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If this poor widow received what she needed from a heartless judge, there should be no doubt you will receive what you need from your loving heavenly Father?
Jesus spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: "There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. There was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'"
Then the Lord said, "Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:1-8 NKJV, condensed
Persistent Faith Pays Off
This is a U.S. presidential election year and the candidates were invited to a mid-state college last evening to respond to questions pertaining to the role of faith in politics. In our nation's capital this week the Pope will receive a royal welcome, and he will draw a full house to worship with him in New York City's Yankee stadium on Sunday. Yet even though "Keep the faith!" is a popular slogan, yesterday in church the parents of a college student asked people to pray for their daughter who was taking heat for standing up for her religious beliefs. Faith in America is a delicate subject, with many contradictions.
In this text, Jesus spoke of faith in these terms--pray and do not lose heart; persist through all the silence, the uncertainties, the disappoint-ments, and continue to believe in a God who sees, cares, and acts on our behalf. To be in God's future kingdom requires patient endurance now. We must live by faith and not allow discouragement to get the upper hand.
Times are bound to be tough because whatever God calls us to do is too difficult for us to do alone. We are insufficient by ourselves. We need God; we need each other. As Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples he knew, centuries hence, people would struggle with doubts and frustration. When faith is tried, we wonder if there's anyone out there to hear us when we pray. Clear evidence of God's presence seems in very short supply. There's a temptation to grow old, cold, and forgetful of God's mercies, like the judge in this story. That's when these words of our Lord sound a warning and give us a lifeline of hope to hang on to.
There was a shameless judge with no concern except for himself, and a weary but persistent widow who was not getting her due. The judge's behavior suggests he was disillusioned with life and no longer cared what anyone thought, not even God. Opposite the judge was a poor defenseless widow with few resources to draw upon for securing justice. In the time of Jesus, widows fell into the charity category. More than a few of the laws of Moses consistently remind people to be kind and generous to widows and orphans.
The needy widow pleaded with the unscrupulous judge, who ignored her as long as he could. Until he realized she wasn't going away. She had more staying power than he had tolerance! She, in her impoverished state, won the endurance battle! Jesus made sure we understand the judge's reasoning. He didn't help her because he felt sympathy for her or because justice demanded it, or because he heeded some inner social, moral or religious instincts. He helped her in order to be rid of her! She had pestered him until he couldn't bearto hear her ranting anymore.
The point Jesus made is that if the unrelenting requests of an unfortunate soul to an uncaring human being brought about the desired results, then how much more will a patient and loving God eagerly answer the prayers of those who faithfully seek his aid! Persistent prayer is an expression of need and of faith. It cries out night and day, and connects our lives to the life of God at a very basic level.
Sometimes the hard realities of life eat away at our belief in the goodness of God and the possibility that we are able to do anything to effect a positive change. We lower our expectations and still come up short. That's when it's time to remember the poor widow who kept the faith through sheer doggedness and did not go away until she got what she needed.
We protest, "Lord, I cannot do this. I am not able to endure." Yet in Scripture we read, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" The apostle Paul wrote those words and he knew possibly better than anyone that he could not accomplish his life's task without God's constant aid and that lifeline of hope.
And so we keep the faith, knowing whatever we do, our best may not be good enough. But as long as that ember of faith remains alive, the results of our work are evaluated through the lens of eternity. We prepare to meet our Lord by asking Jesus to reign in our lives today. To the end that when he returns, he will find faithfulness on earth.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: When have you, after a long absence, returned to find something still in good condition?
The two characters in Jesus' parable were opposites in several ways. Describe their different roles, attitudes and actions.
To pray; To lose heart--Does Jesus present these as opposing options? Why and how does praying express your faith and trust in God? If you stop praying, does that mean you stop having faith? What else could it mean? What other words or phrases are similar in meaning to "losing heart"?Explain how the judge and the widow decided on the prayer or lost heart option.
Did anyone ever instruct you to never quit? If so, what were the circumstances?Why was it necessary for Jesus to remind his disciples to persist in prayer? How consistent are you in your praying?
Why would Jesus use a cruel judge to explain how readily God answers our pleas? How many contrasts can you think of between the judge and God?Throughout your lifetime, has God answered your prayers in a timely manner?
The apostle Paul said, "We walk by faith, not by sight." Therefore faith needs no tangible proof. But what did Jesus hold up as proof of faith?
For you, is prayer more an expression of faith or of need?When you are disappointed, where do you place your hope? How confident are you of God's mercy and providential care?
The big concern of Jesus seems to be whether there will still be faith on earth when he returns at some future date. What do you think he meant by that question?
Discuss how faith is passed from one generation to the next and whether there will still be the kind of faith Jesus desires to find whenever his day comes.
We may think God is silent and uncooperative. But from God's perspective, we are the silent and uncooperative ones. Who is right?