July 17, 2018

What Christians Can Learn from the Thai Soccer Team Rescue

The world was recently fixated on the rescue of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach, who were trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand for three weeks. As I kept up with the story, I couldn’t help but think about those in need of spiritual rescue. There are several important lessons Christians can learn from the Thai soccer team rescue mission.

Rescuers have to go out. The governor mobilized the military, 20 government agencies, and hundreds of volunteers. Of course, all of these people didn’t gather in one spot in hopes that the team would find them. Upon recognition that the team was lost, rescuers went out. Well, Jesus left Heaven to seek and to save the lost. As His followers, we have the same task. The local church is a base of operations to equip and mobilize an army for search and rescue. While it’s wonderful to have attractive facilities and meaningful worship services, we can’t wait for those in need of rescue to find us. We must send people out to find them.

Rescuers need to search with urgency. The rains that pushed the boys and their coach into the caves were just the beginning of the monsoon season. Water from the coming storms would make an already difficult rescue, nearly impossible. Time was of the essence. Similarly, effective evangelism acts with urgency because no one is guaranteed another day or another hour. Death is inevitable, and may even be imminent. If we truly believe that people who die without trusting in Jesus are condemned and will be trapped in Hell for eternity, then we’ll seek to rescue lost souls with greater urgency.

Multiple strategies must be tried. Rescuers searched for other entrances to the cave. They also tried to reach the team by drilling a hole from above. Eventually, highly skilled cave divers, along with Thai Navy Seals, used miles of rope and air tanks to rescue them. It took 10 days to find the team and at least another 10 days to get them out. In the same way, not every evangelism strategy works. But every means possible should still be tried. We need greater perseverance. After all, our rescue mission isn’t just a matter of life and death – it’s a matter of eternity.

The ultimate objective should be kept in mind. Also making their way out of the cave were four Thai divers, an army doctor, and three members of the Thai Navy SEALs. For more than a week, these rescuers stayed in the cave, preparing the team for their underwater escape. They were concerned with getting them out, not with making the cave more comfortable. Some mission efforts have more to do with making the world a better place than introducing lost people to Jesus. I agree that meeting needs opens a door for the Gospel. However, we must be careful to keep our ultimate objective in mind. Because our exit from this life is certain, we need to prepare those around us for a journey to freedom instead of just preparing them for a more comfortable bondage.

Rescuers must value the lives of others. Petty Officer First Class Saman Gunan, a former Thai Navy Seal, volunteered to help. He simply wanted to use his skills to save lives. He was laying oxygen tanks along the underwater cave complex when he fell unconscious about 1.5km from the cave entrance. The rescue effort didn’t take Saman’s life; he gave it in an effort to save others. The life of Jesus teaches us that winning souls often comes with great sacrifice. It is not a work done by comfort seekers. Few of us will ever die for sharing the Gospel. Yet we’re called to sacrifice our time, comfort, and preferences in an effort to save the lost. When believers genuinely value the lives of the lost, we don’t hesitate to follow our Savior – even when obedience means personal sacrifice.

People without Jesus Christ are lost and trapped in the condemnation of their sins. They have no way of saving themselves. Their political views don’t make them lost. Nor does their race, gender, IQ, sexual identity, or economic background. It’s just a human condition. Because the lost are in eternal danger, there is an urgent need for rescuers to mobilize as an army of light. Which of these lessons rings true with you? How will you act upon it today?