And the angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings
of great joy, which shall be to all people."
I found myself thinking through the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman again trying to see if there was anything else I could glean from it (Matthew 15:21-28). I looked at all she put herself through just to get help for her daughter. As I mentioned last week, she was a Gentile, a Canaanite and a woman – three negatives against her. She actually didn’t stand a chance to get help but she was persistent. She knew exactly Who she was going to and had enough faith to believe that He was the answer to her daughter’s deliverance. She meant to say that she was not going to take no for an answer … even though, initially, Jesus outright rejected her (v. 24, 26)!
I found myself paralleling her pursuit for help with Jesus’ pursuit of us. Firstly, Jesus is God. He could have found a much easier way to bring salvation to us, but He chose to do it the hard way. Firstly, He came in the form of flesh. Talk about bringing yourself down to almost nothing. Yet, the God of the Universe chose to humble Himself, throw off His glorious, immortal clothing and clothe Himself with our base flesh. As if that wasn’t enough He didn’t come as a grown man but humbled Himself even further and came as a helpless baby and chose to subject Himself to years of humble submission to earthly parents who didn’t have half the wisdom and knowledge that He had. Then, as an adult, He submitted Himself to betrayal, rejection and finally death at the hands of the same people He came to bring salvation to. All of that just for you and me. What other god has done that for you or me? NONE!!! What other god has shown compassion, love and a desire for a relationship with us? Only our God. He rushes to help us … even when we bring trouble on ourselves through poor choices and decisions. How many people in your life would have subjected themselves to torment, torture and even death to save you, to make your life easier? Not many, if any at all.
The Bible tells us nothing about the woman’s daughter. We only know that she was demon-possessed and needed deliverance. We don’t even know if she was even worthy of the effort her mother was making to help her. All we do see is a mother’s love, a love that propelled her to burst through every barrier to save her child. Similarly, Jesus burst through every barrier, even death, to save us. Do we deserve it? NO! But He did it because of His love for us NOT because of our worthiness.
A few posts ago I mentioned a song: “Reckless Love” sung by Cory Asbury and as I write this post I am once again reminded of it. Here are a few of the lyrics:
Oh the overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God
Oh it chases me down, fights ‘til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
And I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down coming after me…
It tells me that God would do anything to pursue us, just because of His love for us. It has nothing to do with how good we are, who we know or are associated with, or what religion we belong to. God loves us, full stop. He doesn’t need a reason, His love just propels Him, pushes Him, to the point where He gave His best, His Son Jesus, and allowed Him to die on a cross just to save us from the consequences of our sinful actions as well as to break the power of sin over our lives (John 3:16). How much should we allow this love to wash away all the “nasty” from us, all the negative things that make us unlovable and unworthy. Sometimes we go looking for love in all the wrong places, from all the wrong people. But there is no one on the face of this earth who can or will love us more than God loves us.
Maybe today you are reading this but don’t have a relationship with this God I am speaking about. I invite you to do one very simple thing: ask Him to come into your life, forgive you of your sins and to help you become the person He originally created you to be. And if you already have a relationship with God, remember He loves you. That will NEVER change. It doesn’t matter how much you have messed up when you know you’re supposed to know better. It doesn’t matter how many times you have failed, God still loves YOU. And if you will just give Him your mess, your impossible situation, your pain, He will come through for you, He will come to your rescue. That’s what He is there for. He has promised that He will NEVER leave you nor forsake you and our God NEVER goes back on His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20).
The bible tells us the story of a Syro-Phoenician woman who comes to Jesus for help on behalf of her daughter who is demon-possessed (Matthew 15:21-28). Unfortunately for her she has a few things against her. One she is a Gentile, two she is a Canaanite and three she is a woman. Jesus said it plainly: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” So, right up front she didn’t even qualify for His help … or so it seemed.
We must understand something of the background of this story to understand Jesus’ rejection however. She wasn’t just a Gentile but a Canaanite. Canaan was the land God had promised Israel in ancient times. He had told them to wipe out the Canaanites and destroy all the forms of idolatry practiced by this people (Numbers 33:50-56). These people were known then for their child sacrifices, temple prostitution and their refusal to repent and turn to God. They were not a people God wanted or allowed His people Israel to mix with because He did not want His people corrupted by their evil practices. Yet, here was this Canaanite woman, hundreds of years later, coming to the same God she and her people had rejected for so long, for help. The thought that comes to my mind is that she was desperate. It is possible that she had tried her own gods, her own doctors, her own religion for help but did not receive the help she needed for her child. Maybe, like the woman with the issue of blood, she became desperate enough to try anything or in this case Jesus. It meant she had to leave her home and enter “enemy territory” just to get the help she needed - and then to face rejection from the one person she believed could help her. The odds were stacked against her, but she did not give up.
How desperate are we in our pursuit of God? There are so many other distractions in this life that many times I’m afraid God does take a backseat. We pursue material things, relationships anything that will give us hope and peace. And let’s be real, these things do offer a measure of satisfaction and happiness … but only for a time. When we face challenges and tragedy we may turn to these things and they may offer relief from the pain and stress … but only for a time. The reality is there is no one and nothing that offer the kind of peace and hope and joy that Jesus can give us. We pursue these things but in all the wrong places, and when people and things fail us we are disappointed, but God would never allow anyone or anything to be god in our life, to satisfy and fulfill us the way only HE can – in short, He would never give HIS job to anyone or anything else. His job, among other things, is to love, fulfil, satisfy and care for us like no one or nothing can. Everything we need for this life comes from Him, He will never allow it to come from someone or something else.
This Canaanite woman is an excellent example for all of us. Her country probably possessed everything needed to satisfy the flesh. But when tragedy came her way these were not what she needed, she needed something more, she needed someone who, although He rejected her, once she persistently cried out to Him, He couldn’t help but respond to her cry for help. He heard her faith in the midst of her cry. God always responds to anyone who cries out to Him, Jew or Gentile. That’s just who our God is. He will always rush to the aid of His people, but He will never ignore the cry of one who has rejected Him all along but finally turns to Him for help. The Bible says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).
So, if you don’t have a relationship with God, my encouragement to you today is to give Him a chance. He is actually waiting for you to respond to Him because maybe He has been trying to get your attention all along. It’s not hard. Simply ask Him to come into your life, to forgive you of your sins and to help you to become someone that even you can be proud of. And for those of us who already belong to Him, yes, we have the answer but so many times we too pursue after material things and the kind of relationships that will never completely satisfy. Let’s pursue after our God as earnestly as this woman pursued after Him. We can certainly learn so much from her. She never gave up but was willing to take the “crumbs” if that was all He wanted to give her (v.26-27). Let’s set our affection, our mind, on things above not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2). God has given us so much more than mere crumbs. He has given us a “feast” of good things to be able to live an abundant life in Christ. Let’s not miss it!
As I prepared for this post, I revisited the story of the children of Israel during their sojourn in the wilderness forty years. My focus was Caleb one of the few who made it into the land of Canaan. I use the word “made it” because that is exactly what happened. It would have been nice to say that all the Israelites who left Egypt made it to the Promised Land but that was sadly not the case. Consistent sin and rebellion against the Lord during their wilderness experience caused many to fall along the way and to therefore miss the opportunity to enter the Promised Land.
But this is where it gets interesting. Caleb had been one of the twelve spies sent into Canaan to spy out the land. He and Joshua, Moses’ assistant, were the only ones who returned with a good report and who gave the go ahead to enter Canaan. The other ten spies said no (Numbers 13:31-33). They had all witnessed the giants living in the land and their fortified cities yet, only Joshua and Caleb focused on the greatness of their God instead of on the size of the people of the land (Numbers 14:6-9). In fact, when the story was recounted some time later, Caleb was described as the one who “wholly followed the Lord.” He was not prominent like Joshua, but God took note of his faithfulness and obedience to Him. He secretly followed after the Lord with his whole heart. He was virtually invisible for forty years and when we do see him, his faith in His God causes him to stand out. In fact, because of his trust in God when others were trusting in their own abilities, God specifically promised him an inheritance in the Promised Land (Numbers 14:24). He chose to publicly put His confidence in God by telling the people that yes, there were giants in the land but that their God would take care of them. The other ten spies disagreed. That was ten against two! But Caleb knew His God and what He was capable of, so he did not allow other people’s opinion to sway him. And he was rewarded for it. While God destroyed the other ten spies for not putting their confidence in Him, when the people entered the Promised Land, Caleb, along with Joshua, also received what God had promised (Deuteronomy 1:35-36). Furthermore, the land God had promised him because of his faithfulness, was given to him and his descendants, when Joshua was dividing the land among the people. His faithfulness was rewarded. God had not forgotten Him (Numbers 14:24; Joshua 14: 6-14).
We too will be rewarded for our faithfulness to our God. It’s not always easy. Being faithful to God sometimes means being different, standing out. Sometimes, it means being invisible; it means serving God when no one is looking; being faithful to Him when no one cares. But God cares, He sees and He knows your heart. He sees your sacrifices when no one else does; He sees your heart behind your efforts when no one else does; He sees your motive and the intents of your heart when no one else does. Remember, Caleb was invisible for many years but he was faithfully serving God with his whole heart. And when the time came, God chose him to be one of those to spy out the land of Canaan because God knew his heart and the kind of report he would bring back to the people. God knew he would bring a report that would honour God.
God knows you, He knows what is in you and that will qualify you to go places for God that no one else will go, do things for God that no one else will do, because God knows your heart. So be encouraged, you may be invisible to others but never to God. What He knows about you will qualify you for blessings and opportunities beyond what you can dream or imagine. Sometimes, though, it takes patience. But just keep doing what you are doing for God . . . faithfully . . . consistently, even when no one sees or cares and when the time is right, whatever God has for you cannot help but come directly to you.
God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). This scripture comes to mind as I remember reading the book of Matthew Chapter 1 this morning. It began with the genealogy of Jesus. I usually don’t pay much attention to genealogies with their long list of names of who begat who, but this time I did. As I read through the list of names in Jesus’ bloodline, a few names caught my attention. These were the names of women. That was interesting to me because women are not usually included in genealogies, just the males. And what made it even more interesting was the type of women involved in most of the cases.
Tamar deceived her father-in-law, Judah, and became pregnant by him; Rahab was a harlot from Jericho, the first city to be destroyed by the Jews when they crossed over into the Promised Land; Ruth, although not shady in character, was from Moab and this nation was born out of an incestuous relationship between Abraham’s nephew Lot and one of his daughters; king Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, committed adultery with king David who later killed her husband to hide the fact that she was pregnant for him. Yet, for all that, these women not only made it into Jesus’ bloodline, but special mention was made of them where the other women with the exception of Mary, Jesus’ mother, were not even included.
As the reality of what I was reading washed over me I started to write the following thoughts. When we make mistakes, we are not automatically disqualified. God’s redeeming grace can transform us and make us useful for Him. Our past does not disqualify us. God’s grace can redeem us and make us useful for His Kingdom. These women did not seem like likely candidates for Jesus’ bloodline, yet, they were. It tells me that when God intervenes, He can and will do great things in and through us. There is no sin that is too great that can disqualify us from being used by God; no mistake so great that will cause God to turn His back on us. In fact, Jesus came to die for sinners, not perfect people. He is willing to use us even with our imperfections. Sometimes, we may want to clean ourselves up first before we feel comfortable enough to be used by God. But, guess what? God will use us right at the point where we are – imperfect, messed up, inadequate … unqualified.
Think about it. God must have wanted these women to be a part of His Son’s bloodline for a reason. Maybe He wanted them and us to see His mercy and His grace, that He really loves us and wants the very best for us. He has our best interest at heart even though we mess up. I look at my own life. God chose me before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), yet I have messed up and continue to mess up too many times! Yet, God chose me. Even though I was unfaithful to Him for a season, when I decided to return to Him, He not only welcomed me back with open arms, but has been using me in ways that I could never have dreamed or imagined the second time around.
So, as I look at these women with all their spots and blemishes, I feel encouraged because the God of the universe included them in His Son’s bloodline. He loved them enough and He qualified them. They were not qualified for this position through their own good deeds or by the world’s standards, but by God’s. We, too, can be encouraged that we don’t have to qualify ourselves, God has already done that. And if He chooses us for a task, it’s about purpose, it’s about destiny. We can’t change God’s mind about us. When He calls us to a task, He has already equipped us with everything we need for the job … whether we feel equipped or not. He has deposited the qualifications we need into us so we don’t need the world’s approval to be used by Him. He has already downloaded into us all that we need to be and to do what He has called us to be and to do. God’s done it. Trust His purpose and HIS qualifications … NOT yours!
Several mornings ago, I woke up, greeted God with my usual: “Good morning Lord,” and after a few minutes went to my window and looked up at the sky. It’s something I do ever so often because there are sometimes some artistic and fascinating displays that I’m just able to see before they disappear, and that only God can accomplish. Sometimes I even commend Him because after all He’s that good, He’s the best artist I know!
On this particular morning as I looked up I saw an extremely dark cloud. It was almost menacing, and it strongly suggested that there might be some rain. But then I saw something else that caught my attention even more. I saw the sun, recently risen and it looked as if the cloud was trying to block it but couldn’t quite succeed. The brightness of that yellow globe caught my attention because it seemed to say, “you are NOT going to stop me from shining!” I mean that sun just seemed to push its way through in spite of how dark that cloud was; it meant as much business as that ominous looking cloud did and it was not backing down.
Sometimes we too have to make up our mind not to back down. Negative circumstances and situations will come but we have to choose not to back down and give in to defeat, discouragement and despair. David had to push past Goliath’s negative and menacing threats and decide that his God was going to shine NOT Goliath. No giant was going to block out His God’s light (see 1 Samuel 17). King Jehoshaphat had to push past the reality of that combined army coming against his tiny nation and put his eyes on His God and worship with his people, expecting His God to do something big … and He did. No combined army was going to block out their God’s light (see 2 Chronicles 20:1-24).
We are the light of the world because Christ lives in us (Matthew 5:14). How many times do we allow dark, menacing situations to block out the light of Christ in us? How many times do we make excuses and allow the devil to have his way? Some situations may be so tough that they downright knock the air right out of us. But we have to push! We have to make up our minds that we are going to make it. We are not going to die in this situation, we are not going to accept defeat because God says we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). He didn’t just say that we are conquerors but MORE THAN conquerors. Yes, it’s going to be tough. Yes, the battle will be uphill sometimes or even most times. But God’s Word also says that “God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 CSB). Do you know what that means? It means that you have more than enough of God’s grace, you are properly equipped to handle whatever comes your way every day. When I understood this as I read Priscilla Shirer’s devotional, “Awaken,” this morning, I felt encouraged because it means that no matter what dark cloud comes my way, God has equipped me to be able to PUSH through. He has not left me helpless or hopeless. I only feel that way when I don’t understand how much He has indeed equipped me with all I need for this life every day! So, as I began my day, equipped with this knowledge and understanding, I felt encouraged. Did challenges come today? Of course they did!!! That’s part of life. But as I remembered the Word God gave me this morning, I reminded myself that God’s grace was there to carry me through my day. He had already equipped me to handle it.
I don’t know what your dark cloud looks like. It may be light grey or it may be so dark that it’s almost black. Guess what? God has already equipped you to handle it. His grace is sufficient for you, and when you are weak He is strong in and for you (2 Corinthians 12:9a). Sometimes, though, you have to step aside and say: “God I can’t push anymore, I don’t have the strength or the motivation to do it. Do it for me please. Push for me please because I can’t, I don’t even want to.” God understands our honesty and sometimes we just need to honestly say, “God I can’t, You do it.” We don’t have to do the pushing on our own. Even though He has equipped us we don’t have to do it alone. Sometimes you just have to get out of the driver’s seat and let Him drive. All that is a part of it. Just. Don’t. Give. Up! There’s a song called “Reckless Love”, sung by Cory Asbury. It speaks about how much God will pursue us and push any obstacle out of the way to get to us. Well, if He will push His way through to get to you He will push His way through for you when you can’t do it yourself. He’s that strong and that able! So, go ahead and let your light … PUSH through!
This blog provides inspirational nuggets inspired by the Word of God and serves to encourage and motivate Christians in their Christian walk.