“And he (Jesus) spake a parable unto them (the disciples) to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

A parable is a measurement that is laid down in order that it might describe or illuminate. It gives definition, like a tape ruler would lend to the dimensions of a house, as a designer would plan it out.

He had just concluded in Luke 17, a review of Noah’s day: “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it also be in the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:26). The generation in Noah’s day was living carelessly, in flagrant ways that showed that they did not believe that God existed: “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The spiritual climate then was dark and overcast with evil, much as it is today.

Jesus reviews the day of Noah in order to say that they did not think about the certain judgment of God that was in their future – and that nothing has changed about the imaginations of man’s dark heart.

He also mentions the day of Lot, living in the vile city of Sodom. Folks there had convinced themselves that what they were doing was normal and that there would be no judgment of God for sin. The economy was moving along strongly, the grass was tall and green and the “good life” was being enjoyed. They simply did not believe that judgment could come.

Noah was taken out of judgment, along with his family, being preserved from the worldwide flood, in the ark. God did not destroy Sodom with fire and brimstone until the vexed and righteous soul of Lot (2 Peter 2:7-8) was delivered out of it. Jesus points to the still-looming future in Luke 17:26 when He declares: “so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.”

In that day, as the vast context of Scripture has it, the Lord will remove His own from off the earth prior to beginning the judgment of the Great Tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15).

One of the great delusions of our day is that God is no longer relevant. We are so high-tech and self-sufficient that we no longer “need” to submit our lives to God, nor do we need to waste time in study, worship or prayer. Mankind is now able to live “successfully” without God.

We expect to improve our medical, educational, governmental and financial status to the point where God will be pleased to dwell with us, once we get it all fixed just so. Our humanistic hearts yearn for the conquest over the ills of this life. We want to do it ourselves, without the intrusion from above. Nothing about the Adamic nature of man’s little heart has changed. We have millions of “reasons” why we should trust our own devices and not the merciful redemption of our sovereign Maker.

The return of Christ is guaranteed in Scripture. His advent will be first to remove believers from this earth (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and then to physically bring them (His bride) back to establish His kingdom on earth after the seven-year Great Tribulation (Matthew 24 and 25).

His 1,000-year reign will be a perfect dictatorship of righteousness (Psalm 2) in which sin will be dealt with immediately. Satan will be bound in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:3) until the end of that millennium, “and after that he must be loosed a little season” (verse 3). If we knew all about why he would be turned loose then, we could better describe why he is allowed to be on the loose now. Revelation 20:10 finds the devil “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone … and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

The great white throne judgment is enacted in verse 11, in which every soul not found written in the “book of life” of true faith in Jesus Christ will be found insufficient for eternal life. They will be judged “according to their works” (Revelation 20:12) of human goodness, ritual and achievement that did not include faith in Jesus Christ. Regrettably, these vast multitudes will join the devil in the eternal second death of the lake of fire.

Jesus is likening our days to those of Noah and Lot, implying that they would be dark and difficult. Christians realize that it is not easy to live a vibrant life of faith in a world that is increasingly void of Christian virtue. On one hand, we bemoan the loss of freedoms to sow the seed of the word of God in a selfish, humanistic society.

The “wake-up call” of these losses, on the other hand, can be an inspired resolve to be more freely surrendered to Christ. Persecution has its purposes – so let us intend, like the Apostle Paul, “that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). What else about life should ever be more important than that it further the gospel?

Christ said “that men ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1). Prayer is the purpose, and we make up our minds about the direction we take. The swooning ease of fainting has no good results. The stalwart example of well-grounded faith in Christ that opposes the popular culture, if need be, is the right choice. It is because a person is born again as a child of God that they must pray.

Paul urges us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Prayer is more an attitude of life than it is an action of the lips. Hannah prayed in 1 Samuel 1:13 without using voice or words: “only her lips moved.”

Many times we do not have the words to pray, but millions of reasons why we should pray. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

In a day when most men’s hearts are failing them, and faith in Christ seems on the decline, it is also right that we take the advice of the Godly farmer: “When a man prays for a good corn crop, God expects him to say ‘Amen’ with a garden hoe!”

R.D. “Bob” Hottle is a retired schoolteacher, farmer and pastor of the Anchor Baptist Church.