For saving faith to be real it must be grounded in Christ. It is both profound and at the same time problematic. Jesus Christ’s death on the cross in order to save sinners is our only hope in this life. Our dilemma though is that hardships and difficulties often leaves us wanting immediate relief and when it does not happen according to our timetable then our tendency is to begin to despair over our situation. That decision to waive a white flag may be premature from what we can learn from the faith of the Canaanite woman in Matthew’s Gospel 15:21-28. This woman had come to Jesus on behalf of her daughter who was suffering terribly from demon-possession (vv.22c) and though desperate for divine intervention, it meant that she continued to seek when her request was not immediately granted. Unlike the many promos for today where they sing the praises of self-will and what you can achieve if you put your mind to it, her belief was not in herself but in Jesus and His sufficiency. She must have heard about the Lord’s great compassion from His previous acts of mercy from earlier visits to the region, where he fed the five thousand (men, woman and children), resurrected Jairus’ twelve year old daughter from death, and healed the son of a Royal Official. It would seem that any parent desperate for help would make note of the love Christ had for children and their parents. For many, Christ signs and miracles must have felt like a thunderbolt that left them in awe about His authority over nature, sicknesses, and even death. But the amazement and wonder that was heralded around the visible acts of God was never intended to be a diversion but to draw attention to His kingdom and saving power. Today’s crowd that seek prosperity from the gospel should examine their motives. This woman was in desperate straits and she came to Him for the right reasons. To think that the blessing Jesus had in reserve for this needy woman went far beyond the miraculous restoration of her daughter is what we will see for ourselves.
Now keep in mind that not unlike what we learn from New Testament teaching, Jesus always responded to any sincere, earnest, humble cry for help so this seeming delay to the Mother’s request should not be interpreted in any way other than the unique design God had for both her and her daughter. God’s plan for mother and daughter was twofold: to increase and strengthen the mother’s faith and at the same time relieve her daughter from demonic forces. Jesus would be the instrument to achieve this. It should be noted that although the Bible clearly says that she came to Him (vv.22), it was Jesus who had sought her out. Jesus had left Israel and entered what is now known as Lebanon for rest for both His apostles and Himself and to escape a premature showdown and growing animosity from the religious elite, and most important for today’s lesson to continue the work which He (God) gave Him to do (John 17:4), which in part was to bring salvation to His elect! Both mother and child had been in God’s plans long before this episode ever happened. Now Jesus was not indifferent to her plea but the first order of business was to test and grow her faith. That the Canaanite woman had to wait expectantly on Jesus only underscores the wise manner Jesus had put her faith to the test. While Christians can anticipate that their faith will undergo testing, they should not be surprised if request are put on hold to serve as an ancillary in God’s hands to raise personal faith to another level. God worked in this manner on many occasions. Abraham and Sarah had to wait patiently for the birth of their son Isaac; Jesus remained in the same place for two days after hearing of Lazarus` death before going to him where the gathered crowd witness the raising of Lazarus including Mary and Martha who for their sake Jesus delayed his arrival that they may believe along with the apostles (John 11:14). Patient waiting under hard circumstances and faith bring together a form of synergy. But faith was never meant to be left untouched and alone to stagnate. Faith grows upward; it moves on an incline and undergoes strains and stresses as indicated in the Matthew passage. The mother’s first request was met with silence (Mat. 15:23). Jesus does not answer her, so she asked again and again. She did not quit! She recognizes that Jesus alone can help her. She pleads with Him. He prorogues her request in order to strengthen her faith, to refine it like silver and make her see for herself the glorious expression of unswerving faith, and to gladly grant her request after her faith has been proven. And her daughter was healed that very hour. Interesting how immediate Jesus response was to meet her request once He had tried her in a way that prompted a deepening trust in Him. Once Christ had achieved this work in her, He declared, Women you have great faith. (vv.28b) Jesus had successfully tilled the ground of this women’s faith and given her an “A class approval rating”. He had achieved His objective and instantly granted her request to set her daughter free from demon possession. And her daughter was healed that very hour. (vv.28d)
God’s intention for sinners is to make them rethink their lost condition to where they exercise genuine faith in His Son. Sometimes it takes what can be termed “divine delays.” The woman doggedly sought Jesus since she knew that He alone could and would help her. Have you come to that point where like this woman who called on Jesus, “Take pity on me, O Lord, Son of David” (vv.22b), recognizing for yourself that Jesus is your only hope for salvation. Do you sense your need for mercy and forgiveness? Christian, do you intend not to ever leave Him until you receive His blessing that He will give to those who humbly ask with correct motives. That is the very thing that Christ wishes from us, to come to Him often with expectations that only He could meet. During the days of the depression, a young family had taken up residence just across the town’s train station. Hobos that rode the trains would often come to their home to beg for food. One day the young son answered the door to find a man asking for a sandwich. The boy told the beggar that they did not have enough food for themselves, which was what he was told to say since this happened quite often. Still, the man persisted and asked once more that if they could spare even a slice of bread, he would be grateful. At this point, the boy left him at the door and went and told his Mom. On hearing this, the Mother said to give him whatever food the beggar needed since she was sure that his need was genuine! Are you persuaded that only Christ can meet your need for mercy and forgiveness of your sins and the promise of salvation? Are you coming to Christ as a true beggar in great need of His mercy and grace over your lost condition, and quite grateful for whatever amount He may give you? He will show you mercy above what you may expect to be sure, and grant you spiritual life if you ask Him.
Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. (Mat. 7:7) The verb tense for ask and seeking describes an on-going action. It means to keep on asking and seeking. Like the Canaanite women, she persisted until it was opened to her, so too we must sense our own dire condition and go to Christ often and unreservedly.