The parable of the Prodigal Son teaches us about the great joy that filled the house when a son who had run away returned to be reunited with his father and brother. “For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” (Luke 15:32).
This son that had run out on his true life and was living another life – one he he believed to be right. Sooner or later, he came to his senses and realized he was living in a nightmare. For him, it was never too late to come home. The story also teaches us something important about our status as Children of God. No matter what we do, or don’t do, we are always his.
I hesitate to use the term “favor” here. It’s also used by some Christians to designate those who have sent in their check, gotten their names on the list and are paid up members in the health and wealth club. These Christians have been taught that “favor” is a status that must be constantly earned and can subsequently be lost. The Christian life is one of losing and finding favor with God. A glorious treasure hunt, chasing after a mysterious Santa Claus.
This isn’t what I mean when I write about “favor” and I don’t think it’s what Jesus taught when he described the way that God wanted to relate to us who believed in Him.
- Favor with God is a state that we enter into when first we believe. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)
- Walking in God’s favor means to remain in His love. We obey Him and follow Him as disciples because we love him (because He first loved us). “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (John 15:9-10)
- As God’s creation, we always have our free will. We choose each day to follow as disciples, deny ourselves and carry our cross. Or, like the Prodigal Son, we makes choices that lead us away into our own pits of disaster. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. (Galatians 5:24-25)
When I am walking in God’s favor, that means that I am no longer living a prodigal life but am instead back home at His side, right where I belong.
Walking in God’s favor means that I am decreasing and He is increasing (John 3:30). This is exactly the opposite advice that the self-help culture we now live in is teaching us. Work harder, find the next trick, manage yourself better.
I experience God’s favor when I am near to Him, not away on my own. His favor makes me more like Him, not a better version of myself.
Each day that I walk in God’s favor is another day closer to His great purpose for me and everyone else. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. (Ephesians 4:21-24)
Slopping pigs doesn’t always seem like a bad thing. I understand they have a great retirement package. There are friends to text and nowhere else to go but up. It is your own journey after all. You make all your own decisions, except when you get hungry or need somewhere to live. Pig keeping may not be where you started out, but it’s where you end up. It’s where all our own fears one day take us.
“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.” ― William Faulkner
The story of the Prodigal Son reminds us that the only way to walk in favor is to go back home.