THE PATIENCE OF GOD–IN US (part 3)

God’s patience is meant to work patience in us. He wants us like Himself. We say, “I’ve waited long enough. I’ve come to the end of my rope.” God’s rope is a lot longer, and He never comes to the end of it. Our instant oatmeal and fast internet age is not known for its ability to wait.

Does anyone reading this go from a 2 to 7 more often than you want? If we are called to represent God to a godless culture, they need to be slow to anger. When God saw His Son, He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” He was like His Father. He wants us to be the same, so He gives us His Holy Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is…patience.” We don’t become patient by grit but by the Holy Spirit.

Abraham was called to a new place and a new destiny when he was seventy-five. His name Abram means “exalted father.” Only problem–no children, and Sarah was no spring chicken. God repeated His promise, finally changing Abram’s name to Abraham, “father of multitudes,” making it embarrassing every time this fatherless father got called to dinner. But “he hoped against hope,” and God came through. “And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise” (Heb. 6:15)–after a quarter of a century. Way to wait, Abe!

“Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:10,11). Way to be patient, Job!

Patience needs to be the quality of leaders (2 Cor. 6:6), of preachers (Titus 2:2), of every Christian (Gal. 5:22), because it is the outstanding character of love (I Cor 13:4), and love never fails, so neither does patience. The fact that patience is a fruit of the Spirit does not mean that He will magically zap us with it. The Holy Spirit works Jesus in us as we behold a wonderfully patient God and thus become like Him. We become what we behold.

We receive God’s life and become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). We are called to exhibit the qualities of God, including long-suffering. What would happen if we did? Fewer broken relationships, fewer divorces, greater peace in the family and church, deeper love shown. The first descriptive action of love in the great love chapter–it suffers long.​ ​ Patience means we don’t have a short fuse. Doesn’t mean that we don’t have anger–we can simply put it off until needed. Patience is not the absence of anger. It is not simply a passive response. It is active and willful, calling us to suffer if need be for others.We feel the tension between justice and mercy. Long-suffering is hard because in some situations we believe that justice needs to be served rather than mercy. Something appears not to be fair. “He should know better. I am being the mature person.” And God is at work in us through suffering stretched out. Let it happen! (One more–be patient!)

THE PATIENCE OF GOD (part 2)

The Bible does not say that God has no anger. But He has it on a regulator. His love is eternal; His patience is not. There comes a time when He acts on His anger.

Some want God’s patience with them but not with their enemies. They feel tension between justice and mercy. Jonah voted for justice. The Assyrians had butchered too many people. Think ISIS. God had a reputation for being too merciful. Jonah quoted God’s own words in his complaint: “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love…”(Jonah 4:2).

God was grieved with Israel the whole time they lived in the land of promise before finally throwing them out–seven centuries after they had entered. He waited thousands of years before sending His Son in the fullness of time. Pentecost marked the beginning of the end, “the last days.” God has waited for 2100 years so far without sending His Son back because “the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). No one waits better than God.

Imagine if God were quick to anger. We’d all have bruises. He’d yell at us. He would say things like, “If you ever do that again…” or “Just one more time…”  We would have pressed the delete button on the human race long ago, but God suffers long. I remember God speaking to me in the gentlest way about something that needed change. I said, “You could have said this twenty-five years ago, and you waited until now.” It made me want that kind of patience.

A wonderful lady at our church in San Pedro was angry with God for nine years for something regarding her child. God waited. He didn’t shake His finger in her face. When she came in for personal confession, the road back began. Her heart was flooded with joy, tears of release, and deep peace. God waited until she was ready–nine years.

“For my name’s sake I will defer my anger…” (Isa 48:9). God procrastinates. He controls His emotions; they do not control Him. He decides when He will demonstrate anger. People say, “You made me angry,” which gives them the freedom to explode, as if they couldn’t help it. This is not our God. Patience is one of the marks of His righteous character, unlike oriental despots who in a moment of rage would dismiss a whole court.

How can God keep from acting when daily the world defames His name, mocks Him, ignores Him? Because He is longsuffering. One day He will pour out his anger without measure. He is angry with the wicked every day, and with great cause. He is never neutral about sin. It is an offense against His holiness. But He chooses not to call upon His anger in full measure at this time.

Sometimes we parents have disciplined poorly, because we were irritated, and we let it lead the parade instead of patience. God’s correction is deliberate–a sign of his love. We can feel compassion even when He exercises discipline. Could anyone use some of that? Praise Him for His patience! (Part 3 coming).

THE SLOW-TO-ANGER GOD

Before marrying, sit at a computer with slow internet and find out how patient he or she is. Most of us are patient–providing we get our own way. When your wife says she’s picking up only one thing, so you can wait in the car, time to learn patience. When you text someone at 8:44 and at 8:45 he still hasn’t responded, take a deep breath–and wait. When you call for health care questions, wait for an hour, and the voice message announcing, “Thank you for your patience,” say, “You have no idea!”  Of all the needful fruit of the Spirit, this gets most votes.

God was prepared to end the race. Found one righteous man and instructed him to build an ark. It took a hundred years. That’s 36,500 days after deciding to start over. Peter wrote about “when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built” (I Peter 3:20).

Moses climbed the mountain to get the law. By the time he came down forty days later, the people had made a calf. He exploded and broke the tablets. God was more angry, but His was on a slow burn. He thought of abandoning the nation, but Moses talked Him out of it. Then he added, “I’m not going if you don’t.” He asked God to show His glory. and God put him in the cleft of a rock, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…’”(Exodus 34:6,7). He didn’t say everything about His character, but He did say that He was compassionate and slow to anger. I would not have expected “slow to anger” to be among the top five.

Some time later when spies were sent out, they returned and announced that the land could not be taken. The discouraged people wanted to return to Egypt. Moses and Aaron hit the dust. Joshua and Caleb tore their garments and protested, and the people considered stoning them. God told Moses that He was done. But Moses pleaded with God, taking His words: “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared, ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion’” (Numbers 14:18).

Nehemiah rehearsed the story in his prayer at Jerusalem with the returned exiles: “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles…But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (9:17). We find the same refrain three times in the psalms, likely a part of their liturgy (Psalm 86,103,145). They had heard of the gods of the Canaanites who were so angry they had to be appeased with gifts, so they were proud of their slow-to-anger God.

He performed miracles to release the children of Israel from bondage, finishing with the Red Sea walk and wiping out the army. How long did it take for complaining to begin? As soon as they started the journey. They continued to test God’s patience. He finally decided that they would die in the wilderness, but He put up with them for forty years. That’s 14,400 days of waiting. Stop for a moment and praise the God who is slow to anger. I want to be like Him. I don’t want be quick to anger. You probably don’t either (part 2 next).

THE IMPORTANCE OF HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

WORSHIP REQUIRES HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.

Jesus said to people bringing their offerings with the knowledge of a broken relationship, “Leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24). We are a family. To worship in Spirit and in truth is to worship in unity. Corporate worship is out of order where disunity exists.  Jesus said to the Pharisees, strong on token gifts and weak on love, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desires mercy, not sacrifice‘” (Matthew 9:13). God does not find pleasure in what we give Him if what we offer to others does not come from a loving heart. A horizontal disconnect invalidates the vertical. And John wrote that “if anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must [that does not say “should”} also love his brother” (I John 4:20,21). Want to experience God’s presence? it comes more through relationship than through worship. “If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (I John 4:12,16). If you need an upgrade in your worship life, strengthen your relationships.

 

WITNESS REQUIRES HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.

It is not our doctrine that convinces the world.  Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34,35).  Our doctrine, in fact, has often convinced the world that we are uncaring, because we have used theology to prove that we are right and our brother (our family member) is wrong.  Division is slanderous in the household of God, and it discredits our message.  Jesus prayed, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).  This is because the Trinity operates in a relational paradigm. The Trinity is a “blessed community,” a fellowship of love. Before the earth was created, the Father, Son, and Spirit were together, enjoying the company of one another.  God is not a doctrine; He is a person—in relationship. Unity, such as is found in the Trinity, can only be accomplished where relationships are primary and functions secondary. Some church bodies stress the importance of their doctrine to the exclusion of healthy relationships.  Their doctrine becomes a wall to exclude them from other people. Consider this equation: good theology + bad relationships = bad theology. The Great Commandment precedes the Great Commission. It speaks to our relationships. The Great Commission speaks to our vision, and it is valid if it grows out of love.

 

UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS INVALIDATE MINISTRY.

Paul lists several ministries, especially important to the charismatic Corinthians: speaking in tongues, using the gift of prophecy to unlock mysteries (such as Daniel did), using the gift of faith to move mountains (such as George Mueller did).  Then he said that they are of no value without love, the kind of love that is not rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. I would have said “less value”; Paul said “no value.” And Jesus similarly said to people who claimed a ministry of prophecy, deliverance, and miracle working but disconnected it from relationship, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22,23). Learn to read the light on the dashboard. Treat it as a friend. It goes on when what should keep the church moving is broken. If the light goes on, deal with the issue if you want to keep moving forward. You’ll be glad you did–and so will the church!

WHAT ABOUT SPANKING?

“He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24). “Do not withhold discipline from a child…” (23:13). “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother” (29:15).

 

Is spanking child abuse? Maybe the way Adrian Peterson, Viking football star, did it. Discipline and punishment are not the same. Discipline is administered in love, not in anger. We are doing it for a child, not to a child. We are not getting back at them for disturbing our peace by fighting with a sibling. We are in full control of our emotions, speaking in a normal voice and conveying love, not irritation. If you are irritated at your child’s behavior, don’t spank. Give yourself a time-out so you can administer a spanking appropriately. A mom who understands this recently said to me, “If they don’t know I love them, I just lost them.”  They need a firm, small object (like a ruler) with a gentle heart. Discipline is children-training, not corporeal punishment. It comes from our parental desire that children walk into their future with confidence, that they know who they are.

 

Child abuse is terrible. God will not hold parents guiltless who abuse their children. What we see at Cub’s is not deliberate, thoughtful, gentle, nor effective. It produces resentment and separation, not security and maturity. Parents who recoil from the idea of a spanking probably haven’t seen one administered with appropriate care. What we typically see is a vengeful parent embarrassed by children being children and using tone and volume to shame the them rather than giving them the gift of a deliberate spanking that will help control behavior. I would say, “Meet me in my study,” and they knew what it meant. I would quietly talk over what was violated, administer the spanking, then hug and pray together.

 

“No discipline is joyful at the time, but painful” (Hebrews 12:11). If it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t help. We are assisting a child to make a good decision the next time around: “I didn’t like the results of hitting my sister. Don’t think I want to do that again.” A spanking helps to restrain foolish behavior (more than a time-out), which is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15), and encourages positive behavior. We can trust Scripture to give us the truth. We just need to apply it in a way that makes it effective and leaves the event in the memory bank.

 

When I spanked Naomi once as a young girl (it didn’t happen often), she instinctively lunged toward me and hugged me as she cried. She felt my love. Had I shown anger, she would have been repelled rather than feeling welcome in my arms. Authoritarian parents who do not exhibit love will not get the results they want from a spanking. Nor will permissive parents who want to be close to their children but do not set strong boundaries or issue appropriate discipline. Authoritative parents who understand their training role and use spankings as one of the legitimate tools in their toolbox are building strong children who will likely become healthy adults, emotionally and spiritually. Children don’t usually come out of a timeout converted. They don’t say, “That was helpful. Now I understand why I shouldn’t hit my brother.” They are immature. Time-outs work better for adults.

 

THE BURIAL OF JESUS–A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN

Billy Graham was given a beautiful funeral. No one attended the funeral of the Son of God. He didn’t have one. He almost didn’t have a burial, an important matter for Jews. A burial normally happened within twenty-four hours of a death. They were usually laid to rest, not buried underground as is done today.

 

In the case of a crucifixion, family members would request the body. Those without families were left for the birds, then thrown in the Valley of Gehenna, the smoldering garbage dump outside the city. Joseph spared the body of Jesus from such humiliation. Imagine the work of taking his body down, carrying it to the tomb, and cleaning the battered and bloodied body, then anointing it. Who did it?  Not the family, nor any of the Twelve. They were hiding. They were not thinking death, so neither did they think burial.

 

The man who buried Jesus. First, his name is Joseph, mentioned in all Gospels.  Second, he was rich, fulfilling scripture that “he was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death” (Isaiah 53:9). Third, he was “a prominent member of the Council” (Mk.15:43).  Everyone knew him, which makes his action all the more courageous. Jesus died on a public thoroughfare. Fourth, he “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body” (v.43). John says that “Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews” (Jn.19:38).  Perhaps the death of Jesus upgraded his commitment.

 

The word would certainly get out that he had buried Jesus, ostracizing him from fellow-leaders, who may have killed him for it.  Mark and Luke say that (fifth) he was “waiting for the kingdom of God.” Just as there are a group of saints who surround the Christmas story who believed in God’s coming reign, we can put Joseph in the same group.

 

Luke describes him as “a good and upright man” (23:50).  This would not characterize most Council members. Jesus called them hypocrites, snakes, and whitewashed tombs who appeared righteous to people but were  “full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matt. 23:28). The rich man from Arimathea was an exception.

 

Jesus was crucified on the Day of Preparation, the day before one of the most important Sabbaths of the Jewish year, the Passover Sabbath. Jesus was never more helpless than on the cross and after his death, and Joseph and Nicodemus stepped forward to carry out the task. Some say Nicodemus was cowardly because he came to Jesus at night, but he chose to come out of hiding and show his love for Jesus, which certainly meant he was no longer “the teacher of Israel,” one of the most prominent positions in Israel.

 

Joseph and Nicodemus were operating under two pressures, time (they had slightly more than two hours before sundown to bury the body without breaking the law for working on the Sabbath), and the pressure of their true motives being identified.

 

Joseph secured permission from Pilate, purchased a linen cloth, while Nicodemus purchased about seventy-five pounds of spices, enough for the burial of a king. They met back at the crucifixion site, laid the cross down, extracted the body from the nails, and carried it on a public thoroughfare during the busiest time of the year to Joseph’s personal tomb. They did a quick work of anointing and wrapping the body, then placing it inside the tomb.

 

The significance of Christ’s burial. The burial is recorded in all four gospels.  Why? First, it confirms the truth that Jesus really died.  A common myth to discredit the resurrection is that Jesus did not die but was only unconscious and resuscitated.  Unconscious people are not buried. Second, Paul says that the burial of Christ is like our baptism. We are identified with him both in his death and in his burial.  Just as Jesus was dead dead, so we die with him, and are in fact “buried with him through baptism into death” (Ro.6:4).

 

What joy Joseph must have experienced when Jesus rose from the dead. Imagine him returning to his tomb (if still alive) and thinking, “Jesus stayed here.” But not anymore.

 

I am moved by God’s sovereign action in the midst of people doing what they are going to do. Soldiers carry out their responsibility—and two prophecies are fulfilled. A kind man provides a tomb—and another prophecy comes to pass. Do you have something that Jesus can use? Unnamed friends offered him a donkey. A boy said, “He can have my lunch,” and thousands ate. A religious leader said, “He can use my tomb.” We will meet him in heaven for his kindness and courage–and Nic!

HOLY WEEK QUIZ

I did a family quiz for Thanksgiving and for Christmas. Great discussion times. Here goes: (pa@harvestcommunities.org for answers)

  1.  Name two prophecies that were fulfilled during Holy Week.
  2.  Why did Jesus ride into Jerusalem on a donkey?
  3.  What does “Hosanna” mean?
  4.  What did Jesus do during Holy Week?
  5.  What day did Jesus have a healing service?
  6. Why did Jesus curse a fig tree?
  7. How did Jesus baffle the religious leaders in the questions they asked him?
  8. What different groups of religious leaders were arguing with Jesus during Holy Week?
  9. Why did the answer of Jesus regarding taxes stop the religious leaders: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s?” (Matthew 22:15-22).
  10. Why did Jesus weep over Jerusalem?
  11. How did Jesus describe the end times?
  12. How does Daniel, the letters of Paul, and Revelation support Christ’s end-time picture?
  13. Why did the leaders not want to arrest Jesus during the feast? Why then did it happen?
  14. Why was Jesus anointed by a woman at the home of Simon the leper?
  15. Why did Judas agree to betray Jesus?
  16. Why did Jesus “set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).
  17. What did Jesus know about Jerusalem?
  18. What was the Passover meal? How did Jesus fulfill the Passover?
  19. Why did Caiaphas tear his robes when Jesus spoke about his return? What is the significance of that?
  20. When did it turn dark on the cross? How long was Jesus on the cross? From when to when?
  21. Name the seven words from the cross in order.
  22. Why did Jesus say to John, “Behold, your mother?”
  23. What was more difficult for Jesus on the cross–the physical or emotional suffering?
  24. Why did Jesus say, “I thirst,” when the battle was over?
  25. What was the significance of the hyssop branch used to give Jesus a drink?
  26. What was going on at the same time that Jesus was being crucified?
  27. What is the significance of the curtain being torn from top to bottom when Jesus died?
  28. What women were at the cross?
  29. Who buried Jesus? What is the significance of that? What time was Jesus buried?
  30. What is the significance of the guard placed at the tomb at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees to Pilate?
  31. How many earthquakes took place between the crucifixion and the resurrection and why is that significant?
  32. How many appearances did Jesus make after his resurrection and to whom? What did the resurrected Christ speak about? 

                         

4 LESSONS FROM “I THIRST”

 

JESUS LOOKED TO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS

He first said, “Father, forgive them.” Then he said to the criminal next to Him, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Then he made provision for his mother, turning her over to the care of John.  “After this,” he spoke words of personal need. Jesus modeled perfect love from the cross by looking to his own bodily needs last.

 

HE ASKED FOR A DRINK AFTER THE BATTLE WAS OVER.

John writes, “After this Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished…” (19:28). In the heat of battle, one cannot yell, “Time out,” and grab a drink. That Jesus now confesses thirst is an indication that the fight is done. He has stepped on the head of the serpent and crushed him: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities, making a public display of them” (Col. 2:14).

 

HE SAID IT IN FULFILLMENT OF SCRIPTURE.

According to John, Jesus spoke the words as a link with what had been prophesied about him. At no point did Jesus ever lose control. Caiaphas did, and tore his robes in anger. Pilate did, and tried to wash a guilty conscience with water. The crowd did, and shouted, “Crucify him,” like bloodthirsty dogs tearing at their victim. But the Victim never lost it. He knew what time it was (John 13:1) and what he needed to do. History was on schedule. The King was about to be crowned.

 

JESUS SAID, “I THIRST.”

The One who created Niagara Falls, who made the lakes in the Rockies, is now dehydrated. Humanity sinned and a human had to die. Jesus was a man, a thirsty man. He had poured out his soul to death, and He deserved to be thirsty. He had just cried, “My God, my God, why…?” That was the worst kind of dehydration, the most awful exposure, the most painful and gut-wrenching separation.

 

He was fulfilling the Scripture, “For my thirst they gave me vinegar” (Psalm 69:21). The soldier understood him to be asking for a drink of liquid. He gave Him some of the sour wine, the cheap stuff given to soldiers as part of their rations. Earlier it had been offered to Jesus and He had refused it. Why now? Because his work was over. He did not want to be drugged earlier, because he chose to be in full awareness of what he was doing, even in the severest pain. He needed to “taste death for everyone.”  He had his taste, and now he asked for a final drink before the end. When he received it, he gained sufficient strength to cry out, “It is finished.”  “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). He did what he had come to do–and he was done.

 

LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE!

That’s what we said as kids when we thought someone was not telling the truth. Then say it to Satan,  because as Jesus declared, “He is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). As a father, he facilitates the birthing of lies–all over the planet.

 

Don’t know what we meant about the “pants on fire” part.  I do know that the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). Knowing that “his time is short” (Revelation 12:12), he wants to ruin as many Christians as he can with lies before he heads to the tank. He uses four primary weapons: accusation (bringing guilt and shame), intimidation (producing fear), temptation (luring in sin), and deception (replacing truth with lies). If we believe his lies, we come into his realm. He rules as prince of “this present darkness” (Ephesians 6:12). “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5).

 

Have you fellowshipped with Satan by believing lies?

“You don’t have what it takes.”

“You are not going to get victory over this.”

“You’re in financial trouble, and it doesn’t look good.”

“It wouldn’t hurt you–at least not that much. Just don’t tell anyone.”

“God seems to be blessing others more than you. What’s that about?”

 

Satan comes at us with the goal to change two pictures: how we view God and how we see ourselves. If he is successful, he keeps us from walking into our God-appointed destiny.

 

“Now the serpent was more crafty [read “sneaky, sinister, deceptive”] than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Which interpreted means, “God sounds a bit immature, maybe even insecure. What’s he worried about? Why is he withholding from you?”

 

“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’” (3). Eve wrongly added the last phrase to the inhibition, maybe thinking God was a bit picky. So Satan went for it: “You will not surely die (in bold defiance). For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (5). He made it clear, at least to Eve, that God was withholding from them, not a kind thing. Why shouldn’t they be able to decide–like God? Buying the lie, they bit the fruit.

 

They were convinced that it would improve their condition in the garden–and it destroyed them. Satan was happy in a devilish sort of way. They were devastated. They gave up innocence, a great marriage, and number one son.

 

Arm yourself with the belt of truth. Men, expose your struggles. Only good things come from the truth: “If we walk in the light, we have fellowship with one another, the the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). Two gifts: living connections with people so we are not isolated by Satan and the lifting of shame and guilt through forgiveness.

HANG IN THERE WITH PRAYER (part 2)

 

In stark contrast to an indifferent judge, the Bible says many times, “God is good.” The psalmist writes, “O give thanks to the Lord for He is good, and his mercy endures forever.” The assault on the goodness of God started in the garden with the serpent attacking God’s goodness. He made Eve think that God was withholding good, that He was sneaky, manipulative, not to be trusted, and insecure. To the degree that we doubt God’s goodness we will faint in prayer. Why wouldn’t you persist knowing the character of God? You have everything going for you.

 

So we put two people together in a contest, an obnoxious man on the bench and an unrelenting widow who will never give up. Who wins? The widow. Now put a kind, loving Father together with a persevering child. Who wins that one? Both. The widow represents the people of God. And God the caring Judge takes our case. Bingo!

 

Do you stop when you feel like you have gotten a “no?” Or when you have prayed for ten years? Or when circumstances look negative?  We have two possibilities in our parable—persistent prayer or quitting. Maybe we have prayed what we think is long enough, so we stop, like taking a hike and giving up just before we reach the peak. When we persevere, the rewarding view makes the sore muscles worth it.

 

We need to persist…

when we think we are hearing a “no”

when the circumstances don’t favor a positive answer

when our faith begins to dwindle.

 

We give up…

when the circumstances override our trust in God’s sovereignty

when the difficulty looms larger than God.

 

When we give up,

we miss out on what we may be close to attaining

we may discourage others who need to persevere.

 

This is an end-times story. Jesus just finished a long teaching on the last days. One chapter later He is walking into Jerusalem, initiating His last week, in which He gives more teaching on the end than at any other time. He also closes His parable on prayer with a word about His return, tipping us off to a major theme in the story. He wonders if people will be looking for Him. Most will not.

Jesus is not a pessimist, but He does say in the Sermon on the Mount that “only a few find” the narrow way leading to life (Matthew 7:14). He says that “the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). “Most” is a lot. Don’t let “most” include you. In Luke’s version of Christ’s end-time discourse, Jesus speaks about how His return will surprise most people, just like the flood hit people unaware. Jesus starts His story with a strong exhortation to persist in prayer and closes by asking if people will persevere. Let’s be among those who go for it if we’re around when Jesus returns. Two pictures will determine whether you do—your picture of God and your picture of yourself. What kind of people do not give up? Those who have a testimony of God’s faithfulness. Worked before; going to work again. People who believe in God more than in their circumstances.

 

Perhaps you want to offer this prayer: “Jesus, help me to keep persisting. I give up too easily. I want to be faithful to the end—regardless. I will pray until I have received what I have asked for.”