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Field Story North America

Prodigals, Pharisees, and the Loving Father

"God has a heart to save both prodigals and Pharisees who turn to him in true humility."

Some of the stories of the Bible we know by heart. We heard them in Sunday school, and we have been reminded of them many times throughout our lives. Some of you might be able to tell me from start to finish the story of many Bible characters, you could tell me the details of Moses, Daniel, Abraham, and Paul. Regardless of our familiarity with a story or how many times we have heard it repeatedly, we can always gain something from those stories. Those stories tell us countless details about who God is, who we are, God’s love for us and His faithful character that does not give up on us. One of those stories we may have heard and can recite for our selves is that of the Prodigal Son and accounts of the Pharisees. At our camp in Alaska, Echo Ranch Bible Camp, one of our counselors shared what he had been learning through that story at a recent staff church service.

On Sundays at camp, we host our own church services with our staff in the evenings, and some of our full-time staff take turns preaching. This past Sunday, it was my turn! Our theme for our church services this summer is narratives, so I chose to preach on the story of the Prodigal Son. I learned a lot about this parable over the past year through sermons I would listen to at work, and some of the things Jesus reveals about God in this story have been very impactful for me.

One of the biggest lessons from this story that I focused on in my sermon is that God has a heart to save both prodigals and Pharisees who turn to him in true humility - meaning, we do not try to offer him any of our own works and rely fully on Christ's grace - and, in fact, His joy in forgiving us is much greater than our joy in being forgiven. This story shows us that God is not a begrudging father who waits for us to come shamefully hanging our heads to him when we sin; He is a Father overflowing with love and mercy who runs to meet us at the first sight of us. 

The thing that has most comforted me and helped me through the difficult days of this summer is realizing just how great God's love really is for me and how good, patient, and faithful He is to me. It sounds like a simple truth that God loves me, but I feel like my eyes have been opened to it in a new way this year, and I believe it is the only thing that can really give me the freedom and peace I need. The message I preached on the Prodigal Son and what it reveals to us about God's love was just as much for me as it was for the staff!

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