To Remain Faithful - Radical

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To Remain Faithful

How do we wait well as we are anticipating Christ’s return? How can prayer allow us to be faithful as believers? In this message on Luke 18:1-8, Jim Shaddix highlights the importance of persistent prayer to remain faithful. He teaches on the reason, promised help, and question based on Christ’s teaching.

  1. The reason for the teaching is that God has ordained persistent prayer as the primary means by which we remain faithful as we wait for Christ’s return.
  2. The help that is promised is that God, at just the right time, will give both grace and justice to His children who pray persistently.
  3. The question on the table is when Jesus gets back will He find us, individually and corporately, praying persistently and living faithfully?

Church, let’s continue our worship by studying God’s word together – Luke, chapter 18. If you have a copy of the Bible, I ask you to open it to that place. If you came in tonight and you don’t have a copy of the Bible with you, I hope there would be somebody maybe to your right or your left that would allow you to look on with them. If you’ve got somebody sitting next to you that doesn’t have one, at least invite them to take a look with you because this is always, always a much better experience when we’re tracking together, looking at God’s word.

While you’re finding that, let me just give you a word of encouragement to use this time, these next several weeks as we talk about prayer in this teaching series, to pray especially for our pastor and his wife as they prepare to bring a new child into the world and that transition. You lift them up before the Lord. I hope you’ll pray for Pastor David, that this would be a time of refreshment – a little break for him to be rejuvenated and have his spirit strengthened. Let’s let all of those things be on our radar as we study God’s Word together in this series.

I don’t know how you came out of that Revelation series, but if you’re at all like me, this series that our pastor just led us in – that we just got through with – it left my soul swelling with sensations of both incredible joy as well as looming questions. I’m not talking about questions about interpretation at particular points, just this whole idea of the coming of Christ in all of it’s glory and grandeur. I’ve felt my joyful heart burst with, “I can’t wait for that to happen!” To see Christ in all of His glory and to see everything made right like it was intended to be. There’s incredible anticipation with that. But at the same time, I have to confess to you that my anxious mind is asking the question, “How do I wait?” Because even though my heart is saying, “I can’t wait, I want to see it.” The reality is, we’re still waiting. That’s the season that we’re in. So that question has been there for me. For those of you who were a part of the Multiply Conference on Friday night, or maybe you did it by simulcast or looked on the website, you know that one of the things that Frances Chan talked to us about was, “Lord I’m tired of the stuff. I’m tired of making excuses. I want to be faithful in this task of multiplying disciples.” As I thought about that Revelation series as a backdrop of that – I want to wait well. I want to wait well for Christ’s coming. That’s been something that’s permeating my mind. And that’s why I want us to begin this next teaching series at this point in Luke 18, where Jesus, I believe, speaks into that issue. He speaks into the issue of, “How do we wait well as we are anticipating Christ’s return?”

Now before we get into the text, it’s probably good for me to say something about why we are studying a series on prayer from Luke’s gospel. David mentioned a little bit about why we would study prayer last week. Back in August, we asked our elders if they would help us to think through and pray through issues in our congregation that are looming – maybe things that we need to be strengthened in or need to be encouraged in, and this is one of the things that surfaced in those conversations: this issue of prayer. And so, I want you to know from the outset that we come to this place because a group of Godly men, your leaders, they have sensed this. Men whose lives are woven through the fabric of this congregation, who have their finger on the pulse of this congregation, have brought us to this point, and have said this is at least one of the things we need to talk about.

By the way, while I’m talking about their leadership, I want to be a voice of encouragement to you to pray for these men, these leaders, our elders. I’m the new kid on the block here, I’ve just been here a couple of months. I want you to know that this body of men that God has raised up in our midst here has been this incredible blessing to me. They love you, they love this church, they love the mission. It has been so much fun to watch them work and to hear their hearts. I was just reminded how much they need our prayers. Totally disconnected from this series on prayer, but really not – I want to challenge you, even if you just got the names of two or three of them, maybe ones that oversee the small groups that you’re a part of. Pray for these men, call their names before the Lord. But also know that they have helped to bring us to this place.

Why Luke’s gospel? Why would we come to this particular place right here? A guy gave me some wise counsel years ago when I was trying to figure out where to go to graduate school. He said this to me, “The way you determine that is, you identify the guy that you want to learn from. You find out who the man is that you want to study under and where he is and then do everything within reason to go to that place and sit under his teaching.” You know if we applied that counsel to this issue of prayer I’m confident that we would end up sitting at the feet of Luke, looking at this issue. Luke talks about prayer more than any other Gospel writer. This is a guy that mentions it so often in both his Gospel as well as the book of Acts, which he wrote.

Not only the frequency that Luke speaks about prayer, but the points in time, the crucial events that he brings to light that really happened in the context of prayer. For example, only Luke records that it was in the context of prayer that Jesus was baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Only Luke noted that it was after Jesus prayed all night long that He chose the 12 apostles. Only Luke documented that Jesus was praying before He asked the disciples that all important question, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Of course that gave birth to Peter’s great confession. Only Luke mentions the fact that it was in the arena of prayer that Jesus was transfigured. He tells us that Jesus went up on the mountain to pray and while He was praying He was transfigured before them. In addition to that, he gives us little snippets and insights into the prayer life of Jesus. Along with other Gospel writers we get the model prayer. Luke teaches us how we can be faithful because of prayer, and that’s what we’re going to talk about tonight. He teaches us that we can keep from falling into temptation; he turns us on to the teaching of Jesus in that particular area. One of my favorites, we’ll study this down the road a little bit in this series, he reminds us through Jesus’ words that the times of setback in our Christian lives – and all of us have them – the times of setback that we encounter don’t have to wind up in apostasy. They don’t have to wind up in us walking away from the faith and throwing in the towel like all of us have seen so many people do. So he encourages us that way. Luke would teach us much about prayer and there is no way we could exhaust all of the possibilities that are there. We’re just going to take about six selected texts from this passage of Scripture where either Jesus was praying or He was teaching about prayer and see what he would say to us about this subject.

Let me tell you this – even if Luke never talked about it, even if Luke never mentioned prayer and even if the elders at The Church at Brook Hills never acknowledged this as one of the areas in which we need to be strengthened and we need to grow – the testimony of Scripture would resound loudly about the urgency and the importance of this particular discipline as being absolutely essential for the accomplishment of Christ’s mission in this world. You know what that means? That just takes it off the chart with regard to its relevance for a congregation like this that has sold it’s soul to the advancement of Christ’s mission in the world – to make disciples, to plant churches, to infiltrate people groups that sometimes others don’t want to go to. That makes this an all-important subject because it reminds us that Scripture resounds loudly in the reality that we cannot do that in a way that honors Christ and we cannot do that in way that is effective by Kingdom Economy if we don’t pray. If prayer is not right there with all of our commissioning, and our going, and our equipping, and our training, and our preaching about mission and all of those things, they’ll be dull, they’ll have a numbing effect. They won’t accomplish eternal Kingdom things if they are not rooted in and they are not fueled by this thing called prayer.

Now, I’m thinking that, in a crowd this size, there is probably a group of people that are pretty good reminders of the reality of this for us. Today is Veteran’s Day on the calendar, we observe it tomorrow in the United States and we’ll set aside that time. I know there’s got to be a group of folks, even in a younger crowd like this that have served our country and I’m wondering if we might just be able to acknowledge you, and then I could use you as a sermon illustration just for a moment. If you’re a veteran would you stand up? Let’s say thank you to these folks. God bless you.

We owe an incredible debt of gratitude to these men and women that were standing. And they represent a whole host of others that I hope in the next few days, as you encounter them in different places – at Starbucks, at your workplace, maybe in your neighborhood – that you’ll take the time to say, “Thank you,” to them. But I know some of you that were standing, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about the reminder that you are of the importance of this thing called prayer in the advancement of Christ’s mission. Let me tell you what I mean by that. These people that were standing, every one of them knows the absolute importance of communication in military ops, in advancing a mission and accomplishing this. If the communication is not right, somewhere there is going to be a breakdown and more loss of life than there ought to be and maybe even failure in the mission. In a military context, you would never think about the means of communication that are given and are provided as being for something other than for what they are intended for, and that is to create a crucial line of communication between those on the front lines and those in command posts that have the resources in order to connect those two together. This is where we would adopt the title of this series and it’s subtitle, “Why Pray? The Urgency of Mission Critical Communion,” because it is a reminder that this communication thing between us and the command post is all-important.

Many of you are familiar with John Piper’s quote, it was absolutely helpful for me a number of years ago because I think it is so on target. Piper said about this particular issue, “Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the Church as it advances against the powers of darkness and unbelief.” It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions. You know what that means? It doesn’t work. Prayer doesn’t work. Have you ever been in a place where you say, “Man, this prayer thing is just not working for me?” Piper says, “It shouldn’t be surprising that it malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den. God has given us prayer as a wartime walkie-talkie so that we can call headquarters for everything we need as the kingdom of Christ advances in the world.”

I hope throughout this series that you’ll have that on your mind. Let this graphic be a reminder to you that this is not just something that has been given to us to make small talk with God even though He welcomes our intimate communion with Him as between a father and his children. This thing of prayer has not been given to us for any and every purpose under the sun, especially to use for our whims and our desires. But it is something that has been given to us because it is absolutely crucial for what we do. It’s absolutely crucial for why we are gathered here tonight. That is what we want to turn our attention to, so let’s begin this journey here in Luke 18 with that question that is surely on our minds coming out of that Revelation Series – not just a declaration, “I can’t wait!” but the question, “How do we wait well? How do we wait faithfully?” Let’s see what Jesus says about how prayer enables us to remain faithful while we’re waiting for Christ’s return.

Hear the word of the Lord, Luke 18, beginning with verse one.

“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?’” (Rev. 18:1–8)

The reason for the teaching in Luke 18: 1–8 

Here’s how I want to frame this up, it’s outlined on your worship guide. I want us to start in just a moment, looking at the reason this is in the Bible. I think that’s an important question for us always to ask anytime we study God’s Word: “What does this particular text, this particular teaching bring to the table, where If it wasn’t there, we would be at somewhat of a disadvantage?” Why is this in the Bible? I want us to look at the reason for the teaching. Then I want us to look at the help that Jesus promises, that He says God promises us if we will obey this teaching. Then we’re going to finish up simply by putting on the table the question Jesus leaves on the table, that every one of us has to answer individually, and we, The Church at Brook Hills, have to answer as a corporate body.

So why is this text in the Bible? What is the reason for the teaching? We don’t have to look very far. You don’t get this in every passage where you start reading and right up front it says, “This is what this is about.” The reason for this teaching is hanging on the front door and it’s actually hanging on the back door as well as I’ll show you in a minute. We don’t even have to get into the parable that really is at the heart of this to know why it is being given. Look at verse one. He says there, “He told them a parable to the effect to the end for the purpose that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” That’s why it’s here. We know some stuff already, straight up, we know this lesson is about praying always. Another word you will use to describe that is “persistently,” praying persistently. We know it’s about praying persistently for a reason, so we don’t lose heart. In just a minute, I’m going to show you that that’s the same thing as remaining faithful. To not lose heart is to remain faithful. It’s to wait well, if you will. We know that’s what this text is about, so we know that this passage is about praying persistently so that we remain faithful. But we’ve even got more information than that. We know the time period, we know what it’s in view of. If you look at verse eight, we’re told that it’s about remaining faithful between now and the time that the Son of Man comes back. This is the connection with where we’ve been studying – this Revelation Series – this is where these two things come together. We come out of that saying, “Whoa, come quickly Lord Jesus. We can’t wait for You to get here.” But we are waiting. He has delayed His coming. He has left us in this world for a reason so we have a responsibility to wait well. And Jesus says, “This is why I’m giving you this teaching.”

So I want to put all that together and bottom line it in this particular way. This passage is in the Bible to show us that God has ordained persistent prayer as the primary means by which we remain faithful as we wait for Christ’s return.

I want to do a little audience participation with you. Would you say that aloud with me? Let’s repeat it together because I want us to have it firmly in our minds. Let’s say it together, “God has ordained persistent prayer as the primary means by which we remain faithful as we wait for Christ’s return.” But why do we need this? Why would a people like us be in danger of losing heart, of abandoning the faith between now and the time that Jesus comes back? And why do we need to pray in order to avoid that happening?

I want us to unpack that a little bit, and in order to do that, we really need to look at the context in which this was given. A lot of times we forget about that and we just jump into a passage of Scripture not thinking about what comes before it or after it. This passage, this teaching actually was given in the context of a discussion about the return of Christ. Forget the chapter divisions, just put it in reverse, I want you to back up into chapter 17. I want to show you what led up to Jesus saying, “I’m going to teach you something, and here’s the reason I’m teaching you so that you will always pray, you’ll pray persistently and you won’t lose heart, to the end that you won’t abandon your faith.”

Go all the way back to about verse 20, this is kind of where the narrative starts. I want to show you some of the things that Jesus had been talking about. The conversation starts by Him being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come. Listen, there’s nothing new under the sun. People have been asking the same questions all the way back there to Jesus’s time. That’s a question people are asking today, “When is it going to happen and what’s that going to look like?” These Pharisees didn’t even like Jesus, but they were curious enough about it, they wanted to see what He had to say. They probably weren’t ready for His answer. Look at what He says, “He answered them, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed.’” Boy, that’s one that would save people a lot of heartache, wouldn’t it? That’s one that would save people a lot of time in our day. People asking the same question, “When is it going to happen?” People are doing the same thing, they’re looking for the signs, they’re looking for the indications. I’m not about to stand here and tell you that Scripture doesn’t give us some information on some of those things, but just like Jesus will say here, that is not the main issue. And it wasn’t with these guys. Look at what He says, “(The Kingdom of God) is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” He says, “You guys, why are you looking for signs out there? You don’t even see it when it’s standing right here in front of you. It’s already started, it’s right here.” So Jesus turns to His disciples in verse 22. He says to His disciples, it’s almost like He said, “These guys are not going to get it, let me help you out with this right here.”

And so He turns to us, those who name the name of Christ, those who are disciples and He says this to us, “And he said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, “Look, there!” or “Look, here!” Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife.’”

That’s what she did, she looked back and got turned to a pillar of salt. By the way, that’s commentary right there, it’s not in the text, if you’re looking for it. Verse 33,

“’Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.’ And they said to him,” – this got the disciples’ curiosity – they said, “‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.’”

Jesus’ return will be evident to everyone because …

Now there’s so much here, and I realize this is not our text under consideration but we have to get some stuff here if we’re going to understand why Jesus gives us this teaching in chapter 18:1–8. One of the things He obviously is telling His disciples here is, “This is not something that anybody is going to miss. These guys are asking about how are we going to recognize it. What are the signs?” He tells them, “You’re going to have people saying, ‘We’ve got this image way out here in this little church building way out in the middle of nowhere, maybe we need to all go out there and hang out.’ Somebody else comes along and says, ‘You know, we think Jesus is going to show up on this mountain here so let’s just sell everything we’ve got and quit our jobs and go up there and wait.’” Jesus said all that stuff’s going to come and people are always going to be saying that kind of stuff, “Look here and look over here,” and He says, “Don’t go after that stuff because when it comes, you’re going to know it.”

Did you notice some of the things in that text that indicate that the coming of the Son of Man is going to be evident to everybody? Jesus tells us, He describes it in certain ways that help us know that nobody is going to miss this. The first thing He does is He says it’s going to be evident to everybody because it’s going to be dramatic. That’s what he says there when He says you don’t need to go out and follow as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other. That’s the way it’s going to be with the Son of Man. It is going to be a dramatic event.

Not only that, it’s going to be a discriminating event. And this is another thing that’s going to make it obvious that something is happening, and that something is the coming of the Son of Man. He says everybody is not going to make it and everybody is not going to be manifested the same way. There are going to be two people in bed and one’s going to disappear – now you see it, now you don’t. There’ll be two women working and all of a sudden one disappears. That is an obvious thing. There’ll be two guys on the golf course and one will disappear and one will be left there. Maybe two ladies shopping and one’s gone and one’s there. He said this is black and white stuff that is obvious because the Son of Man is going to come in a discriminating way.

Not only that, it’s going to be devastating. It’s going to be devastating and its devastation is going to be at a magnitude that everybody is going to know what is happening here. That’s why when the disciples said, “Where Lord?” He said, “Well, do the math. You see vultures? What do you know is happening? There’s death somewhere.” Right? That’s the way it is for us. We’re driving down the road, we see a bunch of vultures that are flying around, what do we think? “There’s roadkill around here somewhere.” They’re not just up there having a party. These two things equal one another. They go together. Jesus says, “The coming of the Son of Man is going to be so devastating it will be obvious.” You put all of these things together – think about it, the dramatic nature of it – the fact that it’s going to be discriminating. Two there and all of a sudden one’s gone and one’s not. The devastation that is going to be there. And what you have, what that comes down to is global awareness. Everybody knows it. Nobody is going to need to invite you on Facebook to the event “Christ Is Here.” Everybody is going to know it. Nobody is going to post, “Hey I’m over here cooking spaghetti at 4:30 on Wednesday afternoon. Did anybody see that lightening in the sky?” Not going to happen! Everybody is going to know it. Everybody is going to be on the same page.

You know what? You and I long for that, we look for that. It’s not that we want to see any lives lost or people spend eternity in hell. We don’t necessarily look forward to that, but we long for this day when everything is going to be made right and justice is going to be done. And don’t you long for the day sometimes where everybody will know it? You try to convince people now and persuade them and share the gospel with them and they look at you like you’re crazy. And you long sometimes for, “God, I just want the day to get here when everybody sees this and everybody knows it!”

By the way, if I could just put a parenthesis there, I know that I’m speaking largely to those who name the name of Christ tonight. But in a crowd this size, there’s no doubt that there are some that would come in that are on a spiritual journey and you’re asking questions and you’re wondering about this Christianity stuff. Or maybe somebody dragged you here. But if I could just say a word of exhortation and say, “Hear the Word of the Lord at this point.” When it becomes that obvious to everybody, it’ll be too late. We live in a day right now where it’s not obvious to everybody but you’ve got friends that are appealing to you about the gospel, to give your life to Christ, to repent of your sins and place your faith in Jesus who died on the cross for you and rose from the dead to give you back the life that God created you to have. And I just want to be one more voice today to say, “Hear them, hear that word, give your life to Jesus Christ because the day is going to come when everybody will be convinced but then it’ll be too late.”

Remaining faithful is difficult because of …

What about for us that already name the name of Christ, as we anticipate that event, why would we be at a place where we would be in danger of losing heart? Why would Jesus come and speak these words? Let me show you this. Part of the reason is in that term, “Lose heart” in 18:1. You see it there? It’s an interesting word. It’s a word that means, “To grow weary”, “to give in” and listen to this, this is part of the definition too, “become a coward.” Boy that ought to sound familiar. Those of us who’ve been a part of this Revelation study, it wasn’t too many weeks ago that Pastor David called our attention to that very thing in Revelation chapter 21 where it talks about who’s going to make it and who’s not. Do you remember that?

John says it this way in Revelation 21,

“The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Rev. 21:7–8)

Do you remember that conversation? Do you remember that teaching? Pastor David told us that there are some things on this list that we would expect – this terminology about the sexually immoral, the murderers, the detestable, the sorcerers, the idolaters. But what bookends that list is some stuff that plays on our nerves a little bit. Words like “cowardly” and “faithless” and “liars.” And we were reminded in that study that the more we go, the greater the heat is turned up on Christianity in this world – and it will be turned up. The more people there are that are going to come to this place where they become cowards and they say, “I’m not going there, it’s not worth it.” They throw in the towel and their true colors are shown and their lives are proven to be lives of a lie when they said the words and they prayed a prayer and they joined a church and they went through some motions and they even did some good stuff. But when their lives were put under the fire, under the heat, they were shown to be cowards. You know what? Jesus uses that same kind of terminology in Luke 18:1. To turn to his disciples and say, “I’m going to tell you a story, I’m going to give you an illustration, I’m going to teach you something and here’s the reason I’m doing it. So that you will pray persistently, always. So that doesn’t happen to you.” He didn’t pull any punches with regard to how difficult it was going to get.

Did you notice His description of the difficulty back there in chapter 17? Did you notice how He described how this heat is going to be turned up and how it would become increasingly difficult to wait well and to finish the course? Let me show you these descriptions – just call your attention to them. You know, one of the things that is going to make waiting well so difficult is the delay of Christ’s return. We know that right? You look at it in verse 22, “He said to the disciples, ‘The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.'” (Luke 17:22) That’s where we live, right? Do you ever find yourself, when you’re trying to make a disciple, you’re trying to win somebody to Christ, or maybe you’re just trying to do the right thing, and people are not responding and nothing is going right? You ever find yourself thinking – I think this sometimes, “If Jesus were just standing here and if He’d just do that walk on the water thing, this would just end the conversation, this would be over. If He could just show up right now and do that multiplying fishes and bread stuff, wouldn’t that be so cool?” And we find ourselves longing for one of the days of the Son of Man when He walked on the earth. But sometimes we look forward, right? We look forward to the day of the Son of Man that was just described here when He comes and everybody knows it and everything is made right. That’s when we’re crying, “Jesus come quickly!” We long for the days of the Son of Man, but He hasn’t come. He’s delayed His return. And this is the season we’re in and let’s just be honest, the longer He waits, the more people there are in this world that give up and throw in the towel. And the longer He delays, the more difficult it becomes for you and I to wait well. How many people do you know who’ve had their faith challenged and maybe even walked away from it because they just looked at Scripture, they looked at their lives, they looked at our culture, they had a hard time reconciling those things and they said, “It’s been 2,000 years. He’s not coming back because He doesn’t exist.”

But not only that, did you notice that Jesus said that not only the delay is going to make it difficult, but the disregard for His gospel is going to make it difficult. Verse 25, He just talked about that lightning thing, how dramatic it is. He said this is the way it’s going to look and everybody’s going to know it. And then He says, “But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” And that’s exactly what happened. He was rejected by that generation, He was put on a cross. But guess what? You and I are still living in that generation. We’re still living in that day. Jesus hasn’t come back, the lightning thing hasn’t happened yet where everybody knows it. We’re still living in a day of His delay and in that delay there’s nothing that’s more characteristic than an increasing number of people that just absolutely disregard the gospel. Doesn’t it become hard sometimes when you’re pouring your heart out, you’re pleading with people to come to Christ and they just blow off the gospel? They just totally brush it off, passivity and complacency and no interest. We even live in a culture that makes fun of it to the point that Christians become the criminals. And Jesus said this is just going to keep happening and it’s going to get worse and worse and worse.

I want to show you that neither one of those two things in and of themselves are probably the thing that’s going to be most difficult. It’s something else that He mentions here. Did you see that Noah and Lot comparison? Jesus is taking the story of Noah, He’s taking the story of Lot and He says, “The way it was in their day is the way it’s going to be when the Son of Man comes back.” I don’t know about you but I look at those descriptions and there’s this question that just surfaces. It just won’t let me go and that is, “Where is the stuff that I would be expecting from those stories?” Something is missing. He says in the day of Noah they were eating and they were drinking and they were marrying and they were giving in marriage. I’m asking the question, where is that Genesis 6 stuff that talks about the sons of God marrying the daughters of men and where is the reference to how the Lord saw the wickedness of man that was so great on the earth and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was evil? He didn’t even mention that! They were just eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage.

Then Lot’s the same way, it says the days of Lot, it’s going to be like this; they’re eating and drinking, buying and selling, planning and building. I’m looking at that story of Lot and I’m saying, “Whoa, wait, time out. There’s something missing there.” Where’s that Genesis 19 stuff that describes all the men of Sodom, young and old, surrounding that house where those two angels were visiting Lot’s home, demanding that they would be brought out so they could have sex with them. Where is that? Didn’t mention that. He just mentions this eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage and planting and building, this stuff that is just like everyday life stuff.

Therein, Jesus would have us understand His point. Aren’t we deceived sometimes to think that what Jesus is coming back to judge is those big sins that were in the middle of Revelation 21:8 over there? He’s coming back to judge stuff like murder and abortion and homosexuality and drunkenness and adultery and all kinds of sexual perversion. That’s the kind of stuff he’s coming back for. But what led up to this teaching in Luke chapter 18 was not a description of that, but it was a description of people going about everyday life doing the stuff that is part of our routine. And all the time they were doing it completely devoid of any consciousness of God’s relationship to those things.

Church, come in here real close, listen to me.

Some of us may be able to navigate the delay. We may find ourselves tough enough sometimes to resist against the disregard for the gospel. But here is the thing that will loom at the door, that will make our waiting so difficult: The more He delays and the more people blow off the gospel, the easier it will be for you and I to slip into a comfortable, insulated, routine of everyday living where we’re going about just the stuff of life that’s not necessarily characterized by those big sins but it’s being carried out with total disregard for how God and how His agenda and His mission fit into that.

Isn’t it hard to keep that on the radar, when you’re going over your to-do list, when you’re planning your week, when you’re putting your grocery list together, when you’re figuring out what sports to sign your kids up for. Just going to your job everyday. Isn’t it easy sometimes to see that stuff in a different compartment, a different category that is disconnected from this mission that we’re on. It’s disconnected from this life of holiness that we’re called to and what you have is maybe the most deceiving thing that will rise up in our waiting and that’s the deception of godless, everyday, routine living. Not godless in the sense that it’s characterized by some big blatant sin, but godless in a sense that it’s being put in a different category and being carried out with total disregard of how Christ and His agenda and His mission and His coming inform it. That is why this is going to be so difficult. That’s what we have to battle hard against. That’s what makes us feel like we’re swimming upstream. This is why Jesus would say in Matthew 24, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13).

Get this, church, here in Luke 18, Jesus tells us that we endure by praying persistently. I know that’s a lot of stuff and I know that’s long but we will never get to this idea of the urgency and the absolute essential nature of this thing called prayer, if we don’t get all of that other stuff. And it’s right there that Jesus steps in and He teaches this parable and He says on the front door of it, “Here’s why I’m teaching you this so that you’ll always pray so that you remain faithful.”

The reality is that there’s going to be more and more in our ranks whose lives ultimately rise to the surface and they are shown to be liars and cowards who throw in the towel and whose faith peters out before Jesus comes back.

The help that is promised in Luke 18: 1–8 

But He doesn’t leave us alone. Equally as clear as the reason for this teaching is Jesus’s promise of help. I don’t know about you, but prayer, as I said earlier, is one of the hardest things that I do and am up against and Jesus knew that. He knew that and so He speaks God’s promise into this situation. Can I show it to you? Jump to the other side of the parable. I promise you, I’m going to comment on this parable in a minute. If we can just get the stuff before and after it, the parable’s easy. I mean it’s really easy. Do you see verses seven and eight? Jesus says the same thing twice but in two different ways. In verse seven, He asks a rhetorical question, “Will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? (Luke 18:7 ESV) The resounding implied answer to the rhetorical question is, “Yes, he will.” Then He says it straight up in verse eight, “He will give justice to them.” So let’s say it this way and then I’ll unpack it with this parable just for a moment. God at just the right time will give both grace and justice to His children who pray persistently. God at just the right time will give both grace and justice to His children, get it now, who pray persistently. That’s the key. Would you say that with me? Let’s just repeat that statement together. “God, at just the right time will give both grace and justice to His children who pray persistently.”

Jesus uses two familiar characters to illustrate this point. One of them is the judge. If you’ll look down at verse six, he’s described as an unrighteous judge. That simply means that he’s dishonest, he’s corrupt, he’s unjust. His unrighteous character is even fleshed out more in verse two when it says he doesn’t fear God. No worship of God, no obedience of God. On top of not fearing God, this guy has no shame at all. And he comes out of a Middle Eastern culture, which by the way is still the same today, it is an honor based culture. Verse two says he didn’t respect men. This word is a word that means, “to be put to shame.” And in that kind of culture, what people do at all costs, they do whatever they can to preserve honor and to avoid shame like the plague. This guy right here was really good at it because he didn’t have any shame. But what was worse than that was he didn’t care about honor either. What you have here is pretty much a description of the most wicked, most selfish person in all the world. In fact, if you stop and think about it, this guy is a pretty good picture of disobedience to the two greatest commandments in all of the universe. Do you remember what Jesus said they were? He quotes from Deuteronomy 6, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut. 6:5) The second is like unto it, quoted from Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) This guy didn’t do either one of them. Off the charts wicked.

That’s character number one. The other character is the widow. She’s introduced and described in verse three. Many of you know that widows, in the Old Testament and New, women who were widows were dear to God’s heart. They were close to God’s heart because they were helpless and they didn’t have anybody to provide for them or to come to their aid and when they were defrauded there was no one there to take up for them. In a day in which the courts belonged to men, this woman had been seriously, utterly defrauded. She was destitute! She didn’t have anything. She didn’t have a husband, she didn’t have a brother, she didn’t have a nephew, nobody to go to court. She was on her own, pleading her own case. The only time a woman would show up in court was when she didn’t have a man to plead her case, and that’s this lady.

Now, if this judge, whose responsibility it was to uphold the law was going to help anybody, he should have helped this woman. The fact of the matter, the story says that he did help her, but not for the right reasons. Why did he help her? One simple thing – get her off his back. That’s all he wanted to do. Verse five, she was beating him down. That word in the language of the New Testament means, “to strike a blow under the eye, to give somebody a black eye.” Metaphorically, this woman was beating this guy black and blue. On top of that, she was doing it continually. The word is better translated, “forever.” This is day and night, she showed up every morning and she was there and she wouldn’t go home and she was crying out for justice, and this guy decides to help her so that she wouldn’t beat him silly the rest of his tenure in office. Don’t miss it, this weak widow, because of persistence, defeated this powerful and insensitive judge. What do we take away from that? Just this, just the logic of it. That persistent pleading will move the worst person in the world to do the right thing. The worst person in the world will do what’s right because of persistent pleading, and Jesus takes that and He brings it over into our lives. He says what He says in verse six when He exhorts us, “Do you see it? You listen to what the wicked judge says.” What did this guy just say, you see it in verse five, “I’ll give her justice.”

What does Jesus say about God and His children? We saw it in verses seven and eight, twice. “He’ll give them justice.” That’s his point. The biggest mistake you and I can make is trying to look for some one to one relationship between this judge and God. Where do we find God in that, this unrighteous character in there? This is not intended to be something that teaches us about God’s character with regard to the nature of this man. It is a comparison from lesser to greater and it is an off the charts comparison that is a contrast. Everything that this judge was, God is not. Everything that this judge wasn’t, God is. That’s what He wants us to see in this. He wants us to understand that the most wicked, impervious, impenetrable human being on the planet would do right by somebody for which he had no affection. So Jesus would take that and He would ask this question, “If a judge who’s like that will do what is right for someone for whom he has no affection, don’t you think God will do what is right by His children whom He has loved before the foundation of the world and His children He has chosen for all of eternity?” The resounding answer to that is, “Of course He will!” Of course He will.

Now there is some relationship between Christ’s disciples and this widow. We know that. Certainly in one sense we’re helpless as we wait for His coming. We’re at the mercy of the wickedness of this world. But that’s not the main thing that Jesus is getting at. That’s not the primary relationship. He doesn’t want us to look at the widow and say, “I can identify with her. I feel that way. I feel outnumbered. I feel there’s nobody here on my side.” There may be some of those things that are true but that is not His point. Look at what He says about the relationship He wants us to get. Verse three says she kept coming to the judge. Verse five says, “She keeps bothering me by her continual coming.” And then Jesus makes the connection, He connects the dots in verse seven. He describes His disciples as those who cry to Him day and night. Whoa! Do you see that? Do you see that God wants us to cry to Him day and night and never to stop? He wants us to come and plead our case before Him and never to give up on that. Guest what? Remember the contrast thing? God’s not like this judge. It doesn’t badger God, it doesn’t bother God. Let me just turn you on to something – He’s way too tough for you to give him a black eye, you don’t have to worry about that. No way. What He wants us to see is that He longs for us to cry out to Him day and night the same way a father loves for his children to be completely dependent on him.

That’s why He would say – and we’ll study this in Luke’s gospel but let me read you Matthew’s account. Why Matthew would say ask – and the verb tense is continual, keep on asking – and it’ll be given to you. Seek – keep on seeking – and you will find. Knock – and keep on knocking – and it will be opened.

“For everyone who asks (like this) receives, and the one who seeks (like this) finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:7–11).

That’s the contrast, isn’t it? Here we are, we’re longing for Christ to come. We’re longing for Him to get here but He hasn’t shown up yet. We’re holding on to this blessed hope of the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. But He is delaying His coming. So we live longingly and sometimes at the risk of our life. It’s dangerous and it’s difficult and we live pleading like those saints under the altar in Revelation 6 who had been slain for the Word of God and for the witness they had mourned. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you come?” We live like those Thessalonians that Paul spoke about. To whom he said, “Wait for God’s Son from heaven.” But beloved, don’t forget in verse seven and eight, Jesus uses the same term. He says in a promise, “God will give justice.” He will give justice to his elect who cry to Him day and night. You know this word “justice” is not talking about our salvation and being made right with God. This term literally means, “to make the vindication.” He will vindicate the plight of His children. That’s His promise. So here we are, we’re longing for Him come back. People all around us, while He delays, are rejecting the gospel. And the battle of our spirit against our flesh and the allure of the world is so hard. And we get tired and we get frustrated, but Jesus says to us that our God will vindicate us.

As if that were not enough, He uses another rhetorical question in verse seven when He says, “Will he delay long over them?” This term translated “delay long” is a word that carries the idea of patience. The implied answer to the first rhetorical question is, “Yes, He’ll give us justice.” The implied answer of this rhetorical question is, “No! He will not delay.” He will not have patience in waiting, in vindicating His elect. Let me just tell you, this word is a compound word in the language of the New Testament. Two words that we’re familiar with come together. One is the word “macro” the other one is the one “thermos”. “Macro” means “remote, far away” so you’ve got a far away thermos. What’s that about? The word from which we get our word “thermos” is the word that carries the idea of anger. That’s where we get “hot”, you keep hot beverage inside a thermos.

Jesus is asking the question, “Will His zeal remain far away, will He delay it?” The implied answer is, “no.” Bible scholars differ on how they think this is to be applied. Is He talking about the return of Christ? It’s not just slow. According to His promises, He’s being patient so that all would repent, but one day He’s going to come quickly, like a thief in the night like Peter talks about, and that certainly comes into play right here. But I want to tell you something, there’s something else that’s in play here as well. While Jesus says that He’s quickly going to come back and it’s going to be in an instant, He also tells us that He provides help for His children right now.

Church, that’s what I want us to think about tonight. I want us to think about the struggles that we face and the journey that we’re on, the things that are pulling us away and that would tempt us to throw in the towel, would tempt us to shrink back. The temptations that we face in ungodly sexual temptations, maybe in relationships, or the temptation to lie, or the struggle with cutting or some kind of addiction that we may have, or strained relationships. Whatever the issue is in our life, Jesus would want us to know that persistent prayer is something that causes the gap to be closed between our situation and what sometimes seems to be far away help. Does God’s help ever seem far away to you? Think about all the promises we have about this.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

When does the temptation come? Right now, it’s here and now. So when does that mean the way of escape comes? Right now. God’s grace, His zeal, is right on time to vindicate you. The author of Hebrews said, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 ESV) Right on time, just in the nick of time. The zeal of God, the gap is closed, that far away, remote help is right there on time in your situation.

Paul says, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed…”(2 Timothy 4:18 ESV) 1 Peter 1, by God’s power, we are being guarded through faith. I wish I had time for us to go look at it, but let me just tell you in 2 Peter 2, Peter actually uses the Noah and Lot stories. And he says that if God rescued Noah and He rescued Lot, he brings it down to 2 Peter 2:9, then the Lord knows how to rescue the Godly from trials. Nobody gets a pass on this. Nobody gets to say, “His grace wasn’t sufficient, His help wasn’t there.” Through persistent prayer, Jesus promises that God always closes the gap between His grace and our need, and He does it right on time.

The glory of God’s gracious help …

Before we leave this, let me tell you how good this grace is, how good God’s help is. Let me remind you about some things that you already know. First, God graciously set us on alert regarding the danger of false faith that doesn’t last. He didn’t have to do that. But He pleads over and over through the apostles and their writings. I’ve listed some of the references there. He pleads with us to stay the course and remain faithful. So none of us are going to be able to get to the end and say, “I didn’t know.” God set us on alert and that is an act of His grace.

Secondly, the second manifestation of God’s grace: He’s graciously determined to include us in the process of persevering faith. Don’t ever underestimate this. He’s included us in the process, and God is always about the process, not just the product. We know this. Think about salvation. God elects His children to be saved. But we don’t get to look at that and say, “Well if God does all the work and salvation is all of Him then why do we need to evangelize? It’s all going to work out anyway.” No! God’s about the process, so He ordains the process that He includes you and me in. And He ordains that you and I share our faith so that the elect come to salvation that way. God’s about the process.

Same thing here – God elects us to endure. Security of the believer. Perseverance of the saints – once saved, always saved. That’s God’s ordained plan. That’s the product. But guess what? He ordains the process. And a very potent part of that process, don’t miss it Church, is this practice of persevering prayer, and it is an act of God’s grace that He would include us in on that. He lets us be about the part of the process of persevering faith.

Third, God graciously ordained a relationship between our prayers and Christ’s coming. We don’t have time to flesh this out, I’ll just call your attention back to some things David showed us in Revelation 5:8 when he showed us these golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints. Then in Revelation 8, they were given much incense to offer with the prayers, all the saints on the golden altar before the throne and the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints rose up before God. Let me tell you where this comes from. It comes from the tabernacle and the temple, right outside the most holy place. There was an altar, it was an altar of incense, and priests by special privilege got to be the ones to go in there and light that fire and the incense would go up and it would go over into the most holy place in the presence of God. It would be a sweet smelling aroma to Him. The thing that’s missed a lot of times is what the people, the common people, were doing while the priest was doing that. You know what they were doing? They were outside, praying. They were outside, praying. And therein came the connection between the prayers of the saints and the sweet smelling aroma to God that brought pleasure to Him. I can’t explain all of this to you, but what I can show you right here is somehow, someway our prayers are being logged up as some kind of trigger for the launching of the return of Christ and His return in eternal glory. We get to be a part of that. God’s ordained it that way. He says, “I will vindicate you, I will give you justice, I will provide help as you pray day and night and persevere at this.” And know that, as you pray, those prayers are being logged up with some kind of connection in bringing about the second coming of Christ. That is good! And that’s something that I want to be a part of.

The question on the table in Luke 18: 1–8

Praying persistently for persevering faith …

The question is on the table, isn’t it? Jesus says, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find the faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8) We know Jesus couldn’t be asking, “Will there be any Christians on Earth? Will there be any real faith on Earth?” Of course there will be. But you see in the language of the New Testament, the word “faith” here has a definite article before it – “the faith.” “When the Son of Man comes, will he find the faith?” What faith? This faith. This faith exemplified by this widow who wouldn’t give up, who cried out. This faith, this persevering prayer faith in which believers say, “I’ll do that, I’ll be in on that.” The question on the table that Jesus is asking is: When Jesus gets back, will He find us, individually and corporately, praying persistently and living faithfully? That’s the question we have to answer tonight.

When Jesus gets back, is He going to find this kind of persevering faith among the faith family known as The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama? Will he find us praying with this kind of perseverance? You and I answer that question in the affirmative, I trust that we answer that question to say, “I will wait well.” We wait well by being a people of persevering prayer, of persistent prayer.

Let me give you a couple practical exhortations on some things that will help fuel that. Number one, long for Jesus to come back. Don’t let the fire go out in looking for Him. Do whatever you need to do, get Pastor David’s sermon series on Revelation, revisit it from time to time, let it stir your heart as the Word of God is unfolded and the glory of Christ is made known. Long for Jesus to come back.

Secondly, let the rejection of the gospel bother you. Don’t ever grow complacent. Don’t ever grow numb to people who say, “no” to the gospel and blow off your witness. Let it drive you to tears and break your heart because this is what will keep us longing for Jesus to provide help and to show up.

Let me challenge you to look at the routines of everyday life through the lens of the coming kingdom. Everything you do. When you make your grocery list, ask Him, “Is what I’m doing here good stewardship with regard to the glory of God and the coming King?” When you’re determining what activities to plan, when you’re going to work, when you’re planning your week. Practice looking at everything through the lens of the advancement of the kingdom of Christ in this world, as well as in the next. Don’t let anything become mundane, routine living in the stuff of this life. Pray as you go, as well as in the secret place.

I’m pretty good about praying as I go. I talk to God a lot when I’m driving, when I’m walking, when I’m exercising. I fear sometimes, in a sound bite culture, in a media and technologically advanced age, we may be in danger of abusing Paul’s instruction, “Pray without ceasing.” Because we relegate this thing to multi-tasking, just praying along the way as we go. I want to remind you that the man who was closer to the Father in communion than any of us will ever be, the man who walked this earth and was in constant communion with the Father, still found it necessary to steal away to unhurried, protected, insulated places to commune with Him. We must pray in the secret place and not only as we go.

Pray for God’s reign in your life and the world, now and forever. We’ll study this in a few weeks in the model prayer. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.” Put that on your prayer list. Make it a part of your praying. We’ll flesh it out a little bit more.

Then finally, pray for both God’s help today and our hope tomorrow. God wants you to pray for help today, wants you to ask for help for the things that you’re dealing with. Paul prayed three times for that thorn in the flesh to be taken away from him, it’s okay. This is why the Gospel of Luke says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Lk. 11:13) This is why Paul said in Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) Take it to God. Take everything to God. Ask Him about those things. Ask for His help.

Also keep our hope for tomorrow on your prayer list as well. The words of Paul when he said, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Oh Lord come!” (1 Cor. 16:22) That broke his heart. Lord come quickly. Then where we ended Revelation, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” (Rev. 22:17) “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20) If that’s not on your prayer list, write it on your prayer list, write it at the top of your journal and include it in your prayers. Come. Come quickly Lord Jesus. That is our hope.

The reason for the teaching…

(Luke 18:1,8; cf. Genesis 6:2,5; 19:4–5; Matthew 24:13; Luke 17:20–37; 18:8; James 1:27; Revelation 21:7–8) 

  • God has ordained persistent prayer as the primary means by which we remain faithful as we wait for Christ’s return. 
  • Jesus’ return will be evident to everyone because… 
    •  It will be dramatic
    •  It will bediscriminating
    •  It will be devastating
  • Remaining faithful is difficult because of… 
    •  The delay in Christ’s return. 
    •  The disregard for Christ’s gospel. 
    •  The deception of godless living. 
  •  The one who endures to the end will be saved. – Matthew 24:13 

The help that is promised…

    • (Luke 18:2–8; cf. Matthew 7:7–11; 1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 4:16; 10:32–39; James 1:27; 5:1–11; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 2:5–9; 3:1–15; Revelation 5:8; 6:9–10; 8:3–4) 
  • God—at just the right time—will give both grace and justice to His children who pray persistently. 
  • The glory of God’s gracious help… 
    •  God graciously set us on alert regarding the danger 
    •  of false faith that doesn’t last. 
    •  God graciously determined to include us in the process of persevering faith. 
    •  God graciously ordained a relationship between our prayers and Christ’s coming. 

The question on the table…

  • (Luke 18:8; cf. Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:13; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Philippians 4:6–7; Revelation 22:17,20) 
  • When Jesus gets back will He find us—individually and corporately – praying persistently and living faithfully? 
  • Praying persistently for persevering faith… 
    •  Long for Jesus to come back. 
    •  Let the rejection of the gospel bother you. 
    •  Look at the routines of everyday life through the lens of the coming kingdom. 
    •  Pray “as you go” as well as “in the secret place.” 
    •  Pray for God’s reign in your life and in the world, now and forever. 

 Pray for both God’s help today and our hope tomorrow.

Jim Shaddix is a professor of expository preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor in Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, and Colorado, and as dean of the chapel and professor of preaching at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Shaddix is the author of several books, including The Passion-Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen.

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