Jesus made the statement above to a Canaanite woman who came to ask for his help with her daughter who was demon possessed. Jesus was visiting another region when she came crying out to him. He ignored her pleas and his disciples begged him to send her away because she kept calling out to them for help. Jesus’s response would have further suggested that he had no intention of helping with her daughter. “He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”” (Matthew 15:24). Why did Jesus respond to the woman in the way that he did, when she came and knelt before him to ask for help?
I suppose we can assume that his aloofness was perhaps a test of her faith and resilience. First he ignored her when she cried out to him and later he told her that it was not right to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs. Jesus’s mission was to the Jews first and this woman and her daughter were Gentiles whom the Jews sometimes referred to as dogs. Yet the woman’s response showed that her need for her daughter’s healing was more significant than her feelings being hurt. “She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table”” (Matthew 15:27).
The response to her persistent faith and her refusal to be offended was a favourable response from Jesus. “Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly” (Matthew 15:28). If the woman had taken offence to what Jesus said, she may have walked away and missed out on her daughter’s healing. Instead she chose to focus on her need over her emotions and the result was success.
There are times when we have to persist beyond our feelings. Some gains are worth the challenges and we have to trust our emotions to God. It is impossible to go through this life without someone saying or doing something that will hurt our feelings. We have a choice in deciding whether or not to become angry and to harbour offence and bitterness. We are human and we do have feelings, but the ability to control our emotions despite the actions of others is exercising grace. Let us pray for the fruits of the spirit to be abundant in our lives, so that we can exercise self control and refuse to be controlled by our emotions.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offence” (Proverbs 19:11).
The word humble in the English context has been defined as having a low estimation of one’s self, being modest or coming from a low standing or rank in society. People have misinterpreted humility for the lack of confidence and feel that humility means having to shrink one’s self in order not to be seen by others. I don’t believe that the biblical context of humility means reducing one’s self to a person of no significance. This would contradict Jesus’s teachings about the church in the New Testament. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
The context of the word humility as referenced by Peter gives caution to the proud. “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). The word proud also has positive connotations regarding for example, a parent feeling pleasure or satisfaction based on their child’s accomplishments. We can also experience this same satisfaction based on our own accomplishments. The juxtaposition is when pride results in an excessively high opinion of one’s self or one’s sense of importance. This often stems from insecurities developed in early childhood especially in children who felt ignored.
Let us consider where this sort of pride originated from and where it’s roots lie. “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). I think pride without balance or gauge can result in an over inflated sense of self which results in stupidity and arrogance. The devil considered himself so important that he felt that he was equal to God. The result was that he was kicked out of heaven and given a resting place in hell.
It is good to have a positive sense of self. It is also good to have confidence in your God given abilities and know what God has invested in you. The balance is recognising that our gifts are given to us by God to make the world a better place. The acknowledgment of a greater power outside of ourselves, keeps us in submission. Our acknowledgment that whoever and whatever we are, is all to the glory of God.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Psychologists believe that children need stability, consistency and unconditional positive regard in order to develop a positive sense of self. This centres around ideas of secure attachment and providing a secure base for children. Some parents do not have the skillset to provide positive and nurturing parenting for children. This can sometimes result in adults who experience feelings of insecurity and other difficult emotions. The good news is that our relationship with God, is able to restore what was lost or otherwise missing from significant relationships. David said, “When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take me up” (Psalm 27:10).
When we become born again Christians, we are secure in the love that Jesus has for us. We know that God loves us with an everlasting love. He is not like earthly parents who sometimes don’t keep promises or live up to our expectations. In addition to having a father in heaven, we are also adopted into the family of God. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).
Our salvation makes us a part of a larger community of faith and our image reflects the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). God did not make any mistakes when he created us and wants us to talk to him when we have trouble. “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15).
God is a good father who loves us and wants the very best for us. We can find security in knowing that from the day that we were born, that God watches over us. He even assigned an angel (escort) to guard and protect us because we are his prized possession. The sense of security that we need can only be found in relationship with God.
“He found him in a desert land, And in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, he instructed him, He kept him as the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).
Jeremiah has been known among the Jews as the “weeping prophet” who cried out to God on behalf of his people. He was called by God as a child and even into adulthood, declared boldly the word of God concerning his people. Jeremiah was not afraid of the opinions of others and his conviction led him to always speak the truth from the mouth of God. On one occasion, Jeremiah prophesied concerning the destruction that was pending for Jerusalem.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words” (Jeremiah 19:15). There was a Chief Priest who heard Jeremiah’s prophecies and was unhappy that he spoke these words against the city. He beat Jeremiah and locked him away and released him the next day.
Jeremiah did not back down but also prophesied to the Priest as he received utterance. “And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. To Babylon you shall go, and there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely” (Jeremiah 20:6).
Jeremiah was exhausted from his encounters and the persecution that he experienced from his own people. Despite the challenges, Jeremiah was convinced that he could not keep silent even if he tried to. He described the word of God as being so powerful, that if he tried to hold back, it felt as though his bones were on fire. This represented Jeremiah’s calling and assignment which he could not run away from. When you are connected to God, there is a passion that burns within you to do his will. You become hungry for opportunities to do what you were created to do.
Like Jeremiah an assignment lays within us to fulfil. There is a hunger within us that can only be filled by God. The Holy Spirit within us is powerful and helps us to serve. God spoke his word into our DNA and that word ignited will manifest to do his will.
“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
Paul was expounding to the Galatians about christian virtues. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). When we consider self-control, we can get the idea that we have something to do with our ability to be good. There are many choices that are left to our free will and when we decide to discipline ourselves, the result is good fruit.
There are some traits however, that are harder for us to temper and we have to rely on the work of the Holy Spirit to transform us. “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 1:24). Our part in developing godly discipline is to listen and obey. This is obedience beyond what makes sense to our human reasoning. Often God will ask us to make decisions that go against our nature. His word to the person who is extremely proactive may come in the form of an instructionto be still and to wait for him to move.
Being asked to do what goes against our very nature can feel like a small death to parts of our natural selves. Very often God is saving us from ourselves because we sometimes don’t know our limitations. God will often challenge us in the areas where we need to grow. Left to our own devices, we would wear ourselves out trying to solve most problems on our own. There are things that we are responsible for. After we have done what we were told to do by God, we then have to surrender and wait. Wait for God to do what only he can do.
There is a strength beyond our strength; an understanding beyond what we can see; and wisdom beyond our human comprehension that only comes from God.
“Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
Paul spoke to the Corinthians about his work in ministry. He made reference to the Christian journey being a race which each person runs to win. He made further reference to how athletes discipline their bodies in order to maintain the physical stamina for racing. “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
While it is important for us to maintain good physical health through diet and exercising, Paul’s reference relates to our spiritual well-being. As we live for God, we should grow in Christlike maturity and overtime lose the appetite for things that are contrary to the will of God. Similar to babies, Christians who are new to the faith need the word broken down in simple terms for them to understand. “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—” (1 Peter 2:2).
As we mature in God, there is an expectation that we grow in spiritual strength and develop the stamina for sound doctrine. Those who are mature in God should be in a position to not only read and understand the word, but to teach the word to others. Moreover, the mature have a responsibility to demonstrate behaviour which serves as an example to newborns and those who are unsaved to follow.
Paul also spoke about adjusting to accommodate those around him for the sake of the gospel. “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). God will continue to develop character in us and allow us to be tested in order that we will grow. Most parents don’t take pleasure in disciplining their children, but they are wise enough to understand that it is necessary to ensure that their children become valuable members of society.
“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).
Paul spoke in Romans 8 of his hope of the future glory which will be revealed in us as children of God. Paul’s reflections was that the sufferings, trials and disappointments that we experience here on earth, are nothing to be compared to what we will experience when we are transformed into the image of God. We are made in the image of God but while on earth, we live in the flesh. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Like Jesus during his time on earth, we are spirit beings that are housed in earthly vessels of flesh and blood. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5, that if this earthly ‘tent’ or body is destroyed, that we have another building or body not made with human hands. “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2). Paul had constant conflicts between being present here with the saints or being absent from earth but present with Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8).
While we live here on earth, our aim is to grow in the spirit while we daily crucify the flesh with its deeds. Our hope is beyond this life and we wait for a life beyond this. We are here to fulfil our God given assignment and to fulfil our destiny. There are loved ones who have made the transition before us and are at home with Jesus Christ. We carry on to complete the course set before us and have a hope that we will meet them when it is our time to transition. While we live and advance the kingdom, we remember that there is a life beyond this state.
All the time our outer selves are wasting away, our inner man is being renewed daily (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Solomon was one of the wealthiest men written about in scripture. When Solomon became King, God appeared to him in a dream and told him to make a request of him. Solomon requested wisdom and God honoured his request and added extra benefits along with the gift of wisdom. “I have also given you what you have not asked, both wealth and honor, so that there will not be anyone equal to you among the kings, for all your days” (1 Kings 3:13). Solomon was both wise and wealthy and wrote the book of proverbs to provide insight into his life.
What Solomon was conveying in Proverbs 10:22, is that God is the one who makes a person rich and this is not necessarily through hard labour. Other versions say, not through painful toil. We have often been taught that hard work leads to success or makes us rich. If that were the case then many people with extremely labour intensive jobs would be wealthy. The opposite often is the case and it appears that it is wisdom and strategy which generates wealth. Additionally, some people were born into inter-generational wealth and are taught money management strategies from their parents who had access to wealth.
James said in chapter 1:5, if a person lacks wisdom, then let him ask God who gives generously. Moses warned the Israelites to be careful not to think that their own power or strength had caused them to gain wealth. “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18).
A few points to consider from our scripture references today; it is not sinful to gain wealth and God can bless us with wealth without painful toil or sorrow; wisdom helps to produce wealth and if we ask God, he will give us the wisdom that we need to gain wealth.
There are days when it feels as if ‘all hell is breaking loose,’ or trials seem to be coming at you from every direction. Sometimes this can be an indication that you are living your life without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If this is the case then it is wise to slow down and seek the Lord and be still before him to find peace. There are other times however, when you are doing your best to walk in the will of God. Although you are doing your best, you cannot understand why it seems like you are facing so much opposition. Most times, the intense opposition is an indication that you are on the cusp of something great.
Intense trials often suggests that your breakthrough is up ahead. Advancing the kingdom of God puts you in direct opposition with the kingdom of darkness. Despite the opposition, continue to pray and stay the course. Continue to do what God has called you to do and complete your assignment. Remember that God will take care of the adversary as long as you are doing what he has assigned you to do. “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak” (Isaiah 59:17).
Bear in mind that it is those who are often doing important things that are likely to experience criticism. It is when you decide that your life has significance and you determine to live in this way, when you are likely to experience opposition. Our God will not allow the trials to overwhelm you continually and he will arise to defend and protect his people. He has given us the weapons of the word to bind anything that is contrary to his will. The weapons of our warfare are not physical, but mighty to pull down spiritual strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4). You will overcome and you are guaranteed the victory because God is on your side.
“According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompense” (Isaiah 59:18).
The wisdom of men and intellectualism cannot comprehend the things of God. This is why Paul said that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus also said that we need childlike faith in order to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Children are quite impressionable and it does not take a lot for them to be convinced. It is when we become adults that we grow in skepticism. It is often our experiences of the world that can at times leave us jaded and not as trusting of other people. This also translates into our trust in God.
While a degree of skepticism is healthy, faith requires that we believe in things that we cannot prove. If you have studied at a University level, you have been taught to use reason. You are encouraged to question all forms of information presented to you and to seek out empirical evidence. Many of the bible narratives can be proven by historical evidence but there are instances of faith that requires us to believe without seeing.
The decision to live a radical life for God can mean that you will make decisions that will make you look stupid. No one can explain how Mary conceived without a man and many people still think that Joseph was stupid to marry her. When you listen to the Holy Spirit and seek to do what God tells you to, don’t always look for support and understanding from everyone. Even well intended christians can discredit when you know you have heard from God.
It is important to know God for yourself. Develop a relationship with God where you can discern his voice. Learn the word so that you can check out what you are hearing with what is written in scripture. Be careful who you share the things that you have heard from God with as not everyone will understand or encourage you.
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).