You Matter to God. Why Should He Matter to You?
In Luke 15 Jesus told three stories to illustrate our worth to God, three stories that reveal how much we matter to Him. In all three stories, something is lost or gets lost and winds up being found in the end.
The first story is a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep. One day, one of the sheep was missing, and the shepherd left the 99 sheep that were already safe in the pen and went searching for the one lost sheep. When he found it, he picked up the sheep, put it on his shoulders and carried it home. When he got home, he made a big deal out of the recovery of the sheep and called all of his neighbors together to tell them the good news. How would you like that invite? It wasn’t anyone’s birthday. There was no anniversary to celebrate. No one had set a school record or gotten a big promotion at work. A lost sheep had been found. Does Hallmark make an invite card for that?
The second story is about someone who has ten silver coins and one day as she was counting her coins, she only counts nine. In the story, she turns on every light in the house, sweeps the entire house, turning everything upside down, and the text says in verse 8 that she searches carefully until she finds it. And just like the shepherd, when she finds the coin, she calls her friends over to her house so that she can tell them that she found the lost coin. I doubt, in the cases of the shepherd and the lady with the money, that their friends even knew a sheep or a coin had gone missing. It wasn’t like there had been a search and rescue party that the whole town knew about. Local newscasters weren’t asking people to be on the lookout for a runaway sheep and a stray silver coin. But the shepherd and the woman who found her coin were so happy about recovering the sheep and the coin that they wanted to make sure that their friends knew that they had been on a search and rescue mission, that something important had gone missing and was now found.
The third story is about a son who brazenly, impulsively, rudely, asked his dad for his inheritance. Understand that was like saying, “I wish you were dead” in that ancient culture. No one asked for an inheritance before someone died. The father in the story agreed to the son’s heartless demand. And the son not only took the money, but he left home and verse 13 tells us he set out for a distant land. He didn’t just move across town. He wasn’t planning on coming home for Sunday dinner. He didn’t intend to come home for birthdays and other holidays. He was leaving and was severing the relationship with his dad, with his other brother, with his mom and with whoever else lived in the home.
Things didn’t go so well for the young man. He went crazy. He went from zero to sixty. From structured to wild. From principled to crazy. He lost his mind doing stupid stuff, sinful stuff, stuff that gave him satisfaction in the moment and shame and regret the next day. He ran out of money. He went from daring to desperate pretty quick. The only job he could get was a job feeding pigs. The pigs’ food became his food.
He was broken. He was hungry. He started thinking about how he had it made back at his father’s house. He left it all to pursue it all and lost everything. The text says in verse 18 that he realized he had actually sinned against his father. It wasn’t just that he did something stupid, but he did something sinful. Walking away from the father didn’t just wind up opening him up to bad living, but it created a divide, it caused a broken relationship with his father, one with lasting consequences. If he was going to get help, it would be from his father. The story even says in verse 16 that no one would help him where he was.
One he realized he had done wrong, that he hadn’t just done what he wanted since it was his life and he could do as he pleased, once he realized he had done wrong, he devised a plan to go home to his father and to seek forgiveness for his actions. He would come home and offer to be one of his dad’s servants. He would willingly crawl back and live below his former status as a son. And so, he went home, and step by step he started rehearsing what he would say and how he would say it. He thought through the different possible scenarios and the potential ways his father would react.
I can just imagine his racing heartbeat and sweaty palms as he stepped toward home. Would he be accepted? And as the story goes, while the young man was still a ways from the house, his father saw him coming. He didn’t stand on the porch with crossed arms saying to himself, “This ought to be good.” He didn’t order his servants to guard the perimeter of the property and to tell the boy he wasn’t welcome. Why? Because although the boy had chosen to discard his sonship, the father had never stopped being his father. And when the father saw him coming, he took off running toward the son.
Look at the second half of verse 20 from the New Living Translation: “Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” This wasn’t just a rush of emotion for that day. This wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction. He wasn’t just filled with love and compassion in that moment. There wasn’t just a swell of fatherly affection in that instant. No, he was filled with love and compassion because that is how he had felt about his son when he left and broke his heart, that is how he had felt about his son while he had been away, and that is why he didn’t hesitate, that is why he didn’t deliberate, that is why he took off running to meet his boy. He had never stopped loving him.
He knew that if and when his boy would come home, it would mean the boy had hit rock bottom. He knew it because of the way he had left. He had left full of pride, full of self. He knew the boy must have really messed up to have made his way home for help. He didn’t need to hear his son grovel. He didn’t need his son to wonder about his feelings. He had compassion on him because he knew he was hurting, broken, unhappy and that he had regret his decision to leave in the first place. There was no need for an “I told you so” moment. It wasn’t in the father’s heart to have the “How could you have done this to me” speech. No. It was about mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness.
The father wouldn’t even let the boy get through his speech. He called his servants together and told them to get the fanciest clothes in the house for his son to wear, to make sure there was some bling in the outfit by getting a ring to put on his finger and everyone knows shoes complete the outfit, so some sandals were ordered for his feet. And notice verses 23 and 24 again from the New Living Translation: “And kill the calf we have been fattening. WE must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” So the party began.
I like the way this translation expresses that the father had been planning for, preparing for the son’s return all along. He said, “And kill the calf we have been fattening.” He was preparing for the party long before there was a reason to celebrate. He was planning on the son coming home, and he wanted to be ready for the moment so that it could be special for him. The son had prepared to come home as a servant, but the father was preparing all along that he would come home not only as a son, but as a son with special status.
These three stories highlight how much we matter to God. How do we know we matter to God? What conclusions can we draw about our worth from these three stories?
- You are worth searching for. While many shepherds would conclude that keeping 99 out of a 100 sheep is a great percentage, a wonderful record, and more than an acceptable success rate, Jesus desires that not one person be lost. Jesus doesn’t want one person to wander off and be subject to danger out on their own. To Jesus, you aren’t one of millions or one of many or one of a bunch, you are one of one.
The lady who misplaced a coin wasn’t going to be satisfied to have nine of the ten. It was important to her to find the missing coin. She wasn’t going to stop searching until the coin was found. The Bible tells us in Luke 19:10 that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. He isn’t satisfied with one being lost, even if He has the 99. He will light up every dark alley, swim through every river, climb every mountain, and tunnel through every barrier you and I put up to try to shut Him out. Why? Because you are worth it!
You and I are born lost because we are born sinners. We have inherited a sin nature as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin against God in the Garden of Eden. Even though we have each been created by God, we have been dislocated from Him because of sin. We have a human inclination to depend on ourselves, to be the masters of our own destiny. That is not why God created us. He created us to be in a relationship with Him so that we can truly learn about and understand how valuable we are. We can’t know our value apart from this relationship with Him.
In II Peter 3:9 we read that it is God’s desire that not one person would be lost or dislocated from Him. He is relentless in His pursuit of us. In fact, some of you are here this morning explicitly because God is chasing after you.
2. The second thing I would suggest these stories communicate is that: You are worth pursuing no matter how long it takes. God isn’t put off by your apathy toward Him, your attitude toward Him or your anger toward Him. I know it took ten years for God to get my husband’s attention as he had a decade of prodigal living. You know when you hear that song on the radio that reminds you of something you learned about the Bible? That is God chasing you. You know when there is a scene in the movie where you hear someone sing “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, what blind but now I see, and a lump appears in your throat?” It is God chasing you. You know when the cashier says, “Have a blessed day,” and your mind goes to the things of God? It is God chasing you? You know when you look up and see a sunrise, or watch a sunset, or see the brilliance of the stars, or see a rainbow in the midst of the storm, and you are wowed by how spectacular the scene is? It is God chasing you. You know when you witness the birth of a baby and you hold that fragile person in your arms and are awed by how wonderful and beautiful he or she is? It is God chasing you. You know that circumstance, that thing that happens “out of the blue?” It is God pouring good things into your life to remind you that you have a Heavenly Father who is seeking to know you. God is always sending messages, He is always wooing you by His Holy Spirit so that you can’t say, “God doesn’t want me” or “God couldn’t love me.” If he didn’t love you, He would let you go, but He can’t let you go. He is obsessed with you! You are worth pursuing, no matter how long it takes.
- You are worth forgiving. The lost son had done the unthinkable. He had offended his dad in the worst possible way. He had demanded from him and then discarded him and then disgraced him by the life he chose to live. Here is what you need to hear. None of that mattered to the father in the story. What mattered was that the son came home. Forgiveness was already in the heart of the father before the son came home. Listen, it doesn’t matter what disgraceful thing you have done. It doesn’t matter if you knew better. It didn’t matter if you told God to get lost or worse. God is waiting to forgive you.
Yes, sin offends the holiness of God. Yes, sin is a problem between God and us. Yes, sin is a big deal, but God has generously made a way for us to be forgiven for anything at any moment if we are willing to come home. The punishment that we deserve for living the way we have lived and for doing the things we have done and for thinking the things we have thought and for harming ourselves and others, that punishment was placed on God’s Son, Jesus. He was physically nailed to a cross, and when he was, our sin, our guilt, and our shame, were nailed to Him there as well. While the crucifixion took place in the natural realm, what was taking place in the spiritual realm at the same time was that God was taking out on Jesus what should have been taken out on us.
Yes, God thinks you are worth forgiving, so that makes you worth dying for. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was the only One worthy to pay the price for the sins of the world, and God would rather have Him die than for us to have to live without forgiveness. God doesn’t want us to have to grovel and try to live as less than sons and daughters of God. He wants us to have full status and even special status. He wants to view us the way He views Jesus. He wants to look at us as perfect, as if we had never sinned. That is what the forgiveness of God does for us. It washes us, it makes us new, as if we had never sinned. Yes, you matter to God.
- You are worth celebrating. You could make these three stories all about what was lost if you wanted to. But that really isn’t the climax of any of them. That isn’t really the central theme. The theme is that the lost became found and when they did, there was great rejoicing. The lost son went from pig food to a steak dinner (apologies to all of the vegetarians out there) just because he came home. I am telling you the truth when I say that Being in a relationship with you gives God His greatest reason to celebrate.
It is clear from these stories that you matter to God. Why God should matter to you? What do people miss out on who are not in a relationship with Him? I have five things to suggest to you that lost people lose out on.
Without God, you will lose your path.
Sheep need a shepherd. Sheep aren’t very smart or swift. Sheep will walk right off a cliff. They will move off the beaten path, into dangerous territory and be food for another animal in a hurry. I can’t tell you about God without telling you about Satan, the devil. He is real. He wants your life. He wants your soul. He wants to take you down a road of destruction. You see:
Without God, you will lose your protection.
I don’t have time to show you how many Scriptures deal with God’s protection. He is the only One who can keep you safe, body, mind, and spirit. He is the only One whose power is greater than your enemy. He is the covering for your life that you need. Without Him you are vulnerable. Without Him you are prey for the devil. With Him you can face anything!
Without God, you will lose your potential.
That lost coin was just a coin, but when it was in the woman’s possession, it had potential. Something could come from it. You know what I say about change? About coins? It all adds up, right? That silver coin may have just been one coin, but when you add it with other coins, there is potential to buy something wonderful, right? Even the smallest coin, on its own, has the potential to do something great. There are people who have bought something with a quarter that they turned around and sold for a dollar. They have taken that dollar and purchased something that they sold for five dollars. The lost coin in the story had potential to do something for that woman. She needed to find it so that it could be used to its potential.
Let me just say that the displaced coin never lost its value. It was still worth whatever it was worth when it was lost, but it lost its potential to do what it could do in the way it could be done because of its lost state. When we live apart from God, we don’t lose our value, but we lose our potential. We cannot be or accomplish what God created us to be and accomplish apart from Him. If you aren’t saved, if you aren’t a Christian, you can’t even imagine how much more could be done in and through your life if you would choose to surrender it to Christ. I Cor. 2:9 tells us we can’t even dream of the wonderful things that can happen when we let God take control.
When you allow the power of God to get ahold of your spirit, your mind will be open to new things. You will gain inner strength and confidence to be able to say and do things you never could have imagined. You will find yourself starting things and stopping things that cause many to see and glorify God because of you.
Without God you will lose your peace.
The lost son lost peace in his relationships. Not only did he not have his family to help him when he needed it, but the story tells us no one would help him. The life he thought sounded so good, the life he was sure he could create for himself, wasn’t what he thought it would be. It cost everything he had and left him broken. He couldn’t even take care of himself. Peace is pretty important. Without God directing our lives, we have a sense of restlessness. The question becomes “What am I going to do?” when it could be, “God, what are you going to do to help me in this situation?” When you are without the Lord, the chaos and drama of the world will be amplified, and your ability to handle life’s difficulties will be greatly diminished. A relationship with God brings peace and stability to our lives.
Without God, you will lose paradise in heaven.
As a minister of the Gospel, I must tell you the truth. There is a heaven and there is a hell. Heaven belongs to those who choose the love and forgiveness and path and protection of the father. The Bible tells us that God has prepared a place for those who love Him, for those whose sins have been covered by the shed blood of Jesus on the cross. It is an incredible place without any drama or difficulty. There will be no tears, no conflict, no pain and no goodbyes. It will be peace forevermore in the most beautiful of existences.
You don’t have to be in a relationship with God. He doesn’t have to matter to you. You don’t have to love Him. You might not think it matters if you do. Perhaps life is going pretty well for you. Maybe you have become rich in the things of this world. Maybe your five-year plan is working out. Maybe you feel like you are at the top of your game and on top of the world. Maybe your earthly success will stretch out and last a while. But what happens when you take your last breath? Will anything you have been striving for matter?
Luke 9:25 tells us, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very soul?”
Eternity is forever. This life could be over today. Eternity is forever. This life could be over today. So, which life is more important to be focused on? The famous missionary TS Elliot had it right when he said, “He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” You could choose today to give up your sin, to give up control of your life and to embrace the value and worth God has placed on your life. You matter to God. You will never cease to matter to God. You never lose your value. In fact, that is why Jesus came. He came because you are so valuable to Him. He has come looking for you. He can get you on the right path. He can protect and preserve your life. He can enable you to fulfill your potential. He can give you perfect peace. He can take you to Paradise with Him.