Tuesday, May 24, 2011
She replied: Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master's table
To which Jesus replied: O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire, and her daughter was healed.
So, what did Jesus mean by “great is your faith?” What was He implying about this woman?!
When we think of faith, we usually think of it in terms of God's ability. Of course, we believe that God possesses the power to accomplish the things that we ask. One of my favourite hymns is He is Able:
He is able, more than able, to accomplish what concerns me today.
He is able, more than able, to handle anything that comes my way.
For most of us, this goes without saying. Of course God is able to handle anything. We have no doubt that this is true. In fact, that is precisely why we pray -- because we believe that God has the ability to do the things we ask. That being said, why then is faith such a hard thing for so many of us?!
I have never had a problem believing that God can accomplish the things that I ask Him to. With Him, nothing is impossible, and I hold that truth with the utmost confidence. On the other hand, I am not so confident that He wills to do the things I ask. As a result, there is a duplicity of doubt and confidence that exists in my prayer life: confidence in God’s ability, yet perhaps a lack of confidence in His will...or at least that what I ask is in line with it.
The above passage is a remarkable one. The woman not only believed that Jesus could heal her daughter, but that in fact, He would. Her persistence was a reflection of this attitude. She did not give up, even when Jesus’ words appeared less than re-assuring. Even so, she had complete faith, not only in the power, but in the very character of Jesus – one of kindness, of generosity, of compassion. Although Jesus Christ was sent primarily to minister to the Jews, she knew that He was a Man of compassion and mercy, and she had faith that He would have compassion on, and heal her daughter.
More than once, the New Testament mentions Israel’s lack of faith. This lack of faith goes deeper than just God’s ability to defeat their enemies and bring them into the Promised Land. What they doubted was God’s character – His faithfulness, mercy, and compassion. As they murmured in their tents, they expressed the belief that God brought them out of Egypt only to be defeated. They saw the giants in the land, and allowed themselves to take their eyes off of God.
This woman, on the other hand, had no signs or wonders to indicate that God would do a personal miracle on her behalf. There was no miraculous intervention – no parting of the Red Sea, no cloud by day or pillar of fire by night, no plagues on her enemies, or Passover Lamb. She had absolutely nothing to indicate that Christ would do a miracle on her behalf – all she had to rest on was what she knew and saw of Him, His character – and for her, that was enough.
As I continue to grow in the Lord, I realize just how inadequate my own faith really is. I have no trouble doubting that God is able to do the things I ask, but rather that He is willing to. I hate to say that I doubt God’s will for my life, but sometimes, when I take my eyes off of Him and allow circumstances to overwhelm me, how easily I forget that God is working all things out for good, and lose sight of His faithfulness; of course, what we believe to be in our own best interests aren’t always what are in God’s best interests.
When we pray for something, we believe that what we are praying for is for our own good, in our own best interests. Perhaps we have been praying for a job, and common sense tells us that securing a job immediately is in our best interests, especially when the bills start piling up and we are facing eviction. When we pray, we pray for God to come through with a job ASAP. We look at our finances and think that finding a job immediately is the best thing for us, when God actually has a better job in the works, and we must wait on Him in faith for His plans to materialize.
When we are praying for something, we do so precisely because we are sure it's in our own best interests, but when our prayers aren't answered for some reason, we feel let-down, as though our requests and desires are not that important to God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
True, genuine faith involves accepting our circumstances as God’s plan, and His plan as what's best for us. It is so easy to forget that in everything He is carrying out His perfect will for us. Faith involves confidence that God knows and acts in our best interests, and trusting His decision, whatever it may be. The most faith-filled prayer that a person can utter is:
Not my will, but thine be done
It entails putting complete faith in God's will over our own, and completely entrusting our situation, and life, to His will, even if it doesn't seem to coincide with our immediate desires. By praying such a prayer, we exercising complete surrender to Him, and faith in His will. How on earth do we do that – completely let go and give Him full control?! It happens when we see God as He truly is: loving, kind, and most of all faithful. When we possess this kind of faith, complete and total surrender to His will naturally follows.
It makes sense. When a person is generous, caring, and always faithful, it is easy to put our trust in that person. When we see God the same way, faith comes much more naturally.
From the Matthew passage, it appears that the woman was confident that her own will of seeing her daughter healed was in line with the Lord’s. She saw His healing miracles, and knew that He was a compassionate and merciful Messiah. In her persistence, she was not begging for a miracle, but trusting in one, because He was not only able, but willing to perform it. Likewise, when our own will is in line with God's, we can have complete and total faith that whatever we ask in His name, that it will be granted...but how do we know that our will is in line with God’s?!
This is still a difficult concept for me to grasp. I mean, when I pray to the Lord, of course I am hoping that He grants my request – but in reality, sometimes I am not sure if He will. Whether He does or whether He doesn’t, I can be sure that if my heart and attitude are right before God, if the motivation for my prayer is that He be glorified in me, that my prayer will be answered in one way or another.....and however it is answered, I must trust that it was the best plan and that it will fulfil my deepest desire.
However He decides to answer my prayer, I must trust that He has my best interests at heart, and knowing that it will turn out for my good in the end....because God is a good Father, whose deepest desire is to bless His children, even if that blessing has to come through hardship.
Indeed, we all go through hardships. Even so, we have this promise:
1 Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it
Here again, God is faithful, and because He is faithful, we can have faith that God will preserve us in our hardships. He brings trials our way in order to strengthen us, and stretch us, but He also provides the grace and strength to endure.
I don’t know about you, but during trials, I find it difficult to take rest in God’s sovereignty, and put my faith in the fact that He is in control. God knows when to increase the fire, and when to decrease it. We have a tendency to think that our situation – the situation that the Lord has put us in -- is too difficult, but God’s word here says that He is faithful to keep our trials from overwhelming us. Faith is the assurance that we will reach the end of the trial, because God promised that we would be able to endure it. This can only be done through His Spirit. The apostle Paul said, in 2 Cor. 12:10:
For when I am weak, then I am strong
God's strength is always going to be greater than our own strength. Faith involves relying wholly on God's strength, and less on our own, knowing that where we fall short, He will lift us up.
On my own, I know that I have no faith or confidence to rest in, but in Him, my faith is sustained. This is truly superhuman faith. I pray that he will sustain your faith as well, as your journey in Him continues.