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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Will Jesus Find Faith on the Earth?

Luke 18:1-8 (ESV)
1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” 

Many people have a hard time with this parable. They see Jesus comparing rather than contrasting between the unrighteous judge and God. They see this parable as evidence that their insistence before God will force God to do as they wish. They see God as giving in because He simply doesn't want to be bothered anymore.

This is not the case. This parable deals much deeper than the superficial understandings many people will give it. It deals with who we think God is. Is He a God who answers us according to what is right? Is He a God who gives this justice swiftly? And will we continue to believe as is evidenced by continuing in prayer?

Each week I challenge people to pray. Many of them do. They have prayer lives which believe in God's power, goodness, love and wisdom. But I have found some people who pray without faith. They go through the mechanics of prayer without believing that God will do anything. They ask as if asking is all that is expected. They do not realize that they should expect to receive nothing as long as they are asking without faith.

Thus, these people do not sustain praying for anything. They pray for someone to be healed but do not pray for that person again. They ask for someone to get a job but never bring it up before God again. I doubt that they will admit or even realize that they don't believe anything is going to happen anyway. And that lack of belief assures their results.

Sometimes God delays responding to our prayers. He may have many reasons for doing so, yet we should still keep praying because it both enhances and proves what we believe. Faith is the evidence of that which is hoped for; an assurance of things not yet seen. It is a gift of God. It is proven when we act for our actions reveal our faith.

Many people want to do away with faith. Their actions reveal their fears. They hold onto all that they have because they are afraid. They only believe what they can see because their fears prevent them from believing. They are afraid to act in faith.

These people see what they can do without and give accordingly. I have seen many adults drop $2 in the offering plate because they won't miss it. Yet they will run to the church when they have been diagnosed with cancer. Then, they want to believe that God will act when they couldn't believe that He would act in providing enough for them to live on. Faith, to them, is a last resort.

However, this is not the case of a person with faith. Faithful people know God so well that they know how He will answer. They know that His will is that the best is done for them. They know that He will move the universe to answer their prayers. They know that a negative answer from Him is what is best, loving and done with full wisdom and knowledge. They trust Him when they bring their requests and continue to bring those requests until they receive an answer.

Will Jesus find faith when He returns to the earth? Personally, I know that I have been so discouraged that I didn't believe God would ever act. I hope that this is not how I will ever be characterized. I want to be a person of faith. 

So, I pray and believe and pray some more.


Anthony Chia said...

Many people do not handle parables correctly; one of the main reasons is that they lack understanding in interpreting parables. They got to be taught things about elements in a parable, the metaphor, and the actual object, what metaphor means and its limitation, and how finally we got to get back to the aspect of the object, the parable is trying to highlight, and not get distracted with the inevitable disparity between the metaphor and the object, for so often, it is impossible to get a "God-equivalent" (metaphor) when the object is God!

For this parable, the aim or intent was stated at the outset, and it is to show us that we should always pray and NOT give up.

The parable was meant to say:

Even to an unrighteous judge, a helpless person would appeal unceasingly for that judge to do something to redress the injustice she faced (widow, in those days, can be epitomizing a helpless person). The Lord was trying get us to see, that a helpless person seeking redress for injustice, would still unceasingly appeal to a judge, who is quite obviously not expected to act justly, why is it that we cannot always pray and NOT give up, when we, too, are as helpless as a widow of old, and the judge we can appeal to, is not unrighteous and unjust; on the contrary, His throne and rule is founded on justice and righteousness (Ps 89:14a); that the widow could, and have convinced, herself, to believe the unrighteous judge would act, despite it would be obvious such a judge would not be expedient about meting out justice, even if done, why is it that we cannot be having the faith in the Judge who is just and righteous, and so, would not delay in ensuring justice is done. God as the Judge can be expected to be just in time, not a minute sooner or a minute later, in and according to His timing, so to speak; and that is what is meant by God acting speedily. God would act speedily, but where are the prayers, and where is persevering faith, that refuses to give up until one has heard from God?!

That, faith is a gift of God, should be noted in its proper place and not misapplied. Remember, now, everything good we could ever get from God is a gift of God, for we merited none of it. So, we have to be careful NOT to tell ourselves, "if I had not prayed with enough faith, not even with faith the size of a mustard seed, I am NOT to be blamed, God is, for He did NOT give it!" We have responsibility to build up our faith, and quality of our faith; our faith needs to be persevering faith. Scripture is clear about this; our faith will be tested. 1 Pet 1:7 - tested so that it may prove genuine. Heb 11:6 said that without faith it is impossible to please God. The Apostle Paul said, ".... These three remain, faith, hope and love (1 Cor 13:13).


Anthony Chia said...

Cont. From above.

It is true, sometimes, response to our prayers is delayed in coming, and there can be a number of reasons, but on the checklist are definitely these: test of faith, test of love, test of obedience, and test of single-mindedness (not double-minded). The parable here highlighted faith. When we pray not with faith, God is not pleased. How do I know? Heb 11:6 said so, that without faith it is impossible to please God.

When righteous men pray, Scripture said their prayers avail much; why is it so? A righteous man prays, when he believes what he is praying for, is in line with God's will or desires; he does not pray, otherwise. He would not pray otherwise, for he does not have faith that what is prayed for, will come to pass. If I am a righteous man, I will not pray for disaster to befall another, on your request, purportedly you want revenge. The reason is that I don't believe such a request is in line with God's will or desire, and so, I don't have faith that it will come to pass. In other words, when a righteous man prays, he has faith. Such a prayer, a prayer with faith, God does not despise, and so, it accounts for it being said as availing much.

Of course, there are people who engage in prayer, motivated by frivolous reasons. For example, some people pray because they don't want to be seen as the odd one out or seen as "unholy". One can also be praying pretentiously, like pretend to be caring. Or to look good, or simply don't want to be embarrassing not to pray!

When a person would pray in private, we know some of the frivolous reasons are out, for no one is looking. A person who prays in private, is more likely to be not under frivolous compulsion. For one thing, he prays of his own accord. We all know of people who said or promised they would pray for us, but they actually do not do it. Are you guilty? They don't do it, pray for us, as promised, because they don't think we will know it; we are not looking-what! They only love in words, won't even love by doing the thing they could do, for sure - pray to God for us. Not caring enough! Another reason, people do not pray, to be done in private, is that they do not have the faith that God will answer their prayers. In the company of others, for frivolous reason(s), they will pray but still without faith; in private, away from others, why would they pray when they believe not, God will answer their prayers! God is not against praying in public as such, but concerned with motivation behind what we do, pray. We can be praying in public, motivated by frivolous reason(s) but without faith. In private, if you have not faith, don't believe God would answer your prayer, you are not likely to pray. It is not so much of praying in private or in public, but what matter are, "Are your motives and motivations, right?", and "Are you praying with faith?"

Lastly, should we or should we not, petition for the same thing, in prayer, over and over again, at different sittings? I don't want to make this comment any much longer, and so, I will not explain much. My answer is we should, unless God is saying or signaling to you, that, that is enough! Such is NOT inconsistent with God's desire for us to be developing and with, persevering faith. When He is bothered it, I believe, He will let you know; He did that to Moses! Don't keep repeating the same petition over and over again, in one sitting, though; Scripture said NOT to do it.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions