What’s Your Story? 10/4/98

Luke 15:11-24
Page 1529 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ was a masterful story teller. He could take the simplest circumstances and make it ring with reason.

As fish live in water so we live in stories. Everyone enjoys a good story. Stories shape our lives. They come from literature, history, politics, family lore, and alas TV. Stories from our childhood live with us all of our lives.

Few people decide “Do I want to be good or bad?” What they really decide is “Who do I want to be like?” Who is your role model?

Few realize they are themselves a story in process. Your life is a drama in which you are the main character. Play your role well.

Jesus knowing this used stories to teach us. A story of pain, pathos, and pleasure was told by Him. In it most of us can find our self represented by one of the characters. It is known as the story of the prodigal son. Actually it is the story of a dysfunctional family.

Before sin ruptured relationships and brought thorns and thistles, the family arrived on the earthly scene as a divine gift. The family was God’s idea and He doesn’t have bad ideas. As intended by God it will transcend time because it is rooted in eternity.

The family has been under valued in our current society. As a result its worth to society has been underestimated. Functioning families are an economic blessing to society. They reduce the welfare rolls and cost of law enforcement while aiding the education environment.

The family has been played down by the culturally elite who insist that we must remain non-
judgmental and avoid preferring one relationship over another.

I have five degrees from colleges and universities but my major learning came from another source. I learned to tie my shoes; dress myself; not play with fire; pick-up and put-up my toys; not hit my brother; stand up to the bully down the street; and how to be quiet when adults were talking. In effect, I learned how to be a worker, a citizen, a neighbor, a friend, a parent, and in general a civilized human being. I learned all these things at a university called — the family. I learned all this before I ever went to school. That is what the family is for.

In some schools secular sociologists are speaking of the family as outdated and an obsolete institution. It is far from such. It is challenged and constantly under attack.

Educator Delores Curran sent out 500 questionnaires to obtain material for her book Traits of a Healthy Family. She received back 551. The 110% is incredible. She sent them to pediatricians, pastors, educators, teachers, social workers, counselors, and volunteer workers with families. They made copies and shared with friends who joined them in responding because the survey was considered important. Most of the characteristics of a healthy family revealed it to be the restored relationship of the prodigal son and his dad.

Let’s quickly look at some of the traits this cross segment of society said typify a healthy family. Such a family:
They communicate and listen. They value table conversation.

They affirm and support one another.

They teach respect for others.

They develop a sense of trust.

They have a sense of humor, play, and share leisure time.

They have a sense of shared responsibility.

They teach a sense of right and wrong.

They have strong sense of family traditions and rituals.

They have a shared religious core.

They admit to and seek help with problems.

Let’s observe the family developments of the boy known as the prodigal son to learn some things that make for a happy family.

This is the story of a broken family and what it took to restore it.

“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).

After the son hit the bottom reality dawned on him. “Hey, things weren’t so bad at home after all. I’m going home.” The result:

“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” (Luke 15:20).

For any relation to work certain factors found in this story have to be applied.

“His father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (vs. 20).

Cool, cute, coy, or crazy are characteristics of a TV family. That is a pretend world. In the real world the characteristic that provides a bonding glue is compassion.

Compassion expresses itself in certain ways. Your answer to these questions will reveal whether you have it.

Do your family members regularly receive more strokes than knocks from you?

Do you share pleasant leisure time?

Do you usually settle disagreements with mutual satisfaction and no bitterness?

Do you make others feel wanted, loved and appreciated?

Do you work ambitiously at contributing to making yours a happy home?

The father of the prodigal was forgiving. He had been wronged and doubtless embarrassed, even disgraced. Yet, he forgave.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 14, 15).

There are distinct evidences we are losing our will to forgive: Marked increases in requests for marriage counseling, the state of mental health in America: depression, hypertension, and anxiety are on the increase, and child abuse is on the rise.

NO relationship exists long without tensions.
NO community continues long without conflicts.
NO human interaction occurs without possible pain, injury, suffering, and alienation.

Hurts happen. Misunderstandings occur. Trouble is inevitable.

Marriage consists of a series of actions and reactions motivated by our conscious and subconscious minds. The more active and creative people are the greater are their chances of conflict. Fighting is not the answer. Forgiveness is.

Without forgiveness relationships can last only where persons involved are cautiously and constantly superficial.

With forgiveness we are free to relate to each other with integrity.

Any movement toward forgiveness begins with the awareness we are in this pain together.

A second step is the acknowledgment of your own part in causing the conflict.

Most often adults want to deal with problems as they did when children. “He hit me first.” That is fixing the blame and exonerating self.

It is estimated that 90% of Americans spend much of their time trying to find someone to blame for failure and problems.

The father of the prodigal son had suffered because of the decisions of his son but he was quick to forgive.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

“…bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).

“But when he had come to himself…” is one of the most beautiful lines in literature. When he reflected on his core values he realized he was in the wrong relationship. His was the wrong character in the story. A character change was in order.

He didn’t decide to simply find a new job or clean up his act. He determined to go back to his father and his father’s values.

Remember God cleans fish after He catches them.

The turning point was “when he came to himself.” That is, he made a right choice. Basically it was: “This is stupid. I don’t need to live like this. I have a father and a home. I’m returning.”

“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 15:21).

Translated, “Hey, dad I blew it!”

Sooner or later in some situation we all need to say it: “I was wrong, forgive me.” Or, “It was my fault, I apologize.”

Even Tarzan had to say that to Jane.

Let me make a spiritual application at this point. It is a good day when a prodigal becomes disappointed with the world and says, “Is this all there is?” Only to hear the Heavenly Father say, “Of course not. Come on home.”

There are no perfect relationships. None! No perfect families. No perfect marriages. The only perfect marriage was that of Adam and Eve.

He never had to listen to her tell of all the other guys she could have married and she never had to listen to what a wonderful cook his mother was.

Marriage isn’t a 50-50 relationship. It is a 100-nothing relationship. We should give ourselves 100% to making others happy and expect nothing in return. The result will be your own happiness. If you want love, don’t look for it, give it, and you will get it. If you want friends, don’t look for them to be friendly.

“Have you hugged your kid today?”

This prevents parental false-pride. Be expressive, demonstrative.

Husbands and wives need to be expressive to one another.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

AGAPE = love is associated with giving of self. Love gives with the idea of meeting others needs. Everyone needs acceptance.

“Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19).

“Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered” (I Peter 3:7).

Expressiveness is essential if a relationship is to last. A special word of encouragement needs to be given dads about this.

Dads needs to be expressive. One of the best ways to be transparent to your family is to pray with and for them.

Many children feel like the little Indian girl who had asked to be taken to the brook to die and pleaded: “Father pray, Father, I am going to heaven soon and I want to tell Jesus, when I see Him that my father prays.”

For any relationship to last all parties have to be responsive and rewarding to the others.

The wise person realizes when he is lost, understands the cause of his or her homesickness, and returns to the one who loves him or her.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). The son had been trained right and now it was about to pay off.

TRAIN means to discipline. Discipline and disciple come from the same root. It means to teach.

The way to the Father is often through the far country. The “far country” doesn’t have to be moral dissolution. It often is however. The far country is the point in life when you decide what character you want to be in your life’s drama. It is the point when you say, “Is this where I belong?” and pause long enough to hear the Father say, “Of course not. Come on home.”

A soldier killed at the battle of Kennesaw Mountain sent a message to his dad: “Father, meet me in heaven.”

The reunion of the dad and son is descriptive of the response of our Heavenly Father when we come to Him responsively.

He put a ring on his finger. This was a ceremony of adoption. It was a time of celebration.

A robe was put upon him. A robe of righteousness is given us when we come to our Heavenly Father.

The father provided shoes. This is a symbol of service.

Victor Frankl said, “Life only has meaning if there is a task, the more difficult the task, the more meaningful the life.”

The Father knows this and offers us meaning by affording us a task.