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Am I Nagging God?

February 14, 2021 Speaker: Dr. Rick Gregory Series:

Topic: Nagging Verse: Luke 18:1–18:8

Theme: Prayer protects suffering saints from cynicism about God’s justice.

Introduction: Armchair quarterbacking or coaching is a very common practice for fans. The “I would have done it this way” statements flow freely as we see coaches manage their teams – often mistakenly with disastrous results. If this is our tendency, how much more common is it when it comes to how things are being managed in our lives – especially when suffering comes. Our criticism of God often surfaces as we feel He ought to be “managing” our lives differently. Jesus addresses this tendency in our text today – indicating how easy it is for people who suffer to become cynical about God’s management of their lives. He offers to antidote to such cynicism – showing us how “prayer protects suffering saints from cynicism about God’s justice.

I. A Call to Perseverance – 18:1

A. The Dependency on Prayer – v. 1a

  • Jesus continues addressing the issue of the patience believers are required to have as they await the 2nd Coming of Christ.
  • His focus is on the need that believers will have to not “lose heart” as they are yearning to see the Lord’s return – cp. v. 22.
  • Luke advances Jesus comments: “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart …”
  • Again, the point of “a parable” is to tell a story that has a truth emphasis that ought to be driven home – and Jesus tells us the truth emphasis: “… at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart.”
  • As they wait for the Lord to return, believers need to be constantly praying – maintaining a vibrancy in our faith and in our relationship with God through praying in Jesus’ name – Philippians 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; 1 Timothy 2:8; James 5:13.
  • However, Jesus’ encouragement here is for us to evidence a love for the return of Christ, an eagerness to see our Master, and to see Him glorified on this earth through our prayers for His return – cp. 1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 22:20.
  • This is the instruction of Christ for all believers – to always demonstrate eagerness for the coming of the Kingdom of God – cp. Matthew 6:9-10.

B. The Discouragement without Prayer – v. 1b

  • The alternative to maintaining our hope of Christ’s return through prayer is to “lose heart.” [ἐγκακέω] – literally to “lose one’s motivation in continuing a desirable pattern of conduct or activity” or “to become discouraged.” 
  • This refers to losing one’s motivation to live in light of the nearness of Christ’s coming – James 5:8.
  • As the Last Days multiply, there is a real danger of believers becoming lax and apathetic about the coming of Christ – cp. Luke 21:34-36.
  • “Prevailing, persistent prayer for the Lord’s return drives the heart to leave the things of this passing world and to love Christ’s appearing (2 Tim. 4:8; cf. Titus 2:13).”

Application:

  1. What correlation exists in your life between prayerlessness & discouragement? 
  2. How can your eagerness for the return of Christ be seen in your prayers?

II. A Corruption of Perspective – 18:2-5

A. God Is Unkind – v. 2

  • The point of Jesus’ parable is to provide a contrast between the character and conduct of this unrighteous judge and God.
  • There are various features that some might begin to assign to God’s character and conduct as they struggle through their suffering as they wait for Jesus’ return.
  • First, there is the indictment of God’s character as being unkind – “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man.”
  • The idea of a “judge who did not fear God” indicates that he did whatever he wanted without concern about how it impacted others.
  • In this sense, he “did not respect man” – that is, he had no shame in the eyes of others – didn’t care who other men thought.
  • It is possible that as a believer suffers persecution, deprivation, diseases, and a host of other difficulties because the believer follows Christ, he might be tempted to think that God is not kind.

B. God Is Unconcerned – vv. 3-4a

  • Another contrast to our God is the apparent apathy to our needs – “There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’”
  1. “a widow” [χήρα] is a particularly protected demographic – the Law required special consideration be given to them – Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 27:19.
  2. “she kept coming” – an imperfect middle indicative – emphasizing that she would come repeatedly without resolution.
  3. She desired “legal protection” [ἐκδικέω] – literally she calls for a wrong done against her to be “avenged.”
  • The judge was completely unconcerned about her situation – “… for a while he was unwilling” – a commentary on the apparent disinterest in justice.
  • Clearly, the picture that Jesus paints in this parable is a corrupt, worthless judge who was disinterested in justice – behavior that is well below the dignity of the “bench” of justice.
  • It is possible that as a believer suffers persecution, and God does not avenge righteousness, but allows wickedness to prevail, he could believe similar things about God – cp. Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:29-31.
  • Yet when such avenging of wrong is lacking, those suffering can believe that God is unconcerned – Revelation 6:9-11.

C. God Is Undetermined – vv. 4b-5

  • Finally, this unjust judge becomes exasperated by the constant approach by this widow – “… but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’”
  • The perspective of this judge is that the constant battering by this widow was an irritation he could no longer endure – “bothers me” [κόπος] – refers to her presenting him with burdensome distress; literally a “state of discomfort or distress.”
  • Apparently, he felt that he was being made to look bad in the eyes of others as he makes mention of the widow who would “wear me out” [ὑπωπιάζω] – a reference to “blacken an eye” or wear him down by striking him in the face, torment.
  • The suffering believer can believe that if they keep coming, they can wear God down until He will do what they are asking – as if God’s purposes are not settled, or that what He is doing is somehow altered by our “nagging” him to do what we believe is best.

Application:

  1. What thoughts of God’s failure have you had before?
  2. How does knowing God’s plan help you cope with suffering? 

III. A Confidence in Providence – 18:6-8

A. God’s Delay Is With Promise – vv. 6-7a

  • Jesus’ explanation was to draw a definite contrast between the injustice, selfishness, and apathy of the judge and the commitment to justice that God possesses – “And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, …”
  • God is committed to “justice for His elect” and is not being reckless, tardy, or apathetic about what they endured.
  • God will indeed avenge Himself against the wicked – Revelation 19:1-2, 15; Isaiah 11:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
  • The Messianic mission is to finally avenge the righteousness of God and the injustices of His people – cp. Isaiah 42:3-4.

B. God’s Delay Is With Purpose – vv. 7b-8

  • However, in the meantime, God’s patience continues to grant opportunity for sinners to flee into the safety of God’s forgiveness through Christ Jesus.
  • Jesus states: “… and will He delay long over them?” – [μακροθυμέω] the “patience” of God – from two words – makro: far distant or “remote” and thumos: anger or wrath – meaning that God has pushed the exertion of his wrath out to a future time.
  • We know that the purpose for Him doing this is to grant opportunity for people to be saved – cp. 2 Peter 3:9, 15.
  • When God determines the time to be right – the fullness of time – He will not delay – “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly.”
  • Jesus brings us back to focus on the saints that wearily seek to avoid “losing heart” as they long to see “one of the days of the Son of Man” – cp. Luke 17:22.
  • Jesus asks, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” – indicating that people who maintain the hope of the fulfillment of Jesus promise to avenge will be on the verge of extinction.
  • Eschatological hope is one of the foremost factors of a vibrant, fruitful, faithfulness as we await His appearing – 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Peter 3:11-12, 17-18.

Application:

  1. Why is God’s “delay” actually praiseworthy? 
  2. How can you contribute to insuring that when Jesus returns, He will find faith on the earth?

So What?

Perseverance as saints is sustained by the grace received through consistent fellowship with God in prayer.

Prayerlessness results in faint-heartedness.

Injustice in this world does not equate to injustice with God.

God’s purposes in our suffering go far beyond our experiences and extend to the pursuit of His glory.

We can be certain that the wicked will know the fury of God’s vengeance, but His patience is grace, not dereliction.

 

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