Luke 18:1, 14 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
These are two very famous teachings of Jesus, but I don’t think we connect them very often, even though they come together in Luke’s account. However, just now the Lord showed me they are completely interconnected. When we read about the persistent widow, there is the danger of thinking we are supposed to demand things of God, so the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector is a direct counter to that. We aren’t to pray with boldness and persistence because we are so wonderful, or even that our cause is so exceptional, but rather out of a humble awareness of the character of God. He answers prayer because that’s who He is, not because we deserve it. Some people fail to pray because they think God would never listen to them. Whereas it’s true they don’t deserve to be listened to, God loves them in spite of that, and desires the very best for them. Conversely, some people go through all sorts of religious motions, including prayer, making no real connection to God at all, because they do all of that in pride. God wants an intimate relationship with each of us, but we will be able to enter into that only in humility and gratitude for His grace.
In the past I have certainly fit into the second of the two categories I’ve just mentioned. I was ignoring God in my daily life, yet I thought I was the finest Christian ever to walk into a church. My conceit was so complete that it was absolutely devastating when God tapped me on the shoulder and, when I turned, showed me a mirror to see the state of my own soul. Humility came much easier after that! As a pastor, I desire that every believer in this church have an intimate relationship with their Savior, and indeed, I’m going to be preaching on Relationships this coming Sunday. I need to help them distinguish between pride and assurance, between self-hatred and humility. Japanese society tends to slap down pride to the point of fostering self-hatred, which is one reason for the high suicide rate. I need to help them understand they are indeed “precious and honored,” (Isaiah 43:5) but that is because of God’s creation and His grace, and not because they have earned it.
Father, thank You for this confirmation of Sunday’s message! There are so many Scriptures that speak to this theme. Show me which to use and give me peace about which not to use, so that people won’t be overwhelmed. I pray that Your Word would flow through me clearly and unhindered, so that each hearer may be delivered from the lying traps of the enemy to walk in all that You intend for them, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!