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Christians all around the world are waiting. Some look for rescue from persecution, others for illnesses to end, still others for jobs, promotions, babies and more. Faith certainly can be helpful, but what about when the delay in God’s answer seems long?
The Lord will make a decision. If he says “no,” my experience is that will be relatively clear in a reasonably short period after praying. A “yes” may come swiftly, but that usually is when action must come immediately or nearly so. Frequently, the affirmation is weeks, months, even years later.
We must remember we have to be in relationship with God for him to hear us in prayer, and that we are to ask in line with the principles of Scripture. “If we ask anything according to his will, he hears us,” says 1 John 5:14. A petition inspired by greed, envy, self-serving or other such motivations generally won’t go through, and if it does, it may end up judging the petitioner.
The most famous passage in this regard is in Luke 18:1-8, the parable of the widow and unjust judge. This comes at an interesting point in this book, just after Christ tells his disciples, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you’” (Luke 17:6). Obviously, our Lord means each illustration to inform the other.
Luke 18:1: “Jesus spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.”
This says it’s right and proper to keep asking the Lord for what we desire and not to grow weary in so doing. The Greek for “lose heart” (“ekkakeo”) has the sense of effort expended rather than hopelessness for not having received an answer.
I have been in a season of petitioning, watching and waiting in a number of aspects of life. I know it can feel useless to keep praying about the same matter, but realizing the Lord is in control of both space and time and will resolve my dilemma in time is of great reassurance. He’s never early but also never late.
I have found asking God for his eternal perspective is of help. Our modern society is built on impatience and hasty answers, abetted by social media allowing everyone to instantly send globally what too often are poorly informed thoughts. Understanding that we are beings who will live forever, our earthly existence but a vapor soon gone, provides a peace that our small problem will be worked out without difficulty by the all-powerful “Great I Am.”
Verse 2: “He said, ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.’”
In those days, there were hardly any atheists – they were thought savages and/or reprobates – so the verse indicates this judge didn’t think God was any concern or that people were worthy of respect. Such individuals are not supposed to be on the bench, but we all know they can creep in when our attention is diverted.
Even if we Christians get assigned these difficult magistrates in our cases, we need to know that God can still give us victory, as he will in the present Scriptural example. Remember that our Lord is a Spirit, and he can touch the mind and heart of anyone at any point.
Verse 3: “‘Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.”’”
The context and Greek grammar indicate this woman was in an actual court. She was demanding she get what was right in her case: avenging, vindication and defense by the judge’s order.
There wasn’t much of anywhere else for her to go. Widows were some of the most powerless people in that society. Women in general were not regarded highly, and marriage usually gave them any status they had.
Verses 4-5: “‘And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”’”
The judge wouldn’t make the correct decision for the Lord or because it was right. He simply was worn down by the work caused by the widow’s persistence (Greek “kopos,” or “laborious toil”). He also feared she wouldn’t stop coming until he ruled, continually bothering or worrying him (“hupopiazo”) with her visits and the potential consequences of failing to render a proper verdict.
Verses 6-7: “Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge his own elect who cry out day and night to him, though he bears long with them?’”
Jesus states the judge was not righteous, that is, not deciding as he should or for the right reasons. In the comparison with God, Christ is not implying the Father is wrongly motivated. Instead, he says that if we expect our petitions of an earthly official to prevail, we also should believe the same with God.
The “elect” are the Lord’s faithful, those chosen by him and receiving his gift of eternal life. Jesus says God will give them complete victory, taking care of everything. The sense of the verse is just because the wait is long doesn’t mean it’s in vain; God can take a long time to work, and that is not a negative statement about the request.
Verse 8: (Jesus speaking,) “‘I tell you that God will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he really find faith on the earth?’”
Christ relates the Lord’s decision will be executed with proper timeliness and address the situation thoroughly and completely when it comes. In the same breath, Jesus emphasizes the importance of continuing to follow and believe in him though he may be gone a long period.
The Greek word for “coming” used here is a general term for “arriving,” not that for a particular visit such as the Lord’s return on Judgment Day (often “parousia”), which he discusses immediately preceding this parable. My thought is Christ is saying that in any circumstance, he will come. That may be through a housing inspector stopping unannounced to check a building’s soundness, our employers doing right by us in a long-running dispute, or God’s people going up in the Rapture amid desperate persecution. Jesus asks, “Will I find my people doing what I said, trusting me and in obedience, when I come into their circumstances?”
The Lord will step into our situation with his reply to our requests. Our challenge is to persist in faith so we may receive our blessing from him.
About the author: The Rev. Kyle Huckins, Ph.D., has an earned doctorate and taught both journalism and religious studies in universities, winning three honors for scholarly research on the intersection of faith and media.
He's won 25 awards for professional media writing and production in a career stretching back to the 1980s and covering every mass medium. For 20 years, he's worked in public relations and marketing with outstanding results in placing articles, generating click-throughs, growing social-platform accounts, and more.
Ordained in 2003, he's clergy and has served congregations and denominations in numerous positions of pastoral, administrative and educational leadership. He has a master's degree in theological studies from Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary. Click here for more on Huckins.
This website also has a regularly updated blog on faith, Facebook and Twitter feeds and more. You may email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org. He enjoys hearing from readers!
Jesus tells the faithful to "pray and not lose heart," that is, not grow weary & stop (Luke 18:1)
Christ illustrates how his followers should persist in prayer by telling the story of the widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).
As evil increases, will Christians persist in faith until Jesus returns to Earth?
Christians globally are waiting for God to liberate them from persecution by Muslims, Hindus and other groups martyring 100,000 believers annually. Christians in Egypt have been murdered, raped, tortured and harassed personally, and government hinders churches.
The widow will not give up, and the judge finally rules in her favor to get rid of her.