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How to Not Give Up - Shepherd of Hope

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, – Luke 18:1

 

My goodness, with all the confusion and injustices, all the deception and seeming double standards allowing the privileged to prosper, one could get down and depressed, even just give up. Compound that with our individual personal difficulties of life, and many are giving up. Wait! Don’t give up! No matter how bad things seem to be, no matter how much the unrighteous seem to be prospering, no matter how bad things are for you personally, I want to encourage you to not give up. Jesus has a word for those who are contemplating giving up. And I’d like to share that with you.

In the parable of the widow and the unjust judge, Jesus exhorts us to not give up. He provides us with the key to steadfastness, the power to persevere. In this Jesus teaches by way of contrast. Sometimes when Jesus teaches by a parable He teaches by comparing similar things. At other times Jesus teaches by contrasting unlike things as His method of teaching. A teaching by contrasts is what Jesus does here. And what he teaches us will steel us to carry on.

In Luke 18 Jesus shares a parable that we would do well to look at for our day. What is this parable about? The stated purpose of this parable is, “that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” So, there are two things Jesus is teaching with this parable, always pray, and don’t lose heart. Here is our first contrast: always praying or giving up.

Always pray. “Always” (Greek pantote) means at all times, always, evermore. Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer, according to Jesus, is an essential of the faith. This was Jesus’ exhortation to them, particularly, His disciples (Luke 17:22 in context). And this is Jesus’ exhortation to us.

What is the reason or purpose Jesus gives to justify His call to constant prayer? Prayer is linked by Jesus with our endurance, our perseverance, our spiritual health.

Don’t lose heart. To “lose heart” here is translated from the Greek term ekkakeo and means to be weak, to fail in heart, to faint, be weary, to be utterly spiritless, to be worn out, to be exhausted. Jesus is speaking about us not giving up. Ever feel like that? Ever feel exhausted, worn out or utterly spiritless? Ever feel like the spirit has gone out of you? What’s the solution? According to Jesus, the solution is prayer.

 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. 3 Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’

A judge. The judge in this parable was irreverent toward God. And this judge didn’t “regard” people (Greek entrepo), he didn’t respect, people. The idea here is that this judge wasn’t ashamed to mistreat people. People were not valuable to him but merely objects to be moved around or instruments to be used. This judge was the opposite of God the Judge. There was no sign of compassion or mercy or kindness toward his fellow human beings.

An unjust judge? If this is a parable about prayer and praying to God our Father, does this unjust judge represent our Heavenly Father? Is God our Father unjust? NO! And the reason for that is because this is not a parable of comparison or correspondence, but a parable of contrast. Jesus is teaching by using contrasts, not something or someone that corresponds. If this just judge can be won over by persistence, how much more our Just Heavenly Father? Jesus is teaching by contrast.

Those who reject God disregard people. It follows that those who reject God, have little to no regard for people. When you have no “fear” or reverence for God, there is little incentive to care or be kind to your fellow man. Without a relationship with God, you’re left to your own devices. Because humanity is born with a sinful nature, that does not bode well for our fellow humans.

Romans 1:18-32 tells us that God’s wrath is on humanity for their foolish rejection of God. And that rejection leads to all kinds of depravity and debauchery. This devoid of God downward spiral leads to unnatural sinful abuse of the human body. It leads to promoting things obscene and repulsive to God. It leads to what we see more and more in our day, calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).

This is not to say that all atheists are brutes or mistreat people, but any good in them is self-generated and human centered. And much horror has been perpetrated on humanity under the guise of religion. But if you look at the oppressive government systems of the world, they tend to be atheistic systems. Communism is an example of this. Communism and its predecessor socialism can be linked to the worst genocides in history. Without God, little lasting good can be sustained. Those who wait and expect humanity to evolve to better and higher existence, must deny the historic reality that without God humanity devolves to worse and worse enslavement to sin. There’s ample evidence for this. Government is a very poor substitute for God, and atheistic governments are a terror.

There’s a reason why the first four vertical Commandments relate to our relationship to God, followed by the last six that are horizontal and relate to man. When you break the first four, you’ll likely break the last six. If you don’t revere God and live under His watchful eye, you’re more likely to feel free to covet, commit adultery, lie, and steal. Truly, in people without God, without Jesus, nothing good dwells in them (cf. Romans 7).

A widow. “Widow” (Greek chera) means husbandless. Without a husband, she would not have her primary defender or provider. This widow doesn’t seem to have any family backing either. Therefore, this widow apparently had to rely on herself to get what she needed. She was vulnerable, desperate, on her own, at the mercy of the godless heartless judge.

We are not a widow, but a bride. Here is another one of Jesus’ contrasts. He refers to a widow, someone likely destitute with only herself to rely on. Not so with the follower of Jesus! We are the Bride of Christ! And Jesus is our Advocate. The Bible states:

  • 1 John 2:1 (NKJV) – My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Jesus is our Advocate. He stands up for us and will protect us. Jesus will take care of us and look out for us.

Justice. What was this widow seeking? She was seeking “justice.” “Justice” (Greek ekdikeo) means vindication, punishment, revenge, justice, to defend one person from another. Ever feel like you were wronged? Ever feel like you were living in a two-tier justice system, and you were being treated unfairly, unjustly? This woman did. And she went to the local judge for justice.

 4 And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, 5 yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.'”

 Don’t be weary, wear out the judge. There is something to be said for persistence. Some people give up easily. Here Jesus illustrates the importance of persistence.  Sometimes victory is a matter of merely outlasting your opponent. Don’t give up! Keep plugging. Keep pushing. And as Jesus applies here, keep praying.

God is never too busy to listen to our prayers. Some mistakenly think, I’m not going to bother God with my request, He’s too busy for me to bother him about this little thing in my life. Some people think God’s response to our prayers is, “Why are you bothering me with your prayers, don’t you know I’m listening to Franklin Graham?” But that’s not God at all. God tells us in His word:

Psalm 139:17–18 (NKJV)

17   How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!

How great is the sum of them!

18   If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

When I awake, I am still with You.

God loves us so much He can’t get His omniscient mind off us! God loves us so much, He sent Jesus to die for us (Romans 5:8). God loves us so much He wants to hear from us. He doesn’t want us to pray less, He wants us to pray more! That’s why Paul instructed the Thessalonians to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It’s the devil who discourages us to pray. He knows our prayers will do him in. Martin Luther used to say, “Satan trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon their knees.” Pray often. Pray for everything. Pray persistently. Come into the presence of God and pray.

Remember, Jesus is communicating by contrast. Jesus here makes a point by way of a contrast. In the parable a woman goes to a godless judge persistent to get justice. The judge is unresponsive initially, but because of the persistence of the woman, the godless judge acquiesces and avenges her so wont weary him. The idea here is that if an unjust judge will respond to persistence, how much more will God Who is a just Judge?

6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. 7 And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? 8 I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.

Here is hope to not give up for the follower of Jesus. The Christian is grieved and comes up against obstacles such as injustice in life. It would be easy to give up. But instead as Jesus said, we “ought to pray and not lose heart.” God will indeed avenge the injustices perpetrated on us.

The vengeance of God. There are indeed unjust judges on the earth. But our God is just. And He will avenge “His own elect.” Our job is to “cry out day and night to Him” in prayer. Pray for justice my brothers and sisters! Cry out to God to right the wrongs and bring evil doers to justice. “Though He bear long with them,” or though it seems His justice comes slow, persist in prayer, and don’t take things into your own hands. The Bible states clearly:

  • Romans 12:17-21 (NKJV) 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Don’t be overcome by evil, don’t be worn out by evil, entrust such things to God and His vengeance. Cry out to God day and night knowing His justice will prevail. We know the final chapter, the outcome. God prevails, and we with Him.

Speedily? God will avenge “speedily.” “Speedily” (Greek tachos) means in a brief space of time, in haste, quickly, shortly. We derive the word tachometer from this Greek word. Sometimes this refers to a gradual buildup or gradual development in bringing something to pass as the word is used in the opening words of Revelation 1:1. But it can also simply mean a relatively short period of time as it is used here by Jesus.

God’s coming judgments. Sometimes it seems as though the wicked are getting away with their wicked sinful behaviors. We question why God would allow such things to happen. We question God’s wisdom, His justness, whether His plans are righteous and fare. It’s true, sometimes the sinner appears to escape judgment in this life. But this life is not all that there is. There is a final Great White Throne Judgment that comes at the end of God’s millennial kingdom and no sinner will escape that final judgment (Revelation 20). But there are other judgments of God in our future.

First, God’s sovereign judgment. Toward the end of that great book of Job, Job discovers something about God and His judgment that steadied him as he came through the tunnel of his afflictions. At the beginning of the last chapter of that great book Job states:

  • Job 42:2 (NKJV) – “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

Even though Job didn’t understand the reasons for all that had come upon him, in the end, he surrendered to God’s purpose and that was enough for him. Knowing that God has a plan and purpose and that He can carry it out, no matter what, is the conclusion anyone who believes in God comes to in life. There will be things that hit us, that intrude on us, that trouble us in life, that we won’t understand. We won’t always have our “why?” questions answered. And when that happens, we simply need to trust that God “can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.”

Another verse, found in the New Testament, gives us encouragement when we don’t understand why God allows certain things to happen. In the New Testament it states:

  • Romans 8:28 (NKJV) – And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His

 This is God’s promise for those who love Him and are called by Him according to His purposes. God is in control.

We must always remember that God is in control. Scriptural support for this truth can be found in the following verses:

  • Genesis 50:20 (NKJV) – 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
  •  Psalm 22:28 (NKJV) – For the kingdom is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations. (cf. also Zephaniah 2:4-15)
  •  Psalm 23:4 (NKJV) – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
  •  Proverbs 19:21 (NKJV) – There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.
  •  Isaiah 35:4 (NKJV) – Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you.”
  •  Isaiah 45:5–7 (NKJV) – I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; 7I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.’
  •  Isaiah 55:8–9 (NKJV) – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. 9“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
  •  Colossians 1:17 (NKJV) – 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

The longest book of the Bible, the hymnal of Israel, is the Book of Psalms. It is a book of worship to God for all that He has done, does, and will do in the lives of Israel and all humanity. God is in control. And the Psalm that introduces this grandest glorious book in the Bible speaks of God’s sovereign overseeing of humanity. Psalm 1 states:

  • Psalm 1 (NKJV) – 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. 3He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. 4The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. 5Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. 6For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

While justice for the sinner may come later than we’d like, it will come. That is as certain as God Himself.

Second, God’s enforcement of the judgment of consequences. There is a judgment of consequence whereas God enforces consequences on our actions. If we act in the Spirit, we reap a righteous outcome. If we act selfishly in our flesh, corruption. God enforces a judgment of consequence for actions:

  • Galatians 6:7–9 (NKJV) – Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

 

Third, God’s personal judgment of every individual at death. Hebrews 9:27 states each person will die, then face the initial judgment of God. Death closes the door on opportunity to turn to God in Christ. The person who lives and dies in their sin separate from God, will face final judgment and eventual eternal torment in the Lake of Fire (cf. Revelation 20). But the one who trust in Jesus in this life, when they die, they go immediately into the presence of Jesus and will be forever with Him (2 Cor. 5:8). We will all die. And death brings judgment.

Fourth`, the judgment seat of Christ. Three is a sovereign judgment of God toward Christians. The New Testament states:

  • Romans 14:10b–12 (NKJV) – For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.

Christians will stand before Jesus to have their lives judged, not for salvation (which has been settled through faith in Christ by the gospel), but to give rewards (1 Cor. 3:11-15). Jesus will reward His saints. The Bible states:

  • Hebrews 6:10 (NKJV) – 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.

God is not unjust. He will not forget our efforts for His glory in this life. If you were to stand before Jesus today, what “work and labor of love” would He remember about you?

Waiting on the Lord. When God requires we wait for the answers to our prayers, it is always for a good reason. Joseph waited in jail, unjustly imprisoned, but in the end exalted and. Greatly us by the Lord. In the end he was able to witness to his brothers that what they meant for evil, God used for good (Genesis 50:20). God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called to His purposes (Romans 8:28). Remember:

  • Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV) – 31 But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

 Wait on the Lord. He has a righteous plan and purpose for your waiting. God and His reasons for waiting, are always worth the wait.

It might not always seem as though God’s response is “speedily,” but considering eternity, it is. Don’t give up when faced with the injustices of this world, pray, and don’t lose heart. Trust God, He will avenge!

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

 Jesus is coming back. Jesus is coming back. Yes, He is. And all the signs seem to indicate that return to rapture His bride will be soon and very soon. The question Jesus poses though, is whether He will He really find faith on the earth? Will we be ready? Will you be ready? Will we have been overcome by our circumstances or will we have overcome our circumstances?

Prayerless is a sign of faithlessness. Prayerlessness, if we understand what Jesus is saying here, is evidence of giving up. When we fail to pray, it’s an indication of weak faltering faith. At the end of this parable Jesus comments, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Faith and prayer, according to Jesus’ teaching here, go hand in hand. The quality and nature of our faith is indicated by our prayer life. If that is so, how’s your faith? If you did some self-examination on your prayer life, what does it say about your faith life? If Jesus returned today, would He find faith in you?

A corrupt court or a throne of grace? In the parable Jesus speaks of a widow who must nag an unjust judge to get justice against her enemy. The court of this unjust judge was apparently disinterested in justice normally. You had to beg and plead to get justice. Not so with the follower of Jesus!

The Bible provides us with quite a contrast to this unjust court and unjust judge in the parable. Quite to the contrary, the Bible states:

  • Hebrews 4:14–16 (NKJV) – 14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

There’s nothing you go through in this life, that Jesus doesn’t understand. Jesus looks on us with sympathy. Jesus understands. And because of that, because Jesus is our High Priest who sympathizes with us, we can confidently come to His “throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Come to Jesus. when you’re unjustly treated, come to Jesus. When you don’t understand, come to Jesus. Don’t ever give up! Come to Jesus and pray.

Things are not always as they seem. Elijah had just been greatly used by God to overcome overwhelming odds, defeating nearly 500 prophets of Baal. He did it spectacularly by calling down fire from heaven and executing the pagan prophets. You’d think such a victory would be uplifting, but Elijah must evade king Ahab and Jezebel. And as he escapes, he runs into a deep depression. Ever been depressed? Ever have the air or spirit knocked out of you? Jesus tells us prayer is the solution to such weariness. Another aspect that helps is understanding things are not always as they seem.

In 1 Kings 19 Elijah has just been used by God to defeat 490 prophets of Baal. But as a consequence, mean old evil Jezebel puts s bull’s eye on his back and he must flee. Soon Elijah runs out of steam. God provides for him, but he continues in his own strength and runs out of gas. Soon physical exhaustion turns into spiritual depression. And spiritual depression turns into a pity party of delusional proportions. But God didn’t leave Elijah in that bad place. God got his attention with a storm. Then He spoke to him out of the stillness after the storm. Elijah mistakenly thought he was all alone. And that was not only discouraging, but terrifying to him. His faith had grown weak. What did God say to him? “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18).

There’s a lot we could unpack from 1 Kings 18 and 19. And much of it is helpful to bring us out of depression or to help us not faint,. But the main thing to remember here is that things are not always as they seem. For Elijah, he thought he was all alone. But God corrected him telling him there were seven thousand who hadn’t bowed the knee to Baal. That encouraged and helped Elijah. It should encourage us. The next time you feel down, get on your knees, and ask God for sight, for insight, for understanding, for faith to trust Him even though you might feel all alone. Don’t give up, look up. Then press on.

At the onset of WWII England soon found itself the last bastion of hope against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. At one point when Germany had overrun Europe and England stood alone Winston Churchill the Prime Minister of England summoned his countrymen to endure and press on in the fight at all costs. These were some of his words:

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say, it is to wage war, by sea, by land and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

In another speech given at the Harrows School for Boys, October 29th, 1941, Churchill gave words reaffirming his earlier determined purpose saying:

“This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” [1]

The Bible says we are in a war of even more momentous proportions than the one Churchill and England faced. It is a battle against principalities and powers and rulers of this dark age, a demon hoard (Ephesians 6:12). Quitting is not an option. If we quit the demons of hell will ravish us and smear the name of the Almighty. That is unacceptable. We are called to endure, and we must endure. Never give up!

[1] The full speech is contained in The Unrelenting Struggle (London: Cassell and Boston: Little Brown 1942 and is found on pages 274-76 of the English edition). It may also be found in The Complete Speeches of Winston S. Churchill, edited by Robert Rhodes James (NY: Bowker and London: Chelsea House 1974). https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/reference/frequently-asked-questions/quotes-faq-2/

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