What is a prodigal? Christian Lecturer Dave Harvey defined it as “one who wanders” in his message at the IBCD Conference. The concept of a wanderer and prodigal is not new. Most of us have either read about, know, have been, or witnessed a prodigal.
Since the Garden we are all prone to wander, and too often, we have. We decide that what God has provided simply isn’t enough for us. To make it all the harder, we have an enemy who instinctively seizes the opportunity to amplify that craving. And this is US, you and I, fellow sojourners and believers in Christ! This is why too often leaders fall, marriages fail, and relationships are severed.
The desire to wander is the apex where sovereignty and free will meet.
Harvey described this phenomenon of the Prodigal as “the saint who goes sideways.”
This Prodigal is the Fool described in Proverbs - deeply entrenched in rebellion, the one who dismisses God and replaces heavenly authority with his own. He is right in his own eyes, and no one – not even the holy, loving, powerful God – can tell him differently. The Fool has begun to believe that he is right, that his ways are right, and that everything he does is right.
Wayward is the destination that the Fool pursues, wayward is where the Fool will wind up. Pull back the curtain of a prodigal, and you will find the Fool. For the Fool wants to make choices that have no consequences and to have an autonomy that needs no accountability. The Fool is not particularly interested in the pain of the one who passionately pleads with them; creating a terrible imbalance, for the Fool will exploit neediness and humility.
This may seem terribly depressing, but take heart, God’s grace is far more tenacious than any sinner.
His grace has the power to pull one out of the blackest pit.
If you are struggling to love a prodigal in your life, know that you are not alone, God is relentless in His pursuit of the lost. Harvey said, “God deals with restlessness by exhausting our attempts to rest in anything but Him.”
So, what can you do? Begin by recognizing that the family loves the prodigal far more than they are loved, and because of that, our love has to be rugged. If it is not, if our love does not have teeth, then the prodigal is armed to exploit us.
What is this rugged love? It is never minimizing or denying what is happening; never simply hoping things will fix themselves. Instead, our goal must be to reflect the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is strong enough to face the satanic slope of evil.
Naming evil is important, but more than that, we must overcome evil with good. As the prodigal slips farther and farther from the Father of Light, their world becomes the shadowy realm of reckless self.
Express love intentionally and do not enable sin.
When we love a prodigal, we sometimes imagine stories in our mind about how we will win them back. We imagine ourselves as so loving, so patient, so kind, so understanding -- of course they will be won back! But we must remember that we are not the Holy Spirit. Do you trust yourself or can you trust God? If we confine our ideals of love to something that we can confine, we will find them way too small.
There is a paradox in Scripture which was described as “redemptive release”. God will pursue us as He releases us. He knows that there are times that we must be allowed to chase what we want only to find what we need. Think about it – the prodigal son did not sit around the house playing video games. He had to leave to realize how very much he wanted to be with his father.
It’s hard to wait, and our Savior is moved by your suffering as you wait for the prodigal and persevere. Really, you have only one of two choices - you can persevere or be poisoned.
Your hope cannot be in the prodigal but in what the Lord may or may not be doing.
Draw your eyes to our Lord. Let Scripture speak to you louder than any other of the voices muttering in your heart. This relationship with a prodigal may never be reconciled, but you will never lose your relationship with our Lord. God may wait until it seems too late, but we will not know His plans on this edge of eternity. By persevering in faith, you are testifying that He alone is the one worth trusting.
Will you trust Him as you wait for your prodigal to return to the Lord and give glory to Him?
This is a tiny thumbprint of the takeaways from Dave Harvey’s lectures at the IBCD Conference. If you have a prodigal in your life, I would love to pray with you, share some resources, and walk with you. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org