Oct 16, 2016 Sermon, "Never Give Up"
Readings: Genesis 32: 22-31 and Luke 18:1-8

When I was a freshman in high school, my parents made me take a typing class.
It was supposed to be useful for me if/when I went to college.
But typing was not easy for me and during one exercise in class I was way behind and making lots of mistakes as we pecked away at the keyboard.
At one point, I just stopped the work and typed in capital letters ‘I GIVE UP’.
The next day, Ms. Edith Kostron returned my paper with the grade ‘E’ and a note that said “No You Don’t”.

There have been plenty of other times in my life when I have wanted to give up.
I’m sure we all have ‘been there, done that’ and felt the same about things.
It can happen whenever we have a goal or objective or something we want but we keep getting frustrated by our efforts or the lack of results.

We can give up on our sports teams or our jobs or projects we’ve undertaken.
We can also give up on people - our friends, family, and even ourselves.
We give up when we stop believing that we’ll see or get what we want so badly.
Sometimes we give up temporarily,….sometimes we give up for good; forever.

Winston Churchill inspired the British people during the darkest days of World War II wth the simple words - Never give up.  Never, never, never, ever give up”.
That kind of motivational speech is easier said than done sometimes. 
In fact, giving up faith and hope can even pertain to our relationship with God.

In today’s bible reading from Genesis we hear of Jacob wrestling with a being.
Most interpreters understand this strange person he wrestles with to be God.
Jacob encounters God at a very stressful time in his life.
He has received a promise from God but now wonders if God will deliver.
He has not given up all hope in God’s care for him,…but its wavering some.

Whenever we see no evidence pointing to what’s hoped for we can give up.
That is where the struggle, the wrestling with God, comes to pass for us.
We wrestle with thinking the impossible - that God can’t or won’t help us.
And then we can consider the idea of giving up on God’s deliverance.
Then comes the conflict wrestling between faith and the idea of giving up hope.

At times like that, there needs to be something for us to base our faith on.
Often, we can turn to the words of Jesus for help in trusting God.

Jesus tells a parable about a judge who is a ‘no good rotten so and so’.
He says the man is not only a bad judge but a bad person as well.
But a persistent widow wears down this judge until he finally relents.
And the bad judge ultimately ends up giving her the justice and relief she desires.
Not because he turned out to be kind, but because she never gave up hope.

His point here is not that God is like the bad judge and will do what’s right.
But that, if even the bad judge eventually does right and distributes justice,….
then how much more will the good God who loves you, do right and bring justice.
If a bad judge does justice to a widow who does not give up hope, will not a good God do so for his people who keep their faith? 

His story about the judge and God is designed to help us not give up hope.
Not give up hoping for and trusting in God to grant us justice or bring us relief.
Jesus is trying to inspire us, as did Churchill, to never, never, never, ever give up.
Never give up on believing that God will come through for us, as promised.

Jesus ends with a question - ‘Will he find faith among the people?’ 

By the end of the year, I had in fact failed typing, as Ms. Kostron gave no breaks.
But I stuck with it and took typing again the next year and passed.
Although my faith in myself waivered, in the end, I did not give up.
I kept faith that I could, and would, get through and pass typing.

There have been times in my life when I’ve wrestled with giving up hope in God.
Like Jacob’s struggle with God, I too have struggled with faith at times.
But I knew that the God who helped in the past would do so again in the future.
And so, each time I have ended up not giving up in God and kept my faith. 

So, whenever you feel like giving up on God because of how things are going,…
don’t feel bad or ashamed for even Jesus asked ‘Why have you forsaken me?
But recall God’s blessings and justice and relief that he’s brought you in the past.
And recall the words of Jesus who, when you say to God ‘I just give up”…says right back to us - ‘No You Don’t!  Have faith!”

Amen.