18 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’ ” 6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”
Luke tells us the reason for this parable, even before we hear it from the lips of Jesus-it was an exhortation to pray and not grow weary-to ask and persist until God answers.
There is no mystery concerning meaning here.
The point of the parable is to exhort us to pray and not to give up.
From Napoleon Hill’s “Think & Grow Rich”
illus. An uncle of R. U. Darby was caught by the "gold fever" in the gold-rush days . . . He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel. . . After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the [gold]. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, told his relatives and a few neighbors of the "strike." They got together money for the needed machinery, had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.
. . . The (first) returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado . . . Then something happened! The vein of gold ore disappeared . . . They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again-all to no avail.
Finally, they decided to QUIT. They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and took the train back home. [the junk man] called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating. The engineer advised that the project had failed, because the owners were not familiar with "fault lines." His calculations showed that the vein would be found JUST THREE FEET FROM WHERE THE DARBYS HAD STOPPED DRILLING! That is exactly where it was found!
The "Junk" man took millions of dollars [gold] from the mine . . .
I think it’s also important to keep in mind the context of this parable. Jesus has already taught His disciples the content of prayer-we studied it last week, and many of us repeat it in some form every day:
"Our Father in heaven, may Your name be hallowed, Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day-by-day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we have already forgiven those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil (one).
Let’s put the content of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples into the lesson of this parable.
When people blatantly defame God’s name, and embrace a plethora of evil and base things to worship; When the government is corrupt, the economy leaves millions in squalid poverty, justice is reserved for those who are willing to pay a bribe, and the democratic system seems to be leading the nation toward tyranny, how do you respond?
Jesus says pray: “Thy name be hallowed, Thy Kingdom come.”
Illus. A few months ago we faced what some people thought was a crisis for the music school. We have applied for a certain government qualification for the organization which would make it much easier to do the work God has called us to do. The government officials were making it very difficult-saying we owed the government 2100000 rupees, when we didn’t even have 21000 in the bank, that we would never get the qualification for two or three reasons . . . unless we offer a bribe to the government official, who would be very happy to make all of those problems go away.
We’ve done everything the government requires, and so when my accountant came with this news I was very calm. I told him “if they require us to pay 2100000 rupees, we’ll find a way to do it. We will do everything they require of us legally. But I will not pay a bribe. If we don’t get this qualification, then God will find some other way to provide. This organization belongs to Him. If we honor Him, He is the one who is responsible to guide us and meet our needs.
The accountant went to our representatives. The representatives went to the government official. The government official gave an unexpected response. He said “I understand. Please resubmit your application. It should be approved within three months”. Our accountant came back after that meeting and he was ecstatic. “I’ve never seen God work this way before”, He said (my accountant is a pastor. He has worked for organizations that have willingly paid the bribes to get their work done). That was December. We should know in the next month if what the government official said was true. True or not, our life and ministry and work and school and everything we are is in the LORD’s hands. We pray He will be gracious. When we pray His Kingdom come, it means He can change the heart, even of government officials, to get His work done.
If we are praying for His kingdom and His will, we have to be willing to wait for Him to do the work, and to persist until He moves according to His will.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
I remember when I first saw Vinita-the lady who became my wife. She was coming down the steps of the music office at the college we attended in Southern California. I thought “That is the most beautiful woman I’ve seen in my life”. Later that year I joined the choir-I didn’t know she was the pianist. Our group went on a few weekend tours, and one extended tour to San Francisco and the North Western section of the US. On those trips I got to know her a bit better, and was quite certain, after knowing her only three months, that she was the one God had chosen for me & visa-versa. January 1986, after knowing her only four months, I told her “I feel it is God’s will for us to get married" . But I don’t want to unless your parents give their approval and blessing”. I said this without knowing what I was saying-just feeling it was part of the LORD’s guidance. I had no idea how the marriage system worked here in India. In the US, you meet somebody, you both like each other, you propose-she says “yes”-you’re engaged! You might let the parents know at some point in the process of planning for the wedding.
Things don’t work that way in India. To make a long story a bit longer, one year later we were still not married, nor engaged. In fact, two years later, Vini informed me she was heading back to India, and she showed me pictures of some of the guys who were proposed for her. I looked at the pictures. I wasn’t all that impressed. She asked if I could help her close her suitcase because it was over-packed. I sat on the suitcase so she could close it, and sent her off with a prayer and a blessing, that God’s will would be done. A few weeks later I told my brother what was happening, and that I felt it was God’s will we be married, that she would go off to India, that things would not work out, and she would come back and we’d get married. He said, “I hope that works out for you”. He didn’t seem like he thought it would work out.
Several months later I got a call from a friend-he said Vinita was back in the US. It just happened that that Sunday I was scheduled to sing at a church I was helping out with. I got her phone number & called to ask if she could play piano for me . . . She said yes. . . when she came that Sunday to the church she came with her brother and her mom. Turns out her trip to India was not as fruitful as hoped. The proposal that looked the most hopeful, everything was agreed, but he called from the Chennai airport and informed them he was looking for a girl with US citizenship. He thought since Vini had lived here so many years she must be a citizen. So, they decided Mom would come and seek a suitable boy for her daughter in the US.
We all went to lunch after the service and mom asked “do you think something might work out between you and Ken”?
I can report to you today that things did work out. January 1989 we were married-three years after I had told Vini I felt it was God’s will -25 years ago last month. I have to tell you, Vini was more than worth the wait.
Sometimes if you are seeking God’s will you have to learn to be patient, to wait on Him, to persist and keep on praying, even when for all appearances, God’s will may never work out.
“Give us day-by-day our daily bread”
Maybe bread is a more difficult thing to wait for. If God doesn’t provide daily bread, we may be fasting a bit. But whenever I think of this, and persisting in prayer, I can’t help but think of George Mueller, who, early in his orphanage ministry, prayed for God’s provision, even on mornings when there was no food for the children to eat, and, consistently, God provided.
Illus. Remember R.U. Darby? –He’s the one who stopped digging just three feet from one of the richest gold finds in Colorado.
"Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he STOPPED three feet from gold, Darby [developed] a simple method of saying to himself, "I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say `no' when I ask them to buy insurance."
Darby [became] one of a small group of fewer than fifty men who [in his day sold] more than a million dollars in life insurance annually. . .
Before success comes in any man's life, he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and, perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to QUIT. That is exactly what the majority of men do.
More than five hundred of the most successful men this country has ever known, told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them." Napoleon Hill “Think & Grow Rich”
“And forgive us our trespasses as we have forgiven those who have trespassed against us.”
Illus. A page from John Wesley’s Diary reads as follows: “Sunday morning, May 5, preached in St. Ann’s, was asked not to come back anymore. Sunday p.m., May 5, preached at St. John’s, deacons said, "Get out and stay out." Sunday a.m., May 12, preached at St. Jude’s, can’t go back there either. Sunday p.m., May 12, preached at St. George’s, kicked out again. Sunday a.m., May 19, preached at St. somebody else’s, deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return. Sunday p.m., May 19, preached on the street, kicked off the street. Sunday a.m., May 26, preached in meadow, chased out of meadow as a bull was turned loose during the services. Sunday a.m., June 2, preached out at the edge of town, kicked off the highway. Sunday p.m., June 2, afternoon service, preached in a pasture, 10,000 people came to hear me.” (from Sermoncentral.com John Hamby’s message on Persistent Prayer)
What if Wesley had given up when people in the church rejected him? How many tens of thousands of people around the world have been blessed by the Methodist movement? Wesley, apparently, may not have been the best example in everything he did, yet he did not allow his bitterness or resentment towards those who rejected him and his message to slow him down or discourage him. He moved on.
Forgiveness is difficult. But failing to forgive can be debilitating. We actually have to commit to forgiveness, then live by that commitment again and again.
Peter asked “how many times do we have to forgive? Seven times? Jesus said “Seventy times seven ” (Matthew 18).
This, indeed, requires persistence in prayer. In this life we will have repeated opportunities to forgive, and forgive, and forgive, and forgive.
Jesus' parable is one of Comparison and Contrast
The woman has only one place to go to get justice-she is completely dependent on the good graces of the one she goes to for help. We are completely dependent on God though we often do not realize this.
The judge has the power to help. God has all power, the very present Help in time of need.
The judge does not care about people or about God. –God cares deeply
The woman approaches an antagonistic audience-we approach a welcoming audience
The judge is not interested in giving a good judgment, but gives one in spite of his nature. So Jesus says “listen to what the judge says” . . . The unrighteous judge will give a good judgment in spite of his nature because of the persistence of the woman. God will give a good judgment by nature-how much more WE SHOULD PERSIST.
“George Mueller, the founder of a great Christian orphanage work in England in the 1800’s, was a powerful man of prayer. He knew the importance of keeping at prayer even when the answer seemed delayed. When he was young he began praying that two of his friends might be saved. He prayed for them for more than sixty years. One of the men was converted shortly before his death at what was probably the last service Mueller held. The other was saved within a year of his death.” What do you think would have happened had Mueller given up. [James Montgomery Boice. The Parables of Jesus. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1983) p. 158] from Sermoncentral.com
I can relate to this. I have two close friends who’s salvation I’ve been praying for 30 years. God still hasn’t answered that prayer, as far as I know. But I know “it is not God’s will that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). So I know I can pray according to His will that my friends will be saved. I will continue in this prayer until they come to repentance or I breathe my last.
We must pray and not give up.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil (one)”
Oscar Wilde is credited with saying “I can resist anything, but temptation”
His life was a life of debauchery and dissipation. He died almost entirely alone, victim of venereal disease-brought on by his inability to resist temptation-consumed and destroyed by sin.
Joseph is the great example in the Bible-faced with temptation from a beautiful woman day-after-day, he stood his ground. When she cornered him he left his shirt in her hand and fled.
Why would we have to persist in praying “lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil” ?
Surely it is because whatever point we are in life we are always vulnerable to temptation-opportunities to fall surround us. Yet God is willing to deliver us, otherwise, He would not command us to ask Him to.
This is the only part of the Lord’s Prayer that has a positive/negative. “Don’t do this, LORD, instead, do that”.
If we want to live a righteous life, we have to renew our commitment to purity and love and peace and grace and all of the fruit of the Spirit on a day-to-day moment-by-moment basis. Then we have to ask God to fulfill the commitment we make, because by ourselves, it is impossible to live completely pure, righteous, and spiritual lives.
When it comes to avoiding temptation we must pray and never give up.
And, like the widow who would not give up finally got what she needed, God promises He will answer our Prayers. He desires to. He invites us to ask.
And one final thing
“when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
What is it that diminishes our faith?
I think there is one main thing: Getting our eyes off Jesus
two things that get our eyes off Jesus:
1. Success. We have some success doing things our own way, without asking God-we learn to have faith in ourselves and cannot at the same time have faith in God.
2. Pain. Those whom we love leave. Someone called to care for us abuses us. We suffer atrocities at the hand of other human beings . . .
Whatever happens I can tell you from experience, when we look to anyone rather than God, we lead ourselves down a road to perdition. Like Peter who began to sink when he saw the wind & waves we sink when we get our eyes of Him. Our faith, like everything about prayer, must be renewed daily. We must re-focus our eyes on Jesus
We must persist.