When he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father (Luke 15:17-20).
You can motivate him all along the way as you cooperate with the story that God is writing in your child’s life, but you cannot change your child no matter how hard you try (2 Timothy 2:24-25). The Prodigal Son story gives you a template that will help govern your heart as you wait on your child to change. Notice the four sequential steps that led to the Prodigal’s transformation.
#1 – End – He Comes To An End Of Himself
The “end of himself” is always the beginning of change. The end is the necessary first step because a child will often experience worldly sorrow rather than godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10). He feels caught between his sin and the horrible consequences of his sin, so he says he is ready to change. A few months later, he is back to his sin like a dog returning to his vomit (Proverbs 26:11).
#2 – Light – He Sees The Light
When your child gets to an authentic end of himself, he will experience God’s empowering illumination. You won’t have to tell a repentant person what to do. The repentant individual automatically knows how, when, and why to do the will of God. He’s like a wind-up toy. God winds him up with divine favor, and your job is to get out of his way because his heart is motivated to transform. God will use your counsel, but your counsel will have little effect if the Lord is not actively illuminating the child.
#3 – Plan – He Makes A Plan For Repentance
After God turns the light on, the former rebel will be proactively thinking through a plan of repentance. Notice what the Prodigal did. Before he acted on his plan of repentance by going to his father, he sat in the hog lot and scripted a plan for repentance. Premeditated repentance is a crucial step. Isn’t that your testimony? (1) You came to an end of yourself, (2) God illuminated your mind, (3) you premeditated your change, and (4) you began working your plan for repentance.
#4 Act – He Acts Out His Plan
He put a wooden stake through the heart of his old self and jumped on the road to repentance. By the time you see a repentant person—like the Prodigal’s daddy saw his son—God will have already changed him. There is nothing left for you to do but forgive and love him. If your child needs to change but has not yet come to an end of himself, the first thing you should do is wait as you ask the Lord to bring your child to the beginning of change, which is the end of himself.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).