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The Mom With Persistent Faith

A person God uses is like the mom with persistent faith.

Once in awhile, I hear, I irritate people.

Sometimes it's unintentional; I'm not as sensitive as I should be. I don't respond as I should. Sometimes I get on a subject and beat it to death. Sometimes I'm just ornery.

Other times, I have to admit, I irritate or bug people intentionally. I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I just can't help myself. I have a weird sense of humor that gets me in trouble. I once received from a member of our worship team an e-mail with an amazing list of ideas on how to irritate and annoy people. Some of them I would never do. Some I wish I could do, but can't. Some I will do. Some of you will be the recipients.

You'll have to check the appendix for the complete list, but here a few examples of

How to Annoy Someone:

  • Write the surprise ending to a novel on its first page.
  • Specify that your drive-through order is "to go."
  • Begin all your sentences with "ooh la la!"
  • Pay for your dinner with pennies.
  • Repeat the following conversation a dozen times: "Do you hear that?" "What?" "Never mind, it's gone now."
  • When Christmas caroling, sing "Jingle Bells, Batman smells" until physically restrained.
  • As much as possible, skip rather than walk.
  • Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
  • At a golf tournament, chant "swing-batatatatatata-suhWING-batter!"
  • Finish all your sentences with the words "in accordance with prophesy."

Can you imagine, moms, what might happen if your kids, even grown kids, got hold of this list?

There are times we can't avoid irritating people. I want us to look in Scripture at an irritating mother, a woman whose irritating actions and persistence were absolutely necessary to accomplish God's will for her life... a woman who pushed beyond the annoyance of people and resolutely sought God's will for her daughter. The mother we are going to read about probably did many other good things for her daughter, but this one incident must be the most significant of all.

The story tell us of a mother who had a daughter who was demon-possessed. She had no control over herself, and was suffering terribly! This mother didn't know what to do, until she got the news that Jesus was in town. She must have thought, "If I could only get to Jesus, He might help me."

 

The complication? She was a Gentile, and Jesus was a Jew. The Jews had no dealings with Gentiles. They considered them unclean. Would Jesus be any different?

Turn to Matthew 15:21-28, to see what happens.

The Blessings of Persistent/Annoying Faith

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession." Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

Now, this story is difficult to understand because of Jesus' statements, so we must understand what is being said here. But don't lose sight of the mom. To keep that focus as we go through this passage, here's one observation I want all mothers to see today. It is made for the benefit of the children in your life.

Your children are being trained how to handle/respond to their future trials and troubles by watching you walk  through your present crises, especially how to go to Jesus in difficult and impossible moments.

 When you go through trials, your children are watching and being trained on how to handle obstacles, trials, hard times; how to be believers and Christian parents. Keep these observations in mind as we walk through this incident of a mom and her daughter, and try to think about what the daughter was learning from this crises.

In Matthew 15:21, notice first where Jesus and His disciples were. "…Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon"—v. 21. This passage has tremendous implications of which we need to be aware. William Barclay says,

"Apart from everything else, it describes the only occasion Jesus went outside Jewish territory. The supreme significance of the passage is that it foreshadows the going out of the Gospel to the whole world. In other words, it shows the beginning of the end of all barriers." The Gospel of Matthew, p. 120.

This also appears to have been a time for quiet and rest. Mark 7:24, a parallel passage, says, "Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep His presence secret."

The end of our Lord's earthly ministry was very near, so it appears He wanted some time of quiet. The Lord may also have wanted to spend some quality time with the disciples, away from the clamor of the crowds. The disciples needed to understand what was ahead and needed some special time with Him.

The region of Tyre and Sidon is where the Phoenicians dwelt. William Barclay also says:

"Here He could for a time...be safe from the malignant hostility of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the dangerous popularity of the people. No Jew would be likely to follow here into the Gentile territory"—Ibid., p. 121.

The woman in our story is called a Greek—a SyroPhoenician by birth, in Mark 7:26. She was from this territory. Though He was in Gentile territory, Jesus couldn't be free from human need. He couldn't hide His presence. That's still true today—wherever Jesus is, people will come!

The request

The request is found in v. 22—"A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to Him, crying out, 'Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.'" This was a repeated crying out. The specific title she called Him was "Lord, son of David..." the language of someone who recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Somehow she knew who He was and believed in Him. That was why she was so persistent.

Her specific request was "Have mercy on me..." She had the right words. She didn't ask for justice; she asked for mercy. In essence she was saying, "Jesus, see the circumstances from my perspective; don't give me what I deserve." (Mercy triumphs over judgment—James 2:13.)

I'm reminded of a mother who started out praying for her son in the following manner: "Lord, save my boy. He's such a good boy." (There was no response.) Then she received a fuller understanding of God's mercy and grace, affecting how she prayed. Her instructed prayer was, "Lord, save my boy. He deserves to die, because he's a sinner, but have mercy on him." The request was granted.

I hear some today who speak to God in such nonchalant and flippant ways—not asking for mercy, but demanding answers. It's as if God has to jump every time they pray for something, or if they somehow do a few Christian disciplines during the week, God is obligated to give them whatever their hearts desire These attitudes show little understanding of God's holiness, and our righteousness. Our goodness is as filthy rags. We have received and continue to receive help in the time of need, not because of anything we have done, but because of His mercy and grace.

The mom who understands the grace and mercy of God will raise her children different from one who doesn't. The children who grow up with a healthy "awe" and appreciation of God will be profoundly affected. Conversely, children will have no respect, no fear when that is modeled for them by their parents.

Besides her understanding of her sinfulness, why did this mother make this request? The request for mercy came because of two reasons:

  1. She was a Gentile, which we'll talk about in a moment.
  2. Her daughter was demon possessed.

There's a lot we don't know about this story. We don't know why the daughter was demon possessed. It could have been because of the daughter's own choice, or it could have been because of the mother's or the father's influence. What we do know is, her daughter was suffering terribly, and this mom wanted to help.You know, there is no one like a mom to sympathize with your hurt and find a solution for it! If a child gets hurt, nine out of 10 times, he'll go to mom.

Here's a mom who saw the suffering of her child, and everything within her looked for a solution. She did the right thing—she came to Jesus. But what did He do?

The response

"Jesus did not answer a word. So His disciples came to Him and urged Him, 'Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us'"—v. 23.

Isn't it amazing that Jesus said nothing? (Is she "annoying" him?) Let me ask, have you ever been there, mom? You cry earnestly to God, but there seems to be no answer—no response—only silence. What's our response when we hear nothing? What do we sometimes do? We are tempted to doubt that Jesus answers prayer, that He cares. We give up! "I don't want to annoy him/bother him by asking again."

How did the disciples respond? They seemed to be obviously annoyed! We don't know if they were saying, "answer her request so she won't cry out after us," or "send her away; we don't care if you answer her request or not." Whatever the case, this response is typical for so many people. Many are embarrassed; they have no patience with the needs of others. They get tired of hearing about their troubles, especially the trouble they have with their children. They're annoyed!

Such was the case with the disciples. Matthew, remember, was present at this event, so he was aware of what the disciples were saying and feeling. They wanted the woman gone.

The reason

Finally, Jesus responds to the disciples, but not to the woman. The next few verses are hard to understand, on the surface. Here's the reason He didn't reply to the woman:

"He answered, 'I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel"—v. 24.

Now what does that mean? The answer isn't complicated. In the time Jesus was allotted on this planet, His primary purpose was to go to the lost sheep of Israel, God's chosen people. He saw all of His people as lost, and it was His mission to extend the message of salvation and repentance to them, first. It was also necessary for Jesus to confine His efforts to a limited area, to the people best prepared for His mission.

Think about it now: The children of Israel had thousands of years of preparation. They had the sacrificial system, the Old Testament, the patriarchs. They were prepared to receive the Messiah; the Gentiles were not, with a few exceptions. The Law had to be fulfilled first, then the message would be spread to the whole world. So Jesus was reflecting the priority of His mission, not discrimination.

At various times in our lives we have the same types of decisions to make. We think or say, "We can't help everyone, so Lord, who are you calling us to reach first?" One of the most difficult decisions I make every week is where to spend my time, and who I should be with. My heart is to be with everyone, but that is impossible, so I have to make a choice. In the process I have annoyed a lot of people!

The woman in our story probably didn't hear the explanation. All she was aware of was the silence. Most of us would have interpreted that silence as a no—but not this woman! I like her spirit.

The repeat of the request

"The woman came and knelt before him. 'Lord, help me!' she said."

This is humble faith. Notice the deepening of her request. Here the woman knelt before the Lord and asked for help. She had the posture of worship, and unashamedly asked for help in the presence of others. Surely Jesus would respond now. However, He responded in a way that almost seems cruel, at first glance. Remember, however; Jesus isn't cruel, what He was doing had a purpose. In fact, what Jesus said was a reflection of His confidence in this woman's faith. He wanted it to be revealed!

 

The reply

"He replied, 'It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

This certainly sounds politically incorrect to us! It sounds so heartless, but interestingly, the woman to whom the remark was made was not hurt by these words. She saw the Lord's eyes, and the expression on His face, and knew He was still open to answering her request. So before we say Jesus' response shows His lack of love, make sure we interpret His words in the light of the woman's response, and not what we read into it from our vantage point.

Barclay says:

"A thing which seems hard, can be said with a disarming smile... and tone which takes the sting out of it and fills it with affection. We can be quite sure that the smile on Jesus' face, and the compassion in His eyes, robbed the words of insult and bitterness"—Barclay, p. 132.

Obviously the Lord used these words to show precedence only. It is wrong to suggest that "crumbs" implies the Gentiles receive only a fragment of what is given to Israel. The point is, they (the Jews) had the first shot at the food. Jesus wanted the woman to see that the Jews had the priority, at this point. It's also interesting that Jesus used a word for dogs that implies "little dogs." This meant they were dogs who belonged to the household, not the unclean scavengers from the street. This woman, a Greek, was quick to see the distinction. That's why she alluded to household dogs in her response.

The rebuttal

"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

Jesus loved this response. The woman responded as He wanted her to. He saw that when this woman's faith was tested, it stood the test—it was triumphant. That's the whole point of this conversation. I believe the Lord was testing this woman's faith all the way through the incident. Why? I don't believe it was to discover the quality of her faith; He knew that in advance.

There were four reasons for the test.

  1. The first reason was that the woman's faith might be developed
  2. The second was so the disciples would understand why the request was answered. He wanted them to know that faith in Him could cut through every barrier. They would take the gospel to the Gentiles.
  3. The third reason for the test was for her daughter's benefit; for her healing, and so she might learn how to respond in a time of testing.
  4. Fourth, the test was for our sake, to show us the blessings of persistence—even annoying faith.

Application

Oh, I want us all to know this as well. God is not testing us so He can know what our faith is like—He already knows that. God wants our relationship to be revealed, and He wants our lives to be a testimony to others as well. Thus we are often tested so our faith will be revealed, tested and grow—James 1.

Moms, dads, everyone studying with us; let's take a look at our faith.

Is it persistent? Mom, what characterizes your life? Are you like this woman? If so, there will be great rewards. This story reveals the rewards of persistent faith.

The Reward

"Then Jesus answered, 'Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.' And her daughter was healed from that very hour."

Definition: great means "great of magnitude, large measure." Mark 7:30 says, "She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone."

Can you imagine how that mom felt? Can you imagine how grateful the daughter was? What story do you think that daughter told that best described her mother? Listen, moms. Your persistence is vitally needed by your children. I don't care how good or bad your child is now, or will be. He or she will always need a mom who hangs in there: one who persists in prayer when things get tough and the enemy seems to be winning. Don't be put off by the Lord's seeming silence, or the lack of response from your children. Keep persisting in prayer!

Don't let others' annoyance at your persistent faith keep you quiet! Keep on praying, asking and seeking an answer for your children—for all your needs. Remember, your children are being trained how to handle/respond to their future trials and troubles by watching you walk through your present crises, especially how to go to Jesus in difficult and impossible moments.

When you go through trials, your children are watching and being trained about:

  • how to handle obstacles, trials and hard times
  • how to be believers
  • how to be Christian parents
  • how to go to Jesus and be persistent in their faith

Learn your lessons well, for your kids' sake!

 

Appendix

  1. Adjust the tint on your TV so that all the people are green, and insist to others that you "like it that way."
  2. Drum on every available surface.
  3. Sing the Batman theme incessantly.
  4. Staple papers in the middle of the page.
  5. Ask 800 operators for dates.
  6. Produce a rental video consisting entirely of dire FBI copy warnings.
  7. Sew anti-theft detector strips into people's backpacks.
  8. Hide dairy products in inaccessible places.
  9. Write the surprise ending to a novel on its first page.
  10. Specify that your drive-through order is "to go."
  11. Set alarms for random times.
  12. Learn Morse code, and have conversations with friends in public consisting entirely of "Beeeep Bip Bip Beeeep Bip..."
  13. Buy large quantities of mint dental floss just to lick the flavor off.
  14. Order a side of pork rinds with your filet mignon.
  15. Leave your Nine Inch Nails tape in Great Uncle Ed's stereo, with the volume properly adjusted.
  16. Publicly investigate just how slowly you can make a "croaking" noise.
  17. Honk and wave to strangers.
  18. Dress only in clothes colored hunter's orange.
  19. Change channels five minutes before the end of every show.
  20. Tape pieces of "Sweatin' to the Oldies" over climactic parts of rental movies.
  21. Wear your pants backwards.
  22. Decline to be seated at a restaurant, and simply eat their complimentary mints by the cash register.
  23. Begin all your sentences with "ooh la la!"
  24. Rouse your roommates from slumber each morning with Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music."
  25. Leave someone's printer in compressed-italic-cyrillic-landscape mode.
  26. ONLY TYPE IN UPPERCASE.
  27. only type in lowercase.
  28. dont use any punctuation either
  29. Buy a large quantity of orange traffic cones and reroute whole streets.
  30. Pay for your dinner with pennies.
  31. Tie jingle bells to all your clothes.
  32. Repeat everything someone says, as a question.
  33. Write "X - BURIED TREASURE" in random spots on all of someone's roadmaps.
  34. Inform everyone you meet of your personal Kennedy assassination/UFO/OJ Simpson conspiracy theories.
  35. Repeat the following conversation a dozen times: "Do you hear that?""What?" "Never mind, it's gone now."
  36. Light road flares on a birthday cake.
  37. Wander around the restaurant, asking other diners for their parsley.
  38. Leave tips in Bolivian currency.
  39. Demand that everyone address you as "Conquistador."
  40. Push all the flat Lego pieces together tightly.
  41. At the Laundromat, use one dryer for each of your socks.
  42. When Christmas caroling, sing "Jingle Bells, Batman smells" until physically restrained.
  43. Wear a cape that says "Magnificent One."
  44. As much as possible, skip rather than walk.
  45. Stand over someone's shoulder, mumbling, as they read.
  46. Sing the "This is the song that never ends..." song. (You know, Lamb Chops?)
  47. Pretend your mouse is a CB radio, and talk to it.
  48. Try playing the William Tell Overture by tapping on the bottom of your chin. When nearly done, announce "no, wait, I messed it up", and repeat.
  49. Drive half a block.
  50. Name your dog "Dog."
  51. Inform others that they exist only in your imagination.
  52. Ask people what gender they are.
  53. Reply to everything someone says with "that's what YOU think."
  54. Lick the filling out of all the Oreos, and place the cookie parts back in the tray.
  55. Cultivate a Norwegian accent. If Norwegian, affect a Southern Drawl.
  56. Forget the punchline to a long joke, but assure the listener it was a "real hoot."
  57. Routinely handcuff yourself to furniture, informing the curious that you don't want to fall off "in case the big one comes."
  58. Follow a few paces behind someone, spraying everything they touch with a can of Lysol.
  59. Deliberately hum songs that will remain lodged in co-workers' brains, such as "Feliz Navidad," the Archies' "Sugar" or the Mr. Rogers theme song.
  60. While making presentations, occasionally bob your head like a parakeet.
  61. Lie obviously about trivial things such as the time of day.
  62. Make beeping noises when a large person backs up.
  63. Leave your Christmas lights up and lit until September.
  64. Change your name to John Aaaaasmith for the great glory of being first in the phone book. Claim it's a Hawaiian name, and demand that people pronounce each A.
  65. Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
  66. Chew on pens that you've borrowed.
  67. Invent nonsense computer jargon in conversations, and see if people play along to avoid the appearance of ignorance.
  68. Wear a LOT of cologne.
  69. Ask to "interface" with someone.
  70. Listen to 33rpm records at 45rpm speed, and claim the faster speed is necessary because of your "superior mental processing."
  71. Sing along at the opera.
  72. Mow your lawn with scissors.
  73. At a golf tournament, chant "swing-batatatatatata -suhWING-batter!"
  74. Finish all your sentences with the words "in accordance with prophesy."
  75. Ask the waitress for an extra seat for your "imaginary friend."
  76. Go to a poetry recital and ask why each poem doesn't rhyme.
  77. Ask your co-workers mysterious questions, and scribble their answers in a notebook. Mutter something about "psychological profiles."
  78. Incessantly recite annoying phrases, such as "sticky wicket isn't cricket."
  79. Stare at static on the TV and claim you can see a "magic picture."
  80. Select the same song on the jukebox 50 times.
  81. Scuff your feet on a dry, shaggy carpet and seek out victims.
  82. Do not add any inflection to the end of your sentences, producing awkward silences with the impression that you'll be saying more any moment.
  83. Never make eye contact.
  84. Never break eye contact.
  85. Signal that a conversation is over by clamping your hands over your ears.
  86. Construct elaborate "crop circles" in your front lawn.
  87. Construct your own pretend "tricorder," and "scan" people with it, announcing the results.
  88. Give a play-by-play account of a person's every action in a nasal Howard Cosell voice.
  89. Holler random numbers while someone is counting.
  90. Make appointments for the 31st of September.
  91. Invite lots of people to other people's parties.
  92. Send 50 copies of this list to everyone you know.
  93. Send an email message with a billion extra forwards.