lot of discussion and hundreds of skilled divers and rescue workers gathered, there was still no easy way to get them out.
Then came early Sunday morning, July 8. Word went out around the world that a rescue effort was underway. None of the particulars of how they were going about it or what they were doing were released, and so there was no way to know if they were going to get one person out or five would escape or if they would rescue all of them in one day.
I was watching the news in the background as I was preparing to drive to where I was going to preach that Sunday, but my mind and my heart were wrapped up in the rescue effort. I wasn’t there, but for days I had been praying somehow, someway, God would provide an opportunity for those boys to escape. For me, it was one of those experiences in prayer where I was on the other side of the world and even if I was there at the cave opening, I was not prepared to go in there, find those boys, and bring them out though my heart would want to do it. I couldn’t do it, but I did pray for them and I prayed that God would be merciful to them and somehow be glorified in all of us being joined together in seeing Him at work to allow gifted, prepared people to bring the boys to safety.
As the rescue effort unfolded, the first word came that two of the boys had been rescued. What an amazing thing. I knew there were ten other boys and their coach still in there, but now two of the boys were out and on the way to the hospital. In the midst of it all, they had been rescued.
The word, “rescued,” kept coming to my heart and I thought about all of us, every man and woman on the planet, who have found ourselves trapped in the darkness, in the hopelessness of sin, and needing someone to come and rescue us. It is a fairly well-known but little used verse from Isaiah that has to do with the Christmas story. Isaiah 9:2, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” It is focused on Jesus coming to us, bringing hope and help to us, coming to rescue us. In fact, one of the first New Testament words we have about Jesus coming to be our rescuer is in Matthew 1:21, “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” The word is saved. Rescue us.
Hardly a day goes by for me, and I’m sure for many of you, that you don’t see or know of somebody, some situation, some family member, someone that you know but haven’t had contact with in a while who is in a dilemma and you wish something could be done. You wish hope could come. You long for a rescuer to come to the dilemma they are facing in their lives. My friends, Jesus can rescue us from the darkness and despair of our world. The hopelessness of being stuck and un-rescuable. He has come and He can deliver us.
Rescued! Over the next three days, four more boys were rescued, then four more were rescued, and the final day on Tuesday it was announced around the world that the last four boys and the coach had been brought out of what initially appeared to be a sealed death sentence. The good news was that they were rescued. The good news is that rescue has come to us – to me, to you, we all. As I rejoiced in what had taken place, I thought again and again of what had transpired.
There was one thought that kept everything moving forward to the rescue and that thought was the urgency. The urgency on the part of the rescuers and divers not to give up but to press on. The urgency to get to the boys, to find some way to get them out, to rescue them. I suppose it is that one thing that too often is missing in our heartbeats to reach a world for Christ. We get sidelined by circumstances around us. We get diverted to other things and just forget about the urgency of reaching someone. We lose the passion that Jesus had and maintains to reach a lost world. Oh, that the urgency and the awareness of the need would be in our hearts day by day, never to lose sight of those who are stuck in the dilemma of darkness and hunger.
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