Ordinary Days Week 9: Shameless Persistence

I was reading recently about a parenting danger with kids who are naturally talented and gifted. The tendency as parents is when we see our children do something well we say: “You are so smart!”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this statement, but we need to be careful on the subtle messages we send with it. Kids can easily discover if they are only praised for the things which come naturally. If this isn’t balanced, it can lead to a child not wanting to try at things which don’t come easily. They give up at the first sign of resistance.

The cure for this is praising effort as well as achievement. We want our kids to be smart and gifted, but we also want them to be persistent. If we praise effort, they begin to learn that the difficult things in life can be just as rewarding as the easy things.

This week reminds us all of this need. In the readings, we see two kinds of persistence. At first, we see the shameless persistence of a friend who won’t give up on his request. Jesus shows us we are to be persistent like this in prayer.

But what he does subtly in the story is show us what we should be searching and asking for:

God.

We often mistake the point of this story. It is not about bugging God till we get what we want. Because the only thing we are promised to receive in this text is the presence of God. We are to shamelessly and persistently pursue God.

When we do, we are promised to find what we are seeking.

Hosea tells us why. As it turns out, God is pursuing us shamelessly and persistently. When we are persistent in our search for God, we can’t help but find God because God is unwilling to stop God’s pursuit of us. For any reason.

But it requires going through the hard stuff some times. It means we will  have to do things we don’t like, be ignored and unappreciated, hurt, suffer and grieve. These are often the things keeping us from pursuing God. In these moments, we can believe ourselves to be abandoned and forgotten. We are like the children who never learn effort. If it doesn’t come easily, we give up.

But even that doesn’t stop God. God’s pursuit is shameless because it never stops.  We may forget and give up. God never will.

Luke 11:1-13

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:

“Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Colossians 2:6-19

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.

When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud, and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For he holds the whole body together with its joints and ligaments, and it grows as God nourishes it.

Hosea 1:2-10

When the Lord first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute, so that some of her children will be conceived in prostitution. This will illustrate how Israel has acted like a prostitute by turning against the Lord and worshiping other gods.”

So Hosea married Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she became pregnant and gave Hosea a son. And the Lord said, “Name the child Jezreel, for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel. In fact, I will bring an end to Israel’s independence. I will break its military power in the Jezreel Valley.”

Soon Gomer became pregnant again and gave birth to a daughter. And the Lord said to Hosea, “Name your daughter Lo-ruhamah—‘Not loved’—for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them. But I will show love to the people of Judah. I will free them from their enemies—not with weapons and armies or horses and charioteers, but by my power as the Lord their God.”

After Gomer had weaned Lo-ruhamah, she again became pregnant and gave birth to a second son. And the Lord said, “Name him Lo-ammi—‘Not my people’—for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God.

“Yet the time will come when Israel’s people will be like the sands of the seashore—too many to count! Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said, ‘You are children of the living God.’

Psalm 85

Lord, you poured out blessings on your land!
You restored the fortunes of Israel.
You forgave the guilt of your people—
yes, you covered all their sins. Interlude
You held back your fury.
You kept back your blazing anger.
Now restore us again, O God of our salvation.
Put aside your anger against us once more.
Will you be angry with us always?
Will you prolong your wrath to all generations?
Won’t you revive us again,
so your people can rejoice in you?
Show us your unfailing love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
I listen carefully to what God the Lord is saying,
for he speaks peace to his faithful people.
But let them not return to their foolish ways.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
so our land will be filled with his glory.
Unfailing love and truth have met together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed!
Truth springs up from the earth,
and righteousness smiles down from heaven.
Yes, the Lord pours down his blessings.
Our land will yield its bountiful harvest.
Righteousness goes as a herald before him,
preparing the way for his steps.

Prayer

Our God and relentless pursuer,
We thank you for your faithfulness in spite of our wavering.
We thank you for your mercy in light of our mistakes and failures.
We thank you that you are present even when we are not paying attention.
We ask you for the strength to persist.
We ask that you give us strength to look for you in times or distress.
We ask that you awaken us to see in you in times of content.
We thank you that even when we give up, you do not.
Give us the courage to pursue you this week.
Amen.

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