Many of us have heard the story of the Prodigal Son. It's a feel good story, really. Who doesn't get moved when the Father embraces and restores His wayward son? Yet this morning, as I was praying and getting ready for the day, the other son was on my heart. He refused to come in and celebrate the return of his brother. This son was all about the work he had done, how unfair it was that his rebellious brother was being celebrated, and how he was underappreciated. The Father begged and pleaded with his son to come in to the feast, yet was met with complaint. How often do we act like that other son?
Consider your life and ministry a moment. Do you serve because you have to, or is there joy in it? Believe it or not, we all are expendable in our ministries (yes, you too). Why do I say that? Because it's not about the work we do. When we are gone, someone else will pick up the work we have done, or they won't, but God's Kingdom will grow with or without our help. Yet in our service to Christ, we forget this, and we get territorial. We begin to lack joy in our being able to work alongside the Father in works He has already prepared for us. We forget the joy of blessing others, and so miss our blessing. We refuse to join in the Celebration. John the Baptist understood this well: when His disciples were jealous of Jesus' ministry, he replied "He must increase, I must decrease" (John 3:30). If you're serving Christ, and there's no joy, bitterness, pain and jealousy, see if the Father isn't begging you to come in to the Celebration you're refusing to enter. There should be nothing but Joy at the Father's side, even in tribulation, pain, and grief. Enter in to your Master's joy, so that when He appears, and we see Him face to face, our hope and joy will be completed.
Luke 15: 25-32
“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
John 3:22-36 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.