Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Have you prayed, and prayed, and there still seems to be no answer? Does it seem as if God is asleep, and absent from your cry? Don't give up, don't lose heart, don't quit now, but just keep praying until the answer comes.

A group of male seminary students were gathered in the chapel one day. The dean of the seminary was challenging the students in the area of prayer. He instructed them to be careful what they asked God for. He said, "Men, don't ask God for a big church, because of the stress, problems and worries that go with it. Whatever you do, don't ask God for a big church."

The next year, one of the students who had graduated and entered the ministry came back to give his testimony. He commented about what the seminary dean had said the previous year. He said, "I did ask God for a big church; however, I also asked God for a pretty wife. My prayer was almost answered, because instead of getting a big church and a pretty wife, I got a pretty church and a big wife!"

The parable in today's Gospel reading is a lesson on hope-not the false hope of worldly power or earthly comfort, but the deeply patient hope of the persistent, a hope for those who endure. In Christ's time, women had a very low place in society. They were basically the property of their husbands, and they were especially preyed upon by religious leaders. Unfortunately, the same situation still exists in many parts of society and in many countries today-especially in Islamic countries. The fastest growing group of poor people today is among women whose husbands have abandoned them and their children.

Where is justice in today's society? Can we say that justice is based on the respect of man and fear of God? The widow in today's Gospel reading was so persistent that she wore down the judge to the point where he finally gave her justice. God is the same. If we are persistent in faith and prayer, he will grant our requests. Sometimes it will take time for him to act, but only because he is teaching us patience. God will avenge the injustices inflicted on believers, but only to convince them that their salvation is dear and precious in His sight, and in this manner induce us to rely on his protection. Heavenly aid will not be offered unless we come to him in faith. If we are to be the people of God, then we must live with respect in creation and act with generosity in our hearts and hands so that all may be fed.

The longer the delay in fulfilling a promise, the less likely the promise will be fulfilled. When a promise is delayed, it's easy to lose hope in the one who made the promise. This is the situation today's Gospel reading addresses. Luke wrote this Gospel several years after the life and death of Jesus. People expected Him to return immediately. The longer they had to wait, the more they experienced despair. The parable of the judge and the widow is a parable on trust in God to grant justice and vindication to God's people.

The judge has no reverence for God, and consequently no regard for the rights of man. These two things go together. He that has no regard for God can be expected to have none for man; and our Lord has here indirectly taught us what ought to be the character of a judge or for that matter the character of anyone else-namely, that they should fear God and respect the rights of man. The judge's conduct in this case might have appeared to be upright, and possibly might have been strictly according to law and to justice. How many actions are performed today that appear well, when the doers of those actions know that they are mere hypocrisy? How many actions are performed from the basest and lowest motives of selfishness that have the appearance of external propriety and even of goodness?

The widow's weapons are those for which the judge had little respect or understanding because he did not possess them himself. Among her weapons were patience, persistence, integrity, a strong sense of justice, and confidence in the rightness of her cause. She had the faith to believe that at the end of the day right will win over wrong, justice will triumph over injustice, and good will conquer evil. Throughout history, there have been several examples of people who have used the same characteristics to overcome the injustices that life has dealt them. For example, Nelson Mandela endured several years of hardship and imprisonment while opposing the apartheid regime in South Africa. His persistence finally paid off when the apartheid system was abolished, and he became the first black President of South Africa. The people of God are often oppressed and persecuted. They are few in number and feeble. They seem to be almost forsaken and cast down, and their enemies triumph. Yet in due time God will hear their prayers and will come forth for their vindication.

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