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Until my wife became pregnant with our second child, we had always shared a car. She worked in the city, close to public transportation, and wherever we went, we went together. My wife preferred that I drive, and when we had our daughter, the situation didn’t change much. We found that our four-door sedan was big enough to tackle strollers, car seats, and any other baby gear we needed.

That situation was starting to be stressful, however. Many days I found myself sitting in traffic after work, worrying that I wouldn’t make the six o’clock cutoff at daycare. I imagined my daughter being the last one left, with the teachers waiting, wondering whether I was coming. I thought about the extra charges we’d incur because we were late (apparently, they charge extra for every minute you’re tardy).

Now it was time to bite the bullet and buy a second car. My wife was going on maternity leave again and needed to get around with the kids. The only problem was that I’m not really a car guy. So, when my dad called me, I wasn’t completely surprised.

“Do you have your computer?” he asked.

“Yeah, hang on.”

“Look up Autotrader,” he urged me. Autotrader is an online site where people sell all sorts of cars, new and used.

What has he found? I thought to myself. I had mentioned to my parents that we were thinking of getting another car and thought my dad might keep an eye out for something. He is a car guy. So, when he gave me a model, year, and price range, my mind started connecting the dots, and I figured he’d found a good deal he wanted me to check out. I had to click through a few pages to find it. The car was more than 10 years old but had less than 30,000 miles on it—basically, brand new! I could hear the excitement in his voice and thought, This is a good start but a bit out of our price range.

I found the page. Listed there were the seller’s details. It was a familiar name.

“What’s happening?” I asked. “Why are you showing me this?”

“That’s Grandma’s car,” he replied “She can’t drive anymore. It’s basically new.”

My mind started turning over this new piece of information. Maybe we could get family rates . . . But before I could finish the thought, Dad cut in.

“I bought it for you! It’s your birthday present!”


“Your birthday, I’ve already bought it. It’s yours, if you want it.” My birthday was a few days away, but I found I couldn’t speak. Tears sprang uninvited to my eyes—the size of the gift, the extravagance of it!

“Do you like it?” Dad insisted.

I think I managed to say yes, but I could hardly form the words. I now know exactly what being at a loss for words feels like. I was swept up in a tsunami of emotion.

Why would he do that for me? I felt unworthy. It was too much, too extravagant. I’ve done nothing to deserve this, I can’t pay it back, and that’s not even an option. It’s a gift. I mean, it will solve a lot of problems and is exactly what we need.

But somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. Dad couldn’t hear my thoughts, but I could tell how excited he was—his love was bursting through the phone.

Eventually, I expressed my happiness and excitement. I fumbled through a few words; I didn’t want him to think I was ungrateful.

We talked a little more about the car, the logistics of taking possession of it, and the paperwork to take care of. But I was only half-focused after that—still reeling from the size and unexpectedness of this astonishing gift.


I don’t know if you can relate to feeling unworthy. Many of us walk around hoping no one discovers that we feel out of our depth—impostors in our work, families, or relationships. We’ve all been damaged by life. Grief has worn us down. Disappointment and unmet expectations often make us cynical or hopeless. And so, we don’t expect anything outside of normal, everyday drudgery. We try to find joy amid the tough stuff. We spend time with our families or spend money on traveling, shopping, or entertainment. All of it is in search of something that will last and make us feel enough.

God wants us to have a fuller life than that. In fact, He promises it. There is a well-known story in the Bible about a young man, the prodigal son, who asks his father for an early inheritance payout and leaves home to strike out on his own. He wants his independence—to try to tackle life on his own terms.

On the journey, he gets chipped and damaged. He spends his money and time looking for fulfillment and satisfaction. He blows his nest egg on gambling, stimulants, fast cars, and fast women. (OK, so they didn’t have cars in Bible times, maybe chariots?)

After his money runs out and his friends abandon him, he starts to feel how you or I might feel on some days of our lives. Unworthy, abandoned, alone. But it’s about to get worse. There is a food shortage in the land. He finds himself homeless. He begs from a local farmer and finds himself feeding the farmer’s pigs and sharing their food. He has hit rock bottom.

As he thinks about his life and choices, he remembers his father’s property and how even the workers his father pays are fed and cared for. He decides to go back and work for his dad. I bet he rehearsed his speech over and over on his way home.

But Dad is waiting, looking down the long driveway. His son has been gone for months, even years, but this father has always held out hope that one day his son would return. And when he sees his son, he runs, undignified, arms and legs flying, to embrace him. The son is shocked. Speechless, he doesn’t feel worthy. But the father bats away his apologies “Nonsense, you are my son.” You are my son. He dresses him, kills a calf, organizes a party, and invites everyone to celebrate. As it turns out, though, not everyone is happy about the celebration. It seems unfair that this young man, having wasted his life and his substance, is the object of such joy and happiness. But that’s another story. Our immediate focus is on the father. He doesn’t care what people think. He only wants to show his extravagant and costly love.

Jesus told this story to people who felt like the son, people who felt like you and I do. They had done things in their lives they weren’t proud of. They were pretty good people, but they had made mistakes, hurt others, and been hurt back. Jesus wanted them all to know that the father in the story represents God, whom Jesus often called His Father. God wants to offer an extravagant gift to all of us. It’s called salvation.

I once asked someone, “What comes to mind when I say the word salvation?”

“You want my honest answer?” the person responded.

“Of course,” I said.

“What is it?” was the response.

On any given weekend in churches across the world, you will hear the word salvation, but do we really know what it means?

It means deliverance. My father delivered my wife and me from stress and a little discomfort with his extravagant gift. No payment was expected; he just felt joy in helping us when we needed it. He delivered—saved—us.

The father in Jesus’ story saves his son’s life with food, shelter, and a home to return to, even though he had rejected it all and walked away from the one who had given life to him.

God wants to save us. But what do we have to do?

I had to accept the gift. The son had to accept it. All you must do is accept it.

According to the Bible, this world is filled with hurt, disease, death, grief, and pain. It’s inescapable. But God wanted more for us all. So He put in place a plan to rescue us from all those things. He sent Jesus to live, share the human experience, and show us that God is the Father who is yearning for each of us to return to Him.

Ultimately, Jesus came to suffer and die at the hands of evil men. Supernaturally, He overcame death and the grave to live again. Today He helps us find hope and healing in the middle of pain and heartache. Soon He will bring it all to an end when He returns in the clouds of glory.

In the meantime, He is seeking all the unworthy of the world, all those people who have hit rock bottom. He wants them to accept Him as their personal Savior. All in heaven are waiting to celebrate your choice. Are you ready to choose Jesus? I know what He’s done in my life, and I’m certain He can do the same in yours.

Jarrod Stackelroth is the editor of the Australian and New Zealand edition of Signs of the Times® and Adventist Record.


by Jarrod Stackelroth
From the July 2023 Signs