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10.20.13 The Price and Payoff of Persistence Luke 18.1-8 Sermon Summary

by on October 21, 2013

All of us have sleepless nights for any number of reasons. The good news is that God has brought us to the threshold of a spiritual breakthrough.

Summary Points

  • A spiritual explanation of our sleepless nights
  • One reason we pray
  • The faith Jesus hopes we have
  • Questions for Discussion or Reflection

We work all-nighters to get the work done. We enjoy dinner and discussion with friends. We drink caffeine too late in the afternoon or too much red wine at dinner or exercise too close to bedtime. We might be changing sheets after our sick kids puke on them. We might be writing the game-changing manifesto for work.

But what keeps most people up at night is run of the mill worry, anxiety, and fear. This was Jacob’s problem. His name means “grabbing the heal,” or “deceiver.” When he was born second among twins, he had ahold of his older brother’s heal. Since then he tricked his brother Esau and his dad Isaac to steal Esau’s birthright. Later he cheats his father-in-law Laban out of the best of their shared flocks. When some time later he meets up with Esau, he divides his clan in the hopes that if some are destroyed, others will survive. And he sends hundreds of gifts ahead to Esau and his 400 men who are coming to meet him.

After taking these measures, darkness surrounds Jacob and the Wrestler comes. Jacob ends up wrestling with restlessness all night. Whether you take this metaphorically or literally it doesn’t matter. The point is that Jacob persists in the match throughout the night. At dawn, after the Wrestler gravely injures Jacob, Jacob realizes he is overcome. He does the only thing he can do; he holds on to whatever he has ahold of and demands a blessing. He does this because after cheating everyone else in his life, Jacob has finally found a worthy opponent!

Sometimes our sleeplessness nights are caused by worthy opponents. We find ourselves at our wits end. We’ve done everything we know to do. We’ve seen the specialist and taken the medicine. We’ve gone to the counselor and read the book. Like Jacob, we’ve sent everything ahead. There’s nothing left that we can do. And so we enter the sleepless night.

This is God’s leading us to a place of self-exhaustion. All we can do is surrender ourselves and trust in God. The struggle handicaps our ego—we can no longer depend on ourselves—and we limp away. By these stripes, we are healed.

We are invited by this text to name our “Esaus” and enter the darkness. Where are the areas in our life where God may be calling us to come to terms? Where is God leading us to the limits of our boundaries, the places where we can no longer rely ourselves and can only depend on God? There we cannot give up on prayer. It is in precisely these moments when we want to give up that we are to keep on praying, for we are not alone in the darkness. In the words of Psalm 121, “God does not slumber or sleep.”

God may always be awake, but just to be sure, we need to keep praying. This is the point of the parable in Luke 18. The Widow kept the Judge awake. She argued her case during regular hearings in the day. Then she followed the Judge home at night. Maybe she met him in the morning, all the while demanding that the Judge give her justice. Her persistence is similar to the parable in Luke 11. On one hand, we pray because God is awake. On the other hand, we pray to keep God awake.

Is it possible God delays answers to keep us awake and praying. Luke introduces the parable with this: “Jesus told them a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” And it seems this is what Jesus hopes for: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

What kind of faith is Jesus looking for? He is looking for a faith that yearns for justice, like the Widow. Jesus is looking for a faith courageous enough to name the Esau and to enter the darkness. Jesus is looking for a faith that prays persistently, believes God is listening, and is audacious enough to become a nag on God.

And may he find it when he comes to us. Amen.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • Where is the “Esau” in your life? Open yourself to the Holy Spirit’s leading and identify the relationship or situation where you have regret, fear, or anxiety. Wrestle in prayer about this, remembering God is awake in vigil with you.
  • What’s the longest you’ve ever prayed about or for something? How did that end up?
  • As you remember that God never slumbers or sleep, does this give you renewed commitment to pray? Does it discourage you that answers to your prayers may be delayed?
  • When Jesus comes to you, what kind of faith does he find? Is it the kind of faith he’s hoping for? Meditate on the fact that Christ in the Spirit lives now for the purpose of praying for you to have this faith.


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