I love the story in Matthew 15:21-28, of the interaction of Jesus and a Canaanite woman. It is not your normal “Jesus does a miracle” story. Do not get me wrong, all of the miracles of Jesus were great, but this is unusual (if there is a “usual” for Jesus). We normally think of Jesus as kind and compassionate, and eager to minister to the hurting. This story does not work that way.
The woman calls to Jesus to deliver her daughter suffering from demon possession. Jesus’ first response is to ignore her; v.23 “Jesus did not answer a word”. Ever feel that your requests are just plain ignored? Well, here is an example of it happening! She called enough times to aggravate the disciples. They said, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” Next, Jesus declares, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” He told her that He would not grant her request because she was not part of the covenant with Israel. So, first Jesus ignored her, then he told her no. Lastly He insulted her. “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Jesus was the bread and she was the dog. Not the “usual” Jesus.
As unusual as the story is so far, the next part is the amazing part. The woman agrees with Jesus that she is a dog that willingly eats the crumbs that fall from the master’s table! The psychologists would have told her to not lose her self-respect. But Jesus said she had “great faith” (v. 28). I can only imagine her thinking might be. Maybe she realized her daughter’s problem was one of millions in the world, and the world was a small part of the universe, and the universe is small to God. Therefore, a single crumb falling from God’s table would be large in the universe, gigantic compared to the world, overwhelmingly massive to her. Isaiah says that God measures the islands of the earth as if they were “fine dust” (Isaiah 40:15). Crumbs were more than what she needed. She just needed her daughter delivered.
Most of us quit praying when we feel like we have been ignored. We definitely would quit praying if Jesus told us no. Would anyone keep praying for something if were ignored, told no, and insulted on top of that? I think not. But Jesus said this woman had “great faith”. Her petition was granted. Her daughter was healed.
I want to have “great faith”.
In the US, we have established a 5 day work week. The Bible says that, “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work.” (Ex 23:12 et al.) If my work day is 8 hours, that means I should be working approximately 48 hours each week. Interestingly enough that is almost the average work week for Americans. It seems to me that this is enough to prosper me (meaning meeting my needs plus having some extra to pay off debt, or to put away for savings). In my mind, this is a gauge. If I am working less than this, I am being a bit indulgent. I am not a driven person, but this is a good benchmark for me. If I am working less than 48 hours in a week, I am spending too much time in areas that are not profitable to me. With working 48 hours/week I still have time for devotions, family time, and house maintenance (and a blog once in a while!). But after that, most every other activity I do, I could probably live without. Unfortunately, with my remaining time I tend to do things that are not profitable. So, instead of an hour of TV, how about a brisk walk? Instead of perusing Facebook pages, how about getting into a real book’s pages?
I just think that in a society that focuses on entertainment, the children of the Most High should be different than the children of the world.
But that’s just me.
Romans 8:38-39; “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Colossians 3:12-13 describe some of the Christian attributes including, compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing and forgiving each other in love.
What a wonderful life Christians have, knowing and living in God’s perfect, unobstructed compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, bearing and forgiving each other! Since nothing can separate us from these things, Christians should be the happiest, most joyous people in the world. Why aren’t they?
It is because we as Christians do not focus on God, but on our circumstances. We choose to react to how others treat us rather than God’s blessings for us. Why would we focus on the broken people that surround us instead of the perfect love and peace that comes from above? No good reason. When we focus on people and their brokenness, we perpetuate that brokenness through our negative reaction to them.
Today let us focus on the blessings God has promised, not the world’s miserable distractions!
Who could possibly be big enough to thwart God and His love toward us? People, demons, the devil himself? Not a chance.
But, do we really believe we are continual recipients of God’s love? Here is how we can tell. When we act unloving to anybody (even our enemies), it is because we feel unloved.
If we cannot be separated from God’s love, why do so many people feel unloved? It is because people have trouble, hardships, persecution, money problems, feel they are in danger, and even threatened (see Romans 8:36). Having these things in our lives certainly distracts us from experiencing God’s love. But Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39. Paul was convinced because he believed the Word of God rather than his circumstances. If we are not walking in love to all of the people around us, we are showing that we do not have faith that God’s Word is true and His love is never failing.
Today, let’s sweep fear, anger, doubt, and anxiety away. Let’s meditate on God’s unfailing love until our hearts burst forth with love and compassion for the weak and frustrated souls that God puts in our path.
God is so good that He protects us in the face of attack. Romans 8:33 “Who can bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies.” God is perfect in judgment and he declares us guilt-free! Who could go to God and say, “Even though you have declared someone righteous, I find fault with them and therefore you must find fault?” It cannot be done. We cannot be charged guilty by anyone after God passes a not-guilty verdict.
Romans 8:34 goes on to state, “Who can condemn?” Jesus was the one who was condemned for us. In fact, Jesus is sitting at God’s right hand interceding for us! What better position can we be in? We cannot be accused or condemned by anyone after the Great Judge pronounces us free!
The strangest part of this is, if we cannot be accused or condemned, why do we do it to others? We rejoice in God’s wide-open arms toward us, shouldn’t we do the same for those God forgives and welcomes? Think about that. What if the church forgave and welcomed into their heart everyone that God forgave and welcomed? That church would be transformational.
One of our favorite verses is Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” NASB. (emphasis mine)
Paul must be speaking in faith in this verse where he says, “we know”. Because we do not “know”. At least we sure do not act like we “know” it. If we knew God is using all things in our lives for good, there would not be anything in our lives “bad”. Yet we complain about a multitude of things in our lives that are worrisome, frustrating, aggravating. We complain about people’s attitudes and actions. We whine about our lack of finances. We worry about the future of our jobs, family, society, etc.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we “knew” that God was working everything that happens in our lives for our good? We could wake everyday with joy and great anticipation the good things we will learn and grow into. In fact, if everything is working for my good, it would be impossible for me to fail. That is a reason to be joyful today!