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August 16, 2020    When Faith is Frustrated

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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

One of our most comforting realities from the Bible  is Jesus’ willingness to perform miracles.   We can see His power over all those frustrations of life.    Such as:  /having sick  or crippled bodies,  /blind eyes or deaf ears,  /emotional problems,  /storms & natural disasters,

/& even power over evil spirits,  & things beyond modern surgeries & medicines.

All creation bows to the Creator’s Will.  It’s very comforting for us  to see these signs & wonders Jesus did,  and His willingness to answer the sincere requests that were made of Him.

But then comes the Gospel for today;  a curious event.   A mother comes on behalf of her daughter,  & we’re surprised that Jesus doesn’t have a word to say to her.   A picture I get in my mind is that He maybe doesn’t even look at her = just keeps walking.  The disciples see her as a bother,  & try to send her away.   We hear this,  & think  “how cold & heartless!”   Yet,  we’ve ignored people when we’re tired,  & want to be left alone.  Someone wants our attention = strangers, or bothersome people= and we pretend we don’t hear them,  or rudely ignore them,  hoping they’ll go away.  I don’t think that Jesus is doing that here,  but it kind-of looks like that.

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While the problems we face in life can be frustrating,  sometimes FAITH itself  can be frustrating.  In the beginning, we don’t know that this woman has faith.   As a non-Jew,  she most likely wouldn’t;  she may just be imitating something she saw others do,  just to get the attention of this ‘holy man’ she’s heard about.  Many people were just curious on-lookers, keeping track of this strange wandering Jewish Rabbi.  But,  it does seem that she’s different.

And if we could have asked this woman about life’s frustrations,   she may have told us about the frustration that sometimes comes with faith.    This is because  /faith is not ‘control’ over things;   /faith itself does not ‘fix’ things;  /faith has no power to heal or keep healthy; /faith is not something we use to prevent trouble.   Faith is only TRUST in The One who can control,  fix,  heal, & prevent trouble.   The object of faith is God;  the power of faith is God.

But,  faith itself just waits in hope.   Faith ‘asks’,  but cannot ‘do.’

So,  *what about those times  when faith gets no response?   Scripture examples show us the two foundations of faith.   ONE is the fact that God is almighty.  

+When the Virgin Mary didn’t understand how she would conceive a child  without having a husband,  the angel reminded her:  “Nothing is impossible with God.”   The foundation of her faith was the fact that God is almighty.    +When the news came to Jairus,  that his daughter had died, & to not bother Jesus any longer,  Jesus said,  “Don‘t be afraid,  just believe.”   That is,  believe that God is almighty.    +And when Jesus was talking to His disciples about salvation,  and how a dead soul becomes alive to God,  He said:  “What is impossible with men  is possible with God.”    Half of faith’s foundation  is that God is almighty.

God’s absolute power is vital to our faith~life.   *Where would our basis of prayer be if God did not have power to give what we ask for?   If we are going to make a request in faith,  then that faith had better be in The ONE who has the ability to answer that request.

But remember:  God’s ability  and His will for us  are two different things.   He may not want for us  what we ask for.   But our true faith requires  that The One we are asking  is almighty.

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As Jesus walked thru the Gentile regions,  this woman cries out to Him;  she was calling out to The Almighty God.  We quickly learn that this IS her faith.   And yet,  the Almighty seemed to ignore her.  *What greater frustration could there be  than having the only One who is able to do something  not willing to even listen?   So,  in this faith~frustration,   *what does a person do?

Some would conclude that God is a fake,  and ‘quit’ = quit church, quit worship, quit prayer.  They decide that there’s no comfort or joy being Christian  if God ignores us.  They say,  ‘what’s the good in having a God who won’t DO things for me?  If God doesn’t do good things for me,  then He -either- isn’t strong enough or loving.’  Many feel that a good & loving God would take care of all their problems.  If their problems aren’t being fixed,  then God must not be able to fix them.

In frustration  they may go seeking another god,  other powers for this life,  other sources of happiness,  other solutions to their problems,  & other ways to get what they want.

They might have the the attitude  that there’s no one ‘out there’;   & if they can’t control things,  then its just their ‘fate’  and there’s nothing they can do about it.   There are many ways of false gods & false faith.   Which is one possible reason WHY Jesus would take the time to ignore this lady’s request at first,  in order to test  if her faith is real or fake.

With true faith,  we know God can hear & answer our requests;  what bothers us is trying to understand why He wouldn’t help,  or why He doesn’t answer right away.  But, God’s gift of faith comes with this solid foundation:  God IS God, & He IS almighty.  That’s who this woman was crying out to.   She said, “Lord,  Son of David!”   Even though she wasn’t a Jew,  -like us- she had Israel’s faith,  and a knowledge of the Messiah  who was to come into the world.

Even most of the Jews themselves (at this point)  were not willing to acknowledge  Jesus as the Messiah.  She believed that Jesus was thee representative of Almighty God; The One who could take care of her problem = if he wanted.   But,  how frustrating,  He’s not listening.

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We understand her faith  and her frustration.  God has convinced us that He is All-powerful.  But,  what about Jesus’ silence here,  & the silence WE sometimes face?   We might be tempted to give up,  & stop asking = convinced there was something wrong with our faith.

We might say:  “I know God CAN do it,  but I must not be good enough;  I haven’t earned enough ‘credits’ yet  for him to do stuff for me.  I haven’t prayed with the right formula & secret words.  So God’s ignoring me.”

In our weakness & doubt   we may give up asking, seeking, & knocking.  When that happens,  we need the example of this woman.  Not only did she know who Jesus was,  she also knew who she was.   She didn’t deserve to come to Jesus, that’s true;  He even told her as much.   His true mission was not to heal the diseases of all people,  or fix all the problems of this life.   He had the mission of dealing with the eternal effects of sin.

From the beginning,  God chose the children of Abraham  to be the people thru whom  the world’s Savior would come;  that’s how everyone would know who the Messiah would be.

He would be from the Jews,  a ‘Son of David’;  a virgin-born miracle-worker.  His atoning sacrificial death on a cross  would accomplish the forgiveness of   the sins of the whole world  & for all people:  /jew & gentile, /male & female, /slave & free, /young & old.

BUT this salvation had an unfolding plan,  in various stages & at various times until completion.   It made its way thru Noah,  thru Abraham,  Isaac, & Jacob,  thru Judah,   on thru King David = etc.   This mission had unfolded thru the Israelites;  the Jews.   They were given the first opportunity  to know who God-the-Son was,  to have this faith,  & to see the salvation thru Him  for the whole world.

God’s working  in & thru the Hebrews,  the Israelites,  the Jews  was His chosen way  to reveal himself to the whole world.   This woman was not one of the chosen people of Israel.  She was a Canaanite,  a descendent of the wicked pagan inhabitants of Canaan when the Israelites came from Egypt.  The Canaanites were supposed to be exterminated long ago;  but the Israelites had disobeyed God.  Her place as a non-Jew -in the world- was like that of a household pet;   which is not the same as being one of the children of the house.   This was not a personal putdown;   but Jesus was making clear to her  his very specific mission plan in world-history;  which -right now- was first to the children,  and not yet to the whole household.

Yet,  she persisted.  She didn’t come to argue with the almighty God  about her assigned station in life.   She knew she had no right to ask,  nor any reason to deserve such goodness from God’s direct attention & work.   But she also knew  that even God’s indirect attention would be a blessing.   Even secondary blessings  are better than no blessings at all.   If the Jews were being given Living Bread from heaven,  then being with the Jews increase the chance that some crumbs would fall to her.  Her faith wouldn’t give-up in the One Almighty,  who’s mission was to have mercy  on the whole world.

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THAT’S the other half of faith’s foundation:  mercy.   *On what grounds could she continue her plea for help?  It’s the same basis for you & me.  We cannot argue on the grounds of what we ‘deserve.’   We have all sinned & fallen short of God’s command to be holy.  The wages of that sin is condemnation & death.  We are spiritually unclean;  we disobey The Almighty’s word & commands = by the bad we have done,  & by the good we have left undone.  We deserve God punishment,  not blessing.   So,  we don’t cry out to God  based on His power or ‘sovereignty’,  but rather  on God’s mercy,  or grace.   And that’s exactly what she did:  “Lord, have mercy.”

When we come into the presence of God,  we never come from a position of merit to make any demands.  When we come to His table, we are unholy by sin; disqualified as children. We deserve His holy punishment for our sins.   From our side of things,  this is how our relationship to God is defined:  on the basis of us being sinful,  and of deserving nothing but eternal separation & death.     So,  as God shows us our sin,   and that we are not worthy to come before Him with requests,   then our only recourse is to trust  -with faith-  that He will be merciful to us.

This is the plea of that woman:  MERCY = totally underserved;   not demanding riches,  seeking only crumbs;  knowing that even the crumbs from the hand of the Almighty  are treasures for those that receive them.   And because WE believe in the value of God’s mercy,   just as she believed it,  then we also keep repeating our pleas,  even as the Lord waits for the right time to answer our requests.

As she heard the preaching & teaching of Jesus,  her faith in an almighty AND merciful God was confirmed.  God does the very best for those who trust in Him,  & wait on Him.      She was assured that her case would be heard;  and she persisted,  even tho she was not one of the first children;  yet what she needed  was such a small thing for her Creator to do.  She asked,  she sought, & she waited.   Her request was granted;  not because she wanted it,   but because she asked,  and God wanted it for her.

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*Can WE take her example,  and make it our own?   Absolutely!   But it is not the example of asking  and always getting what we want.   It’s the example  of trusting in who God IS =  almighty and merciful.  Faith knows He’s the only One to ask;  and we wait to receive whatever God wants for us.   *What things does God want for you?   I don’t know all the things;  but you can ask,  and find out.   Paul assures us in Romans 8:   He who did not spare his own Son,  but gave him up for us all,   how will he not also,  along with him  gracious give us  all things?

Not all the things we want,  but all things He wants for us.  Because God is truly merciful to all.

If you want to know whether or not  God is a merciful God,   we do NOT look at how many times He gives us what we want;   we look at the measure of grace & mercy He offers us on calvary.   That’s the measuring stick.   The life-blood shed on the cross  by His only Son -Jesus-  gives forgiveness for our many condemning sins;  that’s what we need most.

A God who is willing to go to such historical lengths  to take care of our spiritual lives  will satisfy us  with what He wants for our earthly lives.   At times,  He may seem silent at first,  but we’re not going to ask only once.   With prayer,  bring your needs & your wants to Him often;  come here & be in His presence often.

Know that it was by His Holy Baptism  that He has made you His child,  a full member of His family & household.  God hears & answers His children-of-faith;  no doubt about that.

If it is for your good,  then at the right time  He will grant it to you.  +You know the One you’re praying to = Almighty God.  +You know on what grounds you are praying = His mercy.   So pray!

Jesus said:   “Ask  and it will be given to you;  seek  and you will find;   knock  and the door will be opened to you.    For every one asks ~ receives;   he who seeks ~ finds;  and to him who knocks, ~ the door will be opened.   

Which of you,  if his son asks for bread,  will give him a stone?    Or if he asks for a fish,  will give him a snake?    If you,  then,  though you are evil,  know how to give good gifts to your children,  how much more will your Father in heaven  give good gifts to those who ask him.”

This woman reminds us that  -in the past-  we may have been neglectful with bringing our requests to God,  or we may have asked & felt ignored.   We hear of this event  so that we will learn again to ask.    Not demanding,  or telling God what to do.   We simply ask  according to the promises that He has made  to be merciful & almighty for His people.   You are His forgiven, trusting child;    and  He is blessing you with His mercy & might.

Amen