Luke shares a parable of Jesus’ that I have always looked at and wondered about. Today God showed me it a little different than I used to see it. This parable has to do with persistence.
As a child, my family will tell you that one of my most notable characteristics was stubbornness. I didn’t give up and I didn’t give in; not if I could help it anyway. My parents definitely didn’t enjoy this aspect of my personality and it was the cause of a LOT of corrective measures from my parents.
During my teen years, this natural bent was channeled into a driving force for things I wanted to accomplish. In that phase it was labeled as persistence and it was valued. I was actually commended for my persistence and that characteristic was credited for many of my achievements. I truly believed that these two labels actually referred to the same trait and in a small way they do.
Let’s look at the definitions and compare these two words.
1. unreasonably obstinate; obstinately unmoving:
a stubborn child.
2. fixed or set in purpose or opinion; resolute:
a stubborn opponent of foreign aid.
3. obstinately maintained, as a course of action:
a stubborn resistance.
4. difficult to manage or suppress:
a stubborn horse; a stubborn pain.
5. hard, tough, or stiff, as stone or wood; difficult to shape or work
1. persisting, especially in spite of opposition,obstacles, discouragement, etc.;
a most annoyingly persistent young man.
2. lasting or enduring tenaciously:
the persistent aroma of verbena; a persistent cough.
3. constantly repeated; continued:
- continuing or permanent.
- having continuity of phylogenetic characteristics.
5. Botany. remaining attached beyond the usual time, as flowers, flower parts, or leaves.
I notice a lot of similarities in these two words, but one is positive and the other negative. The most notable difference is found in the first definition of stubborn: “unreasonably obstinate.” So we know that this attitude is not what Jesus was recommending to His disciples. In fact, Israel was often labeled as a “stubborn and stiff necked people.” God DID NOT approve of this attitude!
Previously when I read this parable, I envisioned a child begging its parent for something. NOT and endearing endeavor! When my children tried this with me I would take a different one of Jesus’ instructions to heart and use it instead: “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.” I refused to change my answer because of begging.
But today I see that Jesus isn’t telling us to “beg” for what we want. Instead He is painting a picture of someone who is desperate. They are out of options and they HAVE to have help. They can’t do it on their own and what is being sought after is just.
The woman in Jesus’ story is being tormented by someone. She has tried everything to handle the situation on her own, but she can’t make her tormenter stop. They don’t respect her. She turns to her last bastion of hope, an uncaring, unrighteous judge. She harbors no illusions about this man. She knows going in that he is going to take some convincing before he will get involved. She is determined to make him see her situation. She comes back to him over and Over and OVER again. I’m certain that she kept rewording her argument each time in hopes of helping the judge to truly understand her situation. She was also probably adding more examples to her list, since her tormenter was still acting out against her. We know he was, because if he had stopped she would have no reason to continue seeking help.
Jesus said that the unrighteous judge finally gave in. What she asked for was just and should have been granted in the beginning. But he only gave in because she didn’t give up. She didn’t win him over with her argument, but he saw that there was no getting rid of her until he did as she asked. She finally won her justice.
Jesus told His disciples to be that steadfast in their prayers. Don’t give up just because you don’t see an immediate answer. But also make sure that what you are asking for lines up with His word. Not everything we ask for is appropriate.
I remember my daughter asking me for a horse all the time. One day I asked her what she would do with one if she got it. She said she would keep it in her closet. She was persistent in asking but what she was asking for was not appropriate, at least not for where we were at during that time.
Sometimes our requests are not appropriate “for the moment.” That doesn’t mean that they will never be granted, but that other things need to change first. God is not uncaring like the judge. He loves you and wants to give you the desires of your heart. But He knows how those answered prayers will affect your future. Not every prayer should be answered. He knows which ones should and shouldn’t. He will answer all our prayers, but the answer won’t always be yes.
One prayer that He always answers yes to is when we ask to know Him better. From the first time we reach out and ask Him into our life to the last prayer where we ask Him to welcome us home. Those prayers are His favorites. They are the relationship prayers. “Show me Your will.” “Be real in my life.” “Open my heart to hear Your word.” Those are the ones He longs to hear.
Father God, thank You for opening an avenue for me to come directly to You with my prayers. Thank You that You hear me when I call out to You. Thank You for showing me more about You every day, including giving me a better picture in place of my distorted view. Thank You for showing me the real meaning of this parable. I’m sure there is much more in it than I’ve seen today, but I’m grateful for the change You authored.
Thank You for giving me a persistent personality. I know I used it inappropriately for MANY years, but You have tempered me and have brought out the good qualities instead. Thank You for rubbing my rough edges off. Thank You that my daughter can see the possibilities in her children’s “stubborn” nature because of what You have created through mine. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Thank You for working out good in me.