The Gospel of Luke - Part 77
Show Faith in our Praying — Luke 18:1-14

April 1, 2007
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

This morning we open chapter 18 of Luke, where Jesus teaches the Disciples about faith, and thereby teaches us about faith. In this chapter, the word “faith” is used twice and “trust” is used once.

The Scriptures are very clear about the importance of faith to God:

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. —Hebrews 11:5
How would you explain what faith is? One Biblical definition of faith is found just a few verses earlier.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. —Hebrews 11:1
A.W. Tozer tells explains that: “Faith is all-important in the life of the soul. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith will get me anything, take me anywhere in the Kingdom of God, but without faith there can be no approach to God, no forgiveness, no deliverance, no salvation, no communion, no spiritual life at all.”

Dr. E. Stanley Jones says: “I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath — these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely — these are my native air. A John Hopkins University doctor says, “We do not know why it is that worriers die sooner than the non-worriers, but that is a fact.” But I, who am simple of mind, think I know; We are inwardly constructed in nerve and tissue, brain cell and soul, for faith and not for fear. God made us that way. To live by worry is to live against reality.”

In this chapter we’re going to consider three different ways we should express faith in our daily lives.

  A.   Show Faith In Our   Praying
  B.   Show Faith In Our   Priorities
  C.   Show Faith In Our   Problems

This morning we start with Show Faith In Our Praying.

Most of us haven't really learned about prayer primarily from Jesus. We've learned about prayer from our families, our friends, our church.

What are some things (right or wrong) we learn about prayer growing up in America?  We're going to break this passage down into three sections and focus on one primary application from each section:

I.   Don’t Give Up (verses 1-8)

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” —Luke 18:1-8
This is the second time Jesus has told a parable to illustrate the importance of persistence in prayer. The first, back in Luke 11 the story is of a friend needing food late at night and getting it because of his persistence. Here the story is of a widow who gets what she asks from a judge because of her persistence.

What are some things you notice from what Jesus says here?

The second application doesn’t matter unless we’re doing the first, right? We need to “always pray”.  Can you think of any verses that encourage us to always pray or to be praying about everything?
But I call to God, and the LORD will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. —Psalm 55:16-17

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day. —Psalm 83:3

...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints... —Ephesians 6:18

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. —Philippians 4:6

Pray without ceasing —1 Thessalonians 5:17
God wants us to be praying all the time about everything — every situation, every person, every decision.  Think about things we don’t pray about.  Why don’t we pray about these things? We need to keep praying and “not give up”. The verb “give up” is also translated “grow weary” and “lose heart”. This same verb is found other places in the New Testament:
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. —Galatians 6:9

So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory. —Ephesians 3:13

As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good. —2 Thessalonians 3:13
What might be some reasons why we “give up” and stop praying about something (or for someone)? What might be some reasons God doesn't immediately grant us something we pray for? We need to realize that when we “give up”, we’re not giving up on prayer, we’re giving up on God. That’s why persistence in prayer is an expression of faith. When we pray, we don’t put our faith in ourselves or in praying; we put in out faith in the Lord.

George Mueller was a Christian in the 1800's who was a great man of prayer. He also founded an orphanage in Bristol, England. Thousands of orphans were cared for in this orphanage with over 2,000 housed there at the time of Mueller's death in 1898 at the age of 92.

Mueller once said, "The great point is to never give up until the answer comes. I have been praying for 52 years, every day for two men, sons of a friend of my youth. They are not converted yet, but they will be! ... The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do not go on praying; they do not persevere. If they desire anything for God's glory, they should pray until they get it."  One of these men trusted Christ shortly before Mueller died at the age of 92. The other man came to Christ not long after Mueller's death.

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” —v.8
This is a great question. Jesus points out one evidence of faith in the daily life of a disciple — persistence in prayer, believing God to answer. Don’t give up!

II.   Don’t Get Proud  (v.9-14)

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” —Luke 18:9-14

What stands out to you from this story that Jesus tells? This passage (like the first 8 verses) begins with an explanation of the truth that the parable is intended to illustrate. Notice that two things characterized these people:

The NASV translates “confident of their own righteousness” “trusted in themselves that they were righteous”. I like that translation because it shows that the issue here is one of faith. Who were these Pharisees putting their faith in? Themselves!

With regard to “looked down on everybody else” the NASV reads “viewed others with contempt”. The Greek word used here is εχυοθενεω [exuotheneo]” and comes from a root word ουδεις [oudeis] meaning “nothing”. It’s also translated “worthless” and “useless”. That’s what we’re doing when we show contempt toward other people. We’re saying that they’re worthless, useless; that they mean nothing to us.

What factors can cause us to look down on other people?

These two qualities that Jesus mentions in verse 9 are the characteristics of a self-righteous person. The self-righteous are proud, believing they are responsible for their own spirituality. They also have little compassion for others. But when I recognize that Jesus is responsible for any godliness in my life, I am humble. I also realize that I am no better than anyone else.

The Pharisee:

What are some things we learn about the Pharisee in this story?  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself .  The NASV translates this as he prayed “to” himself. Either way, it shows that his focus was not on God but on himself.  He says: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men . . . ’ Notice that he doesn’t focus on how wonderful God is but on how wonderful he is! He speaks of his own goodness.

A. T. Robertson observed of the Pharisee: "His gratitude to God is for his own virtues, not for God's mercies to him"

Notice, too, that the Pharisee is comparing himself to other people. We can always find someone who we see as worse than ourselves. But God wants us to measure ourselves against His own perfect standard of righteousness — His Son.   The Pharisee says: ‘I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'   Notice that the Pharisee focuses on his own works rather than on God’s grace.

The Tax Collector:

What strikes you about the tax collector?   He stood off at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven,

What a contrast! The Pharisee saw himself as righteous but the tax collector saw himself as sinful, as unworthy. When he came to pray, he “stood at a distance” and “would not even look up to heaven”. His only hope was the mercy and grace of God. The Life Application Notes remind us:

A tax collector was a Jew who was appointed by the Romans to collect taxes from Jews in a particular area. He collected taxes from the citizens as well as from merchants passing through town. Tax collectors were expected to take a commission on the taxes they collected, but most of them overcharged and kept the profits. Thus, tax collectors were hated by the Jews because of their reputation for cheating and because of their support of Rome. —(Life Application Notes)
The tax collector ... beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

The tax collector had a clear sense of his own unworthiness and sinfulness. He was under no illusions that he was righteous! When the Pharisee said that he was not like the tax collector, he was right — the Pharisee lacked a correct understanding of his own sinfulness.

The tax collector also understood that he didn’t deserve God’s favor or forgiveness. His only hope was God’s mercy and grace.

What differences between these two people stand out to you?

Remember George Mueller that we mentioned earlier? He devoted his life to overseeing the care of thousands of orphans in England. He also traveled nearly 200,000 miles in 42 countries, preaching the Gospel to over 3,000,000 people (!). In addition to all of this he lived very modestly despite raising tens of thousands of dollars for Christian ministries. He lived a life above reproach morally and ethically. Yet listen to how he described himself late in life: "There is only one thing I deserve, and that is hell! I tell you ... that is the only thing I deserve. By nature, I am a lost man; but I am a sinner saved by the grace of God."

The end of this section says that

...everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted
This is actually the fourth (and final) reference to humility in the book of Luke. The other three are these:
...for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed. —Luke 1:48

He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate. —Luke 1:52

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. —Luke 18:14
There a lot of wrong ideas about humility. Humility is seen as thinking badly of yourself or refusing to acknowledge your abilities or accomplishments, having a kind of Gary Cooper "aw shucks, ma'am" attitude. Humility is also seen as a passive, dependent attitude. It's seen as an attitude of the weak, the weak-willed. But this isn't a Biblical view of humility.

The dictionary of Bible Words says: humble — ταπεινος  [tapeinos] — signifies "to make low"; Tapeinos represents a person's proper estimate of himself in relation to God and to others. Humility doesn't come from comparing ourselves to others but from measuring ourselves against the Lord. Humility involves having a realistic view of self — I am a sinner; I have been created by God and am dependent upon Him for all things; compared to the Lord, I am no better than anyone else:

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. —Romans 12:3
Jesus is our example of humility:
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. —Matthew 11:29

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. —Philippians 2:5-8

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. —Luke 18:14
We are each faced with a choice and a responsibility: we can choose to either exalt ourselves or humble ourselves. It is our responsibility as disciples of Jesus to humble ourselves just as He humbled Himself.


Next Week: Section III on How Not to Pray, and then — "Show Faith in our Priorities".