Freedom unlike anything he’d ever experienced. No one ordering him around, telling him when to get up, when to go to work, or when to come home. Money, too, so much more than the pitiful stipend his father had always given him—enough cash to buy nice clothes, wine in abundance, and pleasure. Whoever said, “Money can’t buy happiness,” must not have had any.
And his friends—open-minded, free spirits like himself who had cast off the restraints of their families and discovered the good life. No more narrow-minded authority. No more pious religion making him feel guilty for having fun. No more busybody older folks “praying” for him.
And then there were the women . . . . eager to help him spend his father’s money, they let him buy them a drink. Or two. Or three. They were willing companions for whatever he wanted to do.
Until the money was gone.
“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:14-16).
It wasn’t long before the gnawing ache for the freedom of the open road became a ravenous hunger for the safety of sheltering walls. His delight in worldy-wise friends became disgust at his own debauchery. The craving for exotic delicacies became a yearning for his mother’s simple fare. His eagerness to escape his father’s loving arms became an overpowering desire to seek safety in his embrace.
“When he came to himself . . .”
. . . there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. (Rom 6:15-16 MSG).
“. . . he said 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!’”
There is food in my father’s house.
The path home was ten times longer than the path that had led him away. Time—too much time—gave him miles of opportunity to rehearse his first words:
“’Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight.”
You can readily recall, can’t you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing—not caring about others, not caring about God—the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? (Rom. 6:19).
He imagined the multitude of possibilities for his father’s first words, too—everything from a well-deserved lecture to a tirade of justifiable curses. But nothing could have prepared him for the words he heard when he finally knelt, broken and humble, at his father’s feet.
“'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.’”
Certain he had heard wrong, he continue his shame-filled confession, “. . . I am no more worthy to be called your son”
“Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate.”
Surely his father wasn’t hearing him. “. . . make me as one of your hired servants.’”
Only the shout of joy and the splash of tears on his outstretched hands stopped his agonized speech.
“For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”
Strong arms embraced him. Rough hands cradled his face. Brown eyes swimming with grateful tears looked deep into his soul.
And they began to celebrate.
Are you a prodigal? Have the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil stolen everything good from your life? Please come home. Your Father is waiting to welcome you.
“As long as you did what you felt like doing, ignoring God, you didn’t have to bother with right thinking or right living, or right anything for that matter. But do you call that a free life? What did you get out of it? Nothing you’re proud of now. Where did it get you? A dead end” (Rom. 6:20-21 MSG).
“But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way” (v. 22-23 MSG).
Are you praying for a prodigal? Please don’t stop. Remember, nothing is too hard for God. One day soon, you, too, will have reason to celebrate.
For a beautiful musical rendition of the roller coaster ride of loving a prodigal, here's Keith Green's "Prodigal Son Suite." Listening will be the best 12 minutes you'll spend today. If you're reading by email, CLICK HERE for the live link.