Have you ever watched the commercials on TV for the fitness equipment? Especially the ones for the weight-lifting machines. They always show a fellow who has bulging muscles and 0% body fat! I know that they do that in order to convince the public that buying their machine will produce that kind of result for the purchaser. The only problem is that it takes more than purchasing the machine...you have to use it! And use it a lot!
The text this morning is concerning a woman that Jesus commended for having "great faith"! But, the problem with having "great faith" is that it is often tested and hammered out on the anvil of difficulty. Note: 1Pe. 1:7, "That the trial of your faith...though it be tried with fire..." "The Lord testeth the righteous" (Ps. 11:5). This woman's faith survived five exacting tests of faith. Our faith must be tried and tested to become 'Great Faith'.
I. Great Faith Endures the Test of Trouble. "My daughter is grievously vexed..."
A. Blessing is often carried on the wings of adversity.
1. So it was with this woman.
2. She was a Canaanite--a member of the remnant of the magnificent, ancient, Phoenician civilization--a pagan who dabbled in the sterile and lifeless religion of Astarte.
3. Her daughter, who probably flirted with the occult, became a victim of demonic possession.
4. Her periodic thrashing and screams and convulsive behavior terrified the mother.
5. She had seen it before and knew her daughter needed help.
6. Disenchanted by her impotent religion, the Canaanite woman made her way to Jesus who was sojourning on the coasts of Tyre.
B. What kind of adversity are you facing?
1. Your trouble may be a sickness, a financial difficulty, or a relational crisis.
2. A trial is usually considered an enemy, but if it brings us face to face with Jesus, trouble can be our friend.
3. Troubles can cause us to release our idols, turn from our self-sufficiency. and plead for His mercy.
4. But trouble can also tempt us to collapse emotionally, to give in to depression, and to take a plunge into the sea of sensuality.
5. However, the Canaanite woman's faith caused her hopeless religion and come to Jesus.
II. Great Faith Endures the Test of Unanswered Prayer. "But he answered her not a word"
A. When this desperate woman petitioned Christ, He was silent--absolutely silent.
1. Not one word of encouragement passed through His lips.
2. Have you ever knocked at Heaven' door, and it seemed that no one was home?
3. There is nothing more agonizing than to pray and to feel like you are talking to the ceiling.
4. The silence of Heaven tests us
5. It is during times of silence that our faith is being examined in the "laboratory of life" to refine its quality.
B. We certainly are not alone!
1. Abraham endured seventeen years of silence before Isaac was born.
2. Moses endured forty years of silence in the dry, hot, barren waste-land of Sinai before God called him at the burning bush.
3. Mary's urgent prayer about her brother's sickness reached Jesus, and our Lord waited two whole days before embarking on His journey to Bethany. Lazarus died.
4. Why did the Savior delay? Maybe a resurrected Lazarus could bring more glory to God than a healed brother.
C. The Bible tells us that "his way is perfect" (Ps. 18:30)
1. His delays are not without purpose and design.
2. His delays play havoc with our emotions, often crush our hopes, but they test our faith and confidence.
3. "Great faith" endures Heaven's silence and waits patiently for Him
III. Great Faith Endures the Test of Indifference. "...Send her away; for she crieth after us"
A. How would you like to go to these men for counseling?
1. The disciples saw this woman as a nuisance.
2. Her need annoyed them.
3. Her crying and petitions tugged at their conscience, frustrated their goals, and interrupted their schedule.
4. They saw her as a problem that they had no desire to deal with.
B. Not only does the silence of Heaven test us, but so does the indifference of others.
1. Some of the best and worst counsel you will ever receive will be from others.
2. Just because counsel comes from a Christian does not mean that it is from Christ!
3. The disciples did not understand Jesus, nor did they have Heaven's perspective.
4. Sometimes, the average Christian views "people problems"
a. As an annoyance instead of an opportunity to serve.
b. As a source of irritation rather than a chance to Glorify God.
c. Sometimes, the average church really doesn't want to grow or to reach out to troubled people.
d. Most members will not admit it, but deep down inside they don't want more people, more change, or more stretching.
e. It is sad to say, but the attitude is more often than not, "send them away."
C. If you have a need do not get discouraged; keep going to Jesus.
1. He knows your need.
2. He understands your pain.
3. He cares.
4. You may be looking for a crutch upon which to lean, but Jesus is the "Rock of Ages" on whom you can rest.
IV. Great Faith Endures the Test of Humility.
A. God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble.
1. Jesus' answer to this woman's request was one that humbled her.
2. In a sense, He put her in her place. "But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel"
3. This was the last thing this woman wanted to hear, but she did not get discouraged.
4. She prayed on, "Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me".
B. Jesus continues to test her faith.
1. "But he answered and said, It is not right to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."
2. Jesus corrected this woman a second time.
a. He insisted that the blessing of Israel belonged to the Jews and not to the Gentiles.
b. Furthermore, He humbled this woman by calling her a "dog."
c. If the Lord had said this in today's society He would have been called a 'racist' and a 'male chauvinist'!
3. She refuse to give up.
a. "And she said, Truth, Lord; yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's table".
b. Not only did she receive the rebuke, but she honored Him by responding, "Yes, Lord."
c. "No" and "Lord" do not belong in the same sentence, do they?
d. This pleased the Lord; He compli- mented her faith and granted her request.
This woman had "great faith" because she endured the tests sent to her from Heaven. She did not collapse, quit, give up, or faint because of the hardships. She pressed on until the Lord granted her request. Are you passing through a humbling trial? Maybe you have lost a job, failed in business, or are going through a trial. Like this woman, adorn yourself with humility. If Heaven is silent, or if your prayers appear to be unanswered, maybe you are being tested. There is always a possibility of a "yes" where He has not pronounced a "no."
Maybe you are in a period of refinement. Don't give up! Let patience have its perfect work. When God is finished with you, may it be said of you that you have "great faith."
Whatever your need this morning, I encourage you to come to Jesus. Do you need salvation? Come to Him. Do you need to pray for your family members? Come to Him. Do you need direction? Come to Him.