Hi, thank you for looking at this sermon. I hope it helps. Please do not say the sermon did not help you just because you did not like the style or could not use the entire message for your own needs. I have discovered a few souls automatically hit the ’did not help me’ button if the message they read was not what they were looking for. Please only hit that button if you think God’s people would not be blessed by the message below. Thank you.
A young man went to a counselor one day because he was dealing with feelings of failure and inadequacy. He told the counselor that he wanted to go to college, but he felt as if there were too many strikes already against him. After sharing his hopes and his hurts, he waited for some positive words of wisdom that never came. Instead of hearing positive plans of action, he heard words of discouragement. First the counselor said that college is just to expensive nowadays, then he said that the young man did not have enough smarts to attend and would probably drop out after the first year. Finally, as if that was not enough, the counselor said, “You would be better off, finding something else to do with your life.”
If you think that story is shocking, what if I told you that Jesus did the same thing, only in a different context. Would you be surprised? In Matthew 15:21-25 we have record of Jesus acting in manner that usually does not describe Him.
More often that not, when a person is hurting we seek to bring them comfort. We remind them of Jesus’ love for them. We say things like, “Jesus promised you that he would never leave you nor forsake you” and we remind those that are hurting to cast off their pain and give it to Jesus so that he can give back His peace. What we don’t usually say to people who are hurting is that Jesus might not want to answer you right now.
Wow! Imagine how healthy a Christian ministry would be, if the pastor totally ignored you? Let’s say you walked into his office with a great burden on your shoulders, and no matter how many times you asked him for help, he gave you yet another reason to just give up in frustration and walk away? This is what the world would have expected the Canaanite woman to do. Just walk away!
If you remember, she came to him with a request and a very needy one at that. Her request was not a selfish one, it was not even for her but for her daughter who was demon possessed. The pain, anguish and hope that were in the mothers voice could be compared to any mother pleading for the life of her child. Yet she was met with enough discouragement to move her to give up.
Jesus allowed the Canaanite women to be attacked with discouragement at least four times on the day that she sought his help. The first attack we’ve already touched upon. Jesus was silent upon hearing her request. Scripture says, “He, Jesus, did not answer her a word.” What do you suppose could have been running in the mother’s thoughts, after such a hearty rebuke as that of silence? Could she have begun entertaining the possibility that Jesus did not want to help her? That is possible! The silence of Jesus here in the pages of Matthew have been magnified one thousand fold in the minds of hurting Christians everywhere. When answers do not come when we expect them, it is easy enough to just lose hope and give up. Yet this Canaanite woman did not give up!
How do you suppose she stood her ground at this first sign of discouragement? Was it just because she happened to be a strong willed woman? Or do you suppose that faith had something to do with it? Jesus says it was her faith that kept her in the hunt for Jesus’ blessing. Keep that in mind as we move on to the other discouragements that came her way.
The second discouragement came not from Jesus but from the disciples! They said, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us!” In modern words we would translate that as, ‘She is a pain and she is annoying, so get rid of her!’ And to make matters worse, Jesus did not rebuke his disciples for being so selfish.
I can’t tell you how many times Satan will try to make you feel as if you have been bothering Jesus, especially when you pray over, and over and over again. And it is true, by evidence alone of this one passage that sometimes Jesus allows Satan to keep on speaking in your ear the same discouragement as that of the disciples. All for some divine reason.
The third discouragement came when Jesus said, “ I was sent ONLY to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. In other words he was saying, ‘your not it, your not my focus!’ And then to top that off, the fourth and final discouragement came when Jesus called her a dog. Now, do you see any encouragement from Jesus at all in the first six verses of our focused text? Are you able to recognize that he is actually trying to strengthen this woman’s faith?
That question being prevalent among many a Christian, is why I believe God placed this text in the Bible. It is often difficult for us to recognize that discouragement can actually be a way for Jesus to strengthen and bless us. In fact, as Scripture says, ‘what son is there whom his father does not discipline”(Hebrews 12:7 NASB) we are reminded that God’s discipline over us, shows us all the more of his great love for us. And the same is true, when God allows discouragement to come our way. Although Satan will try to suggest, that you and God are on the outs and that is why you have been having so many problems, Jesus will tell you the opposite.
Look again at how the Canaanite woman reacted to all these discouraging words. When Jesus ignored her, and called her a dog, she could have said something like, “Now wait a minute, isn’t Jesus supposed to be a man of love, of mercy, and yet here he treats me, a humble women who has a genuine need, with such disrespect…. Then who needs Him. But, instead of acting that way, she remained humbled, and persistent in prayer by saying, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from the masters table.” In other words, she was willing and ready to receive whatever crumbs Jesus tossed her way, because even those crumbs would more than enough to fulfill her prayerful request.
She was able to break through the discouraging words that came her way because of one simple truth. She trusted in all the things that she heard about Jesus. She knew him to be the Messiah, because she called Him the Son of David. She knew that He had the power to heal her daughter of the demon possession. She rested her hopes on all that she heard about Jesus. That is why Jesus eventually said, “Woman, your faith is great, it shall be done for you as you wish.”
Dear family in Christ, God has given us a very special gift, when he gave us the Holy Spirit. Because with this gift, we are able to believe in things we have not yet seen. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We believe that he was born of a virgin and that he suffered under Pontius Pilate and that on the third day, he rose again. We believe that with that resurrection came victory and complete assurance that Jesus will always have the best intentions for our spiritual care. What all this comes down to is faith.
Faith is not something that is hoped for, or something that we can earn through trial and error, it is a free gift given to us by way of Word and Sacrament. It is God’s way of guiding us in our Christian walk and giving us hope in times of trouble.
Faith will bring us encouragement when the Holy Spirit moves us to rest our hope and our needs and all our prayerful requests upon the promises given to us by way of Jesus Christ. And this is not a difficult task, we actually apply this great faith everyday when we fall down on our knees before our merciful Lord, confess our sins, and recall his promises of mercy and forgiveness. And each time that that stand up again, we stand forgiven.
Therefore, the next time you seek answers from God and instead, find discouraging things standing in your way, remember what Jesus has shown you today. Faith will find encouragement in Jesus Christ. Something to think about! Amen.