“My son,” said the father, “you are always with me and everything I have is yours.”
The older brother of the prodigal typifies the Christian who though having long believed in Christ, languishes in a mediocre spiritual experience. I believe we have all journeyed there at one time or another. Perhaps you are there now.
The older son had a relationship with the father by grace - he was born into a wealthy family and had a generous and fair father. He had done nothing to earn his relationship and had, in fact, as is the reality of all children, been nurtured by the father from a very early age. It is unlikely that this father who had so patiently doted on the younger son had not also been kind to the older, patiently teaching, training, instructing about life on the farming estate. Yet the older son took what he had gained by grace and sought to hold on to it by works, seeking to justify that he had somehow earned or was trying to earn what the father was willing to give freely.
No wonder there was hardness about him. No wonder he was angry when he heard his younger brother had returned and that the fattened calf had been slaughtered for a welcome home party. No surprise that he was quick to jealousy and reprisal. This is the spirit of hyper-competitiveness, that feels good about itself only by putting down another.
But here is a truth we must grasp for our spiritual development - all that the Father has is ours. Christ taught this spiritual principle in simple words on the night of His betrayal. Referring to the Spirit at work in believers He said, “He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:15).
God does not give the deeper life to believers begrudgingly. We do not need to convince Him to do so, or try to sway Him to be willing. It is in His plan to do so, and in His own interest to do so. Christ said that the process of through the Spirit receiving what is freely ours in Him brings glory to Him, increasing His renown and reputation among angels and among those who live on earth. Our Father is rich and generous in all things spiritual and we must only receive these things by submission and faith that He is ready, willing, and able to give.
This does require a different orientation from the rest of humanity. We need to stop thinking like the lost world, stop valuing what they value, stop chasing after the things they chase after, and begin to look up to the Father for all good things. We must by faith live with the utmost confidence in His Word and in His promises. The world tends to tear down our faith structure and wear us down in our belief.
But through faith, can you today believe in Christ? Can you by faith claim His promises? Can you simply say to the Father, “Thank you that all you have is mine also,” and trust that He will give you the peace and grace and blessings that He has planned all along to give you? Our true life is a spiritual existence, not a mere physical one. Trust in God to do in you all that He has promised to do. Rest in Him and in His love for you.
If there is anger and jealousy in your heart, if impatience and a tendency to judge others or be envious of their success is just beneath the surface in your life, then this is an indication that you are still seeking to earn your blessings that only come by grace. Rejoice in another’s day of grace. Give your envy to God. God’s grace expressed toward another individual means there is grace for you as well.