Hope for Prodigal Children
by Burk Parsons
As a pastor, I am often faced with the difficulty of counseling deeply saddened fathers and mothers with prodigal sons and daughters. Parents who enter my study for counsel and prayer are usually trying to come to grips with the harsh reality about a prodigal (lavishly wasteful) son or daughter. The child they have loved, prayed for, educated, nurtured, protected, and discipled has left everything to chase after the fleeting pleasures of the world, forsaking not only their father’s home but their father’s faith. There are likely many parents and grandparents reading this who have prodigal children or grandchildren, and they are greatly burdened for their souls, praying they would come to the end of themselves, trust Christ, and come home.
My greatest concern, however, is for those parents who are not burdened for the souls of their prodigal children. Because their children were raised in good families with good Christian principles, having been taught the way they should go in life, many parents have concluded that they are just fine despite their prodigal lifestyles and unbelief. They may rightly believe that God is sovereign and that He is the only one who can save their children, yet they have forgotten that God has ordained the ends as well as the means to those ends. As such, He calls parents of prodigal children of every age not to presume their salvation and pretend everything is spiritually fine, but to pray for their salvation, preach the gospel to them, and plead with them to repent and believe. When Christian parents don’t face up to the difficult reality that they have prodigal children who are wasting their lives by chasing after the temporal pleasures of the world, they likely won’t face their children with the truth of the gospel, and, what’s more, their children won’t face the difficult reality that they are facing eternal condemnation.
In His sovereignty, God uses parents to speak God’s truth and God’s gospel to the hearts and minds of their children. If parents, who are primarily responsible for training up their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, choose not to admonish for fear of driving their faithless children farther away from home, their fear might ultimately reveal their own faithlessness as well. Parents must not give in to the temptation to presume their prodigal children are bound for glory, and neither should they ever give up praying for, preaching to, and pleading with their children to come to the end of themselves, trust Christ, and come home—where they will be overwhelmingly welcomed by the heavenly Father and by their earthly father, who will run to them with open arms and a prodigal (lavishly wasteful) celebration as they both rejoice coram Deo, before the face of God.