#134 (20/06/04)
Parables for Everyday Living Part V

The Message

By: Robert H. Schuller

Special Guest

JOHN ELDREDGE
He has sold over three point two million books. He is the founder and director of Ransomed Heart Ministries in Colorado Springs and is widely known for his wilderness retreats for men. He is a counselor, teacher, lecturer, and a best selling author. Best known for his book, “Wild at Heart, Discovering the Secrets of a Man’s Soul,” John Eldredge has sparked a nation wide grass roots men’s movement and has been nominated for awards as well as winning a gold medallion in the inspiration category in 2002.

PHILIP YANCEY
He is journalist and author. In America he is recognized as probably the single most influential Christian author living in our country today.

Special Music

Hymn
" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" He Lives "
"God Make My Life a Happy Song"

Anthem
" Let Thy Holy Spirit "
CCA CHORUS – “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Solo
RUSS LEE – “The Living Years”

Acticle of The Message

My son and I are sharing some thoughts through a series of messages on the Parables of Jesus. It's amazing how many people are not following Jesus Christ because they don't know what Jesus taught. I want to encourage each of you to get acquainted with His profound wisdom, and to start to understand the mind and the thinking of Jesus of Nazareth. Begin by reading the Parables He told. Jesus didn't preach sermons. He told fictional stories, but they had a Heavenly meaning. The Parable I'm talking about today is probably one of His most famous Parables.

The Prodigal Son

You've all heard the words "the Prodigal Son." Jesus created those words in a Parable called the Prodigal Son. Now I'm sure that most of you have heard these words, but many of you watching our television program this morning from China, the Arabic countries, or maybe Russia, probably haven't studied the story. All of you have access today to a Bible and if you will look in the gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter 15:11-32, you can read the story. Basically, it's a fictional story of a very wealthy man who had two sons and the one son became very self centered, which is not unusual for a son of a very rich family. And as a selfish young man, he made the demand of his father, saying, "I don't want to wait until you're dead to inherit my money. I want it now. Why can't I have it now?" And so he demanded it. It is very, very challenging to deal with a demanding person who gives orders and expects that the world owes them a living. That's what this prodigal son did. The father, being a very gentle man, was the kind of person that if he sinned, it was on the side of grace and so he gave that son his share of the inheritance.

This parable is not just about a prodigal son. There are also prodigal daughters. Each of us is a "prodigal" when we have the "give it to me" attitude in our everyday living, at work, toward family, government and God. What did the Prodigal Son really want? He wanted freedom from rules and regulations, from ritual. He wanted freedom from being mastered by a family. He wanted to be free from boundaries. Well, he got his freedom. And not knowing how dangerous freedom could be without rules and boundaries, negative temptations overwhelmed him in his irresponsible freedom. "Give me... give me... give me"... that was his attitude. "Demand... demand... demand"... that was his matter of control. "Freedom... freedom... freedom... I want it... Now I have it"! So, the Prodigal Son went to a far country and he spent his money on his pleasures.

Where does this demanding spirit lead?

One day a famine reached that far country to where the Prodigal Son had traveled, and food became scarce. Then he discovered, of all times, that his purse was empty! An empty purse? Never had he been exposed to such a negative possibility. His dad's purse was a deep one. It would never be empty! When the Prodigal Son demanded and took all that money, he didn't stop to think that he would ever face the problem of an empty purse! An empty purse, and he still hadn't found what he went searching for. He found pleasure... but it didn't satisfy him. He found travel... but something was still missing in his life. He didn't know what it was but now his money was gone and all he had to eat was the food in a pig sty.

Then the story says, "he came to himself." What a profound sentence. Have you ever come to yourself? Some of you probably still have not come to yourself, meaning that you have not discovered the true person within you and the true needs in life. That is something quite different from seeking out only pleasures and looking for fulfillment in the sensual department of life. It suddenly dawned upon the Prodigal Son, "Here I am eating with pigs, when at home, my father's servants have more than enough to eat and they have a good place to sleep. Why did I leave? What will happen if I go back? What will my dad say? Will he tell me I've had it and to get out? I don't know."

And so in the story, as you probably know, the Prodigal Son decides to return home. Note that his father never did search for him, but he just watched for his return. "Someday my son will come back." Many of you watch and wait in the same way. You have a troubled child that is a prodigal who has turned away from the values you taught him in your home. Many of you listening are in that spot. You watch, you wait, you pray, that the time will come when there will be the telephone call or a doorbell or a letter or an email and you will see your child coming back again. That’s the way God waits and watches for us to come to Him.

Each of us is a Prodigal

This is all so important that all of us are see that each is a prodigal in one way or another or at some time or another. It's true for every individual, young and old, adolescent teenager, all of us can be prodigal. It's not just persons either, you can apply this to institutions that were founded, maybe as Christian colleges, a hundred or two or three hundred years ago and today, they no longer hold to the faith. Institutions can become prodigal. Even corporations can get adrift from their mission statement. And movements can lose their momentum when they decide to expand and, in the process, cease to be what they were meant to be.

The late Eric Sloan was one of the great artists of the last century. And it has been said of Eric Sloan that no one ever painted the sky and the clouds like Eric Sloan. His most famous piece of work is probably the nine story high painting inside the museum of aviation in Washington D.C. It's phenomenal. What a great artist. What a great life. But it’s an interesting story. He told it to me privately when I met him in New York City some years ago. I had heard that Eric Sloan's paintings were on exhibit in the Hammer Galleries and I went to see his exquisite paintings and elegant sketches of clouds and sky, sunrises, sunsets, after the storm, over the mountains, above the deserts. They are gorgeous.

Then Eric Sloan told me his story. He was born in a very wealthy family. When Eric was a young man, his wealthy father died and left him with a million dollars cash in the bank. (That was sixty years ago.) It would be like ten million dollars today... all cash in the bank! It was his inheritance. He never earned it. He never worked a day in his life. Wow. Now this money is all free, so he's going to take it and enjoy it.

When I met Eric Sloan, he was eighty years old. His eyes just twinkled and he was a happy guy. But he said to me, "Dr. Schuller, what you teach and preach about self esteem and possibility thinking, is so true. But I had to learn that the hard way. Do you know what I did? I took my inheritance and decided I would enjoy it. So I traveled the country and I spent it, I wasted it on frivolous and riotous living. Don't ask me to explain what that was. I was a prodigal son. I left the values of my father and my home. I embraced no religious faith, no religious scruples. One day in a western bank, I went to the bank to request cash to be transferred from my fortune back east. The papers were exchanged. I had to sit down and wait a long time. Finally, I was called to the window. To my everlasting shock and horror, the banker gave me the unbelievable news. "Mr. Sloan, I'm sorry, but your money is all gone. There is nothing left." I said, "It can't be!"

Then the awful reality hit me, I realized all of my inheritance was gone. I wouldn't get a second chance. My father was dead and I didn't have a job. Despair, depression, I cannot tell you what an emotional pit I was in. I hardly slept that night. I wandered the next morning down the lonely street, quite empty, quiet. It was Sunday. I was lost, confused, broke, and in the pit of the darkest discouragement. Then I saw a little church. I never went to church, but I walked in and the minister began to speak. He announced the title of his message and it hit me like a thunderbolt. He said, 'I'm speaking today on God's Providence, Your Inheritance.'" Wow!

God's Providence, Your Inheritance

The minister said, 'God has a plan for your life. He’s given you talents, develop them. Discover your gifts. Opportunities are there. He has been waiting for you to find yourself. God has given you everything you need. God is providing. God's Providence is His gift to you. That is your inheritance.'" And Eric Sloan said, "I went out of that church alive with hope for the first time in my life. I remembered that I had done some dabbling with paints and brushes, so I now went home and wrote beneath my easel these words, God’s Providence is my inheritance. "Dr. Schuller," he said to me, "I am now eighty years old and many people would say I'm a very wealthy man. Carved into the wooden mantle in my Santa Fe, New Mexico home are these words, God’s Providence is my inheritance. And when I die, they can write these words on my tombstone, "God's knows, I tried." As we shook hands there in the Hammer Gallery, he was telling me how much he enjoyed our ministry and that made me happy. And I had a little prayer with him. Three days later he leaned against a lamp post in Manhattan and slowly started to sit down on the sidewalk and died. God was his Provider.

When your purse is empty, come home

Everybody is a prodigal, sometimes, someway, somehow, but every person is always given some kind of a choice, probably it’s when the purse is empty and then you begin to look at what you can be, what you are. But do you know how to come home if you are a prodigal? Maybe you haven’t even embraced the kind of a faith that you’ve heard today. Maybe it’s something you learned in Sunday school and you’ve been away from it for a long time. Come home... and you come home by coming to Jesus. Jesus said, "I am God becoming real to the world." What is God like? Look at Jesus. Study Him. Read His words. What you find there is answer enough. Prodigal, come home.

A Ticket to Heaven

In a message my son preached some time ago, he shared my story about the famous coach, Bear Bryant. Many of you have heard that story how, on an airplane, Bear Bryant came to me and said, "I want to shake your hand. I like your ministry even though I’m not a Christian."
I answered, "You’re not a Christian?"

He explained why he couldn't be a Christian. He gave me all the usual excuses. He said he wasn’t good enough. He had sins, never had the feeling, and he didn't know if he could believe the Bible. So I answered his many questions and excuses. Then I said to him, "Well, would you go to Heaven tonight if you died?"

He said, "I don’t know. I sure wish I would. I can't say...I don't think so."

So I wrote out a Ticket to Heaven, with the words of Jesus Christ who said, "Anyone who comes to me, I will in no way cast out." Jesus didn't have a lot of rules and regulations. Religions put out rules. Muslims, Christians and Jews put out rules, but Jesus didn’t put out any rules. He just said, "Come ... come to Me. I’ll take you in. Anyone who comes to Me, I will in no way cast out."

And then I wrote, "Jesus said it. I accept it." I turned the paper to Bear Bryant and asked him to sign his name. He said, "Ooohhh...I don’t know if I can sign that." And I said, "Well, I don’t know if the plane’s going to land either." And he said, "Give me a pen. I’ll sign it." And he did.
That’s a true story. And he carried that piece of paper with his signature in his pocket until his death and his family found it in his pocket when he dropped dead of a heart attack.

Well, my son told that story and said, "I’ve had that ticket to Heaven printed on a little blue card." He held up the little card and said, "If any of you want one, write for it, sign it, mean it in your heart. Don't sign it if you don't mean it." Tens of thousands of Tickets of Heaven were mailed out. This week we had a men's conference here at the Cathedral and I met John Sterning, from Carbondale, Colorado. John told me a very moving story which he said I could share with you. In response to my son's message, John had written and asked for three Tickets to Heaven. We sent them. He wanted one for himself and when he got it, he signed it. Then he had two teenage boys and he gave them each a card. But they didn't sign theirs. They just stuck them away. Not long after that, J.J., one of those teenage sons was in killed a car accident. After a while, John, the grieving father, had to sort out his son's belongings. In one of the drawers in his son's bedroom, he found his son's Ticket to Heaven, and it was signed! He said, "When I found that, I could overcome my grief. I could go on with life."

Your Ticket to Heaven

Come to Jesus. What does this mean? Well, it depends on you. To start with, it means to listen and learn from Jesus. You can forget all of the other books that people are writing, and by reading the Bible, the teachings of Jesus, you will find you are on your way home.

Let's pray. Lord, we are all prodigals, young or old, and we need You working in our lives. You brought us here this morning for a reason. We're ready to make a midlife correction. It's happening. We're open. We’re receptive. We're ready to go home. Amen

 

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