In the midst of the enormous vision for world evangelization, we need to keep a balance between commitment to our vision and commitment to individuals. We must always see the big picture—like the 2.7 billion unreached people in our generation. But at the same time, we must not lose sight of the individuals the Lord has placed around us. God never forgot the individual. He saw Noah, Abraham, Hannah and David, knowing each by name.
We humans are so easily moved by large numbers and the majority. We see this in the ways of the world—so political that one individual is easily disregarded, sent to the slaughterhouse for the sake of some kind of gain. But God does not operate this way.
In the parable of the lost sheep found in Luke 15, Jesus talked about the importance of one in the midst of a multitude. He spoke of a man with 100 sheep, who, when discovering one little lamb was lost, left the entire fold to search for the one. The shepherd did not say, “Oh well, I’ve got 99 left. Let the one go. It’s okay.” No. He left the 99 to pursue the one lost, searching until he found it. Then he carried that one that strayed home on his shoulders, rejoicing. The Lord said, “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:7, NIV). The heavens rejoice when just one person finds his way to the Father’s love.
When I was 16 years old, I was part of a mission organization involving some 450-plus people. Even though I couldn’t speak English fluently and was not very qualified, someone saw me as an individual made by God, with potential from Him. If that person had looked only at the entire movement and the big vision God gave, they could have said, “You don’t qualify. There’s no way to fit you into our system,” and passed me by. But somebody was willing to see me, the little individual, in the multitude of people.
The same thing happened in Genesis 16. Here we see the Father’s heart for the individual through the story of Hagar, a woman alone and crying out in desperation. Even though Hagar was just an Egyptian maidservant and not a part of the house of Israel, God came down solely to minister to this woman and give her a promise.
Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Looking at the way Christ dealt with individuals helps us understand how much He cares about each one of us. Jesus looked for the one man Matthew, a tax collector whom nobody loved or cared for. He sought after one Nicodemus, one Zaccheus, one Samaritan woman, one woman caught in sin, one sick man lying by the pool for 38 years, one blind beggar. This is the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Yet He who spoke to and cared for the individual did not disregard the multitudes. “When [Jesus] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). He cared for millions, while at the same time caring for the individual, finding time even for a handful of little children.
We must see the world, “for God so loved the world” (John 3:16). This verse shows us a glimpse of the Father’s love and knowledge, His care and concern for every human being—that means the approximately 6 billion people living on planet Earth at this time in history. At the same time, that statement includes one individual like you and me. In the book of Psalms, the writer says, “As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord is thinking about me right now” (Psalm 40:17, NLT).
I heard an amazing incident that took place during the Special Olympics years ago. Nine physically and mentally handicapped children lined up for the 100-meter dash in which the participants trained for months. Finally, the big event was at hand. Everyone readied for the race to begin. At the sound of the gun, they darted off. A few moments into the race, one boy stumbled, fell to his knees and began to cry.
Sitting there on the track, he looked up to see everyone else running ahead of him to the finish line. Along with the pain in his knees was the pain from everything he had worked so hard for—gone in one fall. The boy’s cries filled the track area.
The spectators in the stands heard it, as did the other runners competing. Then the most beautiful thing happened. All the other runners stopped their racing and ran back to the injured boy, helping to lift the fallen one. And together, all nine children linked arms and went toward the finish line.
Of course, all those who watched cried and cheered and clapped. But the question must be asked, will we do the same for someone who fails or needs a helping hand?
It may be in the way of writing a letter or making a telephone call. It may be saying a word of encouragement to lift them up in their time of discouragement. It simply could be giving some money or material things in a time of need. Sometimes it is simply saying nothing but just listening.
Whatever it may be, remember, this is how the Lord treats us. May we, in our following Him and fulfilling what He called us to do—being very busy and doing His work—not overlook the individuals who may need our attention or our help. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). Jesus also told us we must do unto others what we would want others to do for us. Surely you and I do not want to be forgotten or ignored. Let us be Christlike in our response to all people.
Everyone the Lord places in our lives, everywhere, at any time, is important. My hope is that while maintaining vision and running toward the finish line, we will not trample over the individual. We must never let a world vision blind us from seeing the people working right alongside us who need attention, care, love, affection and understanding.
© 2003 by KP Yohannan, the president and founder of Gospel for Asia. It was written with the intention of encouraging and edifying the Body of Christ. To learn more about Gospel for Asia or to receive additional free resources, visit Gospel for Asia’s website.