Matthew 15:21-28 records one of the most puzzling stories in the Bible. One day a Gentile woman came to Jesus and begged him to heal her daughter who was oppressed by demons. Instead of helping, Jesus gave her the silent treatment.
But she wasn’t one who would give up easily. She badgered him to the point that she was already causing a scene. The disciples intervened and asked Jesus to kindly send her away. He flatly said no, this time telling them that she was not part of his mission. She was a Gentile and at that time Jesus specifically came for the lost tribes of Israel.
You have to admire this woman’s audacity because instead of going away, she knelt before Jesus and pleaded again. This is where the story becomes shocking. Jesus turned her down again the second time saying it was not right to give the children’s food to the dogs. He called her a dog.
Those skeptical to the Christian faith call this ‘the worst kind of chauvinism’ and criticized Jesus for being harsh. Some explain this away by saying maybe Jesus was referring to cute, cuddly pet dogs (which is unlikely since pet dogs were not really fashionable in ancient times). Others, however, believe that Jesus was simply voicing out the racial and religious animosity between Jews and Gentiles at that time to give the woman (and us) a context for what happens next.
The real shocker of the story is not that Jesus uttered what we consider a bad word to a woman in need but the fact that He actually answered the audacious prayer of someone who, by all counts, didn’t deserve it. When Jesus turned her down, she recognized her unworthiness and accepted it without protest. She knew she was an outsider to the covenants of God with Israel. She knew that on her own she had no merit, no claim, no priority-standing, and had nothing to commend her. Her only basis for praying was her belief that God is good and would never deprive her of a few crumbs of mercy. She didn’t trust her merits; she trusted God’s character.
What a rare combination of humility and audacity.
This woman’s story teaches us a lot today. We have all heard that audacious faith is daring to believe God for impossible things. But where do you draw the line between faith and presumption, between audacity and a sense of entitlement?
The answer, I believe, is a deep sense of humility and a recognition that before we encountered Christ, we were beggars for grace. There’s nothing about us that is worth boasting when we come to God in prayer, not even our so-called achievements in life and in the ministry. D.L. Moody once said that Jesus never sent anyone away except those who are full of themselves.
As we start the New Year in prayer and fasting, let us believe God for big and impossible things but let
us do so with humble awareness that every crumb of blessing we receive is mainly because God is gracious, not because we deserve them.
This, I believe, is the bedrock of all our audacious prayers.
In this #ENfast2016 vlog, Pastor Joey Bonifacio of Victory Fort Bonifacio gleans from Ephesians 2:10, talking about how each of us are God’s masterpieces, created for good works.
As a father, I get various kinds of requests from my children from buying a toy to riding our bikes. My heart is to do give what would be best for them at any given moment. Fulfilling a promise is something I will move heaven and earth for so that they won’t end up disappointed and let down.
There are times that I am willing but for some reason unable because of current circumstance. I may be willing to ride our bikes with my 7 year old son, but if it’s raining hard, our current situation will hinder us from doing so. On the other hand, the weather might be perfect but if I am not willing because of laziness or exhaustion, then my son will still end up disappointed.
The Bible shows us that God has both the ability and the willingness to follow through on His promises to us. In Jeremiah 32:17, the prophet declares, “Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”
Jeremiah was overwhelmed by this truth. He makes a declaration about the greatness, majesty and magnificence of the Almighty God. He then follows it up with two amazing realities.
1. GOD IS ABLE.
How does he know this? He declares His ability by expressing not only His Lordship over creation, but His power to create the heavens and the earth.
If you are facing an extremely difficult situation that may seem insurmountable, know that the God of the universe, the Maker of heaven and earth, is more than able.
Do you ever wonder why the planets in our solar system stays in orbit? The Bible says that “in Him, all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)
Now if God is able to run the solar system which is a million times more complex that the lives we live today, don’t you think He has the ability to run our lives? The answer is a resounding “YES!”
2. GOD IS WILLING.
Jeremiah proclaims that God created the heavens not only by His power but also by His outstretched arms—a picture of God extending His desire to meet His people’s needs.
Jesus declares in Matthew 7:11, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
Because God is mighty, He is able to do all that He said He would.
Because God is our Father, He is willing to follow through on His promises.
God is both able and willing. Because of that, I can live life with a smile on my face.