Charles Stanley — The Downward Path To A Broken Life
Well, I continually meet people who are miserable in life. They come from all walks of life. Some of them are rich, some of them are poor. Some of them dress well, some of them don't dress quite as well. Some of them have real standing in their job, some of them at the bottom of the rung, the ladder. And some live in small insignificant places and others live in very fancy homes. Some have many degrees, some have none at all. But they all have one thing in common, they're miserable.
If you ask them why, they can't tell you. They just know that they are. Well, that's true of more people than you and I would like to think exist. They don't know how they ended up there. And worse than that, they don't know how to get out. They just find themselves there and they wonder, "What did I do to, to get here"? And they're angry, oftentimes, feel broken, don't feel like anybody cares, feel empty and worthless and just living a day at a time. And no matter what they have or don't have, you put this whole group together and you may see a change of clothing or place that they live or what they drive. But if you laid all their hearts out, they'd be the same, miserable in their existence.
Some of them had two wives or three husbands or whatever, from one job to the other. And if you ask them what it would take to make them happy, they can't tell you. So, their future looks dark, very dark. So, this passage of Scripture that I want us to read together is a good example and a great lesson that Jesus taught. And whoever you are and wherever you are, whatever your condition, whether you are miserable or whatever it might be, listen very carefully to what Jesus said and what I'm going to say following that.
The fifteenth chapter of Luke is one of the most familiar stories Jesus ever told. And beginning in the eleventh verse of this fifteenth chapter, He said, "A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So, he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered together everything and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So, he went and hired himself to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into the fields to feed swine".
Which is the worst thing he could have done to a Hebrew boy. "And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving him anything to eat. But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I'm dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants".'
So, he got up and he came to his father. But while he was yet a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill him, and let us eat and celebrate; this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; and he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate".
I want you to watch the steps. A lot of people know where they are, but they don't know how they got there. And a lot of people who know where they are and how they got there, don't know how to get out. Because all of us can see ourselves in some portion of this passage of Scripture, maybe not from a wealthy family and all of that, but as far as our response and what's going on. And so, when I look at this passage and try to think: How did he get there? And I want to show you how you get there, but I want to show you how to get out. It began with a sense of being dissatisfied. He came from a wealthy family. He had everything in the world he could possibly want. But he'd heard some things about some other places and how much fun and frolicking and everything that was going on. And the more he heard the more he listened to, the more dissatisfied he became. And he looked around to see what he had, but then he thought about what he could have.
Watch that. Not only what you have, but what you could have. And he thought about how his friends were enjoying all of this. And here he was on this plantation, plenty of wealth, but he was missing something. So, step number one, he became dissatisfied. And so, then, when that happens in a person's life, the second step is they begin to desire something else. I see what's here and he began to desire something else. "What I'd like to have is I'd like to have more friends. And I'd like to have a lot of fun. And I could have the finances to have all the fun and the friends and the frolicking I wanted to". And so, his desires began to multiply.
And one thing I would say to you is this. If you have a strong, watch this carefully, if you have a strong desire to do anything or go anywhere with anybody, be sure you ask God first, before you make that move. Because he visualized the fun and the freedom. And one of the things he visualized is no restraints. Father and mother no longer there, nobody telling him what to do. And so those desires began to increase. He never stopped to ask the question, "Is this consistent with the will of God for my life"? And this is the question many people fail to ask themselves. They make decisions, they get in trouble, they become miserable and they hate their life. And they never stop to think, "How did I get here? I didn't used to be in this position. How did I get here"?
And so, desire is a very dangerous thing if it isn't contained; if it isn't sanctified by the presence and the power and the desire of God. Desire is a powerful emotion. It makes men build awesome things. And people create awesome things by the desire to create and to help other, in other words, there are a lot of wonderful things about desire, as long as it's under control. And so, he began to desire the things he didn't have. He didn't ask the question, "Am I really better off here than where my friends are? Or is there something else out there"? And so, you know what? There came a time he made a decision. He said, "I don't have to live this way. I'll have enough to live the way I want to live and have what I want to have; so, I don't want to live this way".
And this reminds me of another lie the devil told, and the devil has many lies, but I want you to just remember for a moment, you don't have to turn to it. But when Satan was talking to Eve, here's what he said. The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die". In other words, "If you eat this fruit, you'll not die. In fact, you'll sort of be like God. You surely will not die". And this is Satan's trap. "Oh, you, I mean, those things happen to those people. That won't happen to you. You don't have to worry about that part. You just need to enjoy yourself. You need to get away from your parents' restraints. You just need to live life freely and do what you want to do; go where you want to go; see what you want to see; have whomever you choose to have".
So, he made a decision. He made a decision to walk away from God. Watch this carefully. That doesn't happen to you, you make that choice. You look at your circumstances and you choose to do something different. So, the decision came. He made the decision and he left home. It was perfectly legal for him to ask for his section of the finances and so forth and so his father gave it to him. But here's the problem. When you walk away from God, you have no anchor in your life. You're just here and you're just there. Now nobody will want to admit it, but they're here and they're there and they're looking for this and they're looking for the other.
And you know, I'll tell you what it's like. I've stood here for many years, but you put a blindfold on me and tell me to walk on this platform. Eventually, I'll be lying in the floor. Because that's the way life is. And God intends for us to stay attached. He intends for us to stay connected, because He's our Heavenly Father. But when you make the decision to depart, what happens? Well, what happens is first of all, the next word is delight. "Well, now I'm away from my parents. Nobody knows what I'm doing. And so, one of the first things I want to do is to get me a good-looking woman". You say, "Well where is that in the Scripture"? I'll show you exactly where it is. Because in this thirtieth verse, the only sin that his brother told the father about the son was he's, "devoured his wealth with prostitutes".
So, he can have all the women he wants. He can go anywhere he wants to go, do whatever he wants to do and everything looks fine. Satan is so absolutely cunning, because somewhere along the way, he forgot to count his money. He had plenty of money when he left, but he forgot to count his money. And after a while, his friends began to leave him, because, watch this: False friends don't hang around when your money runs out. They don't. So, everything looked great. He had plenty of freedom, fun, finances, and friends, but no place for God in his life. And so now, he got what he wanted. He wanted freedom and no restraints and everything.
Well, that's the devil's way of destroying you. Watch this. You can have what you want, and when you want the wrong thing, the devil is at your doorstep saying, "Follow me". And then something happens. The Scripture says in this chapter that, "He squanders his estate with loose living". Look at verse fourteen, "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred". So, think about it. When you don't have anything, nothing, you have to stop and think. And you have to stop and think, "How did I get in this position? And how many times have I heard somebody say, "This is the story of my life. How did I get here"?
I can tell you how. You started off with discontent. And you go right down these words a step at a time. And the reason I wanted to put them in single words is because when a person recognizes what step they took in life to get them where they are, they can take the right steps to get out of that condition and position they're in. And I'm sure that not only many of you who are listening or watching, you've already seen yourself in this prodigal son. Somewhere in this list, you're having to say, "That's where I am". Maybe you haven't thought about how you got there, but I'm really explaining to you how you got there. You started off with a simple desire, and then step by step, you find yourself disillusioned. Things don't work. You thought, "If I had her, I'd be happy. If I had him, I'd be happy. If I had that, if I had this".
And what happens? In the process of giving your thought and energy and time and planning to getting something that's not the will of God, you spend your time and your thought and your money and your effort and your ingenuity doing what? Wasting it on something else. And remember this: that every time the clock ticks, tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock tick-tock, you can't get any of that back. And life goes on. The clock keeps ticking. Your money keeps going. Your friends keep floundering and they're gone. And before long, you're at the bottom of the barrel. How did you get there? A step at a time. You never thought about it that way, but that's what happened.
And so, when I look to see where he is, the Scripture says he ends up in a hog pen. Now you probably don't know what slopping hogs means, so I want to tell you. Now if you're my age or a little bit less you do. I grew up next to a farm and these folks, who were somewhere kin down the line, they had cows and horses and lots of things, and they had hogs. And one day, this fellow said, "Would you like to go with me down to slop the hogs"? I said, "Slop the hogs"? He said, "Yeah". He said, "You know, we save everything that's left over and put several days and then we slop the hogs".
And I went with him down there and all this dirty, filthy, stenchy leftover food he dumps in this trough and the hogs run to get it. I'll never forget it. I thought to myself, "That's the way some people's life is". It looked good to the hogs. Listen carefully. When you find yourself at the point in your life when you are trying to satisfy yourself with the stuff that never satisfies anybody, you're in the hog-pen and you're eating hog food. And that's where a lot of people are. And if you ask them, "Well, how did you get here"? "I don't know how I got here". Well, then I want to show you. First of all, you start with a desire. And then you move right down the line till now here you are in despair.
So, he's lost everything. And if you'll notice what the Scripture says. The Scripture says, "And when he came to his senses," he made a determination. "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I'm dying here with hunger!'" And I wonder if you might be one of those persons who's in the hog-pen of life. And you wonder, "How did I get here"? This is, this is how you got there. Listen to what he said. He made a decision, he looked around all those hogs and what they were eating. They weren't eating slop, they were eating pods that fell of a tree. But he and the hogs were together.
And for a Jewish boy, this is as low down as you can get. He looked around and he said, "I'm going to get up and I'm going to my father, and say to him, 'Father...'" And he talks about what he's going to tell his dad. He made a decision. Watch this. Many people, many people over here devoured by their life. But the wise man or woman who realizes where they are will say, "I'm going to get up and I'm going to the Heavenly Father and tell him I have sinned against heaven and in your sight". And this boy said, "'I am no longer worthy to be called your son; just make me one of the hired servants.' So, he got up and..." I love this part. And if I can keep my own emotions and tell you. "So, he got up and came to his father".
Now remember how he left. He left in a Rolls Royce. He came home walking. He left dressed like he was going to a high-class party and he comes home in rags. And he left home standing straight, and he's coming home bent over. I don't know how old he was when he left or how old he was when he came back. So, his father's out there one day and he's just looking down the road and probably wondering, "I wonder where my son is. Been a long time. Never hear from him". And he noticed somebody coming up the road and he didn't pay much attention to it at first and then he looked again. He said, "That looks familiar". And all of a sudden, you see him. You see him for the first time, and he's coming home. A dignified man wouldn't run in public.
I love this. Jesus said his father took off running, took off running. And when he got to his son, and his son was trying to confess his sin, and tell the father what he had done. And he said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I'm not even, I don't even, I'm not even worthy to be your son". Again. Father didn't say, "Confess, repent, kneel". His father said to his slaves, "'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his hand sandals on his feet; bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us celebrate; this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; and he was lost and now he's found.' And they began to celebrate".
That's who God is. Willing to forgive, willing to cleanse, willing to give you a second chance, but you have to ask Him. You have to come back. You have to do what he did. Made a decision, "I will get up and I will go to my father". How you got where you are is not the issue. How to get out's the issue. And the issue is surrender, confession, repenting of your sins. And I tell you something. He will take you back right now, whoever you are, wherever you are. And the reason I know that is this. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, places their trust in Him, will have the gift of eternal life". And you'll have it immediately. Let's pray together.
Father, thank You that You love us. Thank You that You don't weigh our good traits against our evil traits. Thank You that You're willing to forgive us. Thank You that You'll take us right where we are, change our life, and a change that will last forever. Now I want to pray a prayer for you whoever you are and wherever you are. I don't know where you are on this list. If you'll pray this prayer with me, God will revolutionize your life when you start praying. If you will pray to Him, "Heavenly Father, I have sinned against You, disobeyed You. I am miserably lost. I am asking You to forgive me of my sin, not because of promises I'll make, but because You paid the price of my sin with Your Son at Calvary. I'm asking You to save me right now, in Jesus' name". You pray that prayer, you are saved. But you might say, "Well, I was saved a long time ago". Then here's the prayer you need to pray. "Father, I've been a rebellious, renegade child. I've thought I knew better than You and I've messed it all up. And God, not only have I messed it up for myself, there are other people whose lives are broken because of me, because of what I've done, the way I've treated others. I have a lot of things to be forgiven for. You said, 'Ask You to forgive and You would.' Father, I'm asking You to forgive me and I'm asking You to give me a new beginning, in Jesus' name, amen".