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 bear
to 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?

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