2010 Luke’s Gospel
Don't Give Up; Pray!
Key Verse: 18:1 "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up."
In the last passage Jesus told us, “The kingdom of God is within you.” When we repent of our sins and accept Jesus as the Christ, Jesus comes into our hearts and establishes the kingdom of God within us. He rules with peace and love. However, without Jesus we are nothing but restless wanderers. Only Jesus can drive out the power of sin and death and give us the kingdom of God. Let’s pray for 2010 Summer Bible Conference that the Kingdom of God may come within us through powerful messages, sincere testimonies, and deep Bible Studies. In today’s passage, Jesus teaches his disciples that they should always pray and not give up. In the world, there are enemies like roaring lions looking for someone to devour such as materialism, capitalism, egoism, and all kinds of immorality. There will be rejections, persecutions, and sufferings just because we follow Jesus. How can we survive spiritually? How can we follow Jesus in this adulterous and sinful generation? How can we preach the kingdom of God and invite lost sheep to the kingdom of God? Through prayer. Through prayer, we can overcome the world. Through prayer, we can raise up the disciples of Jesus and expend the kingdom of God. God may help us to learn prayer, especially persistent and humble prayer that moves God’s heart.
First, Persistent prayer: Always pray and not give up (1-8).
Look at verse 1. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” Soon or later, Jesus would suffer and die on a cross. The disciples could not see him any more. They would be left without their shepherd, Jesus. As the disciples of Jesus, they would face difficult days of rejection, persecution and injustice for his name’s sake. At those times, the disciples would feel like giving up and despair. The same is true in our day. We are weak. Worldly pressures at times seem overwhelming. We may be tempted to give up following Jesus. Jesus understands our weaknesses. So he teaches us “prayer” by means of parables. Firstly, Jesus teaches persistent prayer: “Always pray and not give up.”
Look at verses 2-3. “He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”’” In this parable, there are two people in a town, one a judge, the other a widow. What a striking contrast these two people make. The judge was a symbol of power to rule. By his one decree a person could be set free or go to prison. Judges are supposed to be instruments of justice, protecting the weak and powerless from evils. They should fear God of righteous, and practice God’s compassion over people. But this judge neither feared God nor cared about men. He was lawless and selfish. He could make a good living from the bribes. He exercised his authority to gain a lot of money. On the other hand, there was a widow in that town. No one suffered more than the weak and powerless, like the widow. She had to struggle with inner sorrow and loneliness all the time. In addition to loneliness, she had to worry about how to survive on a limited budget. In that male-dominant society, this widow had no status and no one to depend on. What was going on between them? It seems like a wicked men cheat her out of her money or land her husband left. She did not have personal lawyer. She had no money to bribe this wicked judge. What could she do? She did not sit down in despair. She kept coming to the judge with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”
Let’s call this case: the mighty judge verses the persistent widow. Who do you think will win the case: the powerful judge or the helpless widow? The judge’s weapon was to ignore her. Moving this unjust judge’s heart without money was like breaking a rock with an egg. What was the widow’s weapon? She should have hired a powerful lawyer to win her case. But she did not have money. So she kept coming to the judge, pleading, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” Her only weapon was to just show up and repeat the same 6 words, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” The judge cared nothing for the widow. He rejected her plead, “Now way!” She did not give up. She began to plea to him everyday, bearing his painful rejections. When he came to work in the morning, she was there waiting for him, saying, “Good morning your honor. Grant me justice!” When he went to the rest room, she was waiting for him. When he went to have dinner with his fellow judges, she was at the door. When he had a date with his girl friend, she was there. When he took a vacation to golf, she was there on the golf course! She showed up wherever he went. It was so irritating and annoying to the judge that it wore him down. Even, he began to see her in his dreams, with pleading hands, “Grant me justice....” Her relentless pleading became a health hazard. Whenever he saw her, his blood pressure went up. The widow’s power of bothering the judge was so great that he finally decided to grant her justice. “...he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’” (4b, 5) That day, he went to the court and dealt with the adversary. The widow received justice and her agony and suffering were lifted. What was the secret of her winning the case? The unjust judge granted her request, not because he feared God, not because he cared for the widow, but because he feared the widow, her persistence. The widow, who speaks only six words, does not prevail because of her persuasive plea, but because of her persistence. The power of prayer comes from persistence. The most effective prayers in the bible are also those that were prayed persistently!
In Psalm 55, David said, “But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” David was not one of those one-a-day vitamin prayers. But he was an all-day prayer. Abraham prayed for a son for 25 years. God heard his prayer and granted him Isaac. Moses was known for his persistent prayer. For 40 years in deserts, Israel had rebelled, complained, and sinned against God numerous times. But every time Moses knelt and prayed to God for their sake. Because of his prayer, Israel could enter the Promised Land. Hannah desperately wanted a child. For many years she prayed and prayed to have a child. Though she did not receive God’s answer for years, she did not say, “Well, it must not be God’s will for me to have child.” She kept on praying for years, and eventually God gave her a son, Samuel, the mighty prophet. God answers persistent prayers because they always pray and not give up until God answers the prayer. One Nurse came to America to be a bible teacher and shepherd for American campus students. However, she had to go back to Korea for she failed RN exam 3 times. Did she give up? No! She took an RN exam in Quarm and passed it. she came back to America. But to be self supporting missionary, she had to pass English exam for foreign RN. She had failed the exam over 20 times. But she did not say, “Oh, this must be not God’s will for me to be a missionary in America.” Instead, she persistently challenged the exam. Eventually she passed the exam. As she prayed, God has blessed her to be a shepherd and Bible teacher for campus students. One of the greatest men of faith in Christian history was the English preacher, George Mueller. He had prayed for 63 years and 8 months for one man. Mueller died and the man was still not saved. But as they lowered Muller’s casket into the ground, the man repented of his sins and trusted Jesus as his savior. What a persistent praying. Have you ever asked God for something, and when he did not answer your prayer immediately, you quit praying by saying, “this might not be God’s will for me.” That might be a big mistake.
Always pray and not give up. It does not mean that we should pray like a Tibetan priest. It means regardless our circumstances; regardless our physical conditions; regardless any objections, we must trust God and continue to ask God to protect us and to provide all we need to accomplish the prayer topics that Jesus taught us: “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” If M. Samuel Lee gave up praying for America to be a kingdom of priests and holy nation because no one accept his invitation, there would be no UBF ministry in USA. Not only USA, even in Russia and German. But he did not give up, but always prayed. They did not give up. Regardless their hopeless situation, they always prayed that God’s kingdom may come to Russia, and German. Not for 1year, but more than 40 years, they always pray and not give. Then God has answered their prayer. Here in NJ, we are here to pray for RU and Princeton to be the kingdom of priests and holy nation. If we give up, nothing will happen. But let us always pray and not give up. Let’s do PUSH: “Pray Until Something Happens.” Let us pray for one sheep always, and not give up until he may be the kingdom of priests and a holy nation. But we often meet limitations. Sometimes our sheep never seem to change. Still, we must always pray and not give up.
I really want to know and learn how to be persistent like the widow. Look at verses 7-8a. “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” First of all, we need to know God. God is like the father who is willing to bring justice for his chosen one.
Our God is God who loves us so much that he sacrificed his one and only son on the cross. Our God is full of compassion. Our God is righteous and merciful. My daughters do not come to me, but to their mother because they know that I will say no, but she will say yes. the widow knew the judge. She believed that this unjust judge would grant her justice when she bothered him because he was selfish and he wanted to enjoy his life. What do you expect from God when you pray? Yes or No. Do you see God as the unjust judge who refuse and reject? Do you see God as the Father who loves you so much? If such an evil man can be motivated to bring about justice in response to a persistent plea, how much more our God will bring about justice for his chosen ones! Through the widow was making an appeal to a stranger, we are crying out to God who is righteous and love us his precious children. Though she was pleading with an unjust man, but we are pleading with the Righteous Creator of heaven and earth. He told her, "No," and pushed her away, but we pray to one who bids us to come boldly to him (10:9-10; Mk 11:22-23). Her judge cared nothing for her justice or well being, but our Father God so loves us, while we were weak and powerless, he gave his Son to save us from our sins (Ro 5:8) and made us his children (Jn 1:14). We do not bother him or wear him out. Even mothers grow tired of the constant pleas of children, but not God. He has loved us with everlasting love. We are the apple of his eye (Dt. 32:10).
What do you expect from God when you come to God in prayer? Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.(Mt7:7) “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2Chr 7:14) Let us know that God is the father who is full of love and compassion. Let us trust his love, his faithfulness and his righteousness and come to God in our pray always!
Secondly, we should have burning and earnest prayer topics in our heart. The widow had burning prayer topic, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” This was the most urgent and important prayer topic for her. I came to notice that M. Peter Lim had been changed since last spring. He get up early and prayed with daily bread. At that time, I did not know exactly what was going on. I could know that some thing important was going on. Thank God for blessing his sincere prayer for his house church. God may establish his house church with clear prayer topic for world mission. I pray for our 2 Generations to bring their house church prayer topic to God in their prayer. By faith that God will provide them the best wife, they pray for their house church to be a shepherd house church, to be mission centered house church. Thank God for giving us the wonderful pray topic to make America a kingdom of priest and a holy nation. Thank God for Sh. David’s life prayer for Rutgers. Thank God for Sh. Jason’s life of prayer for Princeton. They always pray and not give up regardless difficult and impossible situation. It is because only God can answer our prayer. God is the mighty God who created the heavens and the earth. It is because only God cares the lost one. God is the good shepherd who gives his son for the sin of the world. God is the Father who never ignores our prayer. We must believe and trust that God.
With this faith, we can overcome injustice in this world and pray to God. With this faith, we can always pray and not give up.
Look at verse 8b. “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The question is not whether God will answer prayer, but whether we have the faith to pray. Pray is expression of our faith. When we believe in God, we can pray. Without faith, we can not pray for even a little one. We must have faith in God. will Jesus find faith that prays America to be the kingdom of priests and a holy nation? Will Jesus find faith that prays America to be a missionary sending nation again? Will Jesus find faith that prays for 7,000 missionaries from RU and 1000 professor shepherd from Princeton?
Second, God hears humble and repentant sinners (9-14).
In the first parable, Jesus taught his disciples to pray persistently. In the second parable, he contrasts two different attitudes of prayer: self-righteousness and humility. Look at verse 9. “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable.” In some ways, such people have reasons to be confident. They are typically hard working, maintain their purity and keep the law, live a highly moral life, as well as a religious life. But their confidence was in their own righteousness, not in God.
Jesus describes the Pharisee's prayer first. Look at verses 10-12. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’” This man does not seem to be praying, but is having a moment of self-appreciation in the temple. This Pharisee made sure that God knew how righteous he was and all the good things he was doing. He acted as if God owed him salvation because of his good works. In his self-righteousness, he could learn little from Jesus. What makes the Pharisee’s prayer so obnoxious? The Pharisee glories in what he is, “I am not like other men”, what he does, “I fast twice”, and what he gives, “I give a tenth of all I get.” Maybe what he is saying is true. But the Pharisee compares his own flaws with the tax collector and not with God’s infinite holiness. He uses the personal pronoun “I” five times-showing his great obsession with himself. He does not pray for others, and frankly, he has no interest in them other than to point out their faults. He condemns the tax collector when he should have interceded for him before God. He stood boldly before God, thankful he was not like other people, including the tax collector sneaking in the back of the temple. He had no sense of unworthiness before the holy God. Instead, he condemned others in his prayer, rather than pray with tears for their salvation. In many ways he was exemplary compared to others. But the problem is that none of these things can be our righteousness before a Holy and Perfect God. The Bible tells us clearly, "No one is righteous, not even one (Ro 3:10b)." No matter what we have done or achieved, before God we have nothing to boast about.
Look at verse 13. “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’” This man was an obvious sinner, as a tax collector, who betrayed his people and his God for the sake of money. Some who are obviously sinning do not see themselves as sinners. But this man really saw himself as a sinner before God, demonstrated by his non-verbal behavior: 1) He stood at a distance, 2) He would not look up to heaven, 3) He beat his breast. Without saying a word, we see his contrite heart before God. He knew that he deserved judgment for his sinful life. But he also had a clear prayer topic in coming to God: "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." He believed that God is merciful to sinners. On the basis of this faith, he humbly came to God with his request. Perhaps he repeated it until tears welled up in his eyes.
How does Jesus conclude the parable of the two men? Verse 14a reads, "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God." The tax collector went home justified. His prayer was accepted by God. His sins were forgiven, and he was declared not guilty. He experienced peace with God (Ro 5:1) that led to joy and hope, and the power to live a new life. On what basis could God receive him? On the basis of Jesus Christ's blood shed for sinners. Regardless of the fact that he was a terrible sinner, when he pleaded to God to act in mercy on him, God answered, and he was justified. What an encouragement! When I reviewed my prayer life in preparing this message, I had one conclusion: I'm a sinner. I can only pray, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Sinners have access to God's mercy. He will never ignore this plea.
But the Pharisee, who was confident in his own righteousness, while being justified in his own eyes compared to others, was not at all justified before God. He lived under the wrath of God. Jesus' teaching is very clear: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." The way of salvation is available to all. But only those who humble themselves before God will receive it.
In this passage Jesus teaches us to always pray and not give up. We can do so when we know the heart of God who loves justice and loves his children. Jesus also teaches us to pray with humility and repentance. When we do so, God hears our prayers and forgives our sins. May God help us to grow as people of prayer in our times.
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