Summary: As part of the Series, Strengthening Our Families, this sermon was aimed at graduates and youth on how to handle our failures and to embrace God’s unconditional love for us.
Luke 15: 11-24
Rev. Bryan Moore
Fordtown Baptist Church
May 15, 2005
A.) The title for this morning’s sermon, Failing Forward, comes from a book written by former preacher and leadership expert, John Maxwell. The full title of his book is Failing Forward: How to Make the Most of Your Mistakes.
B.) One of Maxwell’s points in his book is that our failures can be the stepping-stones to success. BUT IT DEPENDS HOW WE VIEW OUR FAILURES (i.e. do we accept responsibility for our failures or do we seek to blame others) AND HOW WE RESPOND TO THEM (i.e. do we become angry, bitter, and jealous, or do we learn from them, grow, and get wiser and better).
C.) In trying to think of a word that would speak, not only to our graduates, but also to all of us here this morning, I thought about what we do with our failures.
D.) Each of us here this morning, from the oldest to the youngest, has failed, fails, and will fail in the future. It’s part of who we are as imperfect, sinful people who live in an imperfect, sinful world.
E.) BUT OUR FAILURES DON’T HAVE TO BE PERMANENT. THEY TRULY CAN BE STEPPING-STONES TO GREATER AND BETTER THINGS IN OUR LIVES.
F.) BUT IT DEPENDS ON HOW WE VIEW THEM AND HOW WE RESPOND TO THEM.
G.) Jesus told a story that has been called the greatest short story in the history of the world (Source: William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, rev. ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976), p. 204). The story was about a young man who failed miserably in every way possible, morally, ethically, financially, and spiritually.
H.) But this young man’s failures weren’t the end. Instead, his failures set to stage for greater and better things to come in his life.
I.) The young man has become known as THE PRODIGAL SON, and he shows us HOW WE CAN FAIL FORWARD.
READ SCRIPTURE: Luke 15: 11-24 KJV
A.) The younger son in this story was like many of today’s graduates and young people, and, indeed, all of us, HE WANTED HIS FREEDOM. So he made a selfish, arrogant request of his father. It’s more appropriate to call it a demand, “Give me the share of the estate that falls to me” (Luke 15:12b NASB). GIVE ME WHAT BELONGS TO ME.
B.) Under Jewish law a father could not divide his property and possessions, as he wanted. According to the Old Testament, the older son was required to receive two-thirds of the estate and the younger son got one-third (see Deuteronomy 21:17).
C.) It was quite common for a father to distribute his estate before he died. Parents do the same kind of practice today when they draw up a will, in which they decide who gets what and how much of their property, possessions, and money they get.
D.) Notice the father’s response. The father didn’t argue with his younger son (Source: Barclay, p. 204). The father didn’t tell his son he was making a mistake. The father didn’t refuse his request. The father did as his son asked, no questions asked.
E.) The Bible tells us that as soon as the younger son got his inheritance, he wasted no time in leaving home. In fact, the Bible says the young man “gathered everything together” (Luke 15:13 NASB).
F.) It seems like the younger son was leaving home WITH NO INTENTION OF EVER COMING BACK. The Bible also tells us the younger son wanted to go to “a distant country” (Luke 15:13 NASB).
G.) It appears that the younger son WANTED TO GET AS FAR AWAY FROM HOME AS POSSIBLE. HE WANTED TO LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND AND START A NEW LIFE, ON HIS OWN, DOING HIS OWN THING.
H.) That attitude describes many young people in our world today. They can’t wait to get away from mom and dad, live on their own, and do their own thing.
I.) They say, “I can do what I want. No one’s going to tell me what to do. I can get up when I want and I can go to bed when I want. I can eat what I want, went I want. If I don’t want to get up and go to church, then I don’t have to. I’M THE MASTER OF MY OWN DESTINY.”
J.) Many young people follow this young man’s example of rejecting everything they had known or ever been taught, especially rejection of God, the Bible, the church, and issues of morality and faith.
K.) Illustration: A recent survey found that 80 percent of young people raised in the Christian faith, who regularly attended church, leave the faith and the church after they turn 18 years-old and leave home. Many of them never return to their faith and never darken the door of a church again (Source: Pastor’s Files).