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Great Faith

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Great Faith

Matthew 15:21-28

Intro: ILL: Henry Blackaby

Acknowledge that some are having a crisis. Develop the idea that faith is based upon the character of Christ. Many times when our prayers are not answered we think that we didn’t possess enough faith or we weren’t good enough to get the answer, instead God may have other plans for us.

Prop: Because Jesus abundantly rewards great faith, we must strive for great faith.

Analytical Quest: What are the qualities of great faith?

I.       A Repentant Attitude (22)
As they are walking this Canaanite woman begins to continually cry out to Jesus to help her. The word Canaanite is used numerous times in the OT but only here in the NT. The irony is that there is no country called “Canaan” in existence at this time. Matthew is using this name to draw attention to her background. She came from a culture that had been renowned for its wickedness and vileness. She was a descendant of a people God had commanded Israel to conquer and “utterly destroy” (Deut. 7:2). She had no heritage of God’s Word, God’s blessing, or of His Tabernacle, Temple, priesthood, or sacrifices. Therefore, because she believed so much relative to so little revelation, Jesus called her faith great (Matt. 15:28).

To ask Jesus to have mercy on her reveals that she understood her position relative to Jesus. She didn’t deserve any kind of blessing from God and she knew it. Not only that, but she called Him Son of David, a messianic title. She knew her undeserving condition and she knew his praiseworthy position. God over and over calls Himself merciful, and Exodus 34:6-7 He links His mercy to salvation: And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Just as we did when we received salvation, this woman displayed faith and repentance when she came to Jesus Christ on that day. Repentance is inseparable from great faith. John MacArthur said: Faith that apprehends the blessings of Christ involves repentance that comes from a deep and sincere sense of unworthiness. If you are going to display great faith, it must be accompanied by sincere repentance.

II.    Reverent Respect (22, 25)
This woman continually had in her mind who Jesus was and acted appropriately. In the midst of her crisis it was almost as if she was worshiping Jesus. She knew him as the Messiah and realized that He could heal. Maybe she had tried the doctors and the exorcists, and they had all failed, but now she was coming to the Son of God. She was finally coming to someone who could help her. She knew Him by reputation of being compassionate, merciful and as having power over all sorts of disease. She was acting on what she knew.
Stuart Briscoe said, “Faith is only as valid as its object. You could have tremendous faith in very thin ice and drown.… You could have very little faith in very thick ice and be perfectly secure.”

For faith to make sense and to have power it must be placed in a trustworthy object; and as the Canaanite woman turned her back on her idols she placed her faith in the Lord, the Son of David. Despite her pagan background, she had heard of the Jews’ coming Messiah, who was called the Son of David; and she reverently addressed Jesus as her sovereign and omnipotent Lord. She had heard of the Messiah’s great power and also sensed His great goodness; and she treated Him with both dignity and expectancy. She approached Him in the same reverent, trusting spirit as the leper who met Jesus after the Sermon on the Mount “and bowed down to Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’”

This is different than the sort of faith that is essentially faith in faith, which is to say no faith at all. To jump out of an airplane with a parachute is an act of faith. To jump without a parachute while exclaiming, “I believe,” is an act of stupidity. To say no more than, “I believe in love,” “I believe in believing,” or, “I believe it will all work out,” is content-less faith and therefore pointless and powerless. It shows no more sense than to go on vacation and leave your three-year-old child behind with instructions to look after the house and pay all the bills while you are gone.

Great faith has reverent respect for the Son of God, knowing that has and will continue to back up His promises. That knowledge will cause us to bow down and worship Him even when circumstances look bleak. Just like this woman we must humbly and reverently request of God what ever the petition we desire.

III. Persistence (23-27)
Great faith does not give up; it is not deterred by obstacles, setbacks, or disappointments. Jesus therefore tested the faith of this woman by setting up a series of barriers.
When it comes to persistence in prayer and faith many of us seem to have what I call spiritual A.D.D. We pray for a while and when it seems that God isn’t listening or that He refused our request, we quit praying. But that is not what this Canaanite woman did. She overcame two common faith tests that Christ often let’s us face:

A.        Silence
Sometimes the hardest response to take is no response at all, and that is what this woman received from Jesus. The Bible says “he answered her not a word.” As she continued to plead with his, he continued to ignore her.

The disciples were apparently interpreting His silence to mean unconcern, because they had finally had enough and asked him to send her away. They said, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us!”

Many of us have come to the Lord with an urgent request, and seemingly there is a silence from heaven that we don’t understand. How many of us have given up because we feel the silence of God? By being silent, God is not being cruel, he is drawing out our faith with the goal to  make us stronger and glory to Himself.

B.         Seeming Rejection
Lost Sheep

Persistence is one of the hallmarks of great faith. "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive." (Jeremiah 29:13-14, KJV). 

IL: a guy named John left home at 17 and joined the British Navy. He became a drunk when he got out and got mixed up with pirates. Before you know it he had become a slave trader who would sail to Africa. They would gather up Africans and stick them in cages like animals and sell them as property. But all the while his mother was praying for him. She did her laundry on an old fashioned washboard with tears streaming down her face all the while praying, Oh God, save my John!

Thru a series of circumstances the young man almost lost his life, and became a slave himself. As a result of all of this he got saved, and John [Newton] wrote the words in our hymnal, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound... [and all because of a praying mother

IV. Humility (25-27)
In her conversation with Jesus, she bowed down. “Bow down” always means to bend the knee and ascribe deity to someone, and is often used in the sense “worship,” which may well be the meaning here. She clearly knew who Jesus was. But again Jesus put her off, saying to her the same basic truth He had just pointed out to the disciples: It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

Two different Greek words are used in the New Testament for dogs. One refers to the mangy and often vicious mongrels that ran in packs and lived largely off garbage and carcasses of dead animals. The dogs referred to here, however, were household pets that were sometimes treated almost like family.

Jesus would not be speaking of the crumbs that fall from the table during the course of the meal, but rather of table scraps that are taken after the meal and thrown to the dogs. But she was undaunted, and in an incredible flash of insight she picked up on Jesus’ own illustration, saying, Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their master’s table. She knew she was sinful and unworthy of anything He had to offer and was willing to concede that she was less deserving than Jews. In doing so she demonstrated a complete absence of the pride, self-reliance, and self-righteousness that characterized most Jews. She was willing to settle for the crumbs which fall from their master’s table, because that would be enough to meet her needs. A tiny leftover of Jesus’ great power could heal her daughter, and that was all she asked.
J. Oswald Chambers: “Faith does not only exclude the thought of merit, it actually includes the idea of helplessness. In faith one depends on another to do what a person is unable to do for himself. If a child is ill and the child’s parents call a doctor, they are confessing their own inability to deal with the illness and are expressing their confidence in the doctor. There is no merit in calling the doctor. Their faith in the doctor merely gives him the opportunity to work.”
When we come to God we must come to Him completely absent of personal merit, realizing that He alone has earned our merit and that the only reason we have a standing before God is because of His grace.

V.    Reward (28)
Jesus was pleased with her faith. In chapter 14 we saw Peter walking on the water. He had had the advantage of hearing Jesus’ teaching, seeing hundreds of miracles and when he was out of the boat he doubted. Jesus told him he had “little faith.” This woman had heard things about Jesus and likely hadn’t seen miracles, yet she persisted on worshipfully and humbly and Jesus told her that she had “great faith.” Her prayer was answered.

This woman understood two things: She was in dire straits and didn't deserve anything from God. Secondly, Jesus was trustworthy, compassionate and powerful. Therefore her faith was commended by Jesus and her prayer was answered

I don’t know what you are going through today. I don’t know your trial. But I know Jesus Christ. He desires His own glory and your spiritual welfare. No matter how dire your circumstance don’t forget that you do not deserve anything good, yet God is merciful. Mankind is not trustworthy and is frail, but God is all-powerful and deserving of our respect. It may seem that God is not listening or even saying, “No,” but He may be trying to draw out your faith. Demands get nowhere with God, but humility does. And finally, when he does respond to your faith, you are to glorify Him as the wonderful savior that He is.

Romans 4 tells us that we inherit the same faith as Abraham, and recounts how he believed God, when he said he would make him the father of many nations, and said this about his faith:

Romans 4:19-21 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

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