When God created you, he had the BEST in mind for you. He placed all the potential in the world inside of you, made a space for his Holy Spirit to dwell within you, then went about dreaming of the life you could live and the impact you could make. He imagined the partnership of you trusting him and him guiding you. Oh the life he has for you. If you could only see it, my sister you would never settle again. You would never let fear talk you down again. You would never stray from the best.

Why do we stray from God’s best? Why do we settle into a life far short of what’s available to us? Why do we wake up one day disappointed in where we are and who we’ve become?

Our answer is found in a story Jesus tells. A story we often dismiss ourselves from because we “haven’t messed up that bad.” And yet, it’s still our story.

The story of the prodigal son tells of a son who betrayed his family, left home and got on the wrong path. Greed got the best of him. Wild living got the best of him. Maybe you can relate, but you probably can’t. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few who has royally screwed up their life then found their way back, then this story is for someone else.

You – well you haven’t ever made that huge, epic bad decision that made the 10 o’clock news. Maybe you’ve never been the disgrace of your family. You’ve never landed yourself face down in a pig pen like the prodigal son. And it’s about this time we get all puffed up in our pride and self-righteouness and declare we’re doing pretty darn good with our lives.

Ahhhhh, but wait. Isn’t the story of the prodigal son also about a child who strayed from the best? Isn’t this a story about someone who opted for instant gratification and paid a high price later. Oh yes, this is a story about us!

The story of you and I, the ones who have strayed from the best is found in Luke chapter 15, verses 11-32. Reading from The Message translation Jesus says:

“There was once a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, I want right now what’s coming to me. So the father divided the property between them. It wasn’t long before the younger son packed his bags and left for a distant country. There, undisciplined and dissipated, he wasted everything he had.”

And stop right there. I totally see me in this story. Do you see you? What gets us in trouble here is the “I want RIGHT NOW!” I want what I want and I want it right now. But typically what we can have right now is just a cheap imitation or a slighted version of what would be available to us later if we stuck with it.

You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once. How many times have you traded the greatness you could have in future for the taste of goodness you could have right now? And for many of us, it’s literally the TASTE we can have right now. So many of us have goals to be healthy. And it’s no big mystery, we know what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Oh we know, but we see what we want right now and we’re shoving our face in a bowl of something that goes directly against our goals. And then what happens … we regret it.

Regret is a high price to pay for that little piece of immediate gratification.

How many times have you bought something and regretted it? Our impusles get us in trouble, and in debt. The average American is in over their head in credit card debt, and you know what got them there … $20 here and $20 there. After one year we couldn’t even tell you what we bought, but we have a maxed out credit card with a minimum payment that’s eating us alive.

Hello … prodigal daughter here! I want right now what’s coming to me. I want right now to feel happy and all three of these cookies right here in my hand will make me happy. I want right now to have those new shoes and tomorrow I shall wear them with the new pants I’m going to buy to match them. Nope, I don’t have the money for either of them right now, but I want them right now.

A good relationship requires the right person and let’s be honest, that right person is dang hard to find these days. So we settle for who we can have right now, who can fill that void, who can make us feel better immediately, and we miss it … we miss the better plan God has for us. We miss the relationship we were truly designed for because we’re fooling around with temporary playmates who were never meant to be in our lives in the first place.

A fulfilling career requires years to build, and unfulfilling days in the process. When we’re not willing to pay the price, we miss what could be, and should be ours. We settle because it was too hard right now.

And this is a story of how we stray from the best.

When God imagined you and the life you could have, then formed you with his own hands, he had the best in mind for you. All lined up and available to you, your name was on it. The best has always been yours and you could have it all, but you couldn’t have it all at once. There are some things you must wait for. There are some things that take time. There are some things you are simply not ready for.

The prodigal son wasn’t ready for immediate wealth. But he wanted it now, and so the father gave it to him and watched him stray from the best. He watched him waste it all. I wonder where the father has been watching us waste it all.

Where have you been wasting what you have been given? Oh yes my sister, you have been given much. So much. And often times we’re wasting it. How? Just as the prodigal son did by being undisciplined and dissipated.

Undisciplined – lacking in self control. Is this you? You know what you should do, but you simply aren’t doing it. You lack focus and follow through. You start strong and fizzle fast. You want it, you want it now and you lack the discipline to stay the course to earn it. Who am I talking to today? Is this you? Isn’t it all of us? Of course it is, that’s why Jesus shared the story of the prodigal son with us in the Bible, because he knew one day we too would stray from the best in exchange for what we could have right now and we would need to know how to find our way back.

Dissipated. Yes, that’s what scripture calls the prodigal son. He was undisciplined and dissipated. What does that mean? It means he over indulged. He used it all in a foolish way. God is speaking directly to us this morning with a gentle tap on our heart and saying, “my daughter, you have over indulged. Reign it back in.” He has given us so much and we have used it in foolish ways.

We have strayed from the best. The best is available to us. It always has been. And here’s the thing, regardless of how far you’ve strayed and how long you’ve been straying, the best is still available to you. You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at once.

Are you willing to work for what you can have?
Are you willing to be faithful with what you have been given?
Are you willing to stay on course so you can experience the BEST in your life?
Are you willing to sacrifice today for what you can have tomorrow?
Are you willing to delay your gratification now?
Are you willing to wait?

Gather around prodigal daughters, the story ends well. The son hits his rock bottom, and this rock bottom is a good place. Sometimes God lets you hit rock bottom so you will discover that he is the rock at the bottom. And then he rebuilds you on that solid rock. He’s not done with you yet.

The father of the prodigal son was always waiting for him to return. Even when he knew he had wasted it all. He was waiting.

God is waiting for you now. Come back to his best for you. The journey may be long, but you will get back to where you’re supposed to be one step at a time. What step back do you need to take today? A step of putting down that drink. A step of a portion size, not the whole plate. A step of passing up the clearance items even though they’re such a bargain. A step of ending that wrong relationship and investing in the right one. A step of waiting for the right one. A step of showing up and just trying. A step of getting help.

God is guiding you to your next step. Take it now. Come back to his best that is waiting for you. You’re not too far gone. There is hope, a whole future of hope for you.

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