It doesn’t matter what you’ve said or done, what you’ve thought about saying or doing; where you’ve been or who you’ve been there with – there is more grace in God than sin in you. ‘He … always forgives’, says Pope Francis, ‘we get tired of asking forgiveness.’
You cannot be too bad, too broken, or too boring for God’s unconditional love, only too proud to acknowledge how desperately you need it. Ask and you will receive. Take one step towards the Father and he’ll come running toward you. Splutter that unconvincing apology and he’ll hug you silent.’
Pray “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”—twelve words—and he’ll do it. He’ll forgive you. Just like that. He’ll wipe the slate clean. Here, then, is the gospel at the heart of Christ’s manifesto: If we confess our sins to the Father, asking for his grace, we will be forgiven. Or, as the apostle John puts it elsewhere, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Jesus chooses a familiar character as the underdog in the story of the widow in Luke 18:1-7. In the culture of the time, widows would have had low standing and few legal rights. The system was stacked against them. And yet the woman Jesus describes overcame her cultural expectation and injustice through dogged determination.
The point of the parable is clear in the first sentence: ‘to always pray and not give up.’ Some translations say ‘not lose heart’. What are the areas in my life that I used to pray for, but have given up or lost heart?
God, I hold them before You now, and ask for the grace to keep persevering in prayer.
When I look around the world, systems of injustice can feel overwhelming and insurmountable. And yet Jesus says these can be overcome by prayer. Who can I think of who is facing injustice? People like widows, orphans, migrant workers, refugees, prostituted men, women and children.
God, bring specific people to my mind so I can pray for them now. Help us all to be persistent in the pursuit of justice, and never give up.
This story implies that even prayers in keeping with God’s will are not always answered straight away. Sometimes, waiting for an answer we desperately want can be extremely painful. When I tire of waiting, I remember the words of the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome: ‘Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’ (Romans 12:12).
In the first chapter of his 2017 book, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, Church leader Brian Zahnd writes:
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It’s a Puritan classic. An American greatest hit. A revered revivalist text. I had my own handmade copy. I assembled photocopies of this 250-year-old sermon into a homemade booklet. This was back when cutting and pasting were done with scissors and glue. I carefully collated and stapled the twenty pages. My favourite passages were highlighted in bright pink. I provided it with a blue card-stock cover. The title was handwritten with a heavy black marker: “Sinners in the Hands of an ANGRY GOD.” Yes, I wrote ANGRY GOD in all caps. Thirty years later I still have this artefact from my angry-God days. It serves as a reference point to give perspective on my long spiritual journey away from an angry, violent, retributive God toward the God who is revealed by Jesus as our loving Father. I fashioned my handmade copy of Jonathan Edwards’s famous sermon because I was fascinated by it.
Did you know that the overwhelming majority of children living in residential care are not orphans? Krish Kandiah uncovers the shocking truth in this article from Premier Christianity magazine.
On 24 June 1942 Captain Reginald Alexander Ingleby Ball found himself in an impossible situation. His troops had been fighting for hours against the axis armies in northern Africa but were outnumbered and overpowered.
When he spotted a gap in the enemy lines, he gave the order to retreat. Then he himself moved forward to provide covering fire. When the last of his men were safe, he turned to flee only to receive a fatal bullet in the back of his head. He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for heroism in battle.
Captain Reginald Ball’s bereaved wife, Evelyn, also found herself in an impossible situation. She was left with three girls under the age of five, and she could no longer afford to feed them. As Anglo-Indians, her children were deemed subhuman at that time, and she feared for their lives. Outnumbered and overpowered she was forced to hand them to the authorities who placed them in three different remote orphanages around India.
Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. Don’t think for a moment that you know it all, for wisdom comes when you adore him with undivided devotion and avoid everything that’s wrong. Then you will find the healing refreshment your body and spirit long for. Glorify God with all your wealth, honouring him with your very best, with every increase that comes to you. Then every dimension of your life will overflow with blessings from an uncontainable source of inner joy!
I choose to worship I choose to bow Though there’s pain in the offering I lay it down
Here in the conflict When doubt surrounds Though my soul is unravelling I choose You now
I will praise You through the fire Through the storm and through the flood There is nothing that could ever steal my song In the valley You are worthy You are good when life is not You will always and forever be my song