Storeroom Sermons of David Chadwell

Difficulty Requires the Prayer of Persistent Patience

I want to focus our thinking today by using a familiar scripture in Luke 18:1-8. I encourage you to read with me.

Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ ” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge *said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

A fairly common conversation these days focuses on how much things have changed. Depending on our age or our background or both, many of the changes really irritate us. There is not longer a sense of community and neighborliness as there use to be. Prices continue to go up. It is not uncommon to go to public places and hear several languages that sound strange. The world is getting smaller and smaller all the time--someone important can "hiccup" in a nation thousands of miles from us and cause an earthquake in our nation. Living in national isolation is no longer possible--the world has just become too dependent on what is occurring in all nations.

As much as we might dislike change in our world, we typically dislike change in the church even more. We have a family member who dropped out of the church for years, and then came back. She asked, "What happened while I was gone? When I left we sang about the old rugged cross, and when I came back we were singing about thirsty deer."

Whether in life or in the church, some find change filled with the invigoration of challenge, and some find change going from bad to worse.

  1. The parable we just read involves two characters: the weakest of the weak, and a powerful difference maker.
    1. The powerful difference maker was a local Jewish judge.
      1. His rulings mattered.
      2. As the saying goes, "He could make you or break you."
      3. He was an unprincipled man.
        1. His primary concern was his own best interest.
        2. Though he was a judge in a religious society, his concern for God was at best superficial--the only time he was concerned about God's interest was when God's values served his purposes.
        3. He was not a compassion man--he did not care about the plight of a person unless his concern served his selfish purposes.
    2. The powerless person was the widow.
      1. A first century Jewish widow lived in a man's world.
        1. Ideally, she would have her father, her brother, or some interested male speak for her to a judge.
        2. The worst person to plead her case was herself--a woman was typically ignored in that situation.
      2. If ever there was apparently a hopeless situation, that was it.
        1. The woman had a real need for protection from someone who was making her life miserable.
        2. The judge simply did not care about her need, and she had no power to improve the situation.
        3. From every human perspective, the situation looked hopeless.
      3. However, the widow persisted, and the judge decided she would make him miserable because she did not have enough sense to know when to give up.
        1. So the judge acted out of self-interest just to get rid of the woman.
        2. The result: the powerless woman received her protection.

  2. Let's immediately make one thing quite clear: the message of the parable is NOT "hang in there until you wear God down and get what you want."
    1. The parable used a Jewish literary device that used a comparison: "If an disinterested, ungodly, uncompassionate judge would act in the behalf of the powerless, how much more would an interested, compassionate God act in our behalf?"
    2. The point is NOT we can wear God down.
    3. The point is NOT we can get what we want materially.
    4. The point IS a caring God is constantly concerned about our best interest.
    5. We can always count on God to act in our best interest.

  3. The situation seems to be set by verse one: we ought to pray and not lose heart (give up).
    1. As we stated at the beginning, sometimes we moan about how bad things are getting.
      1. That is not a new phenomena --verse one indicates that is the way some felt in the first century.
      2. For some, things seemed to be going from bad to worse--they just wanted Jesus to come back and end an awful situation.
        1. The government, the idolatrous institutions, and society in general misunderstood Christians and made their lives miserable.
        2. The Jewish opposition increased their misery and questioned their faith.
        3. Some died, some lost jobs, and some lived as outcasts just because they believed Jesus was the Christ and was raised from the dead.
        4. The more time passed, the better organized the opposition against them was.
        5. In short, for many Christians the situation was miserable and getting more miserable.
        6. It was easy to conclude that God did not care about them and just give up.
      3. The solution: trust in God, pray, and do not give up. (We prefer an immediate fix approach.)
        1. God cared, and existing problems did not prove He did not.
        2. God had options they did not even consider, and they included working through those who did not care!
    2. We likely have more in common with the Christians in the first century than we care to admit.
      1. Many of us do not like the way things are heading--we would change many things if we could!
      2. Our lifestyle and favoritism is threatened in ways we would not have believed 25 years ago.
      3. To us, the unthinkable happens too frequently.
      4. We are beginning to wonder where the silver lining is to our clouds.

  4. May I point out some things to you.
    1. The issue is not, "Does God care?"
    2. The issue is not, "Is God out of options?"
    3. The issue is not, "Is the situation too bad for God to do anything about it?"
    4. The issue is this, "Do we have confidence in God?"
      1. Do we really believe God has our best interest at heart?
      2. What if our best interest is not found in our desires? What if having what we want would spiritually destroy us?
      3. When things do not go as we want or wish, is that evidence that God does not care?
      4. Is the only way things can improve to leave them to our plans and imagination?
    5. Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves, our lifestyle, our desires, and what we want to happen that we do not see the "big picture."
      1. God has been fighting the evil that humans invited into His creation since Genesis three.
        1. He has been at war with Satan in the physical world since humanity yielded to temptation.
        2. He delays the end until people have the maximum opportunity to escape evil (2 Peter 3:9).
      2. We matter as individuals, but the eternal conquest of Satan also matters.
        1. There is much more involved than our immediate desires.
        2. There must be the awareness, as in any war, that our struggles can be a part of helping achieve God's objectives.
        3. Struggles are not proof that God abandons us, but prove the reality of the conflict.

  5. An essential part of trusting God is our conviction that God always acts in our best interest.
    1. Most of us are either in the process of rearing children or have reared children.
      1. There are numerous times when a parent must act in the child's best interest in spite of the child's ignorant protest.
        1. Children want what they want, and they want it now--immediate gratification.
        2. Being a parent involves saying no, or giving a child a medical treatment, or refusing a child something he or she really wants.
        3. Most of the time the child has no idea the parent is acting in his or her best interest--the child thinks the parent just does not care.
      2. It is often the same in our relationship with God.
        1. We want what we want right now, and we do not understand why we cannot have things just as we want them.
        2. When God refuses to do things as we want them done in our time frame, we hastily conclude God does not care.
        3. Too often, we have little or no confidence that God is functioning in our best interest.
        4. Too often, we blame God for acts of Satan.

  6. To me, one of the most fascinating statements made in our text is the question, "When Christ returns, will he find faith on the earth?"
    1. The question is asked by Jesus before he dies and is resurrected, and is not focused on the church.
      1. The church has not been established, and the question is much deeper than a willingness to be part of the called out.
      2. May I paraphrase my understanding of Jesus' question?
        1. When things get rough in your life, do you place your confidence in God?
        2. Does your confidence in God depend on things going the way you want them to go?
        3. Do you limit God to:
          1. Your imagination of what can happen?
          2. To your time frame (do you realize how many thousand years were required for God to send the Christ in a moment that could achieve His objectives in human salvation?)
    2. Too often we substitute our concerns for trusting God, and trust the wrong things.
      1. We trust the church instead of trusting God.
      2. We trust our acts of obedience in our confidence "that God owes us."
      3. We trust human imagination and solutions rather than divine actions which we do not understand.
      4. We think solutions are found in human discoveries.
    3. The truth is that we are just uncomfortable in this society in trusting anything that is not basically human in origin.
      1. We are so impressed with what humans can do that we are very skeptical of any good thing happening that is not human.
      2. We much prefer "faith in us" to "faith in God."
      3. Thus the issue: Will there be any place for faith in God when Jesus returns?

You are not a Christian because you believe in faith in us, or the existence of good, or the church is right, or the Bible is superior to all other writings. You are a Christian because you believe in God. Your faith is vested in Him, not in us.

You and I are quite likely as Christians to take Jesus Christ for granted as one who makes perfect sense in the pursuit of salvation. Jesus Christ did not make sense to the Jewish society in the first century. He did not make sense to the first century world. He would not make sense in our world of today. We would not have provided the world salvation though Jesus Christ if that had been "our call."

Place your confidence in God's acts in Jesus' death and resurrection. Do not place your confidence in human achievements. Live your life in trust of God--even when your life is difficult. Pray for strength and be persistent, but never quit!


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