Return to God
One of the Bible’s best known Parables is the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32 GW). Strictly speaking, the word “prodigal” describes someone who spends money freely, recklessly, wastefully, extravagantly. I confess I’ve been guilty of this myself!
We all know the story: a man of significant wealth had two sons and gave half his estate to the younger son who ran off to a far country, spent the money on wild living, and became destitute. Ashamed, the son comes home to the delight and celebration of the father but provokes the wrath of his older brother who only saw how much of the family’s wealth had been squandered.
I’ve always found it enlightening how Jesus connects two of our most basic, instinctive sins together in one parable: the idolization of money and our falling away from God. The younger son demanded his share now to spend it on riotous and wild living while rebelling against the relationship with his father. The older son wanted to store up the family’s money, rebelling against the father’s celebration when the younger brother returned.
In each case, both sons let their desire for money and wealth lead them away from God as represented by the father’s forgiveness and love. The true wealth being squandered was not the father’s money, but rather, the grace of God. Both sons were prodigals, both were lost!
For me, the real lesson from this parable is not that spending money on wild living is bad (that’s a given). Instead, Jesus is teaching us the central importance of our response to God’s grace, especially when we turn away from Him.
Scripture is clear that God uses our response to His call to determine who and what we become. When we drift from Him either physically or spiritually, He calls us to return. “Come near to God and he will come near to you” we read in James 4:8. Yet time and again our personal stories are linked to a larger one: how we‘ve drifted from God and how He beckons us to return. So much of our Christian life is reflected in our response to God when He calls us to return.
Today’s world is filled with examples of people, even entire nations, turning away from God. And while every generation experiences a certain amount of what Boyd Bailey describes as “spiritual distancing” from the authority of God’s sovereignty, it seems like things are more out of control now than ever before. Global crises surround us, and every day we ask ourselves “can it get any worse?” I believe these global crises are God’s clear call for us to return to Him.
The overarching theme of the Bible – much like the story of our own lives – is one of falling away from God and returning when He calls! And the most astonishing and life-affirming realization from this is how God’s patience and mercy to welcome us back time and time again never runs out. Whether we stray once or 100 million times, God will forgive us if we are truly sorry. If we sincerely want a relationship with Him, God always takes us back.
Perhaps like you, there have been moments in my life when I’ve felt distant from the Lord, not hearing His voice, not listening to His will. In those times, I’ve found what helps me return to God is as simple as following Jesus’ own teaching: opening my heart in humble prayer, surrendering myself in authentic worship, and asking God to forgive me. In my experience, God welcomes me back with loving arms, just as the father did in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
Jesus taught us “Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you.” (Matthew 7:7 GW) As Believers, we can return to God – He asks us to come back every moment of every day. We simply have to respond!