Today I had the honor of filling in for our pastor. My joke was that she must either really trust me or I keep drawing the new member short straw but here I was with the freedom to write today’s sermon and share it with two amazing congregations. I am so thankful for all who were there to worship.
Today’s sermon was based off the gospel Luke 18:1-8 and I thought I’d share it here. It isn’t written perfectly as I do best speaking off of notes versus something typed out. But I pray the message find you where you are at today.
In preparation for today, I read this text in every bible we have in our home. That’s five different translations! I did this because reading the bible can be confusing. Parables don’t always make sense or translate well into our modern world. I wanted to be sure I studied up well! I guess I was being persistent like the widow in the story to make sure I knew what I was talking about.
Even though today’s gospel is only eight short verses, there are three big points that build throughout the message. The first being in the very first line: Jesus told this story as encouragement to pray always and to not give up. One of the bible translations I read stated it like this: “Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”
Weary. That word gets me. I feel weary all the time. Every day even. I’m guessing I’m not alone. We will go through hard times. And if we aren’t going through a hard time, someone close to us is. It’s all around us. Some of us might be feeling weary right now. Weary of what’s happening in our world, our country, our community, our church, our families – all around us. Weary. We are not only weary of our current events but weary of the past, of loss, of hurts, of pain that continues to carry into the next season of life. That weariness not only challenges our faith but it can challenge our prayer life.
For example: Something happens in our life and we know to take it to God in prayer. We go at it with gusto. We start praying day after day. We hope. We trust. We have faith. But pretty soon, we don’t feel like our prayers are being heard. It doesn’t feel like God is going to answer us or he feels too far away. So, our prayers start lacking energy. They become weary, more infrequent. We might even stop praying about it altogether. Even though we haven’t seen our prayer all the way through to the end – we simply stop seeking. We lose our persistence. We get weary.
Yes, the widow in the parable was persistent. But she was also something else – she was specific. She came to the judge every day for the exact same request – for justice. Every single day she showed up with the same fire in her belly as she did the day before. Her request did not waver. It did not change. She did not compromise. She didn’t adjust her request because she was being rejected. She knew exactly what she was asking for every single day. Her request was for justice. Her request was for good. She knew the judge needed to fix it and she wasn’t going to stop asking until it was complete.
But what if we are asking for something good and God doesn’t fix it? What if we are taking to prayer a request to save someone’s life? Someone has a terminal illness and we take it to God with gusto but they ultimately lose the battle. That doesn’t feel just. That doesn’t feel like our specific prayers were answered, does it? I’m just going to call this one out because it’s hard and I wrestle with it. Truthfully, I don’t have a good explanation for it but I do have a small story to share and I hope it gives someone here the same glimmer of hope like it has me.
Two years ago, a college friend of mine was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Young mom, three kids, one just a few month-old baby. I followed her journey very closely thinking God, she surely has to be ok. Those babies need her! In reading her caringbridge she was quoted about her illness this way: “Either way I win. I either beat this disease or I get to be with Jesus. I will win.” That line has stuck with me vividly ever since. For a young mom, to know her fate will end up one of two ways and to have that confidence in the Lord. What an example of persistence.
But something else struck me even more than the widow’s persistence or even Jesus’s advice to pray always and never give up. It was the very last line in the text today: When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? This line was exactly the same in every single version that I read. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
I think if we were to open up a big group conversation about this to answer this question, we would quickly answer: Of COURSE NOT! Jesus would not find faith in our current world. Look around! There’s violence, destruction, manipulation, corruption, pollution, etc etc.
But Jesus isn’t preaching to a large group. Jesus is intimately talking with his disciples. And when we sit down to read God’s Word, it is alive and being personally shared with us. These questions that are being asked are being directed towards us today. Jesus is asking them when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith inside of them? It’s personal. How big is their faith?
How big is our faith? Intimately. Individually. Just because we own five bibles, doesn’t mean we have strong faith. (It means we have an online shopping problem…) Just because we are all here today, doesn’t mean we have strong faith. Just because we fill our calendars with all the churchly activities, doesn’t mean we have strong faith. If the Son of Man came today – would he find faith in you?
Would he find you persistently praying? Would he know immediately what your needs are because you are specific and haven’t lost sight of what you seek? Would he find big faith in you despite your weariness? Despite your pain and heartbreak, past hurts and suffering? Would he find disciples who haven’t given up?
When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?