When Jesus taught, many times he would tell stories that we call parables. They were stories Jesus told to teach a deeper truth. One way we describe a parable is like this:
Parables are earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.
In Luke 15, Jesus told three stories in a row that were all a little different, but they all had some things in common. First, he told the story of a lost sheep. In this one, there is a shepherd with 100 sheep, and one of them wanders away. So, the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go and find the one lost sheep. When he finds it, he celebrates the fact that his lost sheep is found.
Then, he tells a story about a woman who has 10 coins, and she loses one of her coins. So, she turns on all the lights, gets a flashlight, and she starts sweeping all the corners of her house, and moves the furniture, and keeps looking until she finds the lost coin, and then, she celebrates with her friends!
He also tells the story of the good, good father who has two sons. One takes his dad’s money, runs away, messes up big time, crashes and burns, and then comes back to his dad where his dad welcomes the son back with open arms. And then the dad blesses him and throws a big party!
What do these three stories have in a common?
There is something of incredible value that has been lost.
There is a sheep, a coin, and a son! What does that mean to us today? It means that lost people are people with incredible value and worth!
Lost people matter to God, and so lost people matter to us!
You will never lock eyes with anyone who God doesn’t love and Jesus didn’t die for!
There is an all-out search for what was lost.
You see this in each of the stories. God wants us to join this all-out search for lost people. And you don’t have to look very far. They are all around us. That’s why we do what we do here at The Connection Church. That’s why we serve, and why we give.
When the lost get found, there is an all-out celebration!
When a lost person becomes a found person, when a dead person becomes alive in Jesus, the angels in heaven throw a party, and so do we!!! What’s celebrated gets repeated! So, we celebrate new life all the time at The Connection Church!
Even though we usually call this story, “The Prodigal Son,” that’s really not the best name for this story, because the two sons aren’t the most important part of the story. The most important character in this story is not one of the two sons, but it’s the father who represents God.
When Jesus would talk to his Heavenly Father, he would call him one of the most intimate phrases in his language. He would call God, “Abba.” Abba is an Aramaic word that simply means “Daddy.” Jesus loved to call God, Abba! In the Gospels, Jesus says Abba over 165 times!
Abba is what little children used when they called for their dad. It means papa or dada. When Jesus talks to his Heavenly Father, he says Abba. In fact, the very first words that babies will usually say, no matter what language they speak around the world, one of the first words that babies learn to say is da-da or papa or Abba. It’s almost like they’re instinctively showing how much they need a dad from the very start of their lives.
I hope your dad was a great role model for you and was able to tell you he loved you and he was present in your life. But, maybe you would say, “My dad wasn’t really there for me. He was a deadbeat dad.” Maybe you don’t like the idea of God as Father because of your relationship with your own dad. If you don’t feel close to your dad, you might feel even distant from your Heavenly Father. You might even say, “If God is like my dad, I don’t want anything to do with him.” You need to know that God is not a reflection of your earthly father, He is the perfection of your earthly father.
God is not the reflection of your earthly father. God is the perfection of your earthly father.
Your Heavenly Father is the perfect Dad. God is a good, good Father. I want us to discover three qualities of God the Father found in these stories. The first quality of God as a good father is that God is a…
1. Persistent Father
One of the qualities we see about God in these stories is that He never gives up. He never gives up on us, no matter how lost we are, or how far we’ve gone. God always keeps his promises. He doesn’t let go!
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9
We think, surely God will finally get tired of me and give up on me, but He never does. The reason we think God will give up on us is because we give up on people. We say, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Three strikes, and you’re out!” We’re done with them. We write them off.
I think of that Dad in Jesus’ story that was looking each and every day, persistently looking for his son to come home. I think of the woman who was faithfully sweeping her house to find the lost coin!
God is a persistent Father, and God is a…
2. Passionate Father
Think about that shepherd who loved his lost sheep enough that he couldn’t bear being without it. Think about the woman who frantically searched her house! And think about this incredible picture of a passionate Father who was filled with so much extreme love for his son that even while he was still far away, he took off running toward his son with all he had. This is extreme love.
The son had just come out of a pigpen. I’m sure he smelled terrible! Here is a picture of God running toward his child. Here’s what this loving, patient, forgiving intimate father does. When he sees his son who sinned against him coming home, he thought, “I don’t care what anyone else thinks about me, and he starts running toward his son. Then He embraces him with the most passionate and meaningful hug.” He’s a passionate father. That’s the kind of love God has for you! I love what the disciple John says about God’s love in:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! 1 John 3:1
He lavished His love! The father poured out his love! He wants you to be his child. He calls you His son or His daughter. Because you are his son or daughter if you are a follower of Jesus.
One of my favorite hymns called “The Love of God” describes God’s love like this:
The Love of God
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song
This week, some guys broke into a car dealership in New York with guns blazing and there was a dad who put his three kids on the ground and shielded them with his body and he got shot in his leg! That’s the passionate love of a father! For me, it took becoming a father to understand how much my heavenly father loves me.
There comes a point where you realize, God loves me so much that he didn’t just take a bullet for me, he went all the way to the cross. In fact, when Jesus was on the cross, it is called “The Passion of Jesus.” If you ever want to know how much your father loves you, just look to the cross! It was settled at the cross!
God is persistent, passionate, and God is a…
3. Patient Father
God is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
God is patient with you! Aren’t you glad about that? The reason God is patient is that He does not want anyone to perish but He wants everyone to come to repentance.
If you’re a parent, you know how hard it is to wait for your kids to start doing the right thing. But when you watch this father in Luke 15, that’s exactly what he did. He waited… for a long, long, long, time. Maybe he had even heard about what his son was doing. But, he loved his son enough to let him hit rock bottom, as hard as that was, he didn’t rescue him from the natural consequences of his choices. I’m sure that the father wanted to intervene with everything inside of him. You can almost picture the father thinking, “I wonder if today is the day when my son wakes up and says, ‘wait a minute, a bad day at my father’s house is better than a good day in sin.’
In the Bible, Paul described himself as the worst of sinners. He didn’t say he was the worst sinner because he was really bad at sinning, but because he was really good at it. He was a great sinner because he was a big-time sinner. He didn’t just say bad words, he was complicit in killing Christians before he knew Jesus. So, here’s what Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:16,
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.1 Timothy 1:16
If God could forgive Paul, who said he was the worst sinner, then maybe His patience could be long enough for me. That’s the love of a patient Father.
Questions to Consider
- If you are a parent, do you remember your child saying his/her first word? What was it? How did it make you feel?
- It takes persistence to stay faithful as we serve God in ministry to reach the lost. Why is it so important to faithfully serve even when you feel like giving up?
- In the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, Jesus paints a beautiful picture of God’s patience. Do you think of God as patient?
- Read 2 Peter 3:9. Do you think there are limits to His patience and forgiveness? Why or why not?
- Are you generally patient with other people? Why or why not? Do you think your relationship with God affects how patient you are with others? If so, how?
- Which of the Father’s qualities do you most need in your own life? The persistence to not give up, the passion for others and for God, or the patience to wait for change?
- Where, in your life, do you need or want to be fathered? What kind of advice, guidance, love, encouragement or support do you need from God, your Father, right now?