“He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”
I love the local church and I believe it is the hope of the world. Over the last three years I have served in small groups, outreach, and worship. Once, I got the privilege of helping plant a church, and as of now I am preparing for a second plant. All of this goes to say that I’m no stranger to the church ministry world, or sermons about the grace of God, and, for the longest time I really thought I understood God’s grace. But recently, I learned that I still have a lot to learn. Once, in a ministry meeting, the lead pastor of my church told a few others and me that church ministry can actually be the most hazardous thing for your relationship with Christ. When I first heard this, well, I thought it was dumb. How could church ministry be hazardous if you are constantly serving the Lord? Surely God will bless the lives of his servants, in all seasons, all of the time. Here’s what I missed: For the last three years, my relationship with Christ was solely based on what I did within the church. Therefore, no church would mean no relationship. I recently went through a trial that tested my faith. Among many other things, this trial revealed myself to me. It showed me that my relationship with Jesus was weak and broken.
I began to let God show me the problems and the solutions in my relationship to him. This led me to study the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and it showed me how grace really looks. In the story a son asks his father for his inheritance, gathered his life up and moved to a foreign land. In the foreign land the son lived recklessly. When he had spent everything and was starving he hired himself out to feed pigs. The son realized that it would be better for him to be a servant in his father’s house than to live like he was living, so, after rehearsing a make-up speech he headed home. He had a plan in his head that he would tell his father, “treat me like one of your hired servants, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Before the son could even say this, his dad saw him walking in the distance and ran him down, kissed him and embraced him. He told the servants to go prepare a feast, bring the best robe and put a ring on his finger. The ring symbolized authority and power, not servanthood.
Even though the son threw away his father’s inheritance, the father did not condemn his son but rather welcomed him home. Reading this story again brought me to another level in my relationship with Christ. After I had failed in life, I saw myself as the biggest screw up. There was no hope for me. I was broken beyond repair just like the prodigal son. I honestly believed that there was no grace for me. The beauty of this story is that despite our past, despite our faults, and despite our failures, God is the father in this story. He does not condemn us but rather welcomes us home with open arms. There is nothing we can do that will separate us from Him. When we are far off He longs for us to be back with Him. No matter what you do, the love of the Father is bigger than your mistakes and failures. He does not condemn you but rather loves you just where you are. Will you let yourself be welcomed back into his arms?