when one could quit

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

There are times when for a number of reasons life seems so discouraging. Not that there isn’t some good if you look for it. And indeed, as scripture tells us (Psalm 103, etc.), in the words of the hymn, we’re to count our many blessings. But so much can seem wrong, and at times against us. If you include with that the propensity for some of us to, if not expect the worst, try to be prepared for that, we can more or less be pushed over the edge into the precipice of losing heart, and hardly caring. Not because we want to be that way, but there are times which try a person’s soul, as the saying goes. Sometimes on a nagging, smaller scale, and at other times in a major way when one could wish that life would come to a screeching halt.

Enter Jesus, instructing his disciples about how they should always pray and never give up (NLT).

He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Luke 18

Jesus told a parable to make that point. He compared God to an unjust judge, who after a widow’s relentless pleading for justice, reluctantly gives in, granting her request. And that God who is just and merciful, as Jesus taught, found amply in scripture, will respond to his people’s prayers for justice.

People ask me how I am, and some don’t seem to leave room for an answer other than “good,” having in it the possible hint that I’m not doing so well, maybe on a personal level for whatever reason, or because of a concern for the problems of others. It seems at certain times that things are out of control, that some outlook is grim at best.

Such times, and the discouragement which can accompany them should be a heads up for us, as Jesus taught his disciples, and by extension teaches us, to pray, and not give up. That order might suggest that we won’t give up if we pray. One could also aptly say, that when we are tempted to give up, instead we should pray.

God will help us in his own time and way. Praying at times for ourselves, for others, and for the world. As we look for the final justice and mercy to come in and through Jesus.

discernment

John Frye, a pastor, writer, scholar, and Scot McKnight, a New Testament and Jesus scholar and professor, both bloggers and friends, have recently been highlighting the high place they think discernment occupies in the Christian life. Both the Holy Spirit and the parables of Jesus seem to indicated the premium God puts on this. The Spirit is moving and in a sense unpredictable, and is a person, and therefore personal. And that not only to us as individuals, but as those together with others in Jesus.  Parables were used both to conceal and reveal. To those who really had no heart for God and his ways, they would conceal. But to those whose hearts were opened to God, they would reveal, after some painstaking work in imagination. Jesus complained at his disciples for evidently not getting the meaning of his parables, asking them if their hearts were hardened so that they could not understand.

I do think discernment is a large part of what the outworking of the faith of Christianity involves. It is not so much rule oriented, though there are commands that are no-brainers such as, “Do not steal.” But at its heart it is interactive in following the Lord by the Spirit in community in mission. I think the heart of that is relational: to God, and to others. And having to do with love in those relationships.

Discernment involves scripture first, then tradition, reason and experience (called, the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” drawn from the writings and teaching of John Wesley). The last three may be in the order we would want to put them, but in reality, each are fallible. Whereas scripture itself as the word of God is not. However our interpretation of scripture would fit under the category of tradition, along with reason, and I think experience can and does affect it as well. And experience can involve feelings which arguably are intertwined with reason (stay tuned for an upcoming review on this book, which I think you’ll find interesting).

Discernment is needed to be learning how to walk in Jesus by the Spirit in everyday life. And it is needed when facing major decisions, or problems which leave one unsure on what to do, or how to respond. It seems like the idea of faith itself fits in well with the ongoing need for discernment.

I know I’ve thrown a lot out in this post over one subject. I find discernment particularly a need I have at this time. And I also see more than ever I think,  the need for it in our everyday existence.

How do you see discernment as important for life and  in your life?