An interesting theme runs through the entire Bible. We find it in almost every book of Scripture from the Old to the New Testaments. It’s the theme of believing God. In Genesis, God came to Abraham, really out of nowhere, and told him that he and his wife Sarah were going to have a baby in their old age. At first God’s promise sounded ridiculous. Abraham said to God, “God, I’m an old man. I’m broken down and tired, and those days are long past me. And oh, by the way God, have you seen my wife? She’s old and busted too.” But then the Lord had him look at the night sky and said, “Abraham, see those stars? That’s how many descendents you’re going to have.” What the Scripture says next is profound. The Bible tells us that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Rom. 4:3, emphasis added).
The New Testament tells a story of a Roman soldier whose servant was dying. He heard that Jesus was a man that healed the sick, so he approached Jesus and said, “Lord, my servant is sick. Can you heal him?” Jesus responded, “Take me to where he is and I will heal him.” What the soldier said next, stopped Jesus in his tracks. The soldier responded, “You don’t have to go to where he is. All You have to do is say the word, and I know he will be healed” (see Matt. 8:6–8). The Bible says that when the soldier said those words, Jesus “marveled.” In other words, Jesus stood there in complete, jaw-dropping awe.
Jesus then turned to the crowds like, “Hey, did you hear that? Did you hear what that guy just said? I have not seen faith like that in all of Israel.” What in the world did this soldier do that caused Jesus to stand there in jaw-dropping awe? The soldier simply believed God. He believed that if Jesus said the words it was absolutely going to happen. God loves it when His people believe Him. It’s the simplest definition of a word that is used all the time in Scripture. It’s called faith. When God says something, we believe it.
The Results of Believing God
As I look back on all the times in my life when just like the prodigal son I chose to walk down the path of sin, in each situation I was presented with a choice: the choice to believe the words of God or to believe the lies of Satan. And when you look at it like that, the choice seems so simple—so obvious. Of course, I should believe God over Satan!
Then why so often do I not choose what God says is best? Because Satan is really good at what he does. He’s the greatest deceiver in the history of the world and he’s a master at presenting to us a picture of a better, fuller life apart from obedience to God, and far too often I stupidly took the bait. And every single time God’s Word proved true. Sin never produced what it promised but only resulted in death, shame, and guilt.
On the other hand, sometimes, when presented with the allure of sin, I was able to see through the deception and believe God at His promises. Again, every time, God’s Word was true. My obedience produced joy and life and peace.
And the sobering part of all of this: you will believe God one way or another. You will believe God before you sin and find life and joy and peace. Or you will choose sin and experience the consequences. Either way, you will eventually believe Him. His words are true either way, and one of the beautiful aspects of this story is that we get to see the consequences of sin without having to experience them ourselves. The prodigal has bought the lie, and death is coming.
Friends, the reason Jesus told this parable (and why pastors like me continue to retell it) is to serve as a gentle and loving warning to all of us. Many of you even now are faced with the same dilemma as the prodigal. Maybe you haven’t walked down the same road he did, but those same doubts he had are your doubts—those same questions are your questions. Is life’s best found in a life of obedience to God? Am I missing out by truly following Christ?
If that is where you are, I want you to know something that maybe you wouldn’t expect to hear from a pastor:
Those are legitimate questions—questions that you have to answer.
But they’re also questions Satan desperately hopes you answer wrongly. My prayer for you is that the story of the prodigal son helps you see past those deceptive lies, believe God at His word, and stay at home where you belong.
In the biblical story of the Prodigal Son, Jesus answers all those questions that lurk in the heart of so many believers. In The Long Walk Home, author and pastor Matt Carter takes a fresh look at this age-old story and helps the reader discover and experience, once again, the radical, never-ending love of God for His sons and daughters.