July 21, 2024

Joel Osteen — Go After The Prodigals

I want to talk to you today about going after the prodigals. We all know people that used to be strong in their faith. They used to be in church and excited about God. You’d seem them week after week serving, giving, helping others.

But somewhere along the way, they fell off course. They had a disappointment, a sickness, a divorce, they got discouraged, or maybe they made poor choices and now they feel guilty and condemned like they don’t really belong.

The book of James talks about how we have to go after the prodigals, we have to go after the people that have fallen away. It’s not enough to just think, “I wish they were here. I really miss them. I wonder where they are”. No, you’ve got to be proactive. God is counting on you to go get that person. Pick up the phone and call them, stop by their house, send them a note, reach out to them in some way.

We have a responsibility to bring these people back. You don’t have to tell them what they’re doing wrong, don’t condemn them, just tell them three simple things, “We miss you, we need you, and we love you”. Friends, love heals, love restores. When people know that you care, the fact that you took time to express your concern, that’s what brings prodigals back home.

I had a friend that I grew up with and every summer during high school, we would play basketball together at the neighborhood church. That’s where he and his family attended and they were some of the main members. They’re faithfully there every week. Plus, he was very involved in the youth program. Well, after high school, we went our separate ways and I hadn’t heard from him in many years.

One day I was talking to another friend and he told how this young man had gone through a divorce, dropped out of church, gotten very discouraged. Basically, he had lost his passion for life. When I heard that, something rose up on the inside. I thought, I’m going to track him down and encourage him. Hadn’t spoken to him in over 20 years. I tried to call, but I didn’t have the right number and checked with other friends, but they too had not kept in touch.

I finally got ahold of a high school teacher and they gave me his parents’ number. They had moved to a different state. When I called him, of course, he was excited and we laughed and reminisced about old times. Then I told him, “The real reason I’m calling is because I know you’ve been through tough times. You’ve had a disappointment. You’re not in church anymore. I want you to know that God has a new beginning. We miss you, we need you, we love you”.

I didn’t condemn him. I didn’t try to pressure him into changing, didn’t preach a sermon. I just let him know that we cared. He’d never been to Lakewood, and really, I wasn’t trying to get him to come here, but the next sunday, sitting on the third row, there he was with his mother and his father. His parents told me, “Joel, we hadn’t been in church in 15 years, but your phone call was the turning point”. Today, this young man is remarried, he’s back in church, very involved, fulfilling his destiny. All it took was one phone call, just a little bit of effort, a little time, a little energy, and what happened? A prodigal came back home.

I’ve learned we can’t help everyone, but we can help someone. God puts people in our path on purpose. What would happen if we all took time to reach out to a prodigal? The person you used to play basketball with, they used to sit by you in services, they used to usher in your section. They used to greet you when you came in, now they’re nowhere to be found. They’re discouraged, they’re struggling, life’s trying to push them down. All they need is to hear you say, “We miss you, we need you, we love you”. It’s amazing what it does for people when they know you care, lights a new fire on the inside, and the closest thing to the heart of God is helping hurting people.

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