From 2007 sermonblog...
We should always pray and never give up. Why? Even an uncaring, unjust judge will give in to persistence. How much more will a loving, righteous God answer those who he has chosen to follow him.
This prayer is a measure of our faith. The suggestions is that, when Jesus does return he will not find much faith evidenced by persistent prayer.
We have access to God's power through prayer. We should pray moreand fervently.
When asked the secret of his spiritual power, Charles Spurgeon said: "Knee work! Knee work!"
17/10/04 Year C - Trinity 19/Proper 24 : Luke 18:1-8
Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, `Grant me justice against my adversary.' 4 "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, `Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' " 6 And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
John Wesley, the great Methodist preacher, encountered many times of refusal, and denial, during his early years in the ministry. He logged a few of these instances in his diary:
Sunday A.M., May 5: Preached in St. Anne's. Asked not to come back.
Sunday P.M., May 5: Preached in St. John's. Deacons said, "Get out, and stay out!"
Sunday A.M., May 12: Preached in St. Jude's. Can't go back there either.
Sunday P.M., May 19: Preached in St. Somebody Else's. Deacons called special meeting, and said I couldn't return.
Sunday A.M., May 26: Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday A.M., June 2: Preached at the edge of town. Kicked off highway.
Sunday P.M., June 2: Preached in a pasture. Ten thousand came.
In today's epistle and gospel we have the theme of perseverance. Paul writes to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:14-4:5) to keep going in his ministry of preaching the good news despite opposition. Jesus encourages his disciples to keep going.
From verse 22 of Chapter 17 Jesus had been teaching his disciples about his second coming. This is the context of Jesus' instructions about prayer. So he is teaching about the need for his followers to keep on praying in an evil world where God may seem to be slow to act.
We know that this teaching is linked to the return of Jesus because of verse 8b, "However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
In the light of this we need to counter some initial impressions.
God is not unjust and we are not the widow! We do not need to badger a reluctant God as we pray. The parable is to contrast a worldly judge, who was in it for his own self-interest, and God, who cares deeply about people and justice. The judge only granted the request of the woman because she was a nuisance to him. God loves us as his children and is pleased to give us good things.
We need to realize that prayer is much more than a shopping list of our desires, whether they are right of wrong. Prayer is a dialogue between us and God. Luke records Jesus in prayer before receiving the Spirit (3:21f) and before selecting the twelve (6:12). Prayer enables us to be in touch with God. We have a creator God who interacts with his creation and his creatures. He has not set the world in motion like someone winding up a clock and sit back impassively, watching it.
There will be times when we pray and, it appears God does not answer. This does not mean that God has not heard our prayers. It could mean that the answer is "No". Alternatively, the answer could be "Not yet". It would not help our trust in God if everytime we prayed He said "Yes". Then our faith would be little more that a good luck charm, or a magic lamp that we rubbed to have our wishes come true. Our relationship with God should change us to be more like Jesus. More like the people God wants us to be. The struggles of this life and prayer can be used by God to bring this about.
God cares and will listen to the pleas of his children when we cry out for justice and righteous treatment. So as we watch the television news and are appalled by the inhumanity of a person beheading another human being or the bombing of men, women and children on holiday, God has something to say. The message is twofold.
1) He says to those whom he has chosen to be his followers, "Keep going. Do not let things stop your relationship with me. The disappointments of life, the conduct of others, the weariness of continuing in prayer, worship, service and devotion. Focus on me."
Hebrews 12:1b let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
2) God says that there will be justice given to those who deserve it.
The Bible teaches us that we all sin and fall short of God's perfect standard for us. That we all fail to love God with our whole being all of the time. That we fail to love other people as ourselves all of the time. We all, therefore, deserve God's punishment. But Jesus, who was perfect and didn't deserve to be punished, took our punishment on the cross so we can be free. Free to enjoy the new covenant that was promised in our Old Testament reading from Jeremiah ( 31:27-34 ). Free to relate to God and follow His ways.
One day Jesus will return and, on that day, everyone will receive justice. Those who have failed to trust in Jesus will be without God in eternity. Those who have followed Jesus will be with God forever, worshipping and serving Him with new, perfect resurrection bodies. Free from sickness, injury, sorrow, mourning or death.
This passage reminds us God has chosen people to follow Him. How do we know if we, or someone else is chosen?
There are two elements to the answer, one from this passage, one elsewhere. From this passage we can conclude that those who are chosen by God are those who persevere in their trust and reliance in God. Evidenced not only by prayer and seeking for righteousness, but also in service, public and private worship, loving actions and witness.
Secondly, those who belong to God have His Spirit living within them. Romans 8: And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
A man was sleeping at night in his cabin when suddenly his room filled with light and the Savior appeared. The Lord told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Lord explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might.
This the man did, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore, and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain.
Seeing that the man was showing signs of discouragement, the Adversary decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the man's weary mind: "You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn't budged. Why kill yourself over this? You are never going to move it."
This gave the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. "Why kill myself over this?" he thought. "I'll just put in my time, giving just the minimum effort and that will be good enough."
And that is what he planned to do until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Lord. "Lord" he said, "I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?"
The Lord responded compassionately, "My friend, when I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push. And now you come to me, with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed.
But, is that really so? Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back sinewy and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven't moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith and trust in My wisdom. This you have done. I, my friend, will now move the rock."
God's Spirit living within us can supply the power that we need to keep going. But we need to rely on him. We can show that in our lives and, especially, in our prayers. We can use the forthcoming Week of Accompanied Prayer to move us on in our understanding and experience of what it means to pray. I will be participating in it, and I would encourage you all to diligently think and pray about if God is calling you to take up this opportunity. Can I invite you to come along to the Taster Session to be held on Thursday 11th November, 8.00 - 10.00p.m. at Trinity Church, Knebworth.
One of the options open to people who participate in the Week of Accompanied Prayer is to pray with the Scriptures. Many Psalms, for example, involve petitions to God for protection from those who oppose Him. When we come up against injustice and oppression we too can honestly share our feelings with God. We can now use Psalm 25 as a prayer...
PS 25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; 2 in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me 3 No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse. 4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.