THE BENEFITS OF BELONGING
A Study of Luke 15:11-24
Our drive to fulfill our human needs sometimes leads us to seek what we think are “greener pastures.” Our basic need for food or a job may drive us to a different part of the country. Our need for love and a feeling of acceptance could lead us to leaving one social setting – be it family, the community or even the church – for another. But sometimes we may not ultimately find ourselves in a better place. Jesus’ parable of the “lost” son tells of a young man who thought he’d be better off by leaving his father’s home. Instead, he discovered that the family he deserted had been his best bet all along. The parable also teaches that God’s family always offers us the opportunity to start again by returning to it. Nothing is as secure as walking the way that Jesus set out, and all roads can lead back to that way if that is what we seek.
Pastor Paul from the pulpit
Abraham Harold Maslow, an American psychologist and founder of humanistic psychology, conceptualized and developed the theory of the “hierarchy of human needs.” Dr. Maslow identified five levels of human need that are generally represented in the form of a pyramid, and range from base low-level needs to higher-level needs.
– The most basic human needs are physiological: food, water, shelter, sex, breathing, and so on.
– The next level pertains to security needs, both physical and emotional. They include a safe home and place of employment; having sufficient financial resources; and being physically healthy and well.
– The third level involves need for love and belonging, as in friendship, family and intimacy.
– At the fourth level, our attention turns to our need for esteem – the search for respect and acknowledgment from others regarding our accomplishments and achievements.
– Finally, at the highest level, is our need for self-actualization. This is the realization and fulfillment of personal goals, problem solving, and the emergence of a morally and socially developed and adjusted self.
Based on Dr. Maslow’s findings, these levels of needs build on each other and, after we have fulfilled the needs of one level, we turn our focus and attention to the next one.
In our text, Jesus shares a parable about a lost son. There was a father who had two sons. The younger one went to his father one day and demanded he give him his share of his father’s estate. The father, in turn, divided his property, and gave the younger son his share.
People leave home all the time. Some people leave home because they are going away to school, others because their job requires they relocate. There are those who leave home because they desire to be out on their own.
This young man probably falls into the latter category. It is safe to say that he no longer found any reason to stay. He probably felt as though he did not belong. One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel like a stranger in your own home.
It is interesting that the father did not try to convince the son to stay. He simply let him go.
When people express an earnest desire to leave, sometimes the best thing to do is let them go.
The son gathered up his things, and set off for a distant country. But he eventually lost everything, and found himself in need. For a while, he tried to survive using his wits, but soon discovered that did not work well for him. Eventually, the son came to his senses. He literally woke up and came to the realization that what he had left at his father’s house had been far better than what he had “gained” by leaving.
One reason we need to let people go is to allow for life and experience to wake them up. As difficult as it sounds, people will not get it, until they get it. No amount of begging or pleading with a person will help them understand what they are not ready to understand.
I believe the father also understood that, when a person has determined they no longer belong, the drive to find a place where they feel they can belong takes over. In the process of running away from one thing, they seek to fill a void, but never really know what they are searching for. The problem with seeking is that it can take us to some very unpleasant places, and down a path that is filled with some highs, but many more extreme lows. I believe the father also understood that …
– you can only run for so long and, at some point, you have to stop running.
This text is very instructive and insightful in conveying the benefits of belonging to the family of God. In our text, the central characters are a father and his younger son. The father represents God, and the son represents people: men and women who wonder whether or not there is something better than belonging to God’s family. As the younger son discovered, we may invariably ask the question, but the answer will always be the same – there is no better place than the family of God for our sense of belonging.
What is so special about being a part of the family of God? The answer is: Though you may leave, you can always come back.
There are relationships we will form, jobs we will have, clubs we will join, and while we are there we are accepted, but if we leave we can never return. This is not the case with God’s family. God will never compel you to stay if you do not feel wanted or needed. However, when you come to your senses and realize that nothing in this world equals or surpasses the magnitude and depth of God’s love for us, you can return.
In short, there is an unconditional place for you in God’s home.
We live in a world filled with people who make room for us because they see something in us that will benefit them. We call these kinds of people users.
After we have met their needs or fulfilled their purpose, they have no more use for us. At that point, they toss us onto the scrap heap of life. God makes room for us because He loves us. He created us, so He knows our inherent value in the larger scheme of His will for all of us. The challenge for us is to recognize that there is no partiality within the family of God, and every person – and the work they do for the LORD – is important. This is true no matter how insignificant that work may seem to others.
God cares and is concerned for us in a way that is guaranteed to be eternal.
There are some places we might leave where, no sooner are we gone, we become an after-thought or a distant memory in the minds of the people we knew. Perhaps we had considered these people to be “friends.” They turn out to have been acquaintances – or maybe something less than that.
In fact, there are some people who cannot wait for us to leave because they did not have any uses for us in the first place. While God does not try to impede us from leaving, He is concerned and distressed by our absence. God knows that no one will ever treat and love us the way He can and does.
No matter what you have done, forgiveness is total and immediate. There are no hoops to jump through, no obstacles and challenges to overcome to prove we are trustworthy or to regain God’s trust. God simply forgives and forgets.
There is always the opportunity for genuine fellowship in God’s family.
God seeks and patiently waits for people to come or return to Him. When we do, God makes a fuss over us just as Jesus’ parable tells how the father made a fuss over his “lost” son. We are important to God and He wants to show and let us know how important we are to Him. The question is: Will we let Him?
Perhaps the greatest benefit and blessing of belonging to the family of God is that we belong if we say we belong.
God leaves to us the decision of whether or not to share in His love, grace and mercy. It is up to us whether or not we want to be partakers in the manifold blessings and riches of God’s kingdom.
For those who decide to join and become a part of the family of God, He is poised and ready to give you the best He has to offer, to eternally mark you as one of His chosen, and to celebrate you. Think about that.
When was the last time someone celebrated you? We celebrate birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, births, achievements, but what about celebrating you!
I personally understand the need for self-discovery and exploration. However, when we come to the place where we realize that what we are doing is not working, I encourage you to not delay – come home to God.
When you are ready just say so.
I know and acknowledge that I am a sinner. I repent, right now, of all my sins, and I am asking you to forgive me. You said in your Word, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). I am calling on the name of your Son, Jesus, to come into my heart and be my Savior.
You also said, “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I believe with my heart that Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead so that I may have eternal life. I confess Him, right now, as my Lord.
I ask you Lord Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to live on the inside of me, and help me to live a life that is pleasing to both you and God, the Father.
In the name of Jesus, I submit this prayer.
Sunday 27 September 2009
May God Bless You