By Ricky Chelette
“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.” – Luke 15:17-22
“But when he came to himself.” Verse 17 may be one of the most powerful verses for any individual. No one makes any progress until we take an honest look at who we are, where we are, and what we are doing. The son had been living in the far country enjoying money he hadn’t made and living a life he hadn’t earned. But pleasure never replaces people. Desperate, alone, and hungry, he was at the end of his rope. Friends who partied with him when he was buying drinks are long gone. A Jewish boy, he now competes with pigs for discarded food. He is humiliated. It is hardly the life he had once lived or imagined.
Sometimes our clearest vision comes at our darkest hour. Rarely do we appreciate what we have until it is gone. The prodigal remembered his former life – the kindness, the blessings and privilege he took for granted – and longs for what once was. No work of the father, no manipulative scheme, no well-placed word of guilt eventuated this reality. God was at work and He always is.
The prodigal realizes the gravity of his actions and their consequences. He knows against whom he has sinned and longs for reconciliation (verse 18-19). His movement is God-motivated and God-directed. Only when he realizes the spiritual significance of his actions does he know to reconcile the earthly relationships he has wounded.
Philippians 1:6 says, “that he [God] who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” We can’t control the lives of others, but we have a Father who is faithfully working all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). God is faithful! We have no idea how long the prodigal was in the far country. It may have been a few weeks or a few years, but however long, He was never alone and never out of the sight of God.
But don’t miss what Jesus says about the 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.” Great fathers pray with expectancy. The prodigal’s father allowed the wishes of his adult son, but was praying expectantly that the son would soon come home. “While he was still a long way off…” what amazing words! Do we pray with that kind of expectancy – with that kind of faith? The father knew God was at work even when he could not see God working. He kept looking with hope for His son. Good fathers not only believe God’s truth, they live it.
“His father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” No condemnation. No judgment. No correction or even instruction. Just compassion and love. Was the father weak in his position on truth? Absolutely not. The son knew the father didn’t approve of his choices as evidenced by his acknowledgement of sin against his father. But the consequences of the son’s sinful choices were enough for the father. Instead of demanding acknowledgement of the father’s right beliefs, the father was simply compassionate and loving. Good fathers leave the conviction and judgment to God alone.
Do you know a prodigal in the far country? Can you trust God’s promises for them? Are you praying expectantly for them and their return?
Are you in the far country? What will it take for you to come to the end of yourself? Are you really willing to experience the consequences of your choices or is today the day you come to the end of yourself? Come home to the Father. He longs to embrace you, kiss you and love you as His beloved son/daughter.