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A Process of Living – Luke 18:1-8 (Video & Manuscript Sermon)

A Process of Living 

This sermon was preached at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, on October 20, 2013.

Included below the video is the biblical text, as well as the manuscript for the sermon.

Luke 18:1-8

 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 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. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

 Manuscript Below

This seems like it would be a very easy scripture to preach on or teach about.  After all, Luke tells us the exact reason why Jesus told this parable.  The text reads:

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

We don’t always have such an interpretive device when exploring the meaning of Jesus’ parables.  Sometimes the meaning of Jesus’ parables are not so obvious.  Just watch the reaction of his disciples at the conclusion of many of Jesus’ teachings.  He would finish and they would just sort of stand there in silence, with a dumbfounded look on their face, until one of them mustered up the courage to say, “Lord, just what are you trying to say?”  Then Jesus would have to explain it to them.  Or, in some cases, he’s just shake his head in astonishment and move on further down the road.

None of that’s the case here.  Luke tells us exactly what this parable is all about.

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

 Jesus’ aim is that we be persistent in our faith.  That we stay connected through prayer to the God who remains connected to us through grace.  Jesus’ aim is that we not give up.

Giving up is a temptation with which many of us are familiar.  Jesus’ disciples and the early church to which Luke addressed his gospel were also familiar with this temptation.  Sometimes the trials and troubles of life seems so overwhelming that we just want to quit – to give up.

The end of Luke 17 offers a lot of reasons why Jesus’ disciples, the early church, and perhaps even many of us, might have faced the temptation to give in, give up, surrender, and submit.

Jesus speaks of apocalyptic type changes that were and continue to take place in society.  He speaks of a culture that seemed intent on its own destruction.  He speaks of false Messiahs and false religions.  He speaks of days like that of Noah before the flood, or the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah before their destruction.

He’s speaking about the kinds of days that many of us feel like we are living in.  We are living in a world filled with wars and rumors of wars, of intense crime and the ongoing threat of terrorism, of ethical concerns, the loss of any sense of moral compass, and the continuation of political upheaval both in our own country and around the world.

If these matters are not worrisome enough, I was listening to a retire minister friend who has become a bee-keeper in retirement.  He explained that there is an illness that is affecting bees and that hives are slowly but surely dying.  Why should that concern us?  Well, bees are the primary means in which fruit and vegetables  cross pollinate.  If the bees die, fruits and vegetables die.  If fruits and vegetables die – people die.

It’s not going to happen tomorrow,  next week, next month, or next year.  But at the rate things are going, inside of twenty years we are going to start experiencing food shortages as a result of the declining bee population.

So the bad news can be pretty bad and times.  Sometimes it makes us want to give up.

So, Jesus tells his disciples this parable.

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

The setting for this story is the village courthouse.  It’s a place where people go to get justice, to be treated fairly, to find a sense of equity.

Down at the courthouse there is a poor woman, a widow, who is not being treated fairly by an adversary.  We do not know here actual complaint, it doesn’t matter.  What we do know is that she is in a miserable state:  helpless, hopeless, miserable, depressed, oppressed

There is also a judge down at the courthouse.  We might expect that.  You expect to find a judge at the courthouse.  You also might expect such a judge to be kind and considerate, but that’s not the case in Jesus’ story.  This guy is a scoundrel.   He is called “unjust” and is said to have no fear of God and no concern for others.

The poor woman has pled her case, but has not received justice.  So what’s she do?  She just keeps bothering the guy.

He comes outside in the get his newspaper in the morning and there she is, carrying her placard.  What does she want? JUSTICE.  When does she want it?  NOW.

“What’s next on the docket?” the judge asks his bailiff.   “It’s Rachael, that old woman whose been here pleading her case daily for the last several months.

He goes to the hotdog stand outside the courthouse (kosher, of course) to get a bite for lunch, and there she is.  Pleading her case once more.

The judge finally relents and gives the woman the justice she’s been demanding, not because he cares one iota about her well-being, but because he just wants her to leave him alone.

Now if we think the lesson here is that we have to pester God to answer our prayers, we are totally missing the point.

God is in no way like the unjust judge.  In fact, the God that Jesus called Papa God is better.  God can be trusted.

At the end of the story, Jesus asks an interpretive question.

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

When Jesus comes to us – will he find faith?

You see, Jesus is not teaching that God is like that unjust judge.  That means that this is not a parable advocating that we pester God. This lesson is not that we need to beg and plead our case to God.  God is not like the unjust judge, but is completely different.  So we are not like the poor widow, we are completely different.

This is about having faith, trusting, and depending on God.  This is about never giving up and never giving in.  This is about placing our confidence in God and leaving it there.

Here’s the question:

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Here’s another why of asking that:  Will we live until we die?

Have I told you about my friend Argy?  Argy was sweet old fellow who was a member of the first church I served after seminary.  I visited him shortly after hearing that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.   I found him where I almost always found him, sitting in a lawn chair, overlooking his garden.

After a few minutes of small talk, I broached the subject of his diagnosis.

“How are you feeling about what the doctor said,” I asked.

“Well, if I knew when and where I was going to die, I’d make it a point not to be there!”

I snickered at this bit of dark humor (considering the circumstances), while Argy leaned back in his chair a roared with laughter.

After a few minutes discussing the detail of what the doctor had told him, Argy got reflective and said:  “I am not afraid of being dead–but I am afraid of the process of dying.”

We understand that sentiment.  Very few of us (religious or not) are actually afraid of death.  But we are afraid of the process of dying.  If we look at the surface, we seem to be surrounded by the process of dying.  Sometimes the stresses and strains of death and dying just want to make us give up.  Jesus told this parable for people like us.

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

People make a lot of waves talking about death and dying.

Have you heard some of those TV preachers that get all excited telling us:  “the end is near?”  They speak of the approaching Apocalypse, referring to wars and rumors of war, tons of geopolitical strife, and a boatload of economic uncertainty.   They preach about a BIG Apocalypse – the “end of the world.”

I’ve been hearing about the BIG Apocalypse for a long time.  Since I was a teenager (a long time ago) I remember sermons and books about the end of the world.  I remember reading: “The Late Great Planet Earth” and the author’s suggestion that the planets were aligning in our solar system, which would cause huge earthquake.  California would far off the western coast.  Apocalypse.  The end of the world.

Well, that author was wrong.  He misunderstood (still does) the Bible’s teaching about the Apocalypse and the “end of days.”  But he did understand one thing about human nature.  We feel anxious and afraid about what some have called our “little Apocalypses” – all those personal and family types catastrophes, illnesses, trials, troubles, and tribulations.  It might not be the “end of the world,” but it certainly seems like the “end of our world” – at least at the surface level.

We feel like we are at the end of rope and without hope.  It can seem like our life is unraveling.  We can feel apprehension, trepidation, dread, and fear–a sense of hopelessness.  Like we are in a process of dying.

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

 When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

Remember my friend Argy?  Remember what he said?  “I am not afraid of being dead–but I am afraid of the process of dying.”

I thought for a moment, then said:  “Argy, instead of being in a process of dying, why not be in the process of living?  Why not choose today to live until you die, rather than choosing to die until you are dead?”

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

 When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

The process of dying is restrictive.  The process of living is expansive.

The process of dying prompts us to conserve.  The process of living prompts us to give.

The process of dying causes us to look back at what has been.  The process of living causes us to look forward toward what is yet to be.

The process of dying holds us back and ties of down.  The process of living pushing us forward and sets us free.

The process of dying causes us to whine toward, complain to, and pester God.  The process of living inspires us to place our confidence in God and face each new moment as a wonderful gift filled with great opportunity.

The process of dying is a process of giving up.  The process of living is a process of abiding faith.

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

 When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

“Argy, instead of being in a process of dying, why not be in the process of living?  Why not choose today to live until you die, rather than choosing to die until you are dead?”

That’s God’s word to each of us today.  We can choose today to face each day as though we are dying…or we can choose to face each day as though we are living.

We can choose to be persistent people of faith – a persistent congregation of faith.

Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

 When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

 

Faith – Four Week Mini Bible Study
by: Heather Bixler
publisher: Becoming Press LLC, published: 2012-07-12
ASIN: 0983468532
EAN: 9780983468530
sales rank: 519071
price: $4.91 (new), $6.20 (used)

In this four week mini Bible Study you will examine your faith and what it means to have faith in God. He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20 Our faith begins with what we know and believe about God. Our faith will carry us how far we are willing to let it take us. Faith is a choice and we need to begin by choosing to believe in Jesus and His power to move mountains, heal the sick, and save us from all our sins through His sacrifice on the cross. When we believe in God we then learn to walk in faith and trust God. But first we must believe, and it’s up to us, we can either choose to believe in Him or not. But faith will mean nothing until we believe with all our heart that God is who He says He is.

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2 Responses to “A Process of Living – Luke 18:1-8 (Video & Manuscript Sermon)”

  1. Ivan says:

    Pastor Nieporte,
    I was just reading this scripture the other day and I struggled to reconcile it with who God is and who we are in him: loved and accepted. Your message was very helpful to me. I will share it with others.
    Thanks.

    • billnieporte says:

      Thanks, Ivan…I appreciate the positive feedback.

      I see you are connected to Richmond Grace. Please offer my regards to my friend Bill Winn. You’ve got a great pastor.

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