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Life in the far country

When Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son he described the son as having left his fathers home and gone into a ‘far country.’ The description fits the believer who appears to have “deliberately” abandoned his faith and ‘left the church’.

In similar vein but slightly different emphasis Jesus also told the story of the lost sheep which “strayed” and ended up lost, away from the flock and fold.

Although every one’s journey will be different there are common factors in the transition and route taken from the ‘father’s house’ to the ‘far country’ as there will also be in the experience of life on spiritually ‘foreign soil’.

To return to the story of Israel’s demand for a king, there was a period of transition, a time between their decision to have a king and their actually having one. It was a time for reflection when Samuel urged them to have a change of heart and mind and thereby avoid the undesirable effects of their proposed course of action. Their stubborn refusal to heed Samuel’s warning led to God saying to him “Let them have their king”.

I think that as a general rule, when we leave our ‘fathers house,’ our hearts and minds depart before our feet. The Scriptures tell us of those who “Even while they worshipped the Lord they were serving their idols” (2 Kings 17:41 NIV).

I recall in my own experience commencing the relationship with my Church Secretary’s wife almost 3 years before I actually left my family and Church. There was time to reflect, time to repent, but I stubbornly insisted on my own way and lived to suffer the consequences of the sinful arrogance that said “not Gods way, but mine”.

The prodigal who rejected his fathers pleading had to cross his fathers land to reach his place of exile and could have turned back before finally crossing the border.

How far have you gone? If you’re set on a course that will lead to the far country I would urge you in the words of the prophet “Consider your ways”. Life in the far country isn’t all it’s made out or promised to be.

The devil, like the adulterous woman Solomon tells us about tempts us with flattery and the prospect of pleasures to be showered upon us. In the pursuit of that flattery and pleasure we find ourselves where we can’t seem to help giving away more and more of who we are to obtain more and more of what we want. Satan tries to entice us, like sheep, with the ‘greener grass on the other side’ until we force our way through the fence into unknown territory where we are completely lost.

To use a different metaphor like distracted soldiers we are lured into an ambush from where we carried away into captivity.

Sometimes we know that we are playing with fire, but are so enjoying ourselves, that, like Samson we think we can handle it, until we find we’ve given too much away.

Temptation always comes in the form of things which appeal to our sense of what is desirable or feels good (if it did not we would never fall for it!).

It has rightly been said that “the pleasures of sin only last for a season” but let us be in no doubt, the evil one will try to ensure that they are pleasurable long enough to consolidate his hold over us. Sin can be made to be enjoyable but its inevitable and long term consequences, can’t.

For a while the Prodigal Son had a great time, he had money to flash around, enough to buy his pleasures and excitements, even it seems his companions.

Things began to turn sour; his funds ran out, his companions deserted him, his life of luxury and pleasure turned to one of poverty and drudgery. The life that had been full of the promise of unending delight was now deprived of all hope.

The journey to and the time spent in exile are marked by moments of wistful memories of home, as well as conscience’s troubled by what we have done. I believe these to be indications that we are children of God who has not wavered in His love for us.

In the early days in this foreign land the Prodigal could blot out memories of his father and home by immersing himself yet further in pleasure and debauchery. His, mine and the experience of many others is that this can’t continue, the worse things get, the more you realise how much you left behind.

Your sense of lost leads to regrets that torment you, you begin to feel guilty and sink in a sea of despair and disillusionment. Leaving home it seemed there was everything to live for, but now, it’s all so different; desperate, forsaken and alone, life doesn’t feel like living.

If you are in the early days of your exile I would urge you to return home but I suspect that you will be likely to ignore my pleading, until wallowing in the mire of a wasted and ruined life you wish you had listened. “But now; well, it’s just too late, I’ve reached the end of the road, I’m done for; I’m going to end it”

Wait my friend! God is merciful; your Heavenly Father loves you still. There is a way home.

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