"Men ought always to pray, and not to faint." (Luke 18:1).
So reads our so called Authorized Version, and it is not a bad translation of the word at all. That word 'to faint' is en-kakein, formed from the word kakos, 'cowardly.' (Abbott-Smith). But from 'cowardly' it came to mean anything that was 'bad, mean, base,' for to the Greeks cowardice was all that. The first part of the word, en, means 'in.' The whole word taken together we may say means literally, "Give in to evil." (See Robertson). We find it translated by such words as 'faint', 'lose heart', 'be discouraged', 'turn coward.'
The evil about us is so strong, the battle is so fierce, and the result seems so hopeless, the sides appear so unequal; that, as we pray, we are tempted to say in our hearts, if not with our lips, It is hopeless, it is no use praying any more for that person: I'll give up. No! the Lord says, No! Do not give in! Do not lose heart! Do not be discouraged! Do not turn coward! In due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (But this 'faint' is a different word; perhaps, God willing we will look at it some other time).
We are really on the winning side. The Lord is still on the throne. He still sitteth on the waterfloods, and the Lord on high is still greater than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea. See Psalm 93:4. So, Cheer up! Take courage! Pray on! Pray always! and never turn coward, never give up.
This word en-kakeo is only used six times in the New Testament, and each is very instructive. We have already seen the first time it is used, and that is in connection with prayer. Next it is used twice within a few verses of each other, in 2 Cor. 4. 1 and 16. "Therefore, having this ministry, as we have had mercy shown us, we faint not." . . . . "Wherefore we faint not; but if indeed our outward man is consumed, yet the inward is renewed day by day." And so though troubles and sickness and sorrows come down here, and consume our outward man, there is no need to lose heart, no need to be discouraged, no need to turn coward, or give in to evil. "Tharsei!" Cheer Up! Take Courage!
The next place we find it is in Gal. 6:9. "Let us not be weary in well doing," or, as Mr. Darby renders it, "Let us not lose heart in doing good." It is so easy to lose heart in doing good. That poor soul you helped out the other day, later proved to be a crook, and not in need at all, and you vowed you will not be taken in as easily again. No, no; let us not be discouraged; let us not give in to evil. Next time you may turn away somebody really in need: and "whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard." (Prov. 21:13). Or that Sunday School class that is so noisy and unruly! It seems to be useless to try and go on with them. You are desperate, as old Dr. Cremer translates the word. Give it up! It's not worth trying any longer!
I once did that. I once had a desperately bad Sunday School, and at the advice of an older brother, I gave it up. About three weeks later I met one of the children on the street, and she said "Oh, why did you give up the Sunday School? I wanted so much to know I was saved. I think I would have found the Lord the very next Sunday: but I had to go somewhere else, and there I found the Lord." Another time an old brother urged that I should give up some children's work that the Lord had opened up. I was much perplexed, and went for advice to another old brother: and to my amazement he said: "Take on more work of that kind; but never give up! All giving up is of the devil." That was more than fifty years ago, but how often have I thanked God for those words. Dear Mr. Herbert Taylor, Mr. Hudson Taylor's eldest son, once told me that he was at one time so discouraged that he said to his father, "Father, I'm so discouraged, I'm going to give up." His father replied, "All discouragement is of the devil!" God is "the God of all encouragement." (2 Cor. 1:3: New Translation). No, Beloved, God's Word is clear. "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not." (A different word).
Next see Ephesians 3:13. "Wherefore I beseech you not to faint through my tribulations for you, which is your glory." Paul 'despaired of life' in his tribulations for the Ephesian saints, but he did not turn coward. (Acts 19. 23 etc. and 2 Cor. 1:8). He was ready to go in and face the mob who were thirsting for his blood. No need to be discouraged even if tribulations do come. Nay, rather, "we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh endurance." (Romans 5. 3). The word 'tribulation' comes from the Latin word tribulum, which means 'a flail.' I suppose most of my readers have never seen a flail, such as they used to use to thresh wheat: I have seen one and used it: and terrible 'tribulation' it gives to the wheat: but that is the way it is delivered from the chaff.
The last place we find this word en-kakeo is in 2 Thess. 3:13. "We hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing." I suppose this means you and I are not to be discouraged, not to lose heart, not to turn coward, through the daily grind of our daily work in the office, the shop, the kitchen, the field the school, or where ever else it may be. Let us do our daily work to the Lord and not unto men, and let us not grow discouraged in it. It is our Lord's own command. There may be much evil around you. It may be unspeakably hard, we may be desperate: but even so, let us never give in to evil: never turn coward, never lose heart.
So, to sum up, Let us not give in to evil, whether it be, —
To give up Prayer: Luke 18:1.
In failing health and old age: 2 Cor. 4:1 and 16.
In doing good, or, in well doing: Gal. 6:9.
In tribulation: Eph. 3:13.
In our daily tasks: 2 Thess. 3:13.
Having obtained help of God,
Let us not give in to evil: lose heart: faint: be discouraged: turn coward
For the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.