Summary: A sermon on unanswered prayer, and a great visual illustration involving a cement block that goes along with the message
(Props needed for illustration: 8x8x16 cement block, hammer)
Lu 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them [to this end], that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; (KJV)
Today I want to talk to you about fainting. I have an illustration that I am going to use in a few moments that will make, I believe, a profound impact on your life.
Today I want to define what fainting is, use an illustration from a different portion of scripture, then come back to our text and explain it, and give you a powerful illustration to help you always remember to pray and not faint.
The Greek word that is translated "faint," is egkakeo and it means to be utterly spiritless, to be wearied out, exhausted. Another term we might use is "blackout". A blackout is a loss of electrical power, and most if not all of us have experienced that at one time or another. It also is what happens to people because of an injury or a drop in blood pressure, they faint, because of a loss of power to continue normal functioning.
I will begin with perhaps the most famous fainting passage in all of scripture, and it is found in Isaiah chapter 40:
Isa 40:29 He giveth power to the faint; and to [them that have] no might he increaseth strength.
Isa 40:30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
Isa 40:31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint.
We have been in a series on Hebrews 12 and have talked about, "running the race." Truth is there are some days that you are not able to run, fact is you are doing good if you can keep one foot moving in front of another. I thank God for days that I am able to spiritually run, but reality has shown that their are days that running simply is not possible. Thank God, He addresses those days saying He gives power to those who are on the verge of fainting, and that they will be able to continue walking and not faint.
What are examples of days that we may not be able to run this race?
Days of mourning a loss. A miscarriage, a loved parent, child, sibling, or friend passing away. Some funerals are celebrations, but many are marked by feelings of profound sadness. We may not be able to run the race on those days, but at least we can take comfort that we can keep plodding on because God will give us strength to not faint.
In a season of a marriage breakup and divorce, you won't be described as running a race. Or a season of unemployment, or prolonged sickness with no resolution in sight. There are a few spiritual luminaries who in such times will exhibit joy in the Lord, but most of us will be pressing in to God the best we can, waiting on Him to renew our strength because our spiritual electrolytes have hit almost zero.
Thank God the bible recognizes that we are not always spiritual heroes, at times we can be better described as injured warriors convalescing and licking our wounds. Thank God He has promised never to let our gas tank get to complete empty if we will but wait on Him.
Here is Isaiah 40:29 repeated with different words, by Jesus, in Mt. 11:28
Mt 11:28 Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Let me tie this in with an illustration from my life, that I think all of you can relate to. I know you have been wondering about the cement block up on this table and what it could possible have to do with the passage in Luke 18 or the one in Isaiah 40, let me break it down for you.
A number of years ago I was struggling financially, it was especially difficult for me as a pastor, because I thought, God if you won't take care of me, how can I tell people you will take care of them? A scripture that tormented me in this season was, "physician, heal thyself." I mean if my medicine didn't work for me, how could I expect it to work for others?
I now know that a part of every Christians spiritual journey includes a season of leaning the secret of contentment when you are abased. I didn't know that then, then I was too focused on wanting to know the joy of the season of abounding.
Anyway things got so bad, I got to a place where I was really beginning to doubt that God would ever meet my needs. All the admonitions and promises of Mt. 6, and Jesus care for sparrows were stolen from my heart. It is one thing to read in the bible where the devil says to Adam, "yeah hath God said," and then proceed to steal the word of God from Adams heart, and quite another when circumstances coalesce in your life in such a way that it happens to you.