“Then He said: ‘A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.’”—Luke 15.11-13
This generation has experienced record numbers of prodigal sons and daughters who have removed themselves from the Church. Many have taken their talents and abilities and squandered them on secular dreams and ambitions that have lead them nowhere. Too many times I’ve seen their heartbreak as they consistently rush to the next thing, and the next, traveling like nomads in search of their destiny.
“But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.”—Luke 15.14-16
And yet, with each new adventure they come up empty handed once again. It is my belief that at their core, they are running from a relationship with the Lord. Many times they run because they have never perceived that the Lord truly has good plans and purposes for their lives. Often these young men and women have shared with me about times of great hurt they experienced within the four walls of the church. The reality of a good God did not translate through interactions that they experienced with other Believers.
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’”—Luke 15.17-19
Still, those who have traveled back to their roots have often gone through a healing process—discovering that the fickle emotions of the human conditions have no bearing on the love that the Father bestows upon them.
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”—Luke 15.20-21
They often return to the Lord and are shocked by the eager embrace of their Father in Heaven, expecting Him to turn His nose up at their current appearance. Too many times the Body of Christ does not model the love of the Father when the prodigal returns. So often I’ve seen leaders create standards and models for the new Believer to uphold—some of which that are impossible to maintain even for the most mature Christian. The wayward son/daughter so badly wants to do well (“be a good girl or boy”), and begins to develop a performance-based mentality. As fathers and mothers in the faith, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you as you mentor—providing a safe space where they can work through the often painful healing and maturing process so desperately needed in order to grow spiritual and moral character.
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”—Luke 15.22-24
As the Church it is so important that we listen to the Holy Spirit as we welcome this great harvest of new Believers into the Kingdom of God. We must prepare to be representatives of the Father’s GREAT love for those who have taken the humble journey home to their Father’s house. We must celebrate their return and allow the Lord to do a work in their hearts, just as He continues to do a work in our own.
“Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’”—Luke 15.25-27
Above all else, as the favor of the Lord begins to rest upon our brothers and sisters as they set out to fulfill their purpose in Christ, we must not be jealous. Instead, we must develop our own intimate relationship with the Father, asking Him to show us our role and identity in Him.
“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’”—Luke 15.28-30
It is imperative that we come along side of these important members of our heavenly family with great love. Standing with them as mentors and friends, sharing all that we have learned about our Father’s business while they have been away. Likewise, the new Believer must come into submission to their Father’s house and show honor and respect the authority that has been placed over them.
“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”—Luke 15.31-32
Most of all, those who are living their lives in the household of their Father must come into the revelation that Father God is greatly pleased with them. In this season, we must revel in the knowledge that His greatest pleasure is that we desire to live our lives in relationship with Him.