In the prodigal story, you may see yourself as the prodigal.
In the prodigal story, you may see yourself as the parent welcoming home a wayward child.
However, Pastor Idleman wants us to see ourselves as the elder brother too.
Why? Because this is the person who really needs AHA, awakening, honesty and action.
This guy has kept his “nose to the grindstone” so to speak. He has faithfully done his duties for the father all through the years. He has not strayed.
Yet his faithfulness does not seem to have done him much good when it comes time to act. When his brother “gets up and goes to his father” he does nothing. When his father runs down the street to the prodigal and throws his arms around him and kisses him he does nothing.
I should not say that. He does something. He throws a temper tantrum. He gets angry and refuses to come to the house to greet his brother and to join in the welcome-home party. When he addresses his father, he says hateful words: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders”. He is angry that his father has slain the fatted calf for the prodigal and he has never given the elder brother even a young goat to party with his friends.
What comes to mind? Dare we say petty?
It is natural to be jealous. We all fall into that devilish trap from time to time but where has this elder brother been all these years? What has he been doing in his spiritual life to grow beyond this pettiness?
“For the enemy has pursued me; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.” (Ps 143.3)
Life is hard but it is what we have. Those who have a solid belief in God have a Savior to get us through life. When life gets tough, we don’t have to wallow in misery but lots of people do.
People who don’t know God or people who suffer from spiritual paralysis have a hard time dealing with the ebb and flow of life.
When a new Christian falls in love with God, it is all beauty and light. I have fallen in love two times in my life. One time with my wife and believe me I thought about her day and night when I was a young man in love. The second time I fell in love was with God. Again, I got obsessed with Him. Day and night obsessed. I felt I had tapped into the greatest power source in the world and I really needed beauty and light in my life at the time. I thought it was going to last forever.
Eighteen years later, I can say that I have had some ebb and flow, good times and bad times, prayerful times and un-prayerful times. But God has never left me and my desire to know Him has never left me.
“I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” [ I Corinthians 3:2] says it well. When we are new, we get the milk. When we grow older, we get the solid food. Why? Because the challenges of life get hard and we need more strength to fight off the things in life that kill our soul.
The enemy is out to crush our soul.
I am going to say something bold. I see so many professing Christians who are walking around right now, today with crushed souls.
Seriously now, where do you see yourself?
Are you the prodigal?
Are you the father?
Pastor Idleman believes he wrote his book for the countless Christians who are the elder brother, suffering from spiritual paralysis.