More than Numbers

“6 have been rescued alive; 4 dead,” the man said. Ten of the twelve people on the helicopter had been accounted for; it would only be a matter of time before two others had been found dead, putting the total death toll at 6. On August 12th, 2015, in what was both a sad and shocking occurrence, a helicopter making its way to the mainland of Lagos, Nigeria crashed in the Oworosoki end of Lagos Lagoon. Not 10 days later, another death toll was reported: another helicopter crashed, killing 7; and in a barrage of attacks, 79 more people died on August 31st alone in Baanu, Gwoza, and Karnuwa at the hands of Boko Haram. Between August 12th and August 31st alone, over 90 people in Nigeria died in these violent or accidental deaths; and the death toll only goes up from there, when recalling the approximately 15,000 people who have died since Boko Haram’s bloody uprising in 2009. 

As the death toll reaches the ten thousands, and the news reports come out almost every day, it can be incredibly hard to see past the statistics; and, quite honestly, many don’t want to. The 18-20 year old girls of Chibok, Nigeria kidnapped by Boko Haram last April are no exception of this. August 28th, 2015 marked the 500th day of their captivity— and though President Muhammadu Buhari promised to wipe out Boko Haram in three months’ time, his promises concerning these precious young women are harder to come by.

The time ticks by– and with it, the numbers of those wounded, killed, enslaved, and otherwise hurt by Boko Haram continues to rise, as reports of freak accidents and senseless tragedies stack up. Yet, every number in these tolls represents a person, with a name, a face, and a story.

Jesus affirms this in a very poignant way. By His very nature– being fully God while being fully man– Jesus showed His Love for all mankind, as well as His Love for us personally. His ministry was very public, but He always made time for the individual people who were apart of the crowds. In fact, Jesus Himself assured His followers of the Love and intimate knowledge He, God, has for each and every person who has ever walked this Earth. After giving His famous “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus expresses this truth at length– so that anyone who doubted in this life could be confident in Him.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
(Matthew 10:29-31, ESV)

Jesus has counted every hair on every head that has ever lived. Not only has He counted every strand of hair on every head; He “directs the steps of the godly [and] delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23, NLT). Think of it: every detail insinuates that Jesus knows our exact time of birth, the exact time of death, and every breath in between.

As Jesus spoke in the Old Testament about Israel, He spoke to the nation– both as a whole, and as people. He doesn’t only Love more deeply than us; He loves more vastly. The close, personal Love Jesus shows to all mankind is perfectly equal, and He cares both deeply and passionately for all people, no matter if they love or honor Him themselves.

This is beautifully seen in Matthew 15, as a multitude of people came to Jesus, asking for healing.

Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’
(Matthew 15:32, NIV)

Jesus not only saw the masses; He saw their needs– both inwardly and outwardly, He saw that they needed Him. When Jesus saw these men and women, He wasn’t just concerned about the number of people who had gathered to hear Him speak (which was upwards of at least 4,000), He was concerned about the people themselves, and the healing they came to Him desperate for. Some didn’t even know they needed healing: coming for mere entertainment, with no real faith in or honor for Jesus, He saw and “felt compassion” on them just as He did those seeking. As Matthew 15 goes on, Jesus does what no one would dare imagine: using what little food He is given, Jesus “[gave] thanks, broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.” Jesus did not only feed the crowd; “They all ate and were satisfied, [and] afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 15:36-37). Jesus– one “man,” but the Man who was (and is) God Himself– did not only heal the people of what they obviously needed healing from. He went a step farther, providing for their physical needs. Later on, He would give the ultimate gift to all of mankind: His very life, for their very Salvation. The mystery and beauty of this Salvation is that, while it was given to all of mankind on the cross, each and every person must personally receive it from Jesus Himself to have it (John 3:16). If what Jesus did that day on Calvary for all people, personally, isn’t proof enough of His all-encompassing, passionate Love for each of us, then I don’t know what is. 

People, though counted up in news reports and made to be statistics in studies, are more than numbers. To Jesus Christ, they are worth everything: even His very life, that they may have Life Abundant and Eternal (John 10:10). Those suffering in Nigeria are real; and, at the core, are only able to be relieved by the One who, as in the story of the 4,000, sees them all. With that in mind, let us lift them up in prayer, loving them like Jesus– and seeing beyond the death toll.


Do you know Jesus?

Jesus Christ, or Jesus “Messiah,” was once just one man in a gigantic world of people. But, there was something extraordinarily different about Him: born of a virgin, He was the Son of God– God in human flesh.

Yet, Jesus did not use His high position to lord it over humanity. Instead, He “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8, NIV)! Jesus, God-in-Man, came to Earth to fulfill our most pressing need: the need to be forgiven, and to be reconciled to God.

Jesus, although innocent, died a horrific death; but, it served the highest purpose possible. Meet “the One who gave it all”– and learn more about why He gave it all– here.



Prayer
(feel free to pray along, or simply use it as a guide):

Oh Lord King Jesus,
We praise You and we thank You for the ability to know what is going on in other parts of the world. King Jesus, thank You for granting us access to hundreds of thousands of news articles online, on television, in newspapers, and in magazines. Lord Jesus, we thank You for the many men and women who have given their lives to documenting happenings in other parts of the world, especially where there is unsafe conflict.

Jesus, we have read of and heard about the conflict happening in Your land, Nigeria. King Jesus, we lift up the people of Nigeria to You, especially those who have been involved in the multiple recent helicopter crashes in Kaduna and Lagos. Lord Jesus, we pray for those who are grieving the loss of their loved ones, right now. Jesus, you are “near to the brokenhearted,” and “You save those who are crushed in Spirit” (Psalm 34:18); and we pray, King Jesus, that they would feel Your Presence as they grieve and mourn. Jesus, we pray You would surround those in distress with people who love You and will love them during this time. Jesus, we pray You would hear their cries, and would comfort them– we pray they would know You as Lord and Savior, and that they would praise You for Your faithfulness in this horrible storm.

Lord Jesus, we lift up those involved with Boko Haram’s violence, as well. Jesus, we pray over all those who have been mourning the loss of their loved ones in Boko Haram’s attacks. King Jesus, bring Muslims who are mourning to You; draw them close to You, and strengthen them for the days ahead as they trust in You as Lord and Savior. Jesus, we pray that those who know You would find true shelter under the shadow of Your wings during this time; may they rejoice in You and rest in You right now (Psalm 91:4; Philippians 4:4; Matthew 11:28).

Jesus, we pray over the young women and girls from Chibok who are facing almost 600 days in Boko Haram captivity. Jesus, please bring these girls home or set them free, soon, however You will. Jesus, please bring Muslim girls and women to You; we pray, King Jesus, that you would bring members of Boko Haram to you as well. Lord Jesus, we pray that You would use Your captive people powerfully, to show and share the gospel with all people, no matter the cost, and that you would grant them favor, courage, and the will to obey You in their lives. Lord Jesus, “strengthen [your girls] and protect [them] from the evil one,” as 2 Thessalonians 3:3 states. 

Jesus, lastly, I pray for all those who do not know You as their Personal Lord and Savior. Jesus, so many have prayed and prayed, and are aching for comfort. Jesus, I pray You’d make Yourself real to them right now; show them that You Yourself “are their Peace” (Ephesians 2:14) and are the Peace they have been looking for. Jesus, let them know that You picked them before the Creation of the world to be Your children– not by their might, but by faith in You and Your Sacrifice alone (Ephesians 1:4; 2:8-9). Draw them to You by Your Love, grace, and mercy; show them that true freedom is found in loving and knowing You (John 8:36). They are called by Your Name, King Jesus; and they were created by You, for You. I pray they would accept You as their Lord, Savior, and Father right now, King Jesus– let them be gathered up into Your arms right now. 

We thank You for every bit of this, King Jesus. It is in Your Name that we pray. Amen.

“I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”
(Isaiah 43:7, KJV)

You can find a printable version of this prayer/prayer guide here. Jesus bless you!

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