Luke 15:20-31 | “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.… The father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’”
Psalms 16:11 | “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
There are days when I miss the heart of God and inadvertently slip into a “business-as-usual, day-in, day-out” life where God is present in me, but I am not present to him.
It isn’t a lack of discipline that causes this; it’s a matter of the heart.
Like the younger brother in the story, I’m either off valuing other things, or, like the older brother, I’m choosing the feeling of accomplishment that comes from working for my Father rather than being with him.
And when that happens, I need the picture Jesus painted here revealing that the Father is not distant or detached, but One who is actually willing to defy culture and run to us when we come to him. It’s then that we experience the goodness he pours out, celebrating life together and reminding us that “everything he has is ours.”
When I first met Jesus, I saw myself as the younger brother in this story — a prodigal who could barely receive the undeserved mercy and grace of the Father. My heart was tenderized by his delight in welcoming me home, and for many years, everyone I knew saw God’s redeeming love overflowing from my life.
But as time passed, I slowly became the metaphorical older brother who was working in the family business, serving long and hard. Now, instead of gratitude filling my heart, seeds of pride and resentment began to take root. I didn’t like the feeling of vulnerability and pain that came from loving folks like my Father did, especially when I had to watch them making horribly grievous choices.
In this way, I became like the older brother, squandering my opportunity to live close enough to the Father’s heart to allow his values and love to daily transformed the way I celebrated life with others… and myself.
But thankfully, there are three prodigals in the story Jesus tells!
The word prodigal actually means, “to lavish, be extravagantly wasteful or profuse.” Here we see that not only are the two sons prodigals, wasting so much of their precious time and opportunities, but the father — much like our Heavenly Father — is a prodigal as well. He demonstrates his lavish compassion, extravagant affection, and profusely generous good will by welcoming his children to his heart, whether they’ve been wandering in a distant land or just too busy working in the family business to live connected to him.
Yes, the Father lets us decide how close to Him we want to be (since he spells dignity c-h-o-i-c-e), but he’s always there waiting, watching, even pleading for us to come and live in the joy of his presence. It’s only there that we find the deep, lasting pleasure he created us to experience with him.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Do you find yourself more often striving and working for God than simply being with him? Ask God if he wants to draw you away from all your service to rest and be refreshed in his presence. Remember his plea: “My child, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
- Ask the Father to show you his heart today, giving you revelation and the grace to know and receive his extravagant love for you. It may help to spend some time in scripture: Ephesians 1:17, 3:16-19; John 15:9, 17:23, Romans 8:38-39.
- Ponder with the Lord those you know who may be in the “far country” (or even just working overtime in the field) and need to be reminded of the Father’s eagerness to welcome them home. How might you reach out to that prodigal today?
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Myra Perrine has been with CRM for 20 years, coaching leaders around the world. With a passion for intimacy with God, she has been speaking, teaching, and writing on this subject for decades. Myra and her husband, Dan, live in Redding, California, where they enjoy cycling, kayaking with friends, and walking their dogs along the Sacramento River. They have one grown son and two "adopted" daughters who have given them four lovely grandchildren.