The Payoff of Persistence
I hope you’ve had a restful week in the Lord.
When I was in the television industry and trying to move to a bigger market, I sent my resume tape to a prominent NBC station. In television, market size is everything. If you’re able to break into the business, you typically strive to gradually move up to larger markets, with Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York being the top three and Juneau, Alaska, as I recall, being near the bottom.
Well, I was trying to make a 150-market jump, which was a rare thing. So I sent my tape, just as dozens of other people did, to the sports director of the aforementioned NBC station, to inquire about the open position of sports reporter. And then I began calling. And I called some more. And I left messages. “Did you receive my tape?” I would ask. Finally, a call back: “I haven’t looked at any tapes yet,” was the response. But since I had been on the other side as a sports director at a (much) smaller market, I knew that most of the time, only about a third of the tapes are ever reviewed. So I called again a few days later. Same routine. Finally, I just showed up at the station, uninvited and announced, and somehow evaded security. Catching a glimpse of the sports director in the hallway, I said, “Excuse me, I’m John Sloan; I’ve called a few times about my resume tape.” He stared at me and said, “How’d you get in here?” Finally, I convinced him to look at my tape and shortly after that he hired me, but I’m sure that it was just to get me off his back. This man was so annoyed with me that he ultimately gave me what I wanted.
In Luke 18, Jesus tells the story of an unjust judge who finally gives in to the pleas of a helpless widow, mainly because she keeps bothering him. And Jesus shares this parable as a way to show us a little of what God is like.
Don’t get me wrong: God is in no way unjust, nor does he resent our presence … but he is moved by our persistence.
Here, Jesus uses the classic lesser-to-greater argument that seems to be a favorite of his. Jesus says, “If this guy, who is known to be hard and uncaring, a miserable and heartless person, if this guy responds to persistence, then how much more can we count on God, who is loving and tender and compassionate to respond to our unyielding petitions.”
It reminds us of a question that Jesus asks rhetorically in a different book: “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are 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 7:9-11).
In fact, it’s because God is very much unlike the judge that we can trust that he will hear and respond to our prayers, and not because we wear God down and he gets tired of us, but because he loves us with a perfect love and deeply desires to come to the aid of his needy children.
This Sunday morning we’re wrapping up our Vision Series by talking about prayer, the lifeblood of the Christian and an essential component to any disciple-making endeavor. (We’re also going to praise God in song and hear the testimonies of eight folks who are being baptized.) But as we get to the Lord’s Day, let me encourage you with this truth: If you are in Christ, you have a Father who loves you. And not only does he love you, he is moved by your desperation. When his children cry out to him, he hears us.
This doesn’t mean that, by praying persistently, you will always get precisely what you ask for. But it does mean that God will come to your rescue with wisdom, mercy, grace, and power and will supply your every need, in ways that you may expect or ways you never imagined possible.
See you in a few days!