A Father's Heart
Text: Luke 15:11-32
A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called his parents from San Francisco.
"Mom and Dad, I'm coming home, but I've a favor to ask. I have a friend I'd like to bring home with me."
"Sure," they replied, "we'd love to meet him."
"There's something you should know," the son continued, "he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us." "I'm sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live."
"No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us."
"Son," said the father, "you don't know what you're asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden to us. We have our own lives to live, and we can't let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come on home and forget about this guy. He'll find a way to live on his own."
At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide.
The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn't know, their son had only one arm and one leg.
The parents in this story are not unlike many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don't like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren't as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are. (See Luke 15:11-32)
Thankfully, there's One who won't treat us that way. He loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into His forever family, regardless of how messed up we are.
I. A Father's Heart Gives Us Blessings.
A. Though Undeserved
B. Though Ungrateful
* In his book Folk Psalms of Faith, Ray Stedman tells of an experience H. A. Ironside had in a crowded restaurant. Just as Ironside was about to begin his meal, a man approached and asked if he could join him. Ironside invited him to have a seat. Then, as was his custom, Ironside bowed his head in prayer.
When he opened his eyes, the other man asked, "Do you have a headache?" Ironside replied, "No, I don't." The other man asked, "Well, is there something wrong with your food?" Ironside responded, "No, why?" "Well," the man said, "I saw you sitting there with your head down and I thought you must be sick, or that there was something wrong with your food." Ironside replied, "No, I was simply thanking God as I always do before I eat." The man said, "Oh, you're one of those, are you? Well, I want you to know I never give thanks. I earn my money by the sweat of my brow and I don't have to give thanks to anybody when I eat. I just start right in!" Ironside said, "Yes, you're just like my dog. That's what he does too!"
C. Though wasted
* A man past middle life came to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, bringing with him some sketches and drawings. The fumes of liquor were on his breath; his eyes were bloodshot, his hands unsteady. Rossetti saw at a glance that the drawings were hopeless, and told him so. For a moment the visitor hesitated. Then, he drew from an inside pocket another portfolio of drawings, saying they were the work of a young student. Rossetti was delighted and asked that the youth be sent to him. "Ah, sir," said the man, "I am, or rather I was, that youth. Your words, sir, have only confirmed my own suspicions. I have thrown away my best talents."
II. A Father's Heart Grants Us Freedom.
A. Freedom to choose
* A fictional tale is told in management seminars about a young manager who was to replace a retiring executive. The younger man approached the older, venerated leader and asked, "Sir, I know of the legend that you have become as a leader in this company. Could you give me some advice as I try to fill your shoes?"
The older man pondered the question and responded: "Three words: Make good decisions!"
"That is good advice," the young man replied as he wrote this down. "And what is the key to making good decisions?"
"One word," the veteran executive replied, "Experience."
"And how do I get this?" the eager young man asked as he scribbled "experience" on his paper.
"Two words," the retiring man answered, "Bad decisions."
The younger man looked surprised, and the older man asked, "Any other questions?"
B. Freedom to fail
* "Failure does not mean you will never make it. It does mean
you have to do it differently."
- _Pulpit Helps_, November, 1991, p. 10.
* Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.
C. Freedom to reject him
* A soldier received a box of home-baked cookies from his girlfriend. Several were thick and lumpy. He ate the thin ones and left the others for his buddies in the barracks. To his chargrin, he learned that his sweetheart had placed intimate love notes in some of the cookies - the thick, lumpy ones that he had rejected and left for his fellow-soldiers.
Are we sometimes like that soldier? Are we sometimes guilty of rejecting God's expressions of love and carelessly tossing them aside?
III. A Father's Heart Grieves Our Sin.
A. He grieves over the pain it causes.
* "Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden, but it is
forbidden because it is hurtful."
- Benjamin Franklin
* There is an old saying that goes, "If you haven't let go of your sins, you're holding on to a hand grenade with the pin pulled out."
- Tom Sirotnak, Warriors, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1995), p. 29
B. He grieves over the disgrace it causes.
* A man was successful in business, and had a well-educated son who was highly respected and honored like his father. But one day to everyone's surprise the young man was charged with embezzlement. At his trial he appeared nonchalant and arrogant about his sinful actions. When the judge told him to stand up for sentencing, he still seemed unrepentant. Then hearing a slight scuffle on the other side of the room, he turned to see that his aged father had also risen. The once erect head and straight shoulders of that honest man were now bowed low with shame. He had stood to be identified with his boy and to receive the verdict as though it were being pronounced upon himself. Suddenly his son realized the terrible grief he was inflicting on him, and tears welled up in his eyes. He had tarnished the family name by his behavior. Now his poor father was caught in the backwash of his son's evil deeds, although he had done everything he could do to keep him on the straight and narrow path.
C. He grieves over the deterioration
* Centuries ago in Italy, an artist, about to paint a picture of the Madonna and the Child, after long search found a beautiful young peasant woman with a lovely child at her breast. He selected them for his model, and the picture was painted and hung in one of the galleries. Long afterward, he was at work on a New Testament scene which brought in Judas. He searched through the criminal quarters of the city, and among the baser elements of the population. At length, in one of the jails he found a desperate, wicked man, sentenced to death for his crimes against mankind. He chose this evil, sinister face as his model for Judas Iscariot.
Day after day, he went down to the prison and sketched the face of this criminal. Working on the painting in his studio one day, he saw something about the face that made him wonder. Day after day, he puzzled over the matter, and at last the secret flashed upon him--it was the same face that he had painted long ago as the infant Jesus! --McCartney
IV.The Father's Heart Gathers Us Home.
*Dr. E. Stanley Jones tells of a girl who, frustrated by the city, entered a house of prostitution. Learning of her daughter's plight, the mother desperately sought to rescue her. Not having her child's address, she left a photograph of herself in each house of ill fame visited. One day, the errant girl saw on a mantle in a reception room, a familiar picture. It was the likeness of her first love. . . her mother. Beneath were the words, "come home".
* 'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile.
'What am I bidden, good folks, he cried,
'Who'll start bidding for me?
A dollar, a dollar now two, only two
Two dollars and who'll make it three?
'Three dollars, once, three dollars, twice,
Going for three' but no
From the room far back a gray haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening up all the strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
As sweet as the angels sing.
"The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: 'What am I bid for the old violin?'
And he held it up with the bow,
'A thousand dollars and who'll make it two?
Two thousand, and who'll make it three?
Three thousand once, and three thousand twice
And going, and gone,' said he.
"The people cheered, but some of them cried,
'We do not quite understand
What changed its worth?' The man replied,
'The touch of the master's hand.'
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and torn with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd,
Much like the old violin.
"A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on,
He's going once, and he's going twice,
He is going, and almost gone.
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd,
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul, and the change that's wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand."
--Myra Brooks Welch
One Sunday night D. L. Moody preached in a big circus tent near
the Columbian Exposition in Chicago from the text, "The Son of
man is come to seek and to save that which is lost." After he
had finished, a little boy was brought to the platform by an
officer who had found the child wandering in the crowd lost. Mr.
Moody took the child in his arms and asked the crowd to look at
the lost child. Then he said, "The father of this child is much
more anxious to find the child than the child is to be found. So
it is with our heavenly Father. For long years He has been
following you, oh sinner. He is following you still!" At that
moment a man with a worried look on his face elbowed his way to
the platform. The boy saw him and running threw himself into his
father's outstretched arms. The crowd that witnessed the scene
broke out into a mighty cheer. "Thus," cried Moody, "will God
receive you if you will only run to Him today."