The seat of power changes anyone who sits upon its lofty height, whether by choice or by chance. Christ painted a picture of this inHis parable of the persistent widow.
"There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man," it begins (Luke 18:2). Judges hold significant power over the lives of people who appear before them in court. Most judges run a tight ship. They command respect and order. People stand when they enter the courtroom and address them as "your honor."
All this is heady stuff. It can easily go to judges' heads, and if they're not careful it can impact their adjudication of the law in their courtroom. Because they are to render justice it is vital that they "fear God" and "regard man."
Through this example of faith Christ is showing us to be persistent in our walk with God. Don’t give up. Don’t stop believing. Don’t ever begin to think He is not there.
Christ describes a judge who seems to be weary of his job. Too many people with endless complaints and needs come to him for decisions, advice and assistance.
After awhile it does become just a job rather than a calling or duty. The sense of purpose in the role can be lost. A judge fills a key role in a community, and one who judges cannot allow himself to become burned out or jaded.
As Christ's story goes, within this judge's city lived a widow who had a problem. She loved God, but the problem was bigger than she could handle. This caused her great concern since she was self-reliant and able to look after herself.
Someone took advantage of her condition and the result was an adversarial situation she was unable to rectify. Her only recourse under the law was to go to the judge and plead her case.
She pleaded for justice, for the judge to listen and see that she was in the right and to intervene for her. It seems she made multiple trips to the judge to plead for help, but he wouldn't listen.
Some time went by. The widow's pleading was persistent and unending. She needed help. She needed relief. Would the judge, would someone, anyone, help her? It seemed hopeless!
A crack in the facade
Even the hardest heart that will not yield to sympathy at another's plight can be worn down through sheer bother. There came a moment of exasperation when the judge realized he did not want to see this woman appear before him again.
He concluded he would fairly hear her case and dispense the needed justice. He had no desire to be exhausted or embarrassed by the lingering case. Maybe there was a twinge of guilt, but it was overridden by a desire to be finished with this woman and her case.
The day came when the judge issued his ruling in favor of the widow. The case was over, and the woman returned to her home. She had learned a valuable lesson about human justice. Above all she had learned to stay with a cause—to not give up—to be persistent. In the end, right will prevail.
Wisdom from an unjust judge
Christ tells us to "hear what the unjust judge said" (Luke 18:6). In the judge's conclusion there is a lesson. Not a lesson in the type of judge to be, one who is hard and arrogant, but a lesson in how we should approach our relationship with God.
It isn't that God is unjust or uncaring. Jesus wants us to learn something about how He and the Father administer Their "courtroom." God is the righteous judge of all the earth, and His judgment is always fair and impartial, and His timing is always appropriate.
Jesus then gives His point: "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). The elect are God's people, called and chosen and faithful members of the body of Christ. For a moment Christ focuses on this group He calls "His own."
Not to exclude His prerogative to answer anyone's prayers at any time or place, but this statement has a message for those called by the Father to be part of His Church. There are moments when even the elect of God will question whether He hears their prayers and understands that they need immediate answers. They make their daily requests before the throne of God, pleading for justice, for healing, for peace of mind or for forgiveness and a clean heart.
When sleep escapes them and they wake in the middle of night unable to sleep, they pray, seeking understanding and comfort. They yearn for the soft touch of God's loving hand bringing them to a wide place or a green pasture where still water may be found.
God hears it all. Christ said, "He bears long with them" (Luke 18:7). He knows instantly, before we appear in His presence, what we need. He hears every word of our prayer. His ear is not deaf.
Then Christ says something we can find a bit hard to believe: "I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).
Speedily? We might argue with that. We might even think that God doesn't hear or is very slow to respond. But we would be wrong. Because the real purpose for this parable is in the question, "Will He really find faith on the earth?"
Faith is what the persistent widow had. Faith that her cause was just and she was in the right. Faith that the law was on her side and the law was good and would ultimately serve those who are victims of injustice. Faith that even the hardest-hearted old judge could be reached with the plight of a widow like her and could, from the recesses of his heart, be induced to act as he ought to.
Through this example of faith Christ is showing us to be persistent in our walk with God. Don't give up. Don't stop believing. Don't ever begin to think He is not there, or He's distracted, or He's uncaring.
God is there, and He hears. What we may think is a "delay" is not so with God. Time with God is not the same as with us. Remember, Christ said God "will avenge them speedily." God is always right on time—His time.
"Stay with Me"
What Christ is saying to us is "Stay with Me." Go back to the beginning of the parable where Luke gives the reason for the lesson: "Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1, emphasis added).
The widow didn't lose heart. She kept going to the judge and seeking justice. We are to keep going to God in prayer for every need and every want. We cannot lose heart and fall back in despair and quit.
God is going to finish what He started in each of His elect (see Philippians 1:6). He is just and fair and is going to answer our prayers (Matthew 7:7-11). He has said it, and He will do it. It's up to us to keep coming back to His throne of justice and mercy and keep asking. God doesn't grow weary of hearing us. He's not playing some game with us to see how long or how many times we will keep returning.
His promise is to hear us and not neglect us. He is saying: Stay with Me when you're healthy and happy and your needs are met. Stay with Me when you have a job and your bank account is full. Stay with Me when the sun is shining and life is good and the wind is at your back. Stay with Me when you have the answers, the friends and the applause of the crowd. Stay with Me when you're confident, wise and sound.
Stay with Me, He says, when life is good, and then you'll learn to fear Me in all things, and the wealth and goods you have will serve you and others well.
But also: Stay with Me, He says, when you're lean and hungry and don't know where the next meal will come from. Stay with Me, He says, when your health fails or an accident happens and you suffer as never before. Stay with Me, He says, when all you have worked for crumbles before your eyes and those whose friendship you coveted cannot remember your name. Stay with Me, God says, when you are so lonely and afraid the thought of getting out of bed each day presents a near impossible struggle.
Stay with Me, He says, one more day, one more time and one more prayer. Stay with Me because there is no other.
This is what a story of a persistent widow teaches us about prayer and faith and not losing heart. We can lose a lot in this life, but don't ever think of letting your heart be lost to despair and unbelief. Guard your heart. Be persistent like the widow going to a human judge, believing truth and justice will win in the end.
Stay with Me, God says, because I will bring you into My everlasting Kingdom. I will finish what I started in you. Be patient and never lose heart!