"Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart." (Luke 18:1)
Perseverance is one of the greatest virtues of any successful man, more than knowledge and talent. William Wilberforce, a preacher who spent forty-five years in a fight to end slavery (which the American Congress ended in 1862), said in one of his messages, "Our motto must continue to be perseverance. And I ultimately trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success."
Perseverance in prayer leads to victory. It's not as important how we began our life with the Lord, as it is how we finish it. Persevering believers are those who actively believe in the Lord to the end of their lives, and who place their faith in Him. They do not depend on their talents and personalities, rather diligently pray as if everything depends on prayer.
Jesus spoke in the context of the coming of the kingdom of God and in the final difficult days gave a comparison about the victory of those who persevere by saying, "Men always ought to pray and not lose heart."
The Greek word for "lose heart" is ekkakeo, and specifically points to cowardice, dejection. The word can also describe a person who is unhappy and desperate. Sometimes our Bibles translate the word as "faint". For example, when the Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:9 "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. " The Greek word used for "faint" is ekkakeo.
When Jesus, in this text, speaks about perseverance or persevering in prayer, I believe that He was not speaking about perseverance in our selfish desires, but about perseverance in prayer that is connected with eternal things; perseverance in prayer for extending God's kingdom, His will, holiness and righteousness on earth.
We are living in the last days and we face greater and more sophisticated devilish trials, difficulties and battles. It is difficult to bring new souls to Christ, or to keep them, because it all depends on our perseverance in prayer. Satan is the one who wants to prevent the growth of God's kingdom because he knows that when it grows it prevents the growth of his own kingdom.
The Apostle Paul said, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons." (1 Timothy 4:1)
Because of Satan, sin, and the various pleasures of this world many believers cease being persistent in prayer and persistent in surrendering to God's kingdom and are thus suffocated by the world through capable devilish tactics of seduction.
This kind of suffocation quickly brings a weariness of God's work. Believers find less time for a quality relationship with the Lord, which results in losing trust in Him. And what happens then? Some become faint and are no longer interested in God's work. Others begin to pull away from Jesus and the church. Consequently both become spectators and grow disinterested in participating in church activities. They can hardly wait for the end of a service that is as short as possible so they can run back to their own homes and their own lives.
This is why I want to encourage you with Jesus' words about perseverance and clearly seen biblical principles we find in comparison, which Jesus gave to His disciples to encourage them not to give up in their walk of faith.
Christ said that we "always ought to pray". This does not mean that our prayer meetings need to be lengthy (although it would be great in many churches where prayer meetings are not held at all), rather Jesus sought to display perseverance in prayer.
In other words, Jesus wants daily perseverance, trusting Him for the answer. What we often do is pray for two or three days and then give up on everything thinking that God will never hear us.
Yet if we live by faith, we will never give up even when God delays in answering. Surely there is an answer for His delay, because during that period of time we often grow in character, faith, and hope.
What is there to say about prayer? Although it is a great topic and many books are written about it, many read and write more about prayer than they persevere in prayer. Jesus didn't say to read books about prayer rather "watch and pray".
Samuel, for example, knew the seriousness of persevering in prayer, and after he gave the people a king, he promised saying, "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way." (1 Samuel 12:23) To fail to pray or guide the people in a good and right way would be sin in God's eyes, because it would show God that we do not need Him and are capable of doing things on our own.
The Apostle Paul encouraged the Colossians to persevere in prayer when he said, "Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving." (Colossians 4:2) The Greek word for persevere in this text is proskartereo, meaning to wait, to persevere, to stay, to continue with something or someone, to faithfully cling to someone.
In these last days when trials are more difficult, when the enemy casts his own net of lies and deception, would he not cripple the elect? The only way to escape this devilish trap is to persevere, to remain faithful in clinging to the Lord.
1. OUR VICTORY IS IN PERSISTENT PRAYER
C. H. Spurgeon once said in one of his sermons, "By perseverance the snail reached the ark."
How long do we pray for revival, for our unsaved loved ones, our city, for our churches to grow; yet only after a time to grow faint because we do not see results?
Where is our perseverance? Christianity is not an instant-coffee religion, but a living faith in Jesus Christ that believes all things and hopes all things. Yet, one of the biggest problems with God's kids is a lack of perseverance.
It is easier to light a flame than to keep it burning. It is easier to begin a new project or ministry than to keep it running well. Often after a time the church loses perseverance and rather than returning to discipline she begins to be led by emotions and impressions and begins to over spiritualize obvious principles of perseverance while suddenly feeling she no longer needs to persevere in good works.
George Muller is an example of a man who persevered in prayer. He began an orphanage in Bristol, England and changed the lives of thousands of children in that country while bringing a positive influence. And all that he did, he did in persistent prayer.
Many times he didn't have money or the food for their next meal, but he never complained. He never threatened to leave the ministry if God didn't provide. Rather than murmuring, he often prayed and as an answer to prayer thousands and thousands of pounds flowed through his ministry, and mostly from those whom he did not know. He believed that Elijah's God was his God. He didn't fail to bring even the smallest of details to the Lord, and if needed, several times a day.
What was special about George Muller wasn't just his prayer life that brought about such results, because others from around the world fervently prayed, but what was special about him was his perseverance in prayer. His perseverance gave place to faith in God who did His part.
This is actually what, I believe, is missing. How is it that we give up so easily when things grow difficult or when we need to wait for an answer? Victory belongs only to those who persevere to the end. This is what Jesus showed us through John's revelation. Speaking to the mission church in Philadelphia, he said, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold,I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown." (Revelation 3:10-11)
The hour of trial is already here! Floods, earthquakes, eruptions, wars, hunger and poverty, sickness and incurable diseases; immorality and open degradation are on the rise, pedophilia, homosexuality, depression, iniquity, and anxiety. The only way to escape from these powerful trials is to persevere in prayer with the Lord.
Perseverance is our only hope. If we persevere, we will come out victorious. "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations-- He shall rule them with a rod of iron." (Revelation 2:26-27a)
2. IF WE ARE PERSISTENT IN PRAYER AND CLING TO THE LORD, HE WILL BE FAITHFUL TO US AND NEVER LEAVE US ALONE.
"There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary.' 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.' 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? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.'" (Luke 18:2-8)
Widows and orphans in that time were the most vulnerable among God's people of that time. That's why both the Old and New Testaments instruct us to care for them. But what is important to note here is that Jesus wants to encourage and show us that if we persevere with Him he will not leave us.
The Judge answered the widow because she was troublesome to him. How much do we "trouble" the Lord? Do we trouble Him for our city and country? Do we persistently seek Him to free people from ignorance and blindness to the gospel? Do we persistently seek Him for the growth of our churches?
Some of you have been attending church for years and are still not filled with His promised gift - the Holy Spirit; one reason being that you have not cried out with your whole heart, you do not "trouble" Him in prayer for the Holy Spirit.
The principle of perseverance and "troubling" prayer is very important. Often we do not see God's work, not because God is not able, but because we have not persevered to the end. This is why many, after some time, fall away from the Lord discouraged and beaten down by the world, unchanged in their old habits and sins, because they did not persevere in battle to the end.
We have a promise! "And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?" (Luke 18:7) These are not 5-minute prayers, flippant and without fervency, but prayers from the depths of once heart crying out day and night without ceasing - this is real trust.
Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)
The Greek verb here points to continuous action, which means that we need to continuously persevere in asking, seeking, and knocking. To ask shows that we are aware of our need and that we believe that God hears our prayers; otherwise we wouldn't ask. To seek shows a sincere request that is connected to obedience to God's will, and knocking is perseverance in coming to the Lord.
One thing is certain; if we persevere God will defend His elect. The Apostle Paul said that we are the, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied." (1 Peter 1:2)
As the elect we have a legal right through Jesus to seek help from our Heavenly Father. That is why we can "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) - true godly help that all have received who have persistently cried out to Him. For example, David who persistently believed the Lord, to whom he directed "the words of this song, on the day when the LORD had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And he said: 'The LORD [is] my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.'" (2 Samuel 22:1-3)
Or Jeremiah, who as a young man, received God's call and was frightened and became anxious when God told him to go to the elders of Judah and speak His word. God said to him, "Do not be afraid of their faces, For I [am] with you to deliver you," says the LORD." (Jeremiah 1:8) If we persevere in prayer, God will surely defend us speedily.
I do not know what is happening in your lives, where you have stopped, what phase you are in, or what you have walked away from, but I want to say to you that it is time to return to persevering prayer.
God is faithful, He can free us from any kind of deadly danger, just as He freed Paul who was faithful and persistent when he told the Corinthians, "Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver [us]." He will not only deliver us, but Christ said that, "He bears long with them." (Luke 18:7)
In the Greek it says that He "bears our burdens together with us." In other words, we no longer need to carry unnecessary burdens, anxieties and do things in our own carnal way. But this is what happens when we are not persistent in prayer - we break down, become tired, and turn away because we do things in our strength, without Jesus.
Without Him we cannot endure this wave of lies and evil that we face everyday, the pressure of this world that wants to shape us - our behavior and way of thinking- in its own image.
3. WILL THE SON OF MAN FIND PERSEVERANCE IN US?
It is easier to persevere on the job, in watching movies, and in buying stuff, but the question arises will we persevere with Him in His body and in His work?
Jesus never changes, but what about us? After a time we simply let daily prayer, reading the Bible, devotions, and church attendance slide; ministry becomes a burden, being tardy grows easier, we don't bring our Bible with us because we don't want to bother (it doesn't fit in our purse), and the result is that we grow cold and turn away from Jesus. Christ wants us to "always pray and not lose heart."
In my pastoral ministry I can say that those in any church who become mature and reach their potential are a minority. At one time we had 150 people, including children, on our church phone list. At least as many have passed through our church in the past 17 years. While it is true that this church has gone through its crises, there are few who have remained faithful to Jesus after they married, after He freed them from the enemy and healed their diseases and weaknesses, after He provided them a job and other things they needed. For man Christ was like first aid. They show up here and there when their life is a mess and when they need a "spiritual joint" to go on.
I have also seen many who began to serve, but after a couple of positive experiences often in their ministry the ministry is perceived unstable. Many grow rapidly but after a time slack off because they do not have a persevering relationship with the Lord.
If we do not persist in prayer we will not be able to endure under the daily pressure and lies of the enemy. If we fall away from Him we will become a hard-hearted and stiff-necked church and a bother to His kingdom. "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8b)
While the end of history draws near, while we grow closer to His coming, while all around us believers are falling away from Christ and growing more like the world, we are faced with a question. Do we willingly look forward to His kingdom and are we persevering in prayer?
We must ask ourselves: what has robbed of us perseverance? What has distracted us: a thing or relationship that has pulled us away from perseverance in prayer? Is there a sin that has robbed us of the strength of perseverance?
In Isaiah God promises, "Even to [your] old age, I [am] He, And [even] to gray hairs I will carry [you]! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver [you]." (Isaiah 46:4)
God is faithful. He never changes! But what about us? If we do not persevere our earthly life will be suffering, and we may even lose our salvation. Do not give up! Let us persevere in prayer and we will succeed in our ventures for the Lord!
Margaret Thatcher, known as the Iron Lady, said, "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."
Perhaps you have fallen after one or more battles, but God wants you to get up again and persistently and faithfully keep fighting.