My brother has always been a bit of a trouble maker, but he went through a particularly noteworthy rebellious streak during his late teen years. Typical teenage stuff, experimentation with alcohol and cigarettes (this was before the days that “experimentation” included drugs of various sorts), staying out late partying, being places he shouldn’t have been, and lying about it all to our parents.
Then, by God’s sovereignty, he went on a World Changers trip with the college group at our church. My brother came back a completely different person. During that week, God changed him. Dramatically. He immediately became more involved in church and Bible studies with other young men his age. The partying and drinking stopped abruptly. His friends changed. Not long after, he surrendered to a call to ministry and began making preparations to attend seminary.
His was truly a story of God taking the most unlikely candidate and transforming him into a usable vessel for His purposes.
There was a lot of rejoicing and excitement in my home about this change in my brother. I remember feeling amazed and excited about what God was doing in my his life. We grew so much closer during this time–actually talking about life and what each of us wanted.
But there was also a bit of jealousy.
Mine was a simpler story. The good girl’s story. Saved at a young age. Never been in any real trouble. Serving the Lord where I could.
No dramatic transformations for me. Just the slow process of growing in Christ day by day. No real recognition either. This “good” behavior was expected from me.
I relate more to the righteous brother in the parable of the Prodigal son. He’s the one who stayed at home working beside his Father the entire time that brother of his was off squandering his Father’s wealth. I always did the “right” thing. Somewhere along the way, I believe that “do the right thing” behavior turned into me subconsciously thinking I could earn my place in God’s family. Sure salvation was free, but if I did everything right, I could earn a better spot at the table. But here my brother just blew right in and skyrocketed ahead of me with no effort.
I was believing a lie, and I was turning the focus on me rather than the Savior.
We find the Father’s response to the older brother in Luke 15:31-32: “Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.”
The truth is that I already have all that my heavenly Father has as a member of his family. I cannot earn a better place. Christ has given me all in his sacrifice. Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3 that in Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing.
Beyond believing the lie that I could earn a better place in God’s family, I placed the focus on myself rather than God and the work He was doing in brother’s and my life. Emily asked a poignant question at the end of Chapter 9: What makes a testimony worthy–the one rescued or the Rescuer? Certainly the answer is the Rescuer. The focus of every testimony is Christ and the sacrifice He made for our salvation and the work the Holy Spirit is doing to grow and change us–whether that be slow and steady for dramatic.
Let us rejoice and glorify God for His work in our lives.
Can you relate to the righteous brother in the story? How do you try to earn a better place in God’s family? Have you ever felt like your testimony was not as powerful as someone else’s?
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DISCLAIMER: I tell this story with permission from my brother. Although he was half asleep when I asked!
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