Pray and do not lose heart
This morning I was reading through Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth. As I was reading, my attention was drawn to a simple statement that was repeated a couple of times. It was this: “Do not lose heart.”
It was one of those moments when I felt the Holy Spirit was reaching out through the pages of his Word with a message specifically for me. Lately I’ve seen God at work in powerful ways. At the same time, I have had moments when the pressures of ministry have gotten me down. I have had times when the work of ministry as an Elder in my home church has left me discouraged. Privately, I carry a heavy heart for the state of the Church in North America. I long to see revival. I long to see churches functioning in a Biblical fashion. Sometimes I reach the point where I begin to doubt if we will ever see change, and I begin to question if it is really worth fighting for. I’ve prayed about it at length. It consumes the vast majority of my thoughts throughout the day, and sometimes I have found it difficult to go to sleep at night because my mind is occupied with thoughts in this regard.
In that context, when the Holy Spirit directed me to his Word with a simple message to not lose heart, I listened! Then I looked for other places in Scripture where that same message was repeated. What I found was very interesting.
One day Jesus was teaching the people gathered around him. As he spoke, he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.
“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man,” he said. “And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while the judge refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”
And the Lord said, “Take note what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”
The men gathered around looked at one another as Jesus paused. The parable was finished, but Jesus was not finished speaking. He had one final question to ask the audience, a single question that cut to the heart of the parable he was sharing. At last, he spoke.
“Nevertheless,” he asked, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Adapted from Luke 18:1-8, ESV).
This singular thought is the same question God asks of you and me today. “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? After all is said and done, do you have faith in God? Do you have faith that he is in control? Do you trust him?”
Please note that the focus of this parable is not the widow lady. The parable is not teaching that we need to keep pestering God to get what we want! Instead, the parable shows the difference between the unrighteous judge and the righteous judge. The contrast is in how each judge responds. Jesus is using the parable to teach us about the character of God, the righteous judge. He is trustworthy, and we need to trust that when we pray, he hears us. Even when the answer to our prayers seems to be delayed, he is in fact working speedily on our behalf. He doesn’t put us off. He doesn’t require us to pester him into submission. Our responsibility is to pray with confidence that God has heard us and not to lose heart in the waiting. That is the point of this parable, that we should pray and not lose heart.
In the end, the question God asks all of us is this: Do you trust me? Do you have faith in me? Are you willing to pray, to wait, to believe – even against all odds, confident that I am in control?
Consider also these verses:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV).
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9, ESV).
“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13, ESV).
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2, ESV).
I’m confident the circumstances I am dealing with are part of the overall work that God is doing in my life and ministry. You are likely in circumstances far different from mine, but the tendency to lose heart is the same. I offer this encouragement to you. Whatever you are facing, pray and do not lose heart! Have faith in God! Chose to have confidence in the character of God. He is good. He is kind. He is in control. Even as we wait for the Son of God to return, we will have faith in God!
In the end, God is the one who is responsible to bring about the changes we long for. I am responsible to pray and not lose heart.
This article was originally published in the October 2014 Newsletter.