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When the Son of Man Comes, will He find Faith on the Earth?

Back in the 1960's there was a movie called "The Graduate" and it made a big star of Dustin Hoffman. The soundtrack music was sung by Simon and Garfunkel and one song, called "Mrs. Robinson" had a line that went "Heaven holds a place for those who pray." In our daily lives, in Christ, we certainly hope so and have faith in that fact. It is the supreme duty of the Christian to persevere in prayer and faithfulness. We look to heaven with prayerful persistence for all our needs. The theme of the lessons today is persistence and we see that in the reading from Genesis and the reading from Luke. In the Epistle we read where Paul points out to Timothy that he should be persistent in his reading of scripture as the authority of his life in Christ. So, if persistence in Prayer and the Perusing of scripture is the order of the day and every day, then the question that Jesus asked at the end of the gospel reading today will apply.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said, "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 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 about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!"' 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 18:1-8]

As I have mentioned before Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and he is deadly earnest about developing his disciples and preparing them for his departure. The issue of faith is very important.

How could Jesus be sure that they would remain faithful through all the adversity that they would face? They would have to develop a persistent confidence in God. They would need to develop a persistent prayer life. Jesus uses two unlikely individuals in his parables. Remember the dishonest steward who was wasting his master's money? The point of that parable was that disciples should be wise and shrewd in their dealings and seize the opportunity to be resourceful. In this parable we are confronted with a judge who did not care about God or man. He was about as bad a judge as you can find. People did not expect justice from this character. Yet the poor widow in this parable continually comes to him, bugging him to settle her case and give her justice. A widow in those days was about as forlorn a person as you could get. She was powerless! If you remember the story Ruth and Naomi, poor Naomi said to call her Marah, because the Lord had dealt bitterly with her. She was at the mercy of whoever would have mercy on her. This poor widow in today's reading did not have a faithful daughter-in-law to help her. No, all she had was her persistence. Jesus points out that even this rascally judge will respond to persistence, how about God? Will he not also respond to those who, in faith, persistently come to him? The point of the parable is not that God is like the unjust judge or that he will give us what we want when we bug him enough about it. The point is that he answers when we have the faith to come to him in the first place. Now we may not like the answer, which could be YES, NO, or WAIT. I really do not like that WAIT answer, because most of the time, that is the response I get. God is fully ready, willing, and able to answer our prayers and needs. The question we must face is whether we ready, willing and able to handle his answer.

However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

How can we be sure that he will find faith on the earth when he returns? The disciple has two tools at their disposal, Persistent Prayer and the Scriptures. Paul pointed out to Timothy that

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

[2 Tim 3:14-4:51]

The scriptures can make one wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. They are God breathed or inspired and useful for teaching, rebuking, and correcting and training in righteousness. All these are intended to build up the disciple in faith. They are known as the word of God and we learn from the letter to the Hebrews that it like a sword:

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

The word of God is able to convict us of our sin, lack of faith and just about any other attitude that is out of line with the will of God for our lives. As the famous British author Sir Walter Scott lay dying asked his attendant to read to him. There were thousands of books in his library and the attendant asked him which book? Scott replied, "Need you ask? There is but one book." So, his servant got the Bible and began to read. The Bible is the Book of Books and for it to have its intended effect in our lives we must:

(1) Accept its authority. There are a lot of things, which have authority with us.

a. Sometimes its People: “Well, the boss said to do so and so."

b. Sometimes it is Culture: "Well, everybody is doing it!"

c. Sometimes it is Tradition: "Well, we've always done it this way!"

d. Sometimes it is Reason: "Well, I've always thought it was like that.”

e. Sometimes it is Feelings: "Well, it just feels right."

Sooner or later, hopefully sooner, we learn that there is only one reliable and trustworthy authority - God's Word.

(2) Incorporate its insights into our minds. Remember how Paul wrote Timothy that, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness"? We accomplish this by listening, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God's Word.

(3) Practice its principles. Paul said that we read scripture so that the each person of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. If the Son of Man is to find faith on the earth when he returns then we are going to have to apply the principles and not just read them. James writes in his epistle that we should be doers of the word and not just hearers. Another soldier entering a village on Okinawa 55 years ago noticed that it was different from the others. It was neat, clean, orderly, and happy. It seems that two men had found a Bible left behind by a missionary. They read it and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. One became the leader in the town and the other opened a school where he incorporated Biblical principles in the students and the Bible was studied. One hard-boiled sergeant commented to a reporter, "I can't figure this out. This kind of people coming out of only a Bible and a couple of old guys who wanted to live like Jesus!"

Dr. Emile Cailliet was for many years a professor at Princeton Seminary. In his youth he was a total unbeliever. In fact, he vehemently opposed any kind of faith. He fought in the French Army in World War I, and the terrible pain of human life and death around him confirmed his conviction that there was nothing in religion that could satisfy men. But he longed to have something that would help him in times of difficulty, so he compiled a notebook which he called, "The Book That Would Understand Me." Whenever he ran across a quotation that struck fire in his mind, he would copy it down in his book. Still a young man when the war was ended, he sat down one day to read the collection that he had put together. As he read it, his heart sank. He saw that since it came from himself, it had no power to minister to him in times of pressure and stress; it seemed flat and empty.

About that time a remarkable thing occurred. Purely by accident, one day his wife wandered into a courtyard she had never seen before. She realized she was in a Huguenot church, and she saw an old man sitting at a table. For some reason, unknown to her, she walked up to him and asked, "Do you have any Bibles in French?" Without a word, the man picked up a Bible from the table and handed it to her. She was afraid to give it to her husband because he had ordered that religion not even be mentioned in their house, but she finally told him of this unusual experience. He said, "Give me the Bible. Let me read it."

For the first time in his life he began to read the Bible. He started in the Gospels, which fascinated him. For many hours he read through several of the books of the Bible. Finally, he put it down, and, bowing his head, he said, "At last I have found the Book that understands me." He opened his heart to the Lord and became a Christian. Ultimately, he became a professor in a seminary. He bore testimony to his dying day that he never varied from that view of the Bible: "This is the Book that understands me."

When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?"

I have an audiotape of a testimony of a man named Tom Papagnia who used to be in the Mafia and has since been converted and started his own ministry in Powder Springs, GA. He grew up in New York and was part of the Gambino crime family from the time he was 15 years old. For over thirty years his mother prayed for him and he was eventually saved in a little church in Georgia, which was situated in a doublewide trailer. When he went back to visit his mother, who was dying of cancer in a N.Y. hospital, he told her he had changed. She told him she knew that because when he walked in the door, she saw Jesus come in the room with him. "I can stop praying now my prayers have been answered", she said. How do we build that kind of faith?

The answer to that question hinges on whether we incorporate into our lives the two pillars of a life of Faith, Prayer, and the Bible. I tell the confirmation classes that with a Book of Common Prayer and a Bible you would have essential tools of the Christian life. Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury for Henry VIII put together a Book of Prayer for the Common people so that everyone would be able establish their lives in Christ through daily prayer and Bible reading. These two books go together like salt and pepper. In fact, there is an edition out now with NRSV and BCP under the same cover. This was done so we could have our tools in one chest. The disciple’s life of faith requires perseverance and persistence in prayer and reading scripture. Since the World Series is almost here, I think an illustration of perseverance would be appropriate. On opening day of the 1954 baseball season the Braves visited the Cincinnati Reds, two rookies began their major league careers with that game. The Reds won 9-8 as their rookie Jim Greengrass hit four doubles in his first big-league game. That was a sensational start for a young player. But the rookie starting in left field for the Braves went 0 for 5 that day. That was not a very good start for one Hank Aaron. Probably a better example would be the comment made by one of the announcers on Monday night Football about Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears a few years ago. He said that Walter had accumulated over nine miles in career rushing yardage. The other announcer said "Yeah, and that's with someone knocking you down every four of five yards!" Walter Payton knows that everyone gets knocked down even the best, but to be successful you must get up and run again just as hard. To help us in running and living the Christian life and being a disciple, we have to be persistent in prayer and study of the Bible. Paul gave the Disciples at Ephesus seven tools for the standing firm in the Christian life. I recommend that you put these on daily and pray these for yourself and your family. Paul wrote:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

[Eph 6:13-18]

You will notice that he ends with persistent prayer; it is the overarching cover of the other six. If these are followed then, the question: "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? Can it be answered with a resounding YES!!?

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