In Part one and part two we discussed two things God can’t do - God cannot abandon you and God cannot fail you. We talked about how our feelings about God in our sufferings are not necessarily the facts about God. Our feelings shape and distort the picture of how we truly view our heavenly Father. But today, I want to take a look at how God views us.
Allow me to set the scene. You are driving down the road in a hurry to get to your very important appointment. Suddenly a vehicle pulls out in front you, slowing down your already speeding car. All you have on your mind is getting to where you need to be on time. Suddenly, the car has not only decided to cut you off, but is also moving at a snail’s pace. There’s no room to pass, traffic is heavy. Your response: You are so excited that this person has most certainly made you late. So you smile, politely wave and play Spock and say, “Live long and prosper.” Right? Wrong! Instead of wishing for their best, you automatically want their worst. Instead of waving, you shake your fist through the windshield, hoping they catch a glimpse of your disdain in their rearview mirror. Or, you lay on the horn while expressing some choice words at the top of your lungs. You want them to know exactly what they have done and that it did not amuse you in the least. You say something to the affect of, “I hope someone does the same thing to you so you know just how it feels. AND I hope when it happens that you MISS your appointment!” You may not say it out loud, but you most certainly think it.
This is a very common example of how we react to hurt. We’ve all been hurt by others. Maybe your spouse has had an affair, maybe your best friend told your secret, maybe your employer is not treating you fairly, maybe someone has stolen from you or lied about you. I could go on and on. Hurt is everywhere and when we are wounded by someone our humanness screams REVENGE! Revenge, as described by Merriam Webster is, to avenge (as oneself) usually by retaliating in kind or degree; to inflict injury in return for; revenge an insult. We simply wish for that person what we think they have coming to them; to get back at them for the wrong they have done to us; to make them pay.
Similarly, we treat God in the same manner, don‘t we? He “hurts our feelings” by not answering that prayer the way we thought it should be answered. He “wounds” us by making us wait for something that we want NOW. He “offends us” when He doesn’t give us what we want, when we want it. So we shake our fist at him and lay on the horn. Immediately, we feel that somehow God is out to get us - that He wishes for our worst.
GOD CAN’T WANT YOUR WORST!
Many of you may be familiar with the story of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15. Here is an illustration of how God views us as His children. We see a man who has two sons. The younger one asks his father for his share of the estate. Now, where I come from, a child does not normally receive his or her inheritance until the parents have passed away. So really this son is saying, “You’re gonna die anyway dad, and when you do I’ll get what’s coming to me. So just give it to me now!” What an insult! You may as well be dead dad because that money is a lot more important to me right now! The father proceeds to divide the inheritance between the two sons and after the young son receives his money he takes it all and leaves! Can you imagine how hurt the father must have been? Not only did his son basically wish him dead, but then he leaves, rejecting him all the more!
The son sets out for a distant land and blows it all on wild living. After he spends everything, a severe famine comes upon them. The money his dad worked a lifetime to save was wasted on the son’s foolish desires. The entire inheritance was gone. The son was in dire need at this point. He had no place to stay and nothing to eat and no money left to supply those needs. He begins to work on a pig farm. We must understand just how desperate the son must have been. He was a Jew, and it was against Jewish law to eat pork. Pigs were considered unclean according to Jewish custom. So now, not only is he working with unclean animals, he’s so hungry that he wants to eat the pig food! Now that’s desperate!
While the son is feeding the pigs, he begins to come to his senses. He realizes that even his father’s hired hands have it better than he does. Seeing the error of his ways and in great sorrow he sets off for home hoping to become like the hired help. For he knew he was no longer worthy to be a called a son.
The son approaches, anticipating condemnation from his father. He waits to be rebuked, chastised, and turned away. For it would only be the right thing for the father to do after how the son had insulted him. To his surprise, the father comes running, throws his arms around him and kisses him. He tells his servants to bring the boy a robe, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. He orders them to bring the fattened calf and prepare it for the feast.
Does the father’s reaction shock you? His son had hurt him deeply. He basically disowned his father. He disgraced the family name. Shouldn’t the father want revenge? Shouldn’t he be glad that the child had learned his lesson? Shouldn’t he just make him a hired hand after all the son had done to him? This is such a beautiful picture of our heavenly Father. We take God’s blessings and we run away from him. We spend all He has given us on our selfish pleasures and once we have squandered everything we come crawling back to him. Instead of scolding us and disowning us, He places on us His robe of mercy, His ring of forgiveness and His sandals of freedom. The robe, most likely the father’s own best robe, was only worn on very special occasions. The ring was most likely a signet ring symbolizing the restoration of his rights as a son. The sandals were placed on his feet representing freedom from bondage.
Then the father throws a party to celebrate the very one that wounded him. He asks for the fattened calf - the best calf. Enough food would have been prepared to feed a whole village. Many celebrated with the father that day as his relationship with his child was restored. For the son was once dead, but has been brought back to life!
GOD CAN’T WANT YOUR WORST!
If we could only grasp the fact that God wants our best! He cannot wish the worst upon us. He desires for us to be whole - nothing broken from the tops of our heads to the tips of our toes. He is the father in the story of the lost son, and we are that son. The joy of the story is getting a glimpse of God’s true nature - seeing how He views us as His children! It’s knowing that even though we stray, even though we insult Him, even though we disgrace His name, He welcomes us back with open arms and He throws a celebration in our honor. He does not give us what we so deserve. Many times, it’s not until we hit rock bottom that we understand just how much we need Him! But when the Father looks at us in our very desperate need, He longs to shower us with mercy, forgiveness and freedom! He sees no shame. There is no condemnation.
Do you want to know more about God’s character? The story tells us of how when the father saw his son he was filled with love and compassion and he ran to him. Remember, the father was a Jewish nobleman, and running was a most undignified act. But the father didn’t care. He was so happy to see his son’s return that he jeopardized his own reputation. That’s how crazy God is about us! That’s how radical His love is for us! God desires a relationship with us, so much that He actively pursues us - He runs to us. But God is also a perfect gentleman. He has given us a free-will so we would willingly choose Him.
Not only is God crazy about us, He wants a relationship with us and longs to celebrate us! He wants us to come back into the fold so He can throw a wild and crazy party in our honor. And what would you expect to see at a celebration, but gifts? He wants to shower us with gifts! He wants to clothe us with His robe, the ring, and the sandals!
Do you want the best for your life? Don’t find yourself running FROM Him - run TO Him, and He will run to you! God is crazy about you and He wants your best! Your inheritance awaits!
GOD CAN’T WANT YOUR WORST!
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Psalm 84:11
I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the LORD has done for us--yes, the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. Isaiah 63:7
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32