Father’s Day is almost upon us. I find it interesting that the one day of the year when the most phone calls are made is Mother’s Day, while the one day of the year when the most collect calls are made is (you guessed it) Father’s Day.
Some people have hands-on fathers, while others have fathers who are somewhat distant, disinterested and not really engaged in their lives. Sadly, some have dads who have abandoned them altogether. And some have fathers who have died.
But there is one thing that we all have in common, regardless of what kind of father we have had on earth: We have a Father in heaven. And regardless of how our fathers on earth have treated us, for better or for worse, we have a Father in heaven who has always been there and always will be there.
One of the greatest stories in the Bible is one that Jesus told to show us what God the Father is like: The story is about a father who had two sons, and one day the younger son said to his father, loosely paraphrased, “Dad, I’m sick of your rules and regulations. I’m tired of waiting around for you to die. I want my portion of the inheritance that is coming to me. Divide your estate up and give it to me.”
Amazingly the father did what his son requested and gave him his portion of the inheritance. That boy went to a far country and wasted all his money on prodigal living. His brother later accused him of being involved with prostitutes. He spent it on booze. He spent it on girls. He spent it on pleasure. He probably had a lot of friends. Then he ran out of money. And before he knew it, he was all alone. He took a job feeding some man’s pigs, which was not a kosher thing for a Jewish boy to be doing. And one day he was so hungry that he was thinking about eating the food the pigs were eating.
He basically said, “This is crazy. I’m going home. I’ll say, ‘Dad, I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Just take me on as a hired hand. I will work any job here.’ It will be better than this.” As he was making his way home, while he still was a long way off, his father saw him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him, kissed him, and said, “Welcome home, son. This is my son who was dead and is alive again. He who is lost is found.” They had a big party to celebrate his return.
It’s a beautiful story and a perfect picture of raising our own kids. Even when children are raised in a godly home, they sometimes rebel. In fact, some of the most notorious sinners are preacher’s kids. Franklin Graham, for example, wanted to do anything that his father Billy Graham did not want him to do. But Franklin’s mother, Ruth, kept praying for him, and he came around and committed his life to Christ.
Our oldest son, Christopher, went through a time of rebellion. He told a friend of his that he used me as a barometer. He said, “I realized that when my relationship with God was good, my relationship with my father was good. When my relationship with God wasn’t where it should be, my relationship with my father wasn’t where it should be.” Despite that, Christopher always knew that I loved him. I never gave up on him.
In fact, Christopher said that it was my unconditional love for him that eventually brought him back to the Lord. He recommitted his life to Christ, got married, had a beautiful daughter and was serving the Lord in a wonderful way. He was finally realizing his potential that Cathe and I had always prayed for and always knew was there. For three years he walked with the Lord until he was unexpectedly called home to heaven. We still miss him with all of our hearts, but we know we will see him again.
Our second son, Jonathan, also went through a time of rebellion. He, too, was a prodigal. After Christopher recommitted his life to the Lord, Jonathan would have conversations with him. Jonathan was struggling with drugs at that time in his life, and one day Christopher turned to him and said, “Jonathan, what is it going to take for you to get right with God?” The next day Christopher died. God used that horrific event to wake up Jonathan, and he is now serving the Lord. He is married, has three children and is walking with God. He would make his brother so proud, and Cathe and I are proud of him as well.
Maybe you are estranged from your child right now, and there is a lot of tension in your relationship. Make sure that your child knows that you love him or her. Don’t compromise your standards. Keep the communication lines open. Always keep the door open. The prodigal son knew he could always go home, and our children need to know that too. Don’t give up on your kids. And don’t give up praying for them.
On the other hand, maybe you’re a prodigal parent. Maybe you’re running from God. Maybe you were raised in the church. You knew what was right, but you ran away from the Lord. Like the prodigal son in Jesus’ story, you need to come home again. God would welcome you with open arms.
But first what you need to do is come to your senses and admit that you’re a sinner. That is hard. There is pride involved. We don’t like to admit that we blew it and that we were wrong. But if you want to get right with God, you will have to say, “I have sinned. I have fallen short.”
God will more than meet you halfway. Your heavenly Father is an awesome dad. He loves you unconditionally. Just as Jesus described the father running to his son, so will the heavenly Father run to you, throw his arms around you, and welcome you home.
Used with permission from Greg Laurie.