HYMN What a Friend we have in Jesus
1 What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.
2 Have we trials and temptations,
is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged:
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful,
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness:
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
3 Are we weak and heavy-laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Blessèd Saviour, still our refuge:
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In his arms he’ll take and shield thee,
thou shalt find a solace there.
Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819-1886)
READING Matthew 15: 21 – 28
The Faith of a Canaanite Woman
21 Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”
23 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.”
24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
25 The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
26 He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”
27 “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”
28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
SERMON The Faith of the Canaanite Woman
Have you ever wondered why God failed to answer your prayers ? Or have you waited for ages before you saw the answers to other prayers? Well we are going to learn something about the value of WAITING FOR GOD in our story this evening.
This must be one of the strangest incidents in the entire story of Jesus – Jesus appears to be reluctant to heal a wee girl – just because she is not Jewish.
We must remember (Matthew 10:6 ) that Jesus came as a man to live and work amongst the Jews only. In His short ministry He had to make His earnest appeal to God’s special people – the Jews – and only when they had ultimately rejected Him would the Gentiles come to faith. However, what we have here is a glorious exception.
At the start of the story Jesus has gone away for a rest – He has been trying to get a rest for some time now – and He keeps being interrupted. We have a marvelous children’s story entitled 5 MINUTES PEACE – the one thing parents long for!
Jesus was to be disturbed once again – but, as with everything in His life and ministry, Jesus wants to teach us some important lessons from this short incident.
This woman from a terrible Pagan background comes to Jesus and asks Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. But, quite contrary to what you would expect – Jesus remains silent – He doesn’t even speak to the lady. The disciples take this as a sign of His displeasure – and so something of their national bigotry comes out – they ask Jesus to send this Gentile woman away.
Now Jesus speaks – but NOT to the disciples – He would never encourage their nationalism! On the contrary, He turns to the woman and tells her that He has come only for the Jews.
Now, the woman falls at Jesus feet – Lord help me – she cries!
Jesus still seems unmoved by this woman’s desperate plight – for He now tells her that it isn’t right to take the food that is meant for children and give it to the pet dog.
Now, you and I may simply have given up by this time – but this woman’s faith just grows and grows and gets bolder and bolder. She doesn’t argue with Jesus that she is like a dog in comparison to the Jews – she humbly accepts the statement of the Lord – and then she persists, BUT EVEN THE DOGS UNDER THE TABLE GET THE CRUMBS. She is desperate even to have the crumbs of Jesus’ blessing!
And, of course, Jesus – as He ALWAYS DID – ultimately answered her prayer and called the attention of all around to her outstanding faith.
Notice all the characteristics of this woman which are brought out as the story emerges – her reverence for Jesus – do YOU have that reverence when YOU pray? Notice her agony and her deep love for her daughter. Notice also her humility before Jesus which accepts all that Jesus says without questioning – do YOU have that humility before Jesus? Notice her quick witted reply about the dogs getting the crumbs – see her perseverance – take notice of her unswerving God-given faith in Jesus – do YOUR prayers come anywhere near this woman’s?
Clearly Jesus does not want to be diverted from His primary task of preaching to the Jews – but already in Matthew 8:5-13 we have read of His healing the Roman Centurion’s servant and that incident made Jesus announce that He had not found such faith even in Israel ! Here is another great exception in the life and ministry of Jesus.
But we are still left with the question WHY? WHY the apparent delay in answering this woman’s desperate plight?
The answer might be found in I Peter 1: 6,7 where we read NOW FOR A LITTLE WHILE YOU HAVE TO SUFFER GRIEF IN ALL KINDS OF TRIALS: SO THAT YOUR FAITH MAY BE PROVED GENUINE.
The answer must simply be that Jesus KNEW the intensity of this woman’s faith – and He wanted to draw it out for her sake – and so that others might see it also! Jesus knows how far our faith can be tested – and He won’t allow us to be tested beyond that limit.
This apparent delay in answering prayer is NOT UNIQUE, Remember Abraham and Sarah waiting for God to give them a child – He was 100 years old when he became a dad! What about Jairus’ daughter – Jesus was delayed in going to her so that the wee girl died. What about the two days that Jesus delayed in going to see His friend Lazarus – during which time the man died? Oh, in all these incidents there was a reason.
And so it is here! This woman could have received her request in an instant – but the blessing she received was all the greater because she had had to wait for it. The answer to her prayer was all the more complete as it was wrought with tears.
Many of us have to learn something from the unquenchable faith of that woman. Eric Liddell had that unquenchable spirit undaunted by the appeals of the Prince of Wales – he did what he had to do as a Christian – and God answered his faithfulness.
God may ask us to wait – our faith should be strengthened in the process if we are indeed Christians. Maybe we will be humbled in the process and be converted – and only then see the answer to our prayers!
One thing is sure. God LOVES to hear the prayers of His people; and God LOVES to ANSWER the prayers of His people – we must learn persistence; and humbly wait for God. Are you praying for a son of yours to come to faith in Christ – keep praying. I heard a very moving account some time ago of a young 8 year old boy who became a Christian. From that day he started to pray that his friend would become a Christian too. After 12 years of faithful earnest prayer the friend became a Christian. Will you remain faithful in prayer? Trusting God in everything?
Hymn Take time to be holy
1 Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak;
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
2 Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone —
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be!
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
3 Take time to be holy, let Him be thy guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide;
In joy or in sorrow still follow thy Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
4 Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul;
Each thought and each moment beneath His control;
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
William D Longstaff (1822–1894)