By J.L. Cook
January 2, 2003
Do you remember the story about the prodigal son? He had left his father and family, and wasted all the valuable things which he had gotten from his Father. As soon as his money was gone, so were his friends. Now, he found himself, up to his ankles, in a pig pen. And he was not even treated as good as the pigs.
And then, for some reason, he remembered his father. His father treated even the lowest servant much better than this. The thought entered his head that maybe he should go back to his father and ask to be a servant. He was no longer worthy to be a son. So, he turned his face toward his father, and started walking. We all know that the father refused his request. No, he was not accepted as a servant, but rather, he was accepted as a son. This is a great story, with many deep implications, but there is one particular implication I want to point out.
It is about something that happened along the way. It is about something that interrupted the journey. The son never got the chance to complete the task he had started. While the son was still on the way, his father saw him. But the father did not wait for this sorry excuse for a son to come all the way to the father. No, the father had been watching for him. He had been hoping the son would come. And when He saw the son coming, he went to meet the son, in person. Something special happened to the son, while he was on the way. The father came to meet him! The father came to speak to him! The father’s words did not condemn him! No, the father’s words spoke hope and life and peace to him. He had been totally accepted by his father, even before reaching the destination, while he was still on the way.
He had turned his face toward his father, and was walking the right direction, when the father surprised him, with a visit. This visit changed his life. The father did not ask if he was sorry. He did not make the son get down on his knees, and beg for forgiveness. No, forgiveness was already pouring out of the father, and flooding over his son. There was no mistake about how the father felt about this child of his. The son was walking toward the father, and his father met him, on the way.
Isn’t it nice to know, that when we turn toward God, He will meet us, while we are still on the way? Isn’t it nice to know that when we turn our thoughts toward God, we might just be interrupted by some thoughts from God, while we’re still on the way? God will meet us even before we are worthy of him. He will meet us even while we are sinful people. All we have to do is turn toward Him, to look for Him, to listen for His voice. When we do, something special happens. God reveals Himself to us, while we are still on the way.
He reveals himself to us, even while we are still looking, still listening for Him. He reveals Himself to us before we think it should happen. We’re not ready yet. We haven’t improved enough, to come into His presence. But when we go looking for Him, He comes to meet us, on the way. We might be saying to Him, “I am still very weak, just let me be your servant”. But the Father always says to us, “No way! I don’t need any more servants. But you know, there is an opening for a son, or a daughter! How about it? You want that job?”
When a person speaks a word to us, or maybe we read something from the Bible, and these words which we receive, cause us to turn our thoughts toward God, then it is something very good. Something good came from outside of us and affected us in a good way. Maybe we learned something. But we must remember that it was not just hearing the words, that turned us, but it was when we chose to turn and start walking toward God, that He revealed Himself to us, or spoke to us. We were on a journey, and God noticed! He hurried to meet us, while we were still on the way.
We need to realize that we don’t have to reach the destination, before God will speak to us. We need to realize that we don’t have to be worthy or good, before God will reveal Himself to us. Remember, Jesus died while we were still sinners. He gave love to us while we were killing Him. He interrupted our lives. He interrupted our journey. We thought we were heading toward God, but He came to meet us, on the way. And He is Jesus. He shows Himself to us as we move toward Him. He speaks to us and nourishes us, on the way. This is when we will hear Him. This is when we will see a glimpse of Him. This is when we will have an encounter with Him. When we are on our way to meet Him. He has His arms open wide, but He won’t wait for us to arrive. No, He will meet us, on the way!
I guess we are all on the way. We’re all going somewhere. We are constantly being pulled in many directions, by the forces in this world. But when we start walking toward God, something special happens. God meets us, on the way. He speaks to us when we take time to listen for His voice. It still amazes me every time it happens. When I turn my heart or my thoughts toward God, I am nourished! I am fed! Even before I have changed for Him, He visits me. He speaks to my heart. While I am still unworthy, before I have completed the struggle to find Him, He meets me, on the way.
Before my knowledge and doctrine is correct and complete, He speaks to me. He shows me a picture of Himself, maybe just a little glimpse, but I am nourished by it. I feel more complete. I feel more loved. I feel amazed. I still feel unworthy. I still feel weak and sinful. But He loves me anyway and accepts me, even while I am on the way.
Do you remember that the first century believers did not call themselves Christians? Rather, they said, “We are members of the way”. The way? Jesus is the way! They knew that, and they were on the way to be like Him. But all along the way, He would meet them and speak to them. It wasn’t at the end of their journey, that they met God. No, it was on the way.
When Paul encountered Jesus on his journey, something special happened. It was a long walk, to the next town. And there was plenty of time to think. Paul had very sincere feelings about God. He wanted to serve the one and only God. He wanted to fight for God. He wanted to be of value. He wanted to have a purpose, in this life. So, as he walked, his thoughts probably turned toward God. He might have even been praying. Praying that God would be with him on this journey. Praying that God would direct his steps, and help him be the good servant that he wanted to be. He might even have prayed that God would show Himself, in all His awesome power, to all those terrible people who worked against Him.
So, God being one who is happy to oblige, revealed Himself to Paul. Paul was so surprised. You see, God had interrupted his journey, to reveal Himself to Paul. God did not wait for Paul to arrive. No, He met him on the way. In fact, it was such a surprise, that Paul went blind looking at the glory of God. And when God spoke to him, Paul found out that this God he wanted to serve, was no other than Jesus Christ, Himself. The same person that Paul was tormenting. I guess it was kind of embarrassing, to say the least. Paul must have been dumbfounded, and totally confused. He wanted to serve God, but God had interrupted his journey. God had met him, while he was still on the way. He was sent spinning off on a totally new journey, of which I’m sure you’re aware. Now, it was the will of God, that Paul preach for the cause of Christ, instead of against it. It didn’t just interrupt Paul’s journey. It interrupted the journey of many, many people, including those who were already on the Way. It was the same God he met, that he already served. But Paul saw a new picture of God and heard from Him, also. Somehow, God seemed much bigger, now.
And later, many years after Paul had become a great man of God, he still felt as if he had not arrived. He was still, on the way, toward God. He still had both strengths and weaknesses. He still struggled. He freely confessed that his knowledge of God was incomplete. He said, “we know in part, and we prophesy in part”. Even after all those years, he knew fully well that he still did not have the complete picture of God. He did not have all the information. But he still spoke what he had.
This is very humbling, isn’t it? That each of us speaks incomplete thoughts about God? It seems kind of risky, to me. But, like Paul, we speak what we know. What else can we do? Will it be enough? Will it inspire someone to turn toward God, to think about Jesus? Will they meet God, on the way? Our knowledge is incomplete, but still important. This is why it must be done in love, and received with love. None of us has all the pieces of the puzzle. No, each of us has only a few very important pieces. And when the believers come together, in patient love, and stand side by side, we will see an even bigger picture of the puzzle, than we ever saw before. All of us standing together, will make a big picture of Jesus.
We will be amazed at what God is teaching all of our brothers and sisters. We will be amazed that we have something to share, too. You see, we need to see the other pieces of God, that the people have. And they need to see the pieces we have. We should not hide what we have. Not even because we still have weaknesses. No, it was meant to be shared with everyone, even believers, on the way.
We should not be surprised when God speaks to us, while we’re on the way. That is when He is most likely to meet us. When we’re on the way, to meet Him. To find Him. To talk to Him. And each time it happens, we will be totally blown away, by the God who reveals Himself. It won’t be what we were expecting. It will amaze us, every single time. This is what happened to Paul. He wanted to be a servant. But God received him as a son. God gave him a new direction, a new mission. This time his mission was conceived by God, instead of himself. Because Paul was walking toward God, He was met, on the way.
Let this be a lesson to us. Pray for each other, when we disagree, that we will all meet God, on the way. If we are trying to be God’s servants, He will surely reveal Himself, along the way. And He might even use us, to help someone else see Him more clearly. And maybe, like Paul, we will totally experience the love and forgiveness, of our Father. God met Paul, while he was on the way. And when we are moving toward God, He will meet us, too. Every single time that we step into His presence, we will be better for it. If we are looking for Him, we will find Him. When we encounter Him, it will probably blind us, for a little while. And then we will want to see Him again. Again and again.
I guess our journey is never really over. We continually meet God, all along the way. And even when He gives a new direction, as we walk, He still comes to meet us, over and over again. We don’t have to wait until we are worthy. We don’t have to wait until we have stopped sinning. It’s OK to go ahead and turn to God, and start walking toward Him. He will always meet us, on the way.
Satan is the one who is telling us to wait until we are worthy. God has had His arms open wide, since the beginning of time, saying, “Come to me, it’s OK”. Will we listen to Satan telling us to wait until we’re better? Should we wait until we are good enough? Hell, no! We must go ahead and turn toward God. We need to start walking in His direction. He will always meet us, on the way. Sometimes, He will send us a friend, another person, who is on the way, too.