Great faith – Matthew 15:21-28

Sometimes we think of great faith as the kind of faith that prays for great things and sees amazing answers to prayer.  That is probably how great faith frequently looks, but great faith need not always look the same.  Consider the case of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15.

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The greatness in the woman’s faith is not that she asked for anything more than others might ask.  The Gospels give several examples of people coming to Jesus on behalf of their children and Jesus healing them or even raising them from the dead.  He cast out plenty of demons.

Jesus commends her faith before granting her request, but only after an interaction in which Jesus seems to refuse her.  First he says nothing (v.23), then he pushes the Gentile/Jewish distinction beyond what we might even consider polite (vv. 24-26).  Her humility and persistence in the face of Christ’s seeming condescension and persistent refusal brings out his praise (v.28).

If you are like me you have several prayer requests that God has not seen fit to answer even after many years, maybe decades or most of your life.  And like me you struggle and are tempted to give up.  You might see numerous reasons why God would never answer these prayers.  “I’m not worthy.  I’m really not worthy.  God doesn’t answer prayers like these for people like me.  Why should he?”  These reasons (and I have more) sound a lot like “The Jewish Messiah isn’t about to grant the request of a Canaanite woman, is he?”  But he did.  

The point is that neither an unanswered prayer nor what looks like a humiliating refusal are the same thing as a final “no.”  Jesus used his delays to draw out further expressions of the woman’s faith.  That faith was in her all the time, but had Jesus responded quickly, none of us would have seen it and we might never know.  

Let’s be the kind of people who hang on like the devil – or better, like this Canaanite woman – with whatever faith we have and then even more.  Sometimes faith grows in its praying, its asking, humility and continuous kneeling before God.  Sometimes God’s answers come only after long delays.  A paltry, weak and sickly faith can be satisfied with quick answers, and then it may mislead us into thinking such faith is great.  In fact, great faith, like this woman’s, may be the faith that keeps asking without any answer in sight.

A Prayer Prompted by the Overall Message of Matthew 14

Heavenly Father,

I understand that some of my desires are good, some of them are bad and some of them are neutral.

As for the wrong desires, please help me to be content without ever having those desires satisfied.

As for the neutral desires, the simple and basic needs that I have, please help me to trust you for their fulfillment.

Beyond that, help me to desire you most of all.

Help me to guard and cherish my time with you.

Help me to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Help me to long to be more like you, to want what you want and to work toward your desires and your will for me.

Make yourself my ultimate source of satisfaction.

In Christ’s name,

Amen

 

Matthew 14 Verse by Verse

Matt photoOur passage today will bring up several different types of desires and several types of satisfaction.  Some are good, some bad and some neutral.

Matthew 14.pdf

Matthew 14.mp3

 

A Prayer Prompted by the Parables of Matthew 13

Heavenly Father,

Christ has taught us about the reality and the danger of not responding positively and passionately to him.  Please help us to respond with unswerving commitment.

Let your word find good soil as it falls upon our hearts.  Let there be no corrupting or false influences in our faith.  Please keep us from being distracted by the enticements of this world.  Let us hold onto Jesus firmly, holding nothing back, remembering that he already gave everything for us.

Help us to make your kingdom the very center and goal of our lives. Cause us to continuously grow and bear fruit with perseverance as long as you allow us to live.

In Christ,

Amen.

A Prayer for Good Fruit Prompted by Matthew 12:33-35

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 

Heavenly Father,

I deeply desire that my life would bear good fruit, the kind that would please you in every way.  For that to happen I ask first that you would make the the kind of person that might be comparable to a good tree, so that good fruit would naturally appear.

Since it is true that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, I ask you first to purify my heart.  Let my heart be filled with an abundance of good. Then let my mouth speak good things that would impact others for good purposes.

Let me be a good person in your eyes because I allow you make me good.  There is no possible way for me to be good on my own.  Then let my life bring forth good out of my good treasure.

One way or another, I am going to leave a legacy.  Let what I leave behind be good.  Once again, Father, I desire that my life would bring forth good fruit.  For that to happen I ask you to change me from within, so that good would be the natural outcome of all that I say and do.

And I ask this for Jesus’ sake and for his glory.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Christ’s Rest Prompted by Matthew 11:28-30

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Dear Lord Jesus, 

Today I am feeling especially weak in my labors and I sense that I need your rest.  It is not merely a physical rest that I am in need of, but a spiritual rest for my soul.  Help me not to let my burdens get the best of me, but rather help me to share them with you.  Help me to experience your rest, the spiritual rest that only you can give.

I desire to learn from you, Lord Jesus.  Teach me what it is to be gentle and lowly in heart just as you are.  It is precisely in this lowliness that I am reminded I was not meant to bear these burdens alone.  You invite me to serve alongside you.  Just as two oxen were joined by their yoke, I desire to be joined with you.  It is then and only then that I will not be heavy laden in my service.  Again, help me to experience your rest, the rest that only you can give.

Your yoke is easy and your burden is light.  How different this is from the yoke and the burden of the world.  Elsewhere you said that apart from you, we can do nothing.  How true that is, and how clear it is that laboring alone, without you, is foolish.  Please take my work, my labors, my heavy burdens upon yourself and place your yoke upon me.  

Help me, Jesus, to experience the work that is actually rest when I labor together with you.  There is really no other way for me to effectively serve.

Amen.

 

A Prayer for Endurance Prompted by Matthew 10:16-25

Heavenly Father,

Your Son reminded us that sometimes the best we can expect out of this world is trouble. 

His disciples often faced difficulty, opposition and persecution and they endured.  Give us that same kind of strength.

From Christ’s instruction we learn that our worst enemies and betrayers might be those we would expect to be our closest friends.  Those who should love us and those we love may respond with hatred and rejection.  We thank you that Jesus experienced all of this first.  We are certainly no greater than he is.

Help us, Father, to remain steadfast, to be faithful and to endure.  We may desire happiness, comfort, approval and blessings, but they may not be ours at this time.  Just as Jesus endured to the end and was glorified, help us to stand firm knowing that his story did not end at the cross and neither will ours.

If we experience no glory or honor in this world, may our lives still bring glory to him, for Christ is worthy.

Amen.