Ellen Rothweiler, Des Moines, IA


Warm-up Question

What does persistence mean to you? Have you ever had to work very hard to do well at something? Have you ever given up when something was difficult? What made the difference between keeping at it and giving it up?

Faith and Persistence:  Winning Combination

shutterstock_189871313Athletes work hard for many years to excel in their chosen sport. With practice and conditioning, working as a team and working on individual skills, they focus a lot of time and energy on this part of their life. Some have the benefit of natural talent and others must work very hard to compete with their peers. Persistence is often what leads to success for these athletes. Working hard day after day, never giving up, and believing that they can achieve their goals if they put in the time.

So what if the worst should happen? Injury? Illness? Not getting into that college? Was all that hard work for nothing? Where does that energy to strive for greatness go? In Ryan Brant’s case that spirit of persistence is what kept him going when the worst happened. Ryan was a top-ranked lacrosse goalie in college, but then suffered several serious injuries that eventually ended his lacrosse career. He was lost in pain and depression. “When I realized I couldn’t play anymore, it was a difficult time because I was dealing with a loss of self-identity,” Brant said.

Luckily Brant had the financial and emotional support of his family during this difficult time. However, he realized that many athletes in similar circumstances aren’t so lucky.  Universities are not required to pay for athlete’s medical bills. Brant took his spirit of persistence and poured it into a nonprofit foundation called Positive Strides. This foundation works with care providers to provide the support and care that athletes need for what comes next in life after injury. It’s a calling Brant likely wouldn’t have heard of if not for his injuries and his already having the skills to make something like this happen. “I didn’t give up because it’s not in my nature,” Brant said. “You have to dig deep down inside and find the sense of pride [and] identify who you want to be after athletics is taken from you.”

Discussion Questions

  • Can you imagine what Brant and other athletes are feeling when they are no longer able to play? Have you ever experienced that feeling? Explain.
  • What do you think of the way Brant turned his experience into a positive?
  • Are there negative experiences in your life that could be made into a positive for others by sharing your story?

Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 32:22-31

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Luke 18:1-8

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

The widow in our gospel story today was persistent. While we are not told what justice she was seeking, she was relentless to the point that she wore the judge down and he granted her request out of annoyance! In verse 5 he says, “Yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.” The unjust judge was not doing this out of a sense of duty or honor, but because she was persistent. This parable ends with a question of faith. “…And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Did the widow persist in her pleas for justice because she had faith that one day her case would be heard? Did Ryan Brant believe he could help others because he had faith that his cause was just? Or did they have the character trait of diligence. Did both just keep going until justice was granted? Or is it a combination of both faith and persistence? Do people give up because of a lack of faith?

To increase your skill in any area it takes practice. Athletes practice and people of faith have spiritual practices such as prayer. For faith to increase we must be persistent in our spiritual practice, just as the widow in the parable was persistent in pleading her case. We must build our spiritual muscle and focus our hearts and minds on trusting that God is with us and is calling us to pursue justice in our own lives and the lives of others.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever gotten something you wanted by being persistent in asking for it?
  • Have you heard the saying “practice makes perfect”? Do you think that is true? Does it apply to a life of faith?
  • Have you ever thought about faith as something you had to practice? Why or why not?

Activity Suggestions

List some spiritual practices. Have students choose one that appeals to them and brainstorm ways that they can include that practice in their daily lives. Check back in with students in the weeks to come to see how they are doing with these practices.  (If your group needs help in coming up with spiritual practices, some are discussed in Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster.)

Closing Prayer

O Lord, we thank you for the gift of faith that gives us hope to keep going even when things are difficult. Give us the strength to be persistent in the things you have called us to. In your name we pray, Amen.