The Father and the Prodigal
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:1-2 NIV
On August 11th, 2019 I lost my big brother unexpectedly at 57 years old. Only 4 years older than me, Derek was my hero! He left home after graduation, got married and joined the Navy, but we were always very close. He was very gifted. In the Navy he received the rank of Chief Petty Officer and was in charge of communications on a nuclear sub. He was proficient with electronics as well as a master brick-mason. He could repair or fix just about anything. Our Dad was a pastor, so we grew up in the church. While Derek was at home, he played the guitar and sang at church with our family. Derek was a loving and compassionate person and always had a sensitive heart towards God. When he was just a teenager, God called him to preach and in his first revival 19 people accepted Christ!
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”
Luke 15:13 NIV
As things happen in life sometimes, Derek began to go down the wrong path. His first marriage failed leaving 3 children to provide for. He soon remarried and his new wife had a baby. One of Derek’s problems was being easily influenced by others. His life really began to spiral downward when he was arrested while in the Navy. Now that he was the father of 4 children, he really needed more income. While at home on leave around Christmas, a friend asked him to transport some drugs to make some extra money. He was caught, arrested, served 9 months in military prison and was then discharged from the Navy. After 11 years his career was over, he had 2 marriages and now 5 children. Derek had to come home and go back to work with our dad as a brick layer. While working on a school gymnasium, Derek fell 25 feet on to a concrete floor and crushed both ankles. In order to deal with the pain, he was prescribed high powered pain medicine which led to an awful addiction lasting 15 years.
The reason I want to share this story is because so many people in the church and ministry have a wayward child or loved one who has become “the Prodigal.” I prayed, fasted and begged God to rescue my brother. I pleaded with Derek and even followed him to try and keep him away from his drug dealers. I saw the needle tracks and visited him in the hospital after 3 overdoses. I, along with our family, went to see him in jail and bought groceries for his family when he was locked up. Our hopes would rise when he would get out of rehab, only to be crushed when he would be using again within a few weeks. Every time the phone rang, I would feel a tightness in the pit of my stomach wondering if this was the call notifying his death. I don’t remember how many times he was arrested. I can’t begin to count the tears I cried. During this time I realized I had another issue–not only was Derek in trouble, but so was I. My hero, my big brother and his addiction had broken my heart.
I wasn’t sure God was hearing my prayers or even cared about Derek. Of course, this was only the enemy trying to discourage me from praying for him and trying to destroy my faith in the process. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy”John 10:10a. When we are praying for a person who is lost, we have to realize we aren’t fighting against flesh and blood, but Satan.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
Luke 15:14 NIV
Derek remarried and moved to Alma shortly after Travis and I became pastors. Derek did eventually recover from the drugs and was clean for 5 years. In 2012 he gave his heart to the Lord and went to church with us but lived with no joy. He had so many regrets from his past. The enemy robbed him of his family and continued to try and steal his life and joy every day. I just kept praying and gave him to the Lord. June of last year he became very sick. He lost weight and we found out He had a bad strain of staph infection (MRSA) which started in his bad foot and had gotten into his blood stream. He was very ill and lost so much weight that we didn’t think he would make it. During this time in the hospital, the Father begin to call to him once again.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.”
Luke 15:17-18 NIV
Because of his past sins, failures and disappointments, Derek had an overwhelming sense of guilt. At one time he shared with my husband, Travis, that he wanted to be right with God but just didn’t know how. Derek was a very private person and kept things to himself. Because he had lost so much weight due to his sickness and his health had deteriorated so quickly, we were afraid He had some type of terminal illness. Travis went to ICU and asked him if he was hiding some type of sickness from us. Derek assured him that he did not have terminal sickness that he was aware of. Travis began to talk with him about his soul. Travis told him “Derek, according to your profession in Christ, belief in God and repentance of your sins, the Bible says you are saved.” Then Travis told Derek the story of the Prodigal and that Jesus allowed that story to be put in the Bible just for him. Christ wanted him, had forgiven him and his past was forgotten.
So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
Luke 15:20-22 NIV
Suddenly Derek began to cry and the guilt lifted. A peace settled on him that day and he had a different countenance. The agony and torture of past failures that had always been with him was now gone. He was free! He immediately signed up for the church membership class and was so thrilled! So was I! My brother was back! Once he was dismissed from the hospital he was on the road to recovery and began to gain weight. My mother and I made sure he had food and everything he needed at home because he was on crutches and couldn’t put pressure on his foot for several weeks. He went to rehabilitation to learn how to walk on that foot again. He worked very hard to gain his strength and he was definitely looking much better. We had a lot more bonding time between brother and sister during doctor visits and his recovery time. We laughed, we cried and talked about old times. Looking back now, I cherish those times so very much.
On Friday August 9th while I was out of town, Derek called me and said he was running a fever. I talked him into going to the ER because he could not afford for the Staph infection to get back into his blood. They admitted him that night for precaution and to get his fever down. On Saturday our care pastor went to visit Derek and found him witnessing to his wife and asking her to accept Christ.
We returned home late that Sunday night, so Derek didn’t want us to come to the hospital. My mother and I had been talking and laughing with him over the phone. Since he was fine and didn’t need anything, we told him we would see him first thing Monday morning. He called my mother back and asked her if she would drop off a cup of coffee and a pack of powdered donuts before she went home. At his request, my mother got what he wanted and took it to the hospital. When she arrived, my brother was gasping for breath. She called the nurses station and the medical staff immediately began giving him CPR. When Travis and I got to the hospital they were still trying to revive him. He was gone…when I walked into his room, I knew it. I felt and saw a peaceful look on his face and knew God had taken him home. A blood clot went to his lungs and caused him to go into cardiac arrest. Though his unexpected loss hit me and my family hard, I knew without a doubt “The Prodigal” had made it home.
“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.”
Luke 15:22-23 (NIV)
God rescued him from the enemy… he is not tortured anymore. No more worries, no more sleepless nights for Derek. He is now healed, happy and rejoicing in heaven with our dad. God is faithful and he answered my prayer. Another Prodigal is home with the Father!
Sherry Peavy is a wife, mother and “Gigi”. Sherry and her husband Travis have been married for 36 years and in ministry for 35 years. For the last 10 years they have served as Lead Pastors at the Alma Church of God. They have 2 children Matthew (and Whitney), Student Pastor at Stewart Road Church of God in Monroe, Michigan and Kristian (and Sidney), who serves in ministry at Alma Church of God. They have two granddaughters, Taya James and Ila Parker. Sherry loves spending time with family, shopping and traveling. Her favorite past time, however, is being “Gigi” to her precious grands.