In 1997, the two-year-old son of Guo Gangtang was kidnapped. Gangtang is a resident of eastern China. Child abduction has long been a rampant problem in his country.
Childless couples desire a son who could carry on the family name. In order to acquire one, they are willing to do the unthinkable: buy a boy from a child trafficker.
Someone bought Gangtang’s son. When the boy disappeared in 1997, the police set out to find him but found no leads. They had nothing to go on. After an extensive effort, they quit looking for the boy. They gave the family no hope. So, it was against all hope that the father set out on his quest. Gangtang embarked on a search across China. Armed with a bag full of fliers and a flag emblazoned with a picture of his son, he rode a motorbike more than 310,000 miles through nearly half of the country’s provinces.
He wore out ten motorcycles. He exhausted his savings and racked up a huge debt. He searched year after year for two decades. Finally, in the summer of 2021, using modern DNA analysis, there was a break in the case. Suspects were tracked down and confessed to the crime. The son, who had been missing for twenty-two years, was reunited with his family.1
I try to envision Gangtang on his mission. Each day was framed by one quest: finding his son. How many villages did he visit? How many mornings did he mount his cycle thinking, Today might be the day. How many nights did he spend away from home? How many times did he ask someone, “Have you seen my son? He was taken from my home, and I want him back.”
Is that not a picture of the gospel? God’s children, by the droves, have been kidnapped — taken by Satan. The devil has cut them off from their origin. They do not know their Father. But their Father knows them. He will not rest until the lost are found.
Why? What fuels our Father’s quest? John 3:16 offers the definitive answer:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.
Why did Christ die for us? Because of God’s love.
God shows His great love for us in this: Christ died for us. — Romans 5:8 NCV
Why did Christ save us? Because of God’s love.
When the love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us. — Titus 3:4-5 NCV
Why are we raised with Christ? Because of God’s love.
God, because of His great love, raised us with Christ. — Ephesians 2:4-5
What is it that bonds us to Heaven? The love of God.
Nothing… will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ. — Romans 8:39 NCV
God’s love is the driving force of the universe!
Dare we imagine an unloving God?
If God were holy but did not love us, how could we survive His wrath?
If God were sovereign but not benevolent, how would we benefit?
If God were truth but did not love liars and cheaters, how would we be saved?
God’s love is the aquifer from which all His mercies flow. Do you want to understand God? Begin with His love. The Bible says that God’s love is “too wonderful to be measured” (Ephesians 2:19). And when David pondered God’s love, his response was honest: “This is not normal, Lord God” (2 Samuel 7:19).
God has love for us all! Perhaps you find it easy to imagine the father searching for the kidnapped child. But the willful rebel who walks away from home of his own volition? Would the father apply such lavish love to that child? Look no further than the story of the prodigal son.
A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. — Luke 15:11
The son didn’t care who he hurt as long as he got what he wanted. Dad, he in essence said, I wish you were dead. I wish today was the day of your burial. But it’s not, so I’ll pretend it is; give me my inheritance. The boy disgraced his father by leaving home.
Imagine the embarrassment this caused the father. When word of the runaway boy hit the street, rumors would soon follow about the father’s poor parenting skills.
How long do you suppose the father stood at the doorway after the son left? How many times did he walk to the gate? Did he call out his son’s name when night sounds caused him to sit up in bed? Of course he did.
Your father did. My father did. Our Father does. Fathers know what prodigals do. They sell out. They chase the pint of disrespect with the bottle of disaster.
The son “wasted his possessions” (Luke 15:13 nkjv). He squandered the money his dad earned, the profit his dad made, the business his dad built. He spent and spent until it was gone.
There arose a severe famine… Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. — Luke 15:14-15 NKJV
No money. No credit. No parties. No friends. “No choice,” he decided, “no choice but to sell out my Jewish heritage and hang out with swine.”
Oh, but he was so wrong. He had another choice.
The Bible says that the father was pacing the porch searching the horizon for the familiar stride of his son. Don’t remember that passage? Don’t remember the reference to the searching father? Try this one:
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. — 2 Chronicles 16:9 NKJV
For the Son of man came to seek and save what was lost. — Luke 19:10 NIV
Our God “goes after the one which is lost” (Luke 15:4 NKJV). He “sweeps the house and searches carefully” (Luke 15:8 NKJV).
The Father ever searched for the son. And when he saw him, when the father saw his son trudging up the trail, “his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him” (Luke 15:20 NKJV).
Mideastern noblemen never ran. People ran to them, people bowed down before them, but they never ran. It was beneath their dignity, reputation, and station.
But this father didn’t care — he ran. He gathered his robe and broke into a run and kissed his son. The Greek tense suggests he kissed him over and over, flooding his boy’s face with affection; showering him with love. No words, just love. No reprimand, just hugs.
When God sees a prodigal coming up the path, Heaven’s throne room echoes with the sound of slapping sandals and pounding feet as he runs to and embraces His child.
This is the passion of God’s heart.
That is love.
Do you know this love? Listen closely and you will hear the steps of your Father God as he runs down the path to meet you. Incline your ear to Heaven and you will hear God announce:
“Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 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. — Luke 15:22-24 NLT
If the prodigal is one who has departed from his father’s will and direction, are we not all prodigals? Scripture says, “Each of us has gone his own way” (Isaiah 53:6 NCV). Is there a person who has not wandered the path of the prodigal? And is there a repentant prodigal who has not discovered his Father’s forgiveness?
The ratio of God’s forgiveness to repentance is one to one. This is a profound truth. Every prodigal who seeks grace finds grace. Every child who seeks the father finds the father. Every son who steps on the porch of honesty enters the doorway of forgiveness. Each daughter who lifts a hand of confession is embraced by his arms of devotion. One pig-smelling, mud-covered child after another. Why? Why does He forgive us? Why does He raise us up out of our mistakes?
God, because of His great love raised us up… — Ephesians 2:4
It is love that lifts the prodigal and God has never failed a prodigal.
God shows His great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners. — Romans 5:8 NCV
The holiness of God demanded a sinless sacrifice. And the only sinless sacrifice was the Son of God. And, since God’s love never fails, the price was paid. The thought beggars belief, but it is true. God gave His Son for us.
Do you want to know how much God loves you? He hung the answer on a cross so all would see it and nailed it tight so none would doubt it. God loves you with an unfailing love.
Some of you are so thirsty for love. Those who should have loved you did not. Those who could have loved you did not. You were left at the hospital, left at the altar. Left with an empty bed, left with a broken heart. Left with your question, “Does anybody love me?”
Please listen to John 3:16’s answer.
God loves you.
Others have promised and failed. But God has promised and succeeded. He loves you with an unfailing love. And His love – if you will let it – will more than make up for what others did not do. Why don’t you let Him love you?
I had a chat recently with a fellow who was restoring an antique Chevy. Believe me, the thing needs restoring. Torn upholstery. Chipped paint. Damaged body. In my eyes the car is a wreck. But in the owners eyes the car is a work in progress. What is the difference? I only see the present problems. He sees the finished product.
When we look in the mirror, the same dynamic occurs. We often see a wreck. Weathered on the outside, weak within. But does God see a wreck? No, he sees a work in progress. “Yes, Max could use some work. But it is just a matter of time. He will be made brand new.”
God’s love can change us.
There is only one requirement. It must be accepted.
God never forces His love on anyone. He teaches, reveals, illustrates, and offers, but He never pushes His way into the heart. He waits on us to invite Him in.
Please do so.
Let John 3:16 become the banner of your life.
For God so loved me that He gave His one and only Son.
Stay strong in the love of God, my friend. It is the message of 3:16 and the highest hope of humanity. God loves His world, this world. He is on a quest to rescue His children and bring them home.
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God will never fail you. He will always run to you. He will never leave your side even if you leave His. He SO loves you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full