The main lesson in the story of the Prodigal Son is clearly that the Father will take you back if you return from the far country. But before you can face the Father you must face yourself.
First, the prodigal had to face his choices (vss. 12-13). He chose the far country over the father’s house. He knew he couldn’t sin in his father’s presence and get away with it, so he decided to leave instead of stay. He chose to sin instead of serve; to rebel instead of obey; to party instead of pray; to lust instead of love; to waste instead of work. In short, he chose personal freedom over paternal fellowship. Now he had to face his choices and see the mess he made. He blew it and he had to face it.
Next, he had to face his circumstances (vss. 14-16). He was enduring a famine instead of enjoying the fullness of the father’s house. He chose his sin, but he didn’t choose the consequences. He was dissatisfied, disappointed, destitute, and for all practical purposes, dead (vs. 24). His funds ran out, his friends took off, and the famine moved in. He was like a child in a department store that drifted away from his mother; whose face goes from a confused look to one of shock and horror when he discovers he is lost. He was lost in the world and he finally admitted it.
Finally, he had to face his conscience (vss. 18-19). He was regretting instead of rejoicing. He made a decision to “arise” (vs. 18) and followed it with a declaration: “I have sinned.” Others have said it, like Pharaoh, Balaam, Saul, and Judas; but he meant it! His conscience was pricked and he faced it and followed it.
Someone said, “The longest road in life is usually the road to one’s own self.” That the father had already forgiven him was evident, but he would never have known it if he didn’t return. And he never would have returned if he didn’t face himself!