Sermon Illustrations

“The Deeply Hidden Yes!” Matthew 15:21-28 Key verse(s): 27-28:“‘Yes, Lord,’ she said, ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted . . .”

Sometimes temptations seems never ending! Even though the Bible says that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to cope with that temptation, that seems little comfort when you are confronted over and over again with the same temptation. Sometimes it just seems like God is saying “No!” to our requests for relief. How can he be so cruel, so unfeeling? We find ourselves questioning His wisdom, timing, mercy and grace. It is at these times that God seems remote, even foreign to our sense of well-being.

We learn many things from our parents growing up. I find that the older I get the more of these little nuances, inherited from my father especially, keep popping up in my character. My dad had a certain way of pushing his chair into the table before he called the family to prayer. He would sit down, still an arm’s length from his setting, look up and say the same thing every night, “Let’s pray!” There would be a moment’s pause as we waited from him to push his chair in all the way and then the praying began. I find that I have been doing this for years and never really examined as to where I learned it from. I learned it from watching my father many thousands of times. This along with other habits like the way I look into the mirror when shaving or how I grasp the steering wheel while driving, have become trademarks of a man now long with the Lord that still rule in my life. But their is one habit I inherited that has seemed pretty obvious from the first day it began manifesting itself around my children. It is the art of saying “No!”

My father was the master of that little two letter word. He would use it often and never really with any temper or negativity. Simply, it seemed that he liked the word “no”.

“Can I . . . ?” “No!” “Is it time to . . .” “No!” “What if I . . . ?” “No!” “But . . . !” “No!”

While I was growing up I never really grasped the depth of enjoyment that my dad had in issuing that simple little refrain. Not until, of course, I began using it myself. Then and only then did I discover the reason behind the “no”. The fact is that most of the time “no” really meant “yes” to my dad. As my brothers and sisters would attest, there was always a sense of an inevitable “yes” behind the perpetual “no”. That hard exterior that my dad put forth was purposefully put there. It was a kind of test. It was a mask that hid a masterful understanding of what goes on in a kid’s mind. My dad knew that anything worth getting, having or achieving was something that you were willing to ask for more than once. It was something that you truly believed in, so you didn’t put down your sword and shield at the first sign of resistance. In many ways, it was a way of building character. When he said “No!” it really was a question, not a statement. “How important or necessary is this thing you are asking? Are you willing to fight for it? Are you asking from your heart or from your stomach?”

When in temptation we are faced with a divine “no” day-in and day-out, it is easy to become discouraged unless we grasp the true meaning of that “No!” The Syrian Phonecian woman that confronts Jesus with her great need presents us with the clue to why God often responds with “No!” when it seems so apparent that “Yes!” would be more proper. Her needs were great. Her daughter was dying and she knew that Jesus could prevent that. Yet, he said no. Was it because He was momentarily caught off-guard or distracted that He made such a statement? No, that would mean that our Savior doesn’t hear our pleas properly when we send them heavenward; that there is somehow imperfection in our relationship with Him that must be overcome from time to time. No. Jesus knows that, in order for us to be able to stand firm in the midst of temptation, our hearts needs to be constantly strengthened. That strengthening is better achieved sometimes when we, in the midst of temptation and perhaps even failing in it, dig deep down within our faith and put forth the question again. “Lord, perhaps you didn’t hear me?” Only a firm heart can bear this test. Only a strong faith can prompt such persistence. When temptation grips you as it often will, don’t let go of Jesus even when it seems He might be walking away from you. Ask again and again. You will find that within the “No!” is a hidden “Yes!” You simply have to be persistent enough to find it. Pursue your answer until He blesses you with the “Yes!” that was always there in the first place.

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