“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.”
– Luke 15:11-22 ESV
The prodigal son in Luke 15 enjoys a life of abundance, and he knows half of a sizeable inheritance is coming his way. The fact that he has an estate to inherit shows his family is wealthy. But waiting on half of the estate isn’t good enough. He has to have it now.
In my mind, I can just see the prodigal son working in his father’s field. He’s drenched in sweat and has a cramp in his back. He’s filthy. He’s parched. He lifts his head to feel a cool breeze and notices that none of the laborers in the next field is working. Everyone is milling around, drinking cold water, and eating fruit. It’s almost his break time, too, but everything looks better over there, and they’re only hired workers…
If I’m a son and all this is really mine, why do I have to do all of this hard work? It would be so freeing to have my inheritance now. That’s what I want. I want what is rightfully mine, and I want it now.
That’s the lie the son fell for, and that’s the lie we’ve all fallen for. We want it all, and we want it now.
The son wants his share of the inheritance without submitting to the authority that would be in place until his father dies. In other words, when he asked his dad for his inheritance, he communicated, “I wish you were dead.”
So the prodigal son runs. Life is good at first, but he soon squanders all his possessions on wanton living. He discovers that the boundaries and the life that his father had given him were as good as it gets. Back home, he had everything he ever needed—only to assume he was missing out on something better. When you drill down into his motives, he wanted freedom. Freedom is a code word for control. The prodigal son wanted the reins of his own existence.
Too often we want what comes along with God but we don’t really want God. We want the peace and comfort and joy. But, more than anything, we want control. The way we live shows we don’t want God to control our lives, and yet we still have the audacity to wonder, “How can I get all of that peace stuff too?”
The giant lie at the end of all of our own plans is that they’re still not going to take us far enough to satisfy. Usually when we’re running from God, the end game is not in mind. The now is in mind.
When you’re running from God, you’ll still have quiet moments. God is right there in those quiet moments, still reaching out to you. Have you ever noticed that when you’re running from God you’ll change the radio station away from the Christian song that is speaking to you or the sermon that is convicting you? The most miserable person on Earth is a believer trying to run from God. Whatever you’re trying to do to run away from him, you can’t keep the noise loud enough to drown him out. He won’t let you—because you’re his, no matter how much you want to try to be your own.
We’ll paint over the truth to avoiding facing it. We’ll paint it as judgment to get away from it. We’ll paint it as a “worldview” so we can rationalize it away. We’ll paint it as hate speech. We’ll paint it as anything we can imagine to avoid dealing with it. That’s why we believers must be in God’s Word for ourselves. Whatever someone else may say to us, we can figure out a way to discount it. But when we’re alone and the room gets quiet, we know. Deep down, we know we can’t discount God’s truth.
Many of us have run hard enough and far enough that we thought we could never come back home. We’ve told ourselves, “God is gonna be finished with me.”
We can never forget that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37-39). His love is always there. It’s there right now. If you recognize that still, small voice persistently calling out to you, it’s proof that God is with you right now. His love is inescapable, and it always calls out to us when we go our own way…
It’s time to stop running now. You don’t need to have it all figured out. You just need to come home.
Can you remember a time when you wanted the “stuff” of God more than you wanted God himself? What were the results of your actions, how did you respond, and how did you grow from the experience?
In what ways does your current walk with the Lord reflect a self-centered attitude? Are you counting on anything or anyone other than God to satisfy you? Have you wondered from your spiritual home? How would the Lord have you respond?