Sermon Follow Up - Week 19, 2021
Questions are important. They’re important for the one who is teaching and for the one who is learning. A well-crafted question can cause a person to consider things they would have left unstated, or not thought about at all, and force them to have to make a decision one way or the other. In this text, we come to a question that you and I need to grapple with personally. And the question isn’t just will the Son of Man find faith on the earth…out there…rather, when Jesus returns, will he find you and I living by faith? If Jesus were to return today, would he find you living by faith?
How would you answer that question? And why does your answer to that question matter?
The question is real and it hits at a sensitive spot in each of us. Sensitive because when you and I assess if we live by faith or not in the nitty gritty of our days, we might tend towards uncertainty. We tend to doubt, and perhaps find ourselves procrastinating addressing what it means to live by faith in either the hopes that things will work themselves out in the end, or we choose to generally live without any regard for God. Perhaps we doubt if our life of faith is real, because we might rightly assess the past week, or month, or year, or decade and wonder if we lived by faith at all. And while we wait for the Lord’s appearing and life proves difficult on all fronts, our doubting turns to despairing and many, God’s word states, will fall away from the faith. And, of course, we see this happening in many today. But the question isn’t about the many…the question is about you and me. When the Lord returns, will he find you and I living by faith in the Son of God who loves you and gave himself for you (Galatians 2:20)?
Jesus is keenly aware that you and I, while we wait for his appearing, will be tempted to despair, to lose heart, and to even be tempted to depart the faith. And so he tells us a parable to strengthen, counsel and inform us of something entirely consequential to being able to answer that question of whether or not he will find you and I living by faith when he returns.
The Sermon Text
“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”” (Luke 18:1–8 ESV)
The Main Point of the Sermon
To keep ourselves from despairing unbelief, you and I must persistently pray as we eagerly await the Lord's return.
Sermon Points, Additional Scriptures, and Quotes
The Intention of Jesus’s Teaching (v.1)
In the face of all those difficulties and temptations we experience while we wait for the return of Christ, how can we endure through all these difficulties to the end? How can we be sure to not love the world so much that we displace Jesus, end up living for the world, or for ourselves, rather than Jesus? How can we keep from being like the people of Noah’s day and Lot’s day (Luke 17) who were simply going about their daily tasks, disregarding God and living for their own kingdom rather than God’s?
And Jesus’s intention isn’t to hide the answer to this question. How can you endure to the end? How can you be sure to love and live for Jesus? How can you live for the kingdom of God and not be swept away in the normalcy of a life that generally disregards God? How can you keep from despair and doubt and departure of the faith?
He says in verse one that he is going to tell us a parable that will teach us specifically that to keep ourselves from despairing unbelief, you and I must persistently pray as we eagerly await the Lord's return.
The Illustration of Jesus’s Teaching (vv. 2-5)
He was a judge who didn’t fear God. He didn’t live in subjection to him. He didn’t believe in him. He lived in isolation from him and disregarded the entire reason for which he lived.
He was a judge who didn’t respect man. He could not have cared less about the people he was called to preside over and enact justice for. He showed no regard for people. He didn’t care for them. Didn’t care, ultimately, for justice to be served. And, as you might imagine, if he didn’t even show regard or respect for a man, the utter disdain he had for a woman, and a widow at that, was…well, this guy was a jerk.
He was a judge who cared for himself. He doesn’t care about what pleases God. He doesn’t care about what would please the widow (or anyone else). But boy does he care a lot for what pleases him.
Jesus calls him “The unrighteous judge” in verse 6. There is nothing redeemable about this character. No one who would be looking for justice would find it with this man.
She had no man in her life. Not only was she widowed, but there was evidently no other man in her life who could go and plead her case with the judge. The courts were for men, and the only time a woman would go to court it was because there was no man to speak on her behalf. She was alone and helpless in that day, absolutely dependent on the mercy of the judge.
Someone has done her wrong. Treated her unfairly, unjustly. So bad did they treat her that she just keep coming to the judge over and over again to try to regain some sort of recompense and justice for the devastation that occurred to her
Her needs were to have been met. The Old Testament was clearly in the widow’s favor. She should have been cared for, and shown mercy, immediately. There were promises in the law to care for her and she knew it, and it informed her repeated appeals of the judge.
As powerful and as uncaring as the judge is, the weak, powerless widow wins the day and receives justice. Certainly not in the timing she was wanting, but justice came nonetheless.
Remember that Jesus is telling that specific parable to the effect that we ought always to pray and not lose heart. This was Jesus’ intention of telling this parable. But if we are left to ourselves to try to put the pieces together we could pretty easily get some signicantly wrong ideas about God and prayer and justice, so Jesus gives the interpretation immediately.
The Interpretation of Jesus Teaching (vv. 6-7)
The first thing that Jesus would have us know is that
God is not like this judge. God’s heart to help the widow as he has made it clear in Exodus 22, Deuteronomy 24, Isaiah 1, Jeremiah 7, Zechariah 7, Malachi 3, Acts 6, and James1 just to name a few places …to care for the widow…to give her justice. He is not indifferent to the cries of the needy and the destitute like the unrighteous judge. The heart of God is inclined to her…just as it is to all who cry to him. So, if an unrighteous judge who has no fear of God can be moved to respond to persistent requests, how much more certain can we be that the God of all grace and mercy will help those who pray persistently for help?
Unlike the unrighteous judge who was dealing with a widow he did not know, God knows those who are his. His elect. We are no strangers to him. He chose us and set his love on us and adopted us as his own (Ephesians 1). The Apostle Paul reminds us that:
“… If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:31–33 ESV)
There is simply no condition that you and I can experience that is more amazing than being chosen by God. The way the bible describes it is that based on no merit of our own, before anything good or bad we had done (Rom. 9) he set his affection on us and shown us favor fully for the praise of his glorious grace (Ephesians 1). He is with us. He is for us…entirely.
So again, if an unrighteous judge such as the man we’ve described this morning can be moved to action on behalf of the widow, how much more will God give justice to his own people who cry out to him day and night?
The point? God is greater than the judge. In fact, he is altogether different than the judge. He is to be trusted. He is for us. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. We are his workmanship. We are his house. We are his body.
He will answer our prayers, and he will give justice in his time. He is not like the judge who eventually gave justice out of irritation, but is infinitely more empathetic, loving, and compassionate and will give promised justice in a speedy fashion when it comes. And he can be trusted and believed to not only hear the prayers of his people but will give justice on that final day when he returns as lightning flashes across the sky. Justice is guaranteed for all who hope in him. So trust him. Trust his word. Remain steadfast. Don’t lose heart in the waiting.
What we see in the widow is really…faith. She didn’t lose heart, lose faith. She was being oppressed and treated unjustly and she wanted the judge to come to her aid and free her and give her relief. She was helpless, weak, poor, alone. And her only source of help was the judge. And frankly, this is just like us. We are weak, helpless, poor, and our only source of help? A kind, gracious, merciful, loving, empathetic, caring God.
This parable isn’t telling us that God needs to be worn down by our prayers so he will finally answer because we’ve irritated him so much. Rather we are made aware that what Jesus says in Luke 12 is altogether true…
““Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32 ESV)
And with that we come to the question that was posed at the beginning…
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?
- Will he find faith that looks like persistent, trusting, dependent, believing prayer to the loving, caring God who has promised deliverance for his people and has the power to accomplish it?
- Will he find faith that looks like persistent, trusting, dependent, believing prayer with eyes on the day when the God of justice will make all things right?
- Will he find faith that looks like persistent, trusting, dependent, believing prayer that truly recognizes God is our only hope and our greatest joy?
- Will he find faith that looks like persistent, trusting, dependent, believing prayer that casts all hope for the present and the future in the hands of the merciful, compassionate Judge?
- Will he find faith that looks like persistent, trusting, dependent, believing prayer that trusts in the perfect timing of our final rescue on that day when our King returns.
When he comes, will he find his people praying like this? When he comes, will he find you praying like this? This is why the Apostle Paul calls us to pray so often…
“pray without ceasing,” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV)
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 ESV)
“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18 ESV)
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2 ESV)
Certainly amid the affliction and sorrow of this life it is easy to become impatient and lose heart when things don’t happen according to our own timetable, and when prayers seem to go unheeded. If we expect God to work according to our own timing, whether in the present or in the future we do become more vulnerable to despair and will be tempted to give up in unbelief. But according to this text, it seems the clear way to wait for the Lord’s appearing amid the often significantly difficult days of our lives is to remain steadfast in prayer.
The immediate question forces us to consider the reality that the main issue isn’t whether God is going to respond to our prayers – but rather will we be those who live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us, trusting him for the timing of his response and believing him and all his promises to keep us and sustain us as we wait for his glorious appearing? Will Jesus find that you and I have kept praying, or have lost heart and given up?
Faith is the furnace of our lives. Its fuel is the grace of God. And the divinely appointed shovel for feeding the burner is prayer. If you lose heart and lay down the shovel, the fire will go out, you will grow cold and hard, and when the lightning flashes from sky to sky and the Son of man appears in glory, he will spew you out of his mouth. Two will be sleeping in one bed; one will be taken, the other left. And the test will not be whether you once walked an aisle, or prayed a prayer, or made a vow, or were baptized. The test will be whether you continued in prayer and did not lose heart (John Piper).
Take time to write out some thoughts/actions in your journal/notebook
Have you lost heart in your suffering? In the felt injustice? In the sense that God isn’t listening? In the waiting for his appearing? Has your prayer life grown cold? Have you laid down the shovel of prayer that feeds the furnace of your spiritual life?
Will you take up the shovel of prayer and not hold back, not lose heart? Will you persist in it. How so?
- Did you pick up the "Prayer" book by Michael Reeves after the service? If not, there are a few left on the table in the back of the gym.
- Husbands, can I encourage you to pray with your wives?
- Parents, can I encourage you to pray with your children?
- Come to the Sunday morning prayer and this Wednesday night’s prayer and worship gathering? C
- Invite others into your home and when you’re done eating, spend some time in prayer together.
- And perhaps pick up the Echo app on your phone and join the church in praying for one another throughout the week.
Fight the enemy despair and grow in persistent, hope-filled prayer together. Most of us struggle here in a great manner. But together, by the power of the Spirit, may we grow in prayer and faith, trusting God and waiting eagerly for the King’s appearing. And may we find solace and strength knowing that even though we are weak, both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are continually praying for us to this end…that we might walk in a manner worthy of the gospel according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27; Hebrews 7:25); that when Jesus returns he will indeed find us walking by faith.
RESOURCES FOR THIS WEEK
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SONGS TO CONSIDER
Song - "He Will Hold Me Fast"
Song - "The Blessing"