Philosopher Hugh Moorhead once wrote to 250 of the world's best-known philosophers, scientists, writers and intellectuals and asked them, "What is the meaning of life?" Some offered their best guesses, others admitted they just made up a purpose for life, and still others were honest enough to say they were completely clueless. And a number of them wrote Moorhead back, asking if he had discovered the meaning of life.
In an attempt to find fulfillment, we try a variety of things that we believe will make us happy. We may think, If I just had a relationship with that person, it would make me happy. Or, If I just had this degree, I know I would be happy. Or, If I just had that car, I know I would be happy. Or, If I were rich and famous, I know I would be happy. We are all searching.
Maybe you are chasing after the things the world has to offer. If so, then I have a question for you: Are you happy yet? Has it fulfilled you yet? Or, are you like the prodigal son who realized he had done just what he set out to do, and then some, but it wasn't working?
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Jesus told the story of the prodigal son to illustrate what God is like. The prodigal son came from a loving, nurturing, close family. But he was tired of waiting for his portion of the inheritance that was coming to him, so he went to his father one day and basically said, "Dad, I am tired of living here. I don't want to live by your rules anymore. I want to just go out and live my life the way that I want to live it."
So the father agreed to divide his wealth between his two sons. And a few days later, his younger son packed his belongings and traveled to a distant land, where he wasted all his money on partying. About that time, a severe famine swept the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him to feed his pigs. Eventually, he became so hungry that even the food for the pigs looked good to him, because no one gave him anything. When his money ran out, apparently his friends ran out along with it.
He finally came to himself and realized how insane it all was: What was I thinking? I had it great at my father's house. I had three square meals a day. I had love. I had all the great things one could have in a home, but I ran from it. Now here I am with these crazy pigs, living this miserable life. So he decided to go back home to his father.
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There has to come a point in our lives as well when we take responsibility for the wrongs we have done, when we stop blaming our parents, teachers and environment, when we say, "I have made mistakes. I am responsible for the wrong things that I have done." Until we do this, we will find that our problems will follow us wherever we go.
As the prodigal son approached the family home, his father saw the familiar silhouette of his boy who had been gone for so long. Then standing to his feet, he ran toward his son. Now, in this culture, it was considered undignified for an older man to run. It simply wasn't done, not to mention the fact that it is harder for an older person to run. But when he saw his boy, he sprinted toward him to get to him as quickly as possible.
The father received his son just as he was. He didn't stop 10 feet short of him and exclaim, "Whoa, man! Where have you been? You stink. Go take a bath, and maybe we'll talk." The father accepted his son as he was, but he didn't leave him that way. He gave him a new set of clothes, put a ring on his finger and threw him a party to celebrate his homecoming.
In the same way, we can come to Jesus Christ with our problems, and he will accept us as we are. But then he will change us. If you want to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then there will be things he will ask you to give up. There will be things he will ask you to stop doing. But if he asks you to do something, there is a reason for it. And what he will give you in its place will be so much better that you won't miss it. You will give up emptiness. You will give up loneliness. You will give up the fear of death. And in its place, you will have fulfillment. You will have a friend who will never leave you or forsake you. And you will have the guaranteed hope that when you die, you will go to heaven. You won't regret a decision to follow Christ. But you will regret that you didn't do it sooner.