Sept 6, 2015
Fr. Phil Eberhart
Overcoming, Conquering, Victorious FAITH
Every year it seems, this section of Mark or the story in Matthew 15 is in our readings and as a preacher, it is one of the stories that makes you wonder what Mark was thinking when he included it! I think if I had a title for the passage it would be "Jesus behaving badly!"
But as I reflected on it this week, another facet of the story caught my attention, and I think it answers my question of the writer, Mark, as to why is this in the narrative?
Only a few times in Scripture is Jesus breath taken away by the faith that he encounters in a person, in fact, in my mind only twice. Once here and once with another gentile, the Roman soldier, a Centurion, who commented that Jesus needn't come, but just SAY THE WORD.
It's interesting that the same kind of thing happens here, in that the WORD (translated from LOGOS in GK) is mentioned by Jesus, this time too.
Let's look at the story for a moment:
Jesus is trying to get some R&R, away to the north of Israel near the port city of Tyre, in present day Lebanon actually.
He is tying to hide away and rest, but cannot, as Mark puts it "escape notice!" To his house comes a woman, not unlike one he speaks of elsewhere, who stands outside and shouts out her need; to such an extent that the disciples come to him and "implore" him to send her away. She is making an embarrassing nuisance of herself!!
When I first read this story earlier this week, I was struck by the persistence of the woman, which is the point of a parable that Jesus tells elsewhere. But here, interestingly, HE is the unjust judge! And his disciples patience is wearing thin.
But let's look at the woman for a moment. She is not asking for her self, but for her daughter. Anyone here ever pray for their kids? I think parents and grandparents praying for their kids are the picture of persistence.
The friend who shared the gospel with me at 18, who was a year older, had been converted in jail up in Greeley. He came back to Burlington and for several of us, turned our world upside down! When he called to tell his mother of his decision to follow Jesus, she responded with "Praise the Lord, I've been praying for you all your life."
Isn't that the way it is with mothers? Grandmothers? If you have a grandmother praying for you, just give up now!!
So the woman is making a ruckus outside the house Jesus is staying at. And he finally allows her in, and she immediately falls down in worship and entreaty for him to heal her daughter of this evil spirit. He tells her that he is sent specifically to Israel - he is here to rest, not to work!
And besides its wrong to take the bread meant for the children at the table, and feed the dogs with it.
As we read it today it sounds like Jesus was caught in one of those "hidden camera" moments that would be spread all over the news today, ... one that makes you wish you had chosen your words more carefully!
But Jesus is simply making a point, and doing so from the very setting in which he finds himself. He is not calling the woman names, but making a point to her. To which she responds with a Word of Faith. A LOGOS Word. And it is this which Jesus responds to and grants her desire and prayer, based on the WORD which SHE spoke.
Now, I want to tread carefully here. There is a lot of "name it - claim it" theology out there that loves to "speak things into existence." "financial prosperity", cars, houses, security of one kind or another. But that isn't what happened here - the Lord HEARD HER FAITH IN A WORD.
His response to her is interesting: "For saying that you may go;" the literal translation is "because of this word, go!"
I mentioned that this is the LOGOS. It is the same response that the Centurion gave Jesus, "Only speak the WORD, and my servant will be healed." In Matt 8, Jesus is amazed at the faith understood and demonstrated by this Gentile soldier. His response there is the same, "Go, it shall be done for you according to your faith."
Friends, I wonder if we've all struggled with faith at times?
What is overcoming, conquering, victorious faith? In these two stories, it is faith that is persistent - faith that makes a nuisance of itself! Faith that grasps onto the ONE who can give the answer, and won't let go.
Faith is very much a subject matter in the scriptures, and it is very much a controversy in our day. We have faith that we are going to be healed, or that someone we are praying for is going to be healed. But healing is slow in coming or we use euphemisms like "ultimate healing" when someone dies in the midst of this kind of faith-filled prayer. We need to make ourselves feel better or try to come to some understanding of how this all works.
What I have come to believe is that there is a separation of pay grades here: its my pay grade to pray, its HIS pay grade to heal! If healing doesn't come, its above my pay grade! But sometimes, what happened with the Gentile woman here in our story today or with the Roman Centurion, happen to us! And the sometimes, gives me enough encouragement to continue praying!
In fact the examples of these two Gentile believers in the Gospels should be enough to spur us on to what I call overcoming, conquering, victorious prayers of faith.
Now does that mean that we receive everything we pray for. um... NO.
What I've come to see in studying this this week is that overcoming is a matter of the OBJECT of our faith, not the OUTCOME of our faith. Did you hear that?
OVERCOMING IS DEPENDENT ON THE OBJECT OF OUR FAITH, NOT THE OUTCOME OF OUR FAITH.
For so long we have been outcome based pray-ers. If we don't receive our answers, then something is wrong with our faith. Right?
But what I am saying here is the fact that we continue to pray and that our FAITH remains in the OBJECT of our faith: The person of JESUS, even in the face of silence; or no answers, or an answer that says, "NO."
I looked up "overcome" and saw in the concordance that it is tied to Faith in a PERSON. Overcoming, conquering, or victory is NOT measured by the outcome of answered prayers. FAITH can be small, but it is placed in a GREAT GOD! Overcoming means that our Faith stays put, like the mother in our story from Mark today. Even in the face of the rebuff of the disciples and the remarks of Jesus, the woman's faith remained IN JESUS.
Turn with me as we close to the end of Hebrews 11:
Verse 13 begins with these words: All these died in faith, not having received the promise...!
In Revelation John, uses the word overcome or conquer, more than half of the times it is used in the whole NT !
At the end of each special letter it is the substance of the invitation, coupled with the admonition to "hear" what the Spirit is saying to the Churches.
Listen to these promises:
[Rev 2:7 NASB] 7 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.'
[Rev 2:11 NASB] 11 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.'
[Rev 2:17 NASB] 17 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'
[Rev 3:5 NASB] 5 'He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
[Rev 3:12 NASB] 12 'He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.
[Rev 3:20-21 NASB] 20 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 'He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Friends, Jesus Christ overcame death, but by going through it for us. And we overcome by faith in Jesus!
John puts it this way in his 1st letter:
[1Jo 5:1, 4-5 NASB] 1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, ... 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Overcoming, conquering, victorious faith is faith that remains strong in Jesus Christ, and goes through with Him.
Whatever it is that you have to go through, you can go through it WITH HIM! And that, in and of itself, IS the victory! It is the overcoming itself.
Overcoming is about the OBJECT of our faith, Jesus Christ, not the OUTCOME of our faith in positive answers to our prayers. Often they will come, but they are not to be confused with the person of Jesus.
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the author and the finisher of our faith! Give us eyes to see and ears to hear You Lord, as you walk with us through the hardships of our life. We do ask you for healing where healing is needed, for provision where provision is needed - for all the things that are promised in your WORD. But never let us confuse the answer with the ANSWERER; the gift with the GIVER.
Help us to look to you, Lord Jesus, and to run the race set before us, whether answers come or not. Help us to overcome the world, to conquer our fears and to gain the victory with You, by the resurrection from the dead and by Your life everlasting.
We pray in the Name that is above every name: above the name of cancer, above the name of poverty, above the name of faithlessness; We pray in the Name of Jesus!