Great Faith

                                                                                           

I attended the Celebration of Life service today for a precious woman I knew.  This person loved God, prayed for family and friends and had great faith.  Her pastor developed his comments around the topic of “Great Faith” and referenced an instance in the Bible when Jesus proclaimed that an individual had great faith.  His sermon was mainly on the Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter.  I hadn’t contemplated before today but now realize that this woman believed strongly that Jesus would do something but had a cultural concern to bring before Him. At first He was silent.  As the woman kept pressing in and saying, “Lord, help me!”, Jesus recognized her faith in Him and granted her request.

Matthew 15:21-28King James Version (KJV)

21 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

I have thought of the great faith of the Canaanite woman today and want to share how her story merged with my lens on the world, the day after the 2017 Inauguration of the President of the United States.

Jesus was taking a break and headed into an area of land to get a break but this Canaanite woman needed a miracle.  She needed Him.  She asked and He provided.  She was asking on behalf of her child and was determined to not give up until He helped her.  She thoughtfully considered her words to Him because she was not a Jewish woman and was, instead, a Gentile, or a non-Jewish person.  She must have heard that Jesus had been conversing with the Jewish priests in the previous days.  She began talking about the fact that He was Jewish and she was not.  I imagine that she may not have known if He would help someone who was not from His earthly Jewish heritage.  

What I love about her story is twofold:  one is that she came to Jesus with a real concern for her child and that she let Him know that she believed that He could help her even though she didn’t fit the mold of the people to whom He had been speaking.  She wondered if He would only help people with His Jewish heritage.  He knew she was sincere and that her child needed a miracle.  He told her that she had “great faith” and that her child was healed from that moment onward.

Wow.  

Does Jesus see the condition of our world today?  I believe He does.  He sees the world He made, the people, the division, the irritation and the turmoil.  He cares about our situation and is sovereign over it.
Does He recognize great faith in today’s world?  I believe He does.  The question then becomes, “Will people recognize their need for Him and pray having great faith?”

If the Canaanite woman had “great faith” to not only talk to Jesus but to be so honest as to reveal her concern over their cultures, can we do the same today?  I see such enormous division in my country over opinions about our new president and his agenda.  I know that God sees and has allowed this president to be our leader.  I, like the Canaanite woman, have decided to keep bringing my concerns to Jesus in prayer.  I believe that He hears and will provide exactly what our country needs.  I hear so many opinions and am glad that people have them, but ultimately, change came to the Canaanite woman, when she went to the Source, Jesus Himself.  God made humans and gave them free will to choose Him or not.  I wish there was more prayer going up instead of the immense complaining in the media and on social media.  I believe He will see the “great faith” of His children and be moved to answer our prayers.  We can take our issues to Jesus, lay them out, name them all then ask Him to help.  If He helped the Canaanite woman, He will help those with great faith in Him today.

He healed that woman’s child.  He was glad the woman didn’t hide her concern over the cultural difference in Him and her.  She was so real.  So was He.  She was desperate and needed a healing touch for her daughter.  I am desperate for Him to heal our land.

He will heal our land.  I would rather not rant and complain about all that is wrong, but I am not naive.  There are real issues that exist which need to be treated with respect by all people including governmental leaders.  God showed me today that the Canaanite woman came to Him with real concerns and with a request that I share with her. She said to Him,”Lord, help me!”  And now, I join her and request to Him, “Lord, help me, my family, my friends, my community, my state, my country, my president and this world!”  I know that He will see “great faith” in those who are willing to ask Him and wait on Him to provide.

I love that the pastor who spoke at the Celebration of Life refered not only to the Canaanite woman as one of great faith but also to our friend who has gone to heaven as a woman of great faith.  What an honor to be in the ranks of those with great faith!  Our friend set an example that has inspired me to be consistent in prayer and in having great faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Image Credit:  https://lifeandheartmatters.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/bible_card_matthew_15_28.jpg

Look Up

I had a moment today, one that opened my eyes to truth about looking up.  During my life, my precious mother has encouraged me to, “Look up” when I was focusing on pain, problems or hurt.  She is wise, for sure, but I had no idea that her advice matched God’s Word, until now.

My daughters and I along with my parents, who were visiting, sat in our den to reflect on part of Romans 5:3-5 today.

Romans 5:3-5 New International Version (NIV)

3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

We started doing the “Looking For Lovely” Bible study last week and continued today.  I discovered the Greek origin of a word in Romans that has resonated so strongly.  In Romans 5:3, we hear Paul say, “Rejoice in suffering…”. Throughout my life, I have read that verse and always wondered how a person can rejoice during hard times.

I found out that the Greek word which translated as “rejoice” in Romans 5:3, has also been translated as “boast” or “glory” in other translations, but it has a much deeper meaning in the Greek.  This word is derived from a root that means “neck” which allows us to interpret the idea of looking up and lifting your head up high.  I realize now that Paul was not telling the Romans to throw a party to rejoice or glory in suffering, but to, rather, realize that as we face hard times, we are able to hold up our heads knowing that God is in control.  He has given believers in Jesus a peace and a hope which Romans 5:1-2 talks about but we will also have hope on the other side of our suffering if we face our suffering by looking up instead of down and focused on our problem.

I know that when we walk the road of life, there are choices that we face daily.  One of those choices will be to choose to look up when everything and everyone around you chooses to focus on the trouble, pain and heartache.  Romans 5:4 tells us that as we rejoice in our suffering, we will develop perseverance then perseverance will add to our character.  Once our character is relying on God’s Hand, we can be sure that hope will be kindled in our hearts to keep on trying.

It is like a spiritual journey in which my decision to look at my problems from a vantage point of God’s Grace, leads me into  a stamina like I’ve never known.  I appreciate the original meaning of “rejoice” now because it implies that I have a choice to either stay down or to look up.  Once I look up,  my vantage point allows me to have new and improved lines of sight.  Instead of the problem, I can see the blessings.  God’s peace and blessings are all around in our lives but I sometimes miss them because I am not looking up.  

I plan to look up and see blessings, see His marvelous Grace, experience His glory which He has given and allow hope to grow in my life.

My prayer for today:

Father,

Thank you for hearing me.  I know you always hear me.  

I recognize that my suffering is real, but I choose to not focus on it.

I am choosing today in my spirit to look up.  I look to you and praise you for your grace and blessings in my life.

I am able to take breaths, repeat Scripture and release my breath to you, the One who designed my body and the air I breathe.

Thank you for providing in my heart a willingness to persevere.  Help me to develop your character as I persevere. As that character reveals itself in me and my life, allow me to recognize the hope that will result.  

It has been too easy to dwell on the problems, the past, the hurt, the what ifs.

I am ready now, Jesus.  I am choosing to look up above problems and pain.  I know, Jesus, that You had numerous problems on Earth.  These problems could have made you lose heart.  Help me to pray continually and look up in your Power like you did.  Thank you for how you lived on Earth as a person.  You knew that to overcome the evil one, you had to look up to our Father who gave you the ultimate victory.

Thank you for the cross.  Help me to deny myself and the idea of focusing on problems and pain and to instead take up my cross and follow You.

Thank you for my family.  Thank you for my parents who trust You and for my mother whose words to “Look Up” have stayed with me and are even ones that I will tell my children.  Thank you for helping her to keep looking up and giving her hope as she persevered through a long sickness.  Please encourage my family and friends to look up and give them fresh perspective of You.

In the strong and mighty name of Jesus.

Amen

Citations

The Greek word “Rejoice” is “Kauxáomai,” Helps Word Studies, copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc. Available online from Bible Hub at biblehub.com

“Looking For Lovely” by Annie F. Downs, LifeWay Press, 2016, p.13-16

Peace

A snow day in my town today, Sunday, January 8, meant that church was cancelled.  I miss gathering with other Christians at our church so my family and I read the Bible and prayed in our family room at home.  We focused on Romans 5:1-5 and talked about how we have peace with God and in God.  This was not a deep discussion on justification by God through our faith in Him,  but truly, I knew in my heart that peace depends on the condition of one’s heart.
Here’s Romans 5:1-5 from The Message:

5 1-2 By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

3-5 There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

The NIV Bible version says it like this:

Romans 5:1-5:  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Somehow in our discussion, I thought of how peace can sometimes seem far away especially on mornings when some of us seem irritable.  My family is precious. I love them, but all of us can, on certain days, wake up and feel grumpy or have an issue that seems major because time is ticking away.  Getting up extra early for an early start school has been rough on all of us this year as one of my children started high school.   I mentioned to my family that God’s peace is still there even though some mornings may seem to be anything but peaceful.  It is in those moments that we can pray and ask for the peace of God to be in us.  The other choice is to feel that a school day is starting in chaos.  I encouraged my kids to choose to pray and embrace the peace of God and not allow a rough start to the day affect their whole day and put a negative spin on it.

We know that peace can be in a special moment spent with family and friends or in the image of new fallen snow in the backyard.  But peace can also take other forms.  In the moments leading to final exams next week  or during the exams, I will pray for God to settle my child and provide peace.  Peace has settled in me when life has brought stress and huge responsibilities so I know God will provide it.  I am thankful for the peace from God and want to instill the idea in my kids that peace is present.  They must look for it because God’s peace doesn’t leave.  Circumstances can hide it but peace is present.

I have faith in God who has given us peace.  I think that my faith is what centers me when life brings its challenges.  Sometimes, though, peace seems to evade me when I am in the middle of cleaning out a closet, going through my clutter, making decisions on what gets donated and what items stay in the attic.  Other times, I can feel unsettled and lack awareness of peace from a busy day or from feeling too tired.  When change comes around, I can feel like peace is just beyond my reach. 

Faith allows me to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to orchestrate circumstances and allow peace to reign.   I have prayed for my school’s new leader who will take the helm in the next week or so as my principal.  Recently, our beloved principal was asked to go to another school to help them.  I wasn’t expecting this abrupt change but it happened.  I know that God will help my school’s staff and me to support the new principal.  It seems that change can put peace on hold.  Whatever happens, God is in control and has given me peace to accept and embrace the change in principal.  I am excited about what God has planned.

 It was so good to reflect today on the fact that I have peace because of my faith in God.  He helps us “have it together” and stand in His grace and glory.  I am allowing God’s Word to seep into my heart especially these words from Romans 5:  “We know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”