Keep at It

Dont-Give-Up

Children’s Sabbath, Central Christian Church, Enid, OK

Luke 18:1-8 NRSV

We are certainly a church that is on the move. And many of you have been moving, you’ve been working, praying, serving, and giving in this community for years, if not for decades. Although you might not always feel like it, you keep your head up and you keep going. Although the way is sometimes very difficult, in many of you, there is surrender, no concession, no throwing in the towel. And not only is there not any backing down, there’s no slowing down. There’s not only no giving up, there’s no easing up.

But as your pastor, as a shepherd who has been entrusted with the task to take care of the flock, sometimes I get a little concerned about you.

Don’t you ever look around at the sheer enormity of the task before you as disciples and get a little discouraged? Don’t you ever stop and think:

“You know, I have been working my entire life to change the world in the name of Christ. I have attended countless choir rehearsals. I have raised thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars for missions. I have given an equal amount or more to the church through my tithes and offerings. I have sat through who knows how many committee and board meetings. I have visited the sick, tutored students, loved the grieving, fed the hungry and shared the grace of Christ with everyone I know. But when I look around my world, very little has changed. Not only has it not gotten better, I think it has actually gotten worse!

I have done so much for children. I have kept the nursery. I have taught Sunday School, worked Vacation Bible School, chaperoned church camps, and participated in more Easter Egg Hunts and Trunk-or-Treats than I could possibly count. But when I look at the plight children in our world today, there are days that I just want to give up.”

Do you ever think that? Do you ever consider that in America…

Every 8 hours a child completes suicide.

Every 3 hours a child or teen dies from a gun.

Every 85 seconds a baby is born to a teen mother.

Every 67 seconds a baby is born without health insurance.

Every 47 seconds a child is abused or neglected.

Every 29 seconds a child is born into poverty.

Every 17 seconds a child is arrested.

Every 8 seconds during the school year a public high school student drops out.

Every second and a half during the school year a public school student receives an out-of-school suspension.

And do you ever consider, that in Oklahoma, when it comes to childhood poverty we rank 32nd out of 50 states.

When it comes to the percentage of kids who graduate from high school, we are worse at 44th.

And if you are woman who graduates from high school, even college, don’t get expect to make as much as a man as we rank 44th in the nation.

When it comes to births to women between the ages of 15-19, we rank 49th

When it comes to the percentage of children living apart from there parents, we’re dead last 50th

And when it comes to households that use high-cost, high-risk forms of credit to make ends meet, including payday loans, automobile title loans, refund anticipation loans, rent-to-own, and pawning, we rank at the bottom at 50th

So, it is no wonder we might be tempted to believe that maybe all of this work we are doing for Jesus is just a big waste of time! After all, it was Jesus himself who said that we would always have the poor with us.”

So let’s be real for a moment.  Let’s face it. Sometimes there can nothing more discouraging that being a part of a church, especially a church that strives to follow the difficult demands of our Lord.

That’s because, as disciples, God has as commanded us to do great things in the name of Christ who taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on this earth as it is in heaven for all God’s children.  And where great things are commanded, there is great opportunity for failure and disappointment.

The needs of children in this world are so vast. The needs of children in this community are so great. And our resources seem so limited.

This is when I believe we all need to be reminded of the story of the persistent widow and the cold, heartless judge.

To say this judge was not a people person nor the church type would be putting it mildly. The widow had some type of opposition in her life, like we all have opposition—opposition that discourages us, tempts us to give in and give up. And every time this widow would go to this judge for help, the judge, remaining true to his character refused to help her.

However, like a small child, she kept persisting until one day the judge had had enough.

He said, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so she may not wear me out by continually coming.”

Then, Luke said, if a crooked judge honors persistence, how much more will God who has always been persistent in loving us honor it?

This story teaches us that God wants us to be persistent! God wants us to keep at it, never let up, never surrender, never throw in the towel.

And no, we may not be able to change the world, but God wants to keep trying, to keep forging ahead, keep the faith until Jesus returns to change it forever!

It is not our business to change the world. That’s God’s business. Our business is to practice charity, to do works of compassion, to give of ourselves, to love and to forgive one another, and not to worry about the ultimate good that we do, the ultimate outcome. The ultimate outcome: that’s God’s business. Our business is to simply do what we can, where we can, when we can, to witness that God’s reign is coming, bit by bit, step by step, even in us.  And our business is to be persistent in this, to keep at it.

We need to remember Jesus’ words, “In as much as you have done it unto the least of these, in the least of ways, you have done it to me.”

Elsewhere he did say, “The poor you will have with you always, (but then he said) you will have me with you always.”  That is, you will always have the poor with you, to love as you loved me.  So, love the poor as you have loved me. Do for them, as you have done for me. Keep at it even when you don’t see me. In other words, we are to be persistent in God’s work, even when we don’t see results, even when it is not easy.

No, despite all the money we raise and give to missions, we are not going to solve all the problems in Oklahoma.  But we’re going to keep giving.

Despite all of our Civitan dances for children with exceptional needs, we are not going to be able to spread joy to every child, but we are going to keep dancing.

Despite our efforts, we may not ever be able to feed every hungry person in this community but through our continued support Loaves and Fishes, Our Daily Bread and a new ministry we are calling the Enid Welcome Table, we’re going to keep feeding.

Despite our good work with CDSA and Youth and Family Services, we are not going to prevent every teenage pregnancy, but by the grace of God, we are going to working.

Despite our Suicide Intervention Classes, we are not going to prevent every suicide, but we are going to keep teaching.

Despite our proclamation of peace and love, we will not end all war or even all gun violence, but we are going to keep preaching.

Despite our gracious hospitality every Sunday in this place, we will not be able to welcome every child in our community who stands in desperate need of God’s grace, but we are going to keep being open and affirming.

Despite taking a stand for justice, there will continue to be inequality and discrimination in our world, but we are going to keep standing up and we are going to keep speaking out.

Despite all the hard work we do in and through this church, people in the church are still going to disappoint us and discourage us, but we are going to forever be persistent and never lose heart.

And then we are going to keep praying. Keep asking God to take our meager, small efforts and use them. We ask God to do for us that which we cannot fully do for ourselves.

And then we will be given the grace to keep at it.  To keep giving—to keep working—to keep trying—until that day comes when God’s kingdom will fully come for all children and God’s will will finally be done on this earth.

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