Care Instructions for a Life Worth Living

Duration: 365 days

Ambassadors of Reconciliation

We meet a family sitting around the breakfast table: a father, a mother, and two grown sons. Both boys work on the family farm. Dad tells son number one to go work the back forty. “Me? The back forty? Long hours, minimum pay, backbreaking labor? I don’t think so!” He gets up from the table and tells his dad, “It’s not going to fit into my schedule today!” He walks out of the house, jumps on his Harley, and heads off.

The father turns toward his other son. When the father gives the same command to this son, he is cheerful and compliant. He goes so far as to say, “I’ll go, sir!” which is exactly what his father wants to hear. The second boy is the good boy, the helpful child. . . at least for the moment. He is the hero of the breakfast table.

The tough and resistant son gets on his Harley and begins driving, but something happens. He can’t get his father’s words out of his mind. As he is riding away he begins thinking of his father and all he has done for him over the years. With time, his heart softens and he hits the brakes. He makes a U-turn on his Harley, heads back home, and drives out to the back forty. When he gets there he picks up his tools and starts to work. A moment later his father comes around the corner. To his surprise, he sees his tough, resistant son hard at work. The father also notices something else as the morning passes: His cheerful, willing, enthusiastic son has not shown up. The father begins to figure out that this son who promised to be out in the field sharing the load never intended to come at all.

Like the first son, we need to face the reality that it is tough to follow the calling of Jesus Christ. We all have moments in which we have to admit that we struggle. None of us has an easy road when it comes to walking and growing in holiness. We all need help as we seek to honor the Father by saying yes and then living out this commitment with sincerity. We are in danger when we become like the second son in this parable, when we give insincere and superficial compliance. This is when we claim to want to do the Father’s will and smile as we say yes, but know that we have no intention of living it out. The second son’s compliance and words of agreement were only a device to avoid confrontation and pain.

We need to be careful that this is not happening in our spiritual lives. I am thinking of the Christian who comes to church and sings, “Have your own way, Lord. Have your own way,” at the top of his voice. He continues,“ You are the Potter, I am the clay,” but if anyone in his house tries to get the remote control out of his hand, the clay will get pretty hard. Growth will never happen in our lives until we value facing truth more than avoiding pain. Then we enter the point of response. This is when we say, “God, I see my insincerity and my fear of confrontation. I am ready to face it, with Your strength. Give me the courage and power I need to respond to Your loving confrontation. Lord, I am ready to change.”

This parable is about the comparison of words and actions. What would you say to a person who makes this claim: “I am truly sorry about a specific sin in my life. I have asked for forgiveness and I feel really bad about it. But I have no intention of stopping. I will continue in this sin.” Could that person be you?

© 2014 by Zondervan. Used with permission. All rights reserved. Visit for more about John Ortberg’s work and ministry.

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