Grace For The Journey
We have just come out of a passage of Scripture where Jesus speaks to His disciples (Luke 17:22) regarding the consummation of the kingdom of God. Jesus is talking about that great day when the Son of Man returns (Luke 17:22-37) and God will avenge Christians and right all wrongs. There is a sense in which the disciples very much want that day to come right now, just as many of us yearn for the return of Christ. What Jesus says next in our passage is, in essence, a call to “hang in there” until Christ does return. In fact, it is more than a “hang in there,” it is a “keep moving, keep praying, do not give up, trust Me to do what is right; trust Me and if you do not trust Me I wonder then whether “when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth” (verse 8).
Psalm 73 is a good parallel passage to run alongside our text this morning in Luke 18. It was written by a guy named “Asaph” and Asaph is losing hope in God. He is struggling in his faith. He writes in the psalm that he could not understand why it is that the wicked seem to prosper while the godly people suffer harm. He uses the phrase, “I almost slipped;” “I almost lost all hope.” Asaph says he was this way, “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” (verse 17). That was Asaph’s way of acknowledging that God knows what He is doing and that He will judge the wicked. Asaph was reminded of this truth when he went to worship. Because Asaph was a music man, assisting King David in the leading of music, we could title the psalm, “If You Do Not ‘See Sharp,’ You Will ‘Be Flat.’”
Jesus is addressing a similar concern of the disciples. He has just told them in the end of chapter 17 that the kingdom of God is something to be understood in two senses. There is a “now” of the kingdom and a “not yet” of the kingdom. Those who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior are “now” in the kingdom, but in another sense, they await the ultimate fulfillment of the kingdom when Christ returns and rights all wrongs. When Christ dies on the cross, is raised, and ascends to heaven there is this period during which the disciples – and future disciples – await Christ’s glorious return to usher in the fulness of His kingdom. That is the “not yet” of the kingdom.
There is this interval between Christ’s first Coming and His Second Coming. Jesus foresaw this interval, and He prepared His disciples for it, it is an interval between His resurrection and glorious return. You and I live in that interval. That is why Jesus told this parable. He is teaching us how to live in the interval. The days will not always be easy, and Christ’s disciples will face hardships and difficulties. How many of you known hardships and difficulties? Most of the hardships will come as a result of Christian persecution, but all hardships and difficulties come as a result of living in a fallen world, a world in which we yearn for Christ’s return. Jesus is teaching us what to do in the meantime and how to think of God during this interval time.
Verse one says, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” Jesus is teaching what to do as we live in the “not yet.” In fact, you could write that in as a subtitle underneath the part of your Bible that tells us this is the parable of the persistent widow. You could write, “How to live in the ‘not yet’ of the kingdom.” That is why Jesus tells this parable. This is not a text to be lifted from its context and used to teach a general message on prayer. It is connected to what precedes, this teaching is about Christ’s return. That is also clear in the last verse of the parable, verse 8, where Jesus talks about “when the Son of Man comes.”
This passage is more specifically about
How to live until Christ returns,
How to live in the “not yet.”
The kind of prayer Jesus is talking about is a persistent prayer in light of the preceding passage. This is not a general kind of praying nor is Jesus suggesting a non-stop continuous prayer, just praying over and over again the same things to God, but this is a call to be in a continual state of prayer, praying as we go about our days looking forward to Christ’s return. The content of the prayer then, in essence is, “Your kingdom come” (Luke 11:2). This is a state of prayer, regularly talking to God, not so much going into the prayer closet, but a regular talking with Him as we go about the events of the day. Doing this will keep us from “losing heart.” We will persevere in our faith. We will not quit. We will not give up. When the going gets tough, we will keep going. When we face hardships, we will persevere.
Verse 2 says, “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.” There is a judge known for two things: He neither fears God nor regards man. That is, he does not care about God and he does not care about you. This judge does not keep the two basic commandments; Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself (cf Luke 10:27). He neither feared God nor regarded man.
Verse 3 says, “Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’” Widows and orphans were among the most vulnerable people in the ancient near east. Someone has been bothering her and so she is going to the judge with it, asking him to take care of the situation. Luke writes that “she came to him” with this plea. The verb is in the imperfect tense, denoting continual activity; incomplete action, she “kept coming” before the judge over and over again.
Jesus tells us in verses 4 and 5, “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.’” This woman is wearing out the judge with her persistence. The word “weary” here in verse 5 translates a Greek word that means, “to hit under the eye” or, “to blacken the eye.” This better expresses the judge’s frustration! Today we would say, “She is driving me crazy!”
The judge is getting tired of this woman coming and asking him to avenge her. So, he decides to hear her concern and judge the guy who is troubling her. Jesus says in verse 6, “Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said.’” Let what Jesus says sink in. This is an unjust judge. He is not a good judge. He is unjust – but hear what Jesus said. This unjust judge is going to avenge this woman, deal with her concern, and judge the wicked. Notice verse 7 as Jesus makes the connection, “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” See the contrast Jesus is making here? If this is how the unjust judge acts, how will the just, the righteous Judge act?
This is like in Luke 15:1-13, with the parable of the unjust steward, where Jesus uses a scoundrel to draw people into an illustration that is ultimately about God. It is definitely an attention-getter because people are like, “Where is Jesus going with this ‘unjust judge’ business?!” And the point again is, “If the unjust judge listened to the request of this persistent widow, how much more will the just Judge, the Supreme Judge of the universe, listen to you and answer your request?” Or as Jesus says in Luke 11:13, “If you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your Father in heaven give to you?”
God is not like the unjust judge. You do not have to badger Him. You do not have to go to Him over and over again and beg Him to do stuff. What is more, whereas the unjust judge does not regard man, does not care for people, God loves you and is concerned about you. Unlike the relationship between the unjust judge and the persistent widow, God loves you no less than He loves His own Son. He wants to hear from you.
The lesson is not to , , ,
“Bug” Him like the persistent widow
Wore-out the unjust judge,
A lesson about praying
The same thing over and over
Again until finally God is like,
“Okay, already! I’ll do what you want!”
That is not the lesson here!
The lesson is . . .
To trust God
Lovingly talk to Him
The day in prayer.
Verse 7 is an encouragement. Jesus says, “Shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” The implied answer is, “Of course He will.” God will do this because He is not an unjust judge, He is a just Judge. And you are not a marginalized widow, cast aside by a judge. You are God’s child! You are God’s “elect,” His chosen. He loves you. He loves you no less than He loves His Son Jesus. God sees the depths of your heart and He loves you the same! God is going to avenge you. He is going to take care of you. He is going to right all wrongs. Believe Him!
Jesus drives that truth home in verse 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?” God will avenge His children. Trust Him to do so. Jesus ends the teaching at the end of verse 8 with a question to all who profess to be His followers. He asks, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” That is – Will Jesus find folks who are truly people of faith, people in a continual state of prayer and trust, people who regularly commune with Him throughout the day and trust Him to do what is right or will He find folks who have lost heart and just plain given up?
The implication seems to be . . .
Prayer and faith
Stand and fall together.
If we lose heart and drift away from prayer, then the Son of Man will not find faith in us when he comes. Faith is the furnace of our lives … and the shovel for feeding the (furnace) is prayer. If you lose heart and lay down the shovel (of prayer), the fire (of faith) will go out, you will grow cold and hard. The test will be whether you continued in prayer and did not lose heart. God’s elect will surely be saved; and, as verse 7 says, the sign of the elect is that they cry to God day and night. Those who endure to the end will be saved (Matthew 24:13).
Having gone through this passage of Scripture we are left with two straightforward action steps that rise from the text . . .
1) Keep Talking To God Throughout Each Day.
This parable is a call for us to be in a continual state of conversation with God. If you pray continually, talking to God not just in the morning or at mealtimes, but throughout the day, then you will persevere to the end and be ready when Christ comes. You will not faint in times of trial and testing. That is the idea Jesus is laying down here.
Do you regularly converse with God? As you get up in the morning, as you get dressed, as you eat your breakfast, as you get in your car or walk down the street do you regularly converse with God? As you go about your work or school, are you talking to God in your thoughts? This may be new to some of you. Let me encourage you this week to think of God as though He were actually right there with you in your family room, at your kitchen table, in your car, in your cubicle, at your desk, on the assembly line. Think of God as standing right there with you and talk with Him regularly throughout the day.
If you will do this . . .
You will be focused
On things that matter.
You will be living soundly in the “not yet” and you won’t be surprised by Christ’s return. You will be prepared. Your heart will not be bound up in the things of this world – money, possessions, fame, toys, recreation, self-centeredness – but your heart will be bound up in the things of God. Why? Because you have been talking to God throughout each day, talking to Him, focusing upon Him, and preparing for His return. I guarantee you will have a greater sense of joy if you will focus on Christ throughout each day. Keep talking to God throughout each day.
2) Keep Trusting God Throughout Each Day.
Some of you need to live like God knows what He is doing in your life. If the unjust judge avenges this unloved widow, how much more will the Just Judge avenge you, whom He loves no less than He loves His own Son? Trust God!
Trust His timing. Verse 7 indicates that some would question Christ’s delay in His Second Coming, “Shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them.” This is similar to what the Bible says in 2 Peter 3:3-4, “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’”
Some are like, “I’m not sure Christ will ever return and judge the wicked! I mean He has not returned yet, has He?!” Peter dealt with this in his day, and he said something that would be applicable however long Christ determines to delay His second coming. Peter goes on to say in 2 Peer 3:8, “Beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
Trust God’s timing. He will come when He is good and ready, and it will be at just the right moment. In the meantime, trust Him. See that Christ finds faith in you when He returns. See that Christ finds you not fainting or giving up, but persevering, trusting throughout each day. Persevere in your faith! Bear fruit!
Be like the seed Christ talked about that fell on good ground in Luke 8:14 “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Do not quit! Keep talking to God and keep trusting God throughout each day.
God is not an unjust judge; God is a just Judge. The Bible reminds us in Genesis 18:25, that the “Judge of all the earth always does what is right.”
Some of you need to hear that this morning.
God knows what
He is doing in your life.
If He is delaying answering your prayers, it is because He knows better than you. He is allowing time to work out His perfect will, allowing time for folks to believe the Gospel and be saved, allowing time to fulfill His perfect plan for your life, building character in you and through you, shaping you through your hardships. Trust in Him.
I’m gonna trust in God
I’m gonna trust in Jesus
Without shame and without fear
I’m gonna fix my eyes
On the hope of glory
For His day is drawing near
(And) when the cares of life
And my heart is sinking down
I’m gonna lift my hands
To the One who’ll help me
To the One who holds my crown
Keep talking to God; keep trusting in God.
Jesus is saying, “I’m telling you all this now so that when the going gets tough, you will hang in there and trust in Me and keep going and not fall apart.”
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”