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FAITHFUL LIVING IN A FAITHLESS WORLD (1): MELTING HEARTS

(Luke 18:1-8)
August 21, 2016
Intro Cher once said, The trouble with some women is that they get all
excited about nothing -- and then they marry him. Well, Jesus knew that his
disciples were in danger of feeling exactly that way. They were in danger of
getting all excited about Jesus as Messiah and then being disappointed when
His actions didnt meet their expectations. Lu reveals their exact frame of
mind in Lu 19:11: they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear
immediately. It will appear, but not in the way or timing they expected.
So, beginning in Lu 17:20, Jesus clarifies the kingdom is multi-dimensional
and is coming in stages. The spiritual dimension is available now, thru
repentance and spiritual re-birth. But beginning in Lu 17:22, Jesus teaches His
disciples the physical culmination of the kingdom is delayed. Its not going to
happen now as they expect. Rejection by the nation will lead to His own death
and resurrection and ascension meaning that kingdom consummation awaits
an unexpected 2nd coming. Its delayed indefinitely.
Well, DELAY is a bitter pill to swallow. And worse, it will be accompanied by
persecution and martyrdom. Reality is going in the opposite direction of their
expectations. Knowing how tough this will be, Jesus gives a parable
instructing them how to live in light of this news. His basic instruction is in v.
1: they ought always to pray and not lose heart. Keep the faith. Dont get
disheartened. Keep believing. He challenges them, and us, with a question in
v. 8: Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?
Literally, will He find that faith on earth? What faith? The faith that is
holding firm has not lost heart. Faith in His promise. Faith that delay does
not mean cancellation. That faith. Faith that finishes strong, does not waver.
The delay will be long in human terms. And meantime, His disciples and us
are going to face a hostile world a wicked world that will reject Him. Its
going to look like Hes never coming like it was all a charade. And the
question will become can you overcome with a faith that is continuing,
constant, and unflinching in its trust that He will one day straighten it all out.
Jesus wants to help them and us to live with the already, but not yet tension
of Gods kingdom program. How do we live a kingdom life in a kingdomless
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world? How do we live a faithful life in a faithless world so that He will


find that faith when He comes again?
I.

What Not to Do (lose heart)

V. 1: And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray
and not lose heart. In light of delay -- 2 instructions. Taking last first, Do not
lose heart. If Jesus is to find that faith His followers must not lose heart in
the meantime. Living a kingdom lifestyle in a non-kingdom environment is
not easy. The outside world will mock that effort. The impetus to be faithful to
Gods commands has to come from within from the heart. So, Jesus says,
Do not lose heart. It will take tenacious faith to obey that command.
Why do people lose heart? In Deut 1 Moses give his last sermon before he
dies and the people go into Canaan. He reminds them that 40 years ago he sent
spies to look the land over. When they returned they reported a land flowing
with mild and honey a fertile, desirable land. But they also reported vicious
tribes of fearsome people giants of epic proportion. So 10 of the spies urged
rejection of Gods plan. Only 2 Joshua and Caleb said, Lets go! What did
the people do? Deut 1:27, 27 And you murmured in your tents and said,
Because the LORD hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to
give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. 28 Where are we going up?
Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, The people are greater and
taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. Moses urged
them to go. They would not, and thus wasted 40 years getting nowhere.
What caused the loss of heart? They believed me rather than God. They saw
big people and a small God, and that is the recipe for a melting heart. Focus
on the problem. Doesnt matter what. Discouragement, disease, persecution
anything from being mocked and thought hopelessly out of date to having
ones life threated. Loss of something or someone. Watching a culture turn
away from long held biblical values. Intimidating! But focus on the problem
is a recipe for disaster. Melted hearts are always the result of misplaced
focus. You cant diminish God in your life without eventually losing heart.
When that happens, life becomes discouraging. God works in the lives of
others, perhaps, but not mine. We ignore Him as either powerless or
indifferent. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that becomes the
untruth that drives us. Delay in the answer we want results in a denial of
Gods providence, and loss of faith that He is coming again. We lose heart.
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Were like the guy who went to his doctor complaining that he had broken his
leg in two places. The doc said, Well, then, quit going to those places! We
do the same thing emotionally buried under circumstances eyes on the
problem instead of on God. Jesus is telling us, Dont lose heart. Quit going
to those places. Look at me, not them.
Dont lose heart. One man asked on his folks 50th anniversary why they never
seemed to fight. The father said, Oh, we had disagreements, but after awhile
one of us always realized that I was wrong. So when God seems
unresponsive and youre about to lose heart, realize youre wrong; God is
right. Live by that faith, not by your sight, and heres what will help.
II.

What To Do (pray)

V. 1: And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray
(literally it is necessary that they pray). How do we keep from losing heart?
Pray. Always pray. When things look bleak, pray. When things look
impossible, pray. When things look good, pray more. Always pray. Prayer is
the expression of that faith that Jesus wants to see when He comes again.
When faith stops, prayer stops. And when prayer stops, faith stops. Without
prayer, that faith will not be found. Jesus is urging, Dont give up. It may
be awhile, and conditions will get tough. But dont lose heart. Pray!
Pray for what? Well, in this context, it can be only one thing the kingdom! It
is delayed. Rejection by Israel has put the consummation of the kingdom of
God on hold. But it is not canceled. So, as those who want to see God
vindicated, His name glorified and justice done, we must pray. Do you long
for that? Then pray for the kingdom. Have you prayed for that lately? Has it
even entered your mind? Lets admit, we are so into this world that the idea
of the kingdom of God is at best a passing fancy. But it should not be so.
How did Jesus teach his disciples to pray in Mt 6: 9 Pray then like this: Our
Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. The
second request right after praying for Gods honor your kingdom come.
Prayed for that lately? Its one of 6 requests Jesus Himself taught us to pray
for, and Ill bet we could count on one hand the times weve prayed for that in
the last month. Thats how sinfully distracted we are with our own concerns.
We long for this world far more than we long for His kingdom.
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Whats the very next request: your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?
Your will. Not mine. Not the pastors. Not the presidents. Not part mine and
part yours but Your Will! This is the heartbeat of a true, dedicated believer.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Those
who have that faith long to see the kingdom and will of God right here and
right now. He or she is praying for it, looking for it, longing for it. J. I. Packer
says, The goal of the kingdom is the actual eliminating of all active
opposition to God's will, and all disharmony caused by sin, as well as the
salvation of God's people. If thats what occupies Gods mind day and night,
shouldnt it ours as well? Can we honestly pray for it?
Nothing can prevent the kingdom of God, but our prayers can hasten it. God
does not need us, but He does want us and has greatly privileged us to be part
of His plan. When David Livingstone was asked what sustained him in the
perils of missionary work he quoted the commission all of us have: 19 Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all
that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of
the age (Mt 28:19-20). When his wife died in Africa, he made the coffin and
helped lower it into the grave. Then he read the Great Commission again and
said, These are the words of a gentleman of the strictest and most sacred
honor and He will keep His word. Let us now get on with our task. He is
with us, Beloved. Dont lose heart. Pray for His kingdom to come.
Now, does praying for Gods kingdom mean we should not pray for the
specific needs we have on a daily basis in the interim? Of course, not. Even
the Lords Prayer instructs us to pray for our daily bread. Our daily
concerns are His daily concerns.
But prayer has a context, and the context is Gods kingdom. If our daily
concerns are His daily concerns, His long-term concerns must be our long
term concerns. We must integrate His kingdom focus into our daily concerns.
We are already citizens of that kingdom, so we must pray for short term needs
in light of kingdom values. Our prayers are usually very now focused -- They
are much more about us and our needs than about God and His concerns. And
we lose heart even as we are praying because we are praying selfishly.
Perhaps the most unusual prayer ever was one Jonah prayed from the belly of
the fish that swallowed him when he was running from the Lord. Check it out
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in Jonah 2 sometime. How would you be praying, Lord, please, get me out
of here! NOW! Please. I get it. Ill go to Nineveh, just please get me out.
But thats not how Jonah prayed. There is not a single request in that prayer.
Amazing. Instead, he recounts how he got where he is, then says this in Jonah
2: 7) When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer
came to you, into your holy temple. This is a marvelous prayer. Jonahs had an
epiphany. God is in charge. Hes been intent on his own way, but now, I
remembered the Lord. Theres our challenge. Dont forget the Lord. Save
yourself a lot of trouble! Keep His person and plans foremost in your mind.
8)

Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. This
verse has multiple layers. Steadfast love is chesed unmerited love, mercy
grace. Jonah is seeing that by pursuing his own vain idol of nationalism he
didnt want to see Ninevites saved because of the brutality of Assyrians
toward Israel by pursuing his idol of nationalism he was forsaking steadfast
love. What a lousy trade. How foolish he had been. But on another level he
sees that Gods grace extends beyond himself and beyond Israel. It extends to
the hated Ninevites also. Theyve forsaken it for their own vain idols, but
thats where he comes in Gods instrument to give them opportunity to
repent. God isnt just Israels God. He is everyones God.
Do we pray like that acknowledging our idols praying for Gods grace on
our worst enemies? Thats a kingdom prayer. Thats how we pray and not lose
heart. Chase your own ambitions outside of God and I promise you one
thing. They will destroy you. Idols always destroy. God warns against selfish
prayers in Jas 4:3: You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to
spend it on your passions. Thats a guaranteed way to get no answer and to
lose heart. Were not here to fulfill our passions; were here to fulfill Gods
passions. Do that long enough and His become yours! Jonah wasnt looking
for the blessing getting out of the fish. He was longing for the Blesser.
Thats why he closes his prayer: 9) But I with the voice of thanksgiving will
sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the
LORD! Thanksgiving from the belly of a fish?! Yes, because he realizes
salvation belongs to the Lord. And hes reached the point where his physical
survival is immaterial. His spiritual salvation is already assured. He can trust
God with the rest. Hes now praying for Gods kingdom, not Jonahs.

How does this look in practice? It means we see every request in light of
Gods sovereignty and coming kingdom. Praying for a new car? Great pray
for what will best further Gods program. Praying for your own health or
someone elses? Great. Pray for the answer that will most reflect Gods glory.
See, theres a reason that Jesus put, Your kingdom come. Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven at the beginning of His model prayer for us. Hes
encouraging us to make every request for our own needs in light of the big
picture. How will this further Gods will and Gods kingdom? We are praying
for Gods kingdom, not our own! Thats the faith He wants to find.
Conc Let me close with this. Its easy to have faith in theory. Its when the
trial comes that we find out if we have that faith. C. S. Lewis was by
common consent the foremost 20th century defender of the Christian faith in
the most secular of environments at Oxford. His thoughtful writings and
explanations of the Christian faith were greatly used of God. But then came
his own trial, and he fainted for a while. Lewis did not marry until late in life
when he met and eventually married Joy Davidson, an American recently
divorced from an abusive husband. Originally a marriage of convenience to
allow Joy to stay in England, it became a true union of loving hearts.
But they had been married only a short time when Joy was diagnosed with
cancer. A brief period of remission followed aggressive treatment, but within 3
short years, Joy was gone. Lewis faith, which had passed every intellectual
test, was not severely tested in the crucible of experience. Intense and
paralyzing grief overcame him. Every element of his faith was profoundly
challenged. He said, What chokes every prayer and every hope is the
memory of all the prayers we offered and all the false hope we had. Perhaps
some of us here today can relate.
In the end, the experience actually strengthened Lewiss faith. But that
happened as a result of his realization that he and Joy had not been praying in
submission to God, but in their praying had been telling God what to do. In
reviewing notes he made during his darkest hours he made this very telling
observation: These notes have been about myself, and about Joy, and about
God, in that order. The order and the proportions are exactly what they
ought not to have been. Lewis discovered what we all must. When we make
it about our kingdom, we will faint away, returning to our worldly roots. But
when our prayers are about Gods will and Gods kingdom thats the faith
that He wants to find when He comes, and thats the faith that will sustain us
in the meantime. Faithful life in a faithless world! Lets pray.
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