|There really is such a thing as a Canaan dog (Google Images)|
While the Lord walked this earth He limited Himself in many ways. He did not, as Dan Spader says, “use the God-card” and demonstrate all the power that He could have. There were people He didn’t heal, needs He didn’t meet, judgment that He didn’t execute. His message was exclusively for the people of Israel—well, almost.
While Jesus’ particular focus was Israel, He paved the way for the Gentiles to be included in the household of faith. The story recorded for us in Matthew 15:21-28 illustrates this. Jesus often traveled through “foreign” country—through Samaria, for example. In Matthew 15 He takes His disciples to Tyre and Sidon. Obviously they will meet people who are not Israelites. And it is in these encounters that Jesus has a lesson to teach to His followers.
They are confronted by a Canaanite woman. If you remember your Old Testament history, the Promised Land was wrested from the hands of the Canaanites who were idol-worshippers. But this particular woman had somehow heard about Jesus and believed that He could heal her demon-possessed daughter.
Jesus ignored her pleas—to the point that the disciples begged him to send her away because she was bothering them so much (15:23). The Lord even reminded His disciples that His message was only for the Jews (15:24). The woman persisted. Then Jesus did the unthinkable—He insulted her by saying that the children’s food did not belong to dogs!
Placed in that woman’s shoes, most of us would have walked away. But she actually agreed with Him, and then added: “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (15:27).
That’s a lot of faith. And it was faith that Jesus acknowledged by healing her daughter (15:28).
Persistent faith that doesn’t let any obstacle defy it. It’s a James faith—unwavering. James 1:6, 7 says: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of faith yet. I have more reason than the Canaanite woman to have true faith—God has been faithful over and over again through all the years I’ve walked with Him. I KNOW He keeps His promises. But like the father who brought his son to Jesus to be healed in Mark 9:24, I too often have to say, “Lord, I believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” What amazes me in this latter case is that Jesus healed the man’s son even though his faith might have been weaker than that of the Canaanite woman.
The lesson? We will have struggles with the strength of our faith all our lives, just as we struggle with so many other issues in our spiritual journeys. But the humility to acknowledge those struggles when they happen, along with the strength to persist even when there are obstacles in the way, both reflect a dependence on God.
And it is that complete dependence that He looks for so that He can work out His will in our lives.