Matthew 15:21-31


“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.  And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David;  my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.  But he answered her not a word.  And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.  But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.  But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.  And she said, Truth, Lord:  yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.  Then Jesus answered and said, O woman, great is thy faith:  be it unto thee even as thou wilt.  And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.  And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there.  And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them:  insomuch that the multitudes wondered, when they saw the dumb speak, the  maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see:  and they glorified the God of Israel.”


Persistence in prayer


“Turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 15.  And remember, as you’re turning there, next Sunday, this may not pertain to you, but next Sunday there’s no first service, we’re having both services together next door, next door in the stadium next door, it is covered.  So if it’s sunny, a little warmer, there’s shade over there.  But we’re having one outdoor service, last one of the year, both services together.  Kids will be indoors.  If it rains we’ll just have the one service upstairs indoors.  So that’s next week.  If it’s hot, you can bring your shorts, bathing suit if that makes it more comfortable for you.  But we’re meeting outdoors next week.  You know, I ah, parenting, you see this with your children, this isn’t necessarily a good confession, but you see it with your kids, at least we see it a little bit.  But our kids are learning persistence, what they can do with persistence.  I may initially say “No”, but they’re learning that ‘Well, if we’re persistent, we might just get Dad to change his mind.’  My daughter is pretty good at it.  [laughter]  She’ll say ‘Dad, I’d like to watch this particular video’, and I’ll say to her, ‘Go do something constructive with your time, no video.’  And then she’ll come back with some kind of thing, ‘Hey, I haven’t watched a video in a couple days Dad’, and I’ll say to her, ‘Jana, you heard what I said’, and then she might come back a third time and say, ‘You know, Dad, it’s only a 30 minute video, just a little video’, ‘All right, all right, go watch your video.’  Now kids do that.  And it’s not necessarily a sign of good parenting.  I want my kids to learn truth, that Yes is Yes and No is No.  And I want to be an example of that, but yet at the same time I don’t want to be unreasonable.  I want our kids to not leave our home saying ‘Dad was unreasonable, he’d never give us an opportunity to really express a thought and to reason with him.’  So I want to be able to reason with them too.  And if they come back with a respectful and reasonable petition maybe I will change my mind, I want to be reasonable.  But yet Yes is Yes and No is No, and that’s important.  In the Church [Body of Christ] there are people that will say that when it comes to prayer, we shouldn’t petition the Lord in prayer as far as repeatedly, we should come one time, and if you’re praying in faith, you come to God one time.  You come to God and you say, ‘God, this is what I desired that you would do’, and that’s it, you believe and you move on, and you don’t ever mention it again.  There are some that would say that if you mention it again that you’re actually showing a lack of faith.  If you really believe what you prayed the first time, that should do it, and it should be settled.  Well, when we come to the Scriptures, we’ve already seen this in Matthew, actually, but the Word of God teaches us that there is a place for persistent prayer, persisting in prayer.  In fact, it is also a statement of faith for me to persist in prayer.  The next example we come to, as we’ve been going verse by verse now for awhile through Matthew, we pick up with verse 21, and certainly what is here, there is an example of a woman of tremendous faith that is persistent in prayer, she perseveres.  She prays repeatedly.  It’s a picture of that.  And so when it comes to you and I in prayer, when it comes to prayer, when it comes to a prayer of faith, it is not necessarily a statement of faith to only pray once, and to just leave it at that.  We want to believe that when we pray, that man, you can continue to come back over and over again.  That also is an example of faith.  Just as my kids do, they get that sense that whatever in my attitude, my words, that you know, Dad might just back down, and so let’s work him a little bit more and see if he will.  And we’ll see the example of that here.  Let’s say a word of prayer, and we’ll pick up in chapter 15 of Matthew, verse 21.  ‘Father, thank you that we can once more study your Word, and I do believe it is your Word.  Maybe there are some that are here, maybe some are listening in, and they don’t necessarily believe this is your Word.  So of course that’s a whole another issue.  But I do believe that this is your Word, you amazingly have set this aside for us.  And there might even be some that don’t believe that, but yet your Word does go out and it doesn’t return void, and that’s amazing, people are surprised at times.  They might even sit here or in another church, and not even expecting that you’d speak to them, and yet you speak to them, and you catch them off-guard.  I thank you that you are a God that speaks, that you love us so much that you even reveal yourself to us.  You want us to know you and to walk with you.  And I do pray, maybe there’s men and women that are here, that don’t know you on a personal level.  Lord in your grace I pray you would reveal yourself to them Lord.  Just touch them in a way that they would know that you’ve spoken to them.  But all of us, Lord, give us ears to hear, and not only ears that hear, but that then take what we heard, and then it becomes part of our lives, in the way that we live.  Maybe some of us have a U-Turn that we need to make, or a change or a correction.  Maybe some need to be encouraged and to leave this place in faith, with a different attitude.  It’s amazing, you could speak to us and completely change our outlook on life.  So Holy Spirit, be upon all of us, and even myself now as we go through your Word, in Jesus name, amen.’


One particular attitude showing the heart of God is in us, that the love of God is in our midst, a part of us, individually or as a church is: ‘Are you available for others?  or ‘How do I respond to the needs of others?’


Verses 21-28, Matthew 15, “Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And woman of Canaan came from that region and cried unto him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!  My daughter is severely demon-possessed.’  But he answered her not a word.  And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she cries out after us.’  But he answered and said, ‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’  Then she came and worshipped him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’  But he answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’  And she said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.’  Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be to you as you desire.’  And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”  Now, as you see there in verse 21, and by the way, if you don’t have a Bible there are Bibles on the back of some of the chairs, you’re welcome to grab one of those and use that.  We see Jesus heads to the north.  Now he heads outside of that land of Israel, he actually goes to the land of the Phoenicians, or Philistines, he goes to the area of Tyre and Sidon, that would be modern-day Lebanon, these communities would be along the coast.  We learn in Mark chapter 7 that when he gets there, he goes into a home, and he actually hides, he wants to be alone.  Now we’ve seen repeatedly as we’ve been studying him, as he’s been ministering, he’s often very busy.  We’ve even seen him stay up all night long and minister to people.  And so it’s very possible, if he’s shut away, as it says in Mark, he’s hiding himself, it’s possible he’s physically tired, physically needs to be replenished.  And I would imagine his disciples do also, as has been the pattern.  But as frequently seen too, it’s impossible just about for him to get alone.  There are people that are constantly and consistently seeking him out.  He’s radically touched lives, transformed families, so here we see this is no exception, because here comes this lady, and she’s quite a lady.  She comes, and she comes with a great need.  And as we see, he’s ready there to meet the need.  Not complaining, not irritated, not shooing her off, but yet he’s open and ready to meet the need.  And you know, he’s an example of that, isn’t he too, as we see that, man, he might be up all night, he might be tired, you get in the words that he’s fatigued.  He gets even reports at times, some that would be emotionally hard to overcome, the death of a close family member as we’ve seen.  But yet he’s there to touch lives consistently.  And I realize in my life then as a Christian, that the more I become like that, the more I’m like Christ.  And that’s an indicator, you know, Christ in me.  Is he seen in me?  Is he living through me?  Those times that I’m tired, weak and the schedule’s been crazy, and how do I respond to the needs of people around me?  Am I there to meet their needs?  To love them?  Or do I get irritated?  Do I shoo people off?  You know, apart from Christ my human nature is, man, when I’m tired, I’m tired---get away and leave me alone.  You know, I’m too busy, I’m not gonna pick up that phone, I hear the message.  But you know, Christ, he’s there.  He’s there to minister and love people and touch people’s lives.  And so when that is happening in my life, and I see that more and more as a pattern, I realize I’m becoming more like Christ.  The same is true in the church, as a congregation, when there is more and more of that, when we might be busy, there may be lots of needs to be met, lots of needs in the community, needy people coming to the church.  But as the staff and as leaders, people that are ministering here in various levels, if we continue to have that same attitude, ‘Whatever man, come on in, we’ll love you, we’ll minister to you, we’ll seek to be a blessing in your life.’  If that is happening in our midst, then it seems the heart of Christ, the love of God is here in our midst.  You know, I mentioned this last service, but it is humbling to witness some of the people in this congregation, the way they do minister to people.  Yesterday, we did a Lifefest at Parkhill Park.  Now I’ve even heard from folks recently, because we’re not your typical church, well I don’t know what’s typical, it’s not uncommon for churches, for folks to just slow down in the summertime, we’ll cancel all these ministries, there’s even churches that don’t meet in the summertime.  I know pastors that pastor churches that don’t meet in the summertime.  Like, what would that be like?  But we only seem to get busier.  And the next season comes and we get busier then.  I told my wife a long time ago, and I stopped saying it, I said ‘This is just a season’, and they’re like hoping ‘It will end.’  But we get to the next season, and the next season, and the next season [and it never ends].  So I heard folks saying, ‘You know, it’s been busy man, some of the ministries I’m overseeing people have been getting a little weary.’  So here it is, they say it’s the hottest day of the year, we’re in Parkhill Park, and I even hear comments from people that are outside our church that witnessed this, but here are these people, lots of people from our church that are in the heat, ministering to people and loving people.  I never heard one person complain, never even an indication from anybody.  But people just wanted to be there and to serve.  People are excited.  Yet it’s direct sunlight, really hot, yet some of these folks, I’ve seen them at everything we’ve done this summer.  And here they are again.  I think that’s beautiful.  And of course we don’t want to be doing things we shouldn’t be doing, meaning we’re just out there doing something without being led by God, and getting over-busy and be striving.  But boy that’s the love of God, when, hey man, I want to, time is short, I want to make a difference, I want my life to count.  I love people and I want to be used by the grace of God.  You know, I even mentioned that to the Worcester T&G, the newspaper as they were at the Lifefest yesterday and asking questions, and I mentioned ‘This is all about loving the community, we want the community to know that God loves them.’  And I tell you, you can just watch, a lot of you folks just loving people, and it seems pretty evident.  We don’t even need to mention it, you know. 


This lady faces obstacles, but the obstacles don’t slow her down---because this lady’s petition is driven by love---Our petitions to God must be driven by love


Well Jesus is seeking to hide, and here comes this lady, beautiful lady.  The first thing we note about this gal is she has a tremendous need.  Yet, at the same time, she’s facing a whole lot of obstacles as far as getting that need met, a whole lot of obstacles.  Now she is for one, trying to get aid from a man whose trying to hide from people.  That would be an obstacle in and of itself.  You know, you go seek somebody’s help, and they’re trying to stay away from folks.  That’s usually not a good situation.  And often people in that case will just say ‘Leave me alone’, or ‘Get out of here, I’m just too tired.’  She’s looking for a man to help, this particular man happens to be somebody whose drawn away because of all that’s going on.  That could be seen as an obstacle.  And then his guys, the guys that were working for him are in that same state, as you even look at verse 23.  They say “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”  They are annoyed by this lady, his workers.  So she has to overcome that the people who are working for him are even annoyed by her presence, don’t want anymore needy people around.  They need a break, evidently.  Furthermore, given the culture, another obstacle, she’s a woman.  And that’s unfortunate, but that is the culture at the time.  She was a woman.  The Jewish rabbis at the time, they would pay little attention to a woman, because she was a woman.  She’s also of the wrong race, she’s a Gentile.  And Mark says she’s Syro-Phoenician by birth, Mark chapter 7.  Matthew says she’s from the region of Canaan here.  So from the Jewish rabbi view, the Jewish man-view, she’d have little chance, little chance.  These men would actually begin their day in prayer, they’d say “God I thank you I was not born a Gentile, a dog, or a woman.”  And she’s two of those things on that list.  And so you have to overcome that.  Now, of course, this particular Rabbi she’s going to, Christ, has got the heart of God, so it’s different.  But seemingly from a human standpoint that would present major obstacles.  You’re a Gentile, you’re a woman, you’re trying to get this man’s help.  But the obstacles don’t slow her down.  And she’s even got a few hurdles to go, as we’ll see in this passage.  But they don’t slow her down, and that is because, another thing we note, she is driven by love.  This lady has love in her heart, love for another person so much so, that nothing really is going to stop her, she is so driven by that love.  It says in verse 23, when it says “she cries out”, there’s some intensity to that word, it’s a stronger word.  The Greek word is cradzo, spelled credzo, it means literally to croak as a raven or to scream or to shriek.  That’s some of the intensity of that word.  So she’s really passionately crying out.  And so picture in your mind a woman that has that desperateness to her.  And there’s love in her heart.  When she comes to Jesus, interestingly, you really get the sense it’s love for another, because of what she says, obviously, but even the way she begins her prayer, she says, “Have mercy on me”, verse 22, “have mercy on me.”  But actually the person she’s coming to seek favour for is not even herself, it’s her daughter.  But she has the heart of a mom.  And it says that her daughter, she says “My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”  My wife, we were talking about this, she asks, ‘How can you be severely demon-possessed?’  I mean, it’s pretty severe period to be demon possessed, it’s a mess when you’re demon-possessed.  But there’s something in the demonic possession, multiple demons, her condition was absolutely, it was just horrible, it was horrible.  And here her mom was watching her daughter, in tremendous, tremendous bondage.  She loves her daughter, she’s her mom, you know, she’s a parent, loves her kid.  And there are parents that will go far and wide, moved by love, ‘my child is suffering in school, we’ll seek far and wide to help’ or physically afflicted, and the length they will go to find help for their child.  She has a lot of love in her heart.  Now again, the one that’s afflicted though is her daughter, it’s not her own body, it’s not her own person.  She says “have mercy on me” obviously because the situation, because when you love people, man, that’s one of the deals about loving people, that you do open your heart to pain.  To love, you’ve got to open up for pain too, ‘because I love somebody, and when they suffer it hurts me.’  And that’s where she’s at.  She’s traveled, she’s overcome obstacles, she’s potentially going to be rejected maybe in her mind, but she yet comes and cries, she beseeches.  And that is a pattern of effective prayer.  When people are driven by love, in their prayer, and their prayer is passionate because it’s moved by love, that is effective prayer.  I think of this example, used it at times in the past, but Jonathan Edwards, and I’ll quote to you from J. Wilbur Chapman.  Here’s a man whose heart was moved by love in his prayer.  “For three days Edwards had not eaten a mouthful of food.  For three nights he had not closed his eyes in sleep.  Over and over again he had been saying to God, ‘God, give me New England, give me New England.’  And when he arose from his knees and made his way into the pulpit they said he looked as if he’d been gazing straight into the face of God.’  They said that before he opened his lips to speak, conviction fell upon his audience.”  You know, passion, moved in love, man it, that’s prayer, that’s effective prayer.  I’ve never stayed up three nights, I don’t know about you.  Maybe somebody here has, because you were in the Marines, they seem to do that.  Or you were tortured somewhere as a prisoner, you know, a POW.  I’ve stayed up all night once before, multiple times I’ve stayed up all night, and it’s not easy.  But to stay up a second night, to stay up a third night, and because you were praying.  Now, sometimes it’s hard to stay up five minutes when you’re praying.  Three days, three days, ‘God, give me New England…’.  Why was he doing that?  The man’s heart was moved with a burden and a love for the people of New England.  If I lose, in my prayer, the passion in petition for revival, if I loose the passion in petition for God to overturn some of the things that are going on in our State government, or to intervene in our national government, or to just reach the souls of our city, and to intervene in the drug situation or with the teenage culture or whatever, if I loose that passionate petition, then the answer is ‘Why have I lost it?’  It is because of the lack of a love, I’ve lost the love.  I have on the background of my computer, I decided to do this, but up in the town next to where we meet, we’ve been there before, is this Livingstone, it’s quite a wild place if you’ve never been there.  This particular artist, Bob Tellier, decided to make a chapel in his back yard, he’s got more than just a yard, he’s got property.  And he’s one of these guys that engraves in stone, so he’s over and over, taken all kinds of stone and large columns and he’s building just a park on his property, and all the stone is engraved with Scripture, it’s quite a wild place to go in.  And the vision is, that you can go there, and not even say a word, but you get basically the Gospel and the heart of God, it’s everywhere.  [see    and  I believe it is located at 656 Wachusett Street, Leominster, MA  01453.]  God’s Word, it’s actually very radical, it’s pretty powerful.  We’re going to take the band up there and the guys from Bangor with them before they head back to Bangor today, just to show them.  But I was up there once, and Bob doesn’t know this, and I hope it’s OK with him, but I took a picture of a stone that he engraved these words on, “God I pray thee, kindle the fire of thy love in my heart, kindle the fire of thy love in my heart.”  And so I put this on the background of my computer, so as I log onto my computer there’s always that message, “Kindle the fire of thy love in my heart”.  And I recognize that that’s the issue, and I need that.  And so if there’s no passion in my prayer, if I don’t find myself praying for New England, it’s because I’ve lost the love for New England and the people of New England.  I’ve lost the love of God, really.  If I’m not passionate for people in my family, for my children and my spouse and my neighbors, and extended family, the schools, if there’s not a passion there in my prayer, then there’s a drying up there of that fire in my heart.  But I tell you, it’s effective prayer when the love of God is in your heart, and the love of God is about in your heart.  When it is, in our prayer-meetings, Sunday nights, Tuesday mornings, six o’clock we have a prayer-meeting, Thursday morning 6 o’clock, you know when we lose corporately, and there’s no more prayer for revival, or prayer for the needs the community, then it’s a statement that the love of God is dwindling.  ‘Oh God, rekindle the fire of thy love in our hearts.’  Because you just can’t help but do that when love is moving in your heart.  This lady is driven by love. 


What do you do in prayer when it seems that God isn’t answering?


Now, she yet encounters, you know, she’s going past obstacles, she hits another road sign, another obstacle, stop sign as she’s going along here, but yet she doesn’t stop, as it says in verse 23, She says, “Oh, have mercy on me, Son of David”, Messiah.  She’s not even a Jew, but ‘Messiah I know who you are.’  “He answers her”, as it says in verse 23, “not a word.”  Now that’s tough, when you’re praying, and you need God to act, this gal’s got a demon-possessed daughter, I mean, she needs God to intervene in her life.  She’s sought this Messiah, this Jesus and here she’s passionately petitioning him, and then he doesn’t even respond.  I mean, when you’re seeking help, that’s hard.  When you go to somebody whose supposedly the expert, somebody that has the know-how, and you need this fixed, you need this straightened out.  Maybe you’ve been in that situation where you’ve gone from office to office or phone call to phone call, and people are just passing you along and nobody’s helping you.  That’s tough man, and the same way when you as a Christian and I as a Christian, we come and draw near to God, it’s tough, it’s a hard experience.  And it happens, I go to God, and you go to God and are pouring out our hearts, and yet God at times doesn’t seem to answer, doesn’t seem to respond.  And in that situation you begin to wonder, you know, she possibly may be wondering now, although there’s faith in this lady.  But you may start to wonder, ‘Does God care for me?  Is he upset with me?’  You know, you can start to think that.  ‘What’s wrong with me, I have this need, and you’re not even responding.  You’re not even hearing me, man.’  Maybe you’re in that situation, maybe God seems that way, you’re like ‘God, you’re not even listening!  You’re not even responding!’.  And that can feel harsh, can’t it?  That can be worse than words, is to have somebody that you really need their attention, and they don’t even speak to you.  [Comment:  He’s right, worse than harsh words is treating others with pure indifference, like they don’t even exist, that’s worse.  Indifference says to someone that you don’t care if they live or die, in essence.  And one can make the mistake that God is indifferent toward us because he’s not answering our earnest petitions.]  Well, what do we do in prayer, when I come to God and it doesn’t seem that he’s answering?  What do we do? 


Sin could be hindering your prayers


Well, we first should note, it is possible, when I come to God in prayer and he isn’t answering my prayer, it is possible that there is an issue of sin, it is possible.  [i.e. God doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners, or if a believer is in an active lifestyle of sin.]  God isn’t angry.  But God is a holy God, and as a holy God, my sin separates me from God.  So he may not be answering my prayer for that reason.  You think of Peter, when Peter spoke to the husbands in 1st Peter, he said to the husbands he says “Dwell with your wife with understanding, lest your prayers be hindered.”  Meaning, you could treat your wife in the wrong way, and that’ll actually hinder your prayer-life.  And so when I go to God as a Christian, I want to go to God in the way that God, and I sense that he’s not responding, I want to say ‘Lord, is there sin in my life?  Is there something that I need to repent of?’  Because it can actually, sin separates us from God.  If you are praying right now and you’re like ‘Lord, I’ve got these bills, Lord, it’s overtime, overtime’, and yet in your life, as a Christian, you have rebellion in your life and you know it, you are living contrary to what God desires for you---you’re living in a lifestyle of sin---you can be sure that’s effecting your prayer [and your prayer-life in general].  You know, God isn’t Santa Claus, he’s not the ice-cream man, he’s a holy God, and he’s an awesome God and a loving God, but he’s yet holy.  And so I have to draw to him with that reverence and that fear.  And so if you have issues, areas of your life where you know you’re in rebellion, it will effect your prayer-life, no doubt about it.  And too, there might be some that are in this service right now or listening in [or reading this] that you’ve been praying for awhile, and you’ve never ever had the experience of God responding to your prayer, you’ve never sensed, ‘When I talk to him, he talks back to me’, ‘When I lift my prayer to him he responds’, you never have that sense.  And the reason being, it’s possible you may not be born-again [i.e. have the Holy Spirit indwelling you].  In Isaiah 59 it says “It isn’t that God’s arm is too short, it isn’t that his ear is deaf that he cannot hear”, but he says, “You’re sin” by very nature “separates you from him.”  He’s holy, sin and God don’t mix, he’s a consuming fire.  He’s described that way.  And if that be the case, then the first thing that you need to do is come to Christ, and get right with God, accept Christ as your Savior, and become born-again, meaning made alive in the Spirit.  God is Spirit, he can only be approached in Spirit and truth, so I have to be made alive in the Spirit.  When I was born physically the Bible says I was spiritually dead, I’m a sinner, spiritually dead.  That’s my state, desperate state.  God sent his Son, he came and died on the cross, he paid the penalty for my sin, and he was raised to life so that I could be raised to life.  And Jesus told Nicodemus [in John 3] “Unless a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  But when you’re born again, you’re made [spiritually] alive, and now when you do and you call upon the Lord, he hears your prayer.  That’s the first prayer really that God hears, when a man or woman prays to receive Jesus Christ into their life.  You can pray all these things, but we’ve got to get to the basics, God says ‘You’ve gotta get right with me.’  ‘Those that call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.’  So maybe you’re here today thinking, ‘I’ve never felt that God was near when I prayed.’  Well it starts with entering into a personal relationship with God.  And that can only be done traversing the cross, in the sense that that’s the bridge, the work that he’s done through his Son, putting your faith and trust in him as your Savior. 


What if you’re in right standing with God and he is not responding?---what should you do?


Well, it is yet possible though to be a Christian, child of God, born-again, and to approach God, not to have any sin in your life, and to lay your burdens before him, and have him not respond, have him not even answer.  It’s possible to have that happen for a long season, to be coming to him and he’s silent [and boy does that stink, I know], he’s strangely silent.  That’s a challenge.  What do you do when that happens?  What do you do?  Some people might be tempted to get angry, there are people that you can meet that are even bitter, in the sense of bitter against God.  ‘I asked him, I had this need, he doesn’t care, he never even responded, I cried out to him, never heard my prayer.’  And people have even become bitter.  What should you do when God doesn’t seem to say a word?  Well, what you should do is you should persist in prayer.  This lady is an example of that.  She comes back again, and she really is persistent, she continues to come back.  And that’s what you should do.  If you feel that God is not answering, you have a need and he’s not answering, my encouragement to you is to get your heart right with God, and if your heart is right, and there’s no issues, you’re not perfect obviously but you know when there’s really an issue, and if he’s not responding, just continue to come to him.  But I do believe this, as we’ll see here, sometimes God is silent, but he does this to our own good, and to his own glory, he’s working in the situation, sometimes it’s timing.  Sometimes he’s drawing something out of my heart, sometimes he’s teaching me patience, sometimes he’s teaching me perseverance.  He has his ways, and we don’t always know his ways, but he does work it to good. 


What do you do when you come to God and he doesn’t say or do what you want him to?


Well, when it says, when he responds as he does in verse 24, he says, it’s one thing to get the silent treatment, you know verse 23, but then when he does answer his answer is also one that can be seen as an obstacle.  Based on his answer, when he says in verse 24 “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…” he says that obviously, the disciples say ‘send her away, man, take care of this situation, send her away’, it would seem they’re actually asking him ’To meet the need, take care of it, you do this all the time, so we can just move on here and get some quiet.’  Because his response is, as they say that, ‘I was sent to the Jew, and she’s a Gentile’, meaning it seems they’re actually indicating ‘Would you take care of the need [obviously to shut her up is their desire].’  But his answer, what a tough answer for her too, that you know, ‘You’re not in the right group here, you’re not in my area of ministry.  You’re outside of my area.’  You know, that’s a bummer when you have that happen.  You go through on the telephone, you get the support, and you know, you’re not in the right area, or you’re not in their group, ‘Can’t help you out, can’t fix the issue.’  That can be frustrating.  This certainly would be seen as an obstacle potentially by some.  Boy her desperate need, and to hear ‘You’re outside the area, you’re not the right type of person for me to be able to help.’  ‘Oh man, oh man.’  But yet…[tape switchover, some text lost]…the first few words that it says there in verse 25, he says, ‘You’re not part of the right group of people’, and she comes and it says she worships him.  Now that is a beautiful picture of what you and I are to do, as a Christian.  As a child of God when I come to God, and he does not say what I want him to say, he does not do what I want him to do, I don’t get frustrated, I shouldn’t get frustrated, I shouldn’t get angry, I shouldn’t be disappointed with God.  What I should do is I should worship him anyway.  I should say “Lord, your will be done, you’re a loving God, you’re an all-knowing God, and you work things to good in my life, to those who are called according to your purpose, and you’re working it all to your glory, and I trust you, that’s not what I was hoping you would say God.  That’s not what I was hoping that you would do, but I trust you, and I worship you.  Now that’s a beautiful thing and that is what you and I are to do.  I think it helps your prayer-life in general when you do that.  And who knows, God may just be saying something just to draw that out of your heart in your situation.  What a beautiful thing, to be at a real desperate moment of your life, and to come to God and say ‘Oh God heal him, oh God heal him.  Oh God take this away, Oh Lord, deliver her’, and then to hear the Lord say ‘I’m not gonna do that.’  And yet then to come back and just worship God.  I’ve heard of stories, some of them were just mind-boggling when you hear them.  I mentioned on Wednesday night, but I just talked to a friend this week, this particular friend, we actually started this church together.  He was out in New England, I met him and I just happened to be at that point where we were going to start a Bible study [1995 I believe], see what God does, this guy from our San Diego church happened to be in New Hampshire, we happened to meet and he was part of the study, and we had a little season of working together before he was called by a larger church in southern California that needed his assistance and went out there.  But we’ve been friends and been in contact with each other.  This last week, we’d gotten out of contact, been a few years, and haven’t talked to him in a year or two, I even asked somebody else I ran into, ‘Hey, you talked to Ken lately, I haven’t talked to him in a while.’  Well Ken calls me up, ‘Cool, I’ll give Ken a call back, called him back, and he’s talking to me, just like the old times, he’s a very upbeat guy, things are going well for him, life is good.  And so we go through it, I’m wondering, he asked me to call him back, so now I’m wondering why he called me, and at the end he says ‘This is why I called you, I called you because I just found out two weeks ago, I have a brain tumor that’s terminal.  I’m just calling you up to ask you to pray for me.”  Now Ken is in his low 40s, got three kids, and you know that was like a left turn in that conversation, because there was no indication in his voice that that was what he was going to tell me at the end of that conversation.  He ended up sending me an email with his newsletters that he’s been sending out to his friends, but just on the 20th of August he’s at work, and suddenly it felt like a tazer hit him, he dropped and they took him to the hospital, couldn’t find anything, next day happened to him again, the paramedics said ‘We’re taking you in this time’, took him in and they ran a scan, there’s this brain tumor, the hospital he goes to 1:30 in the afternoon, comes out with the little picture and says ‘Look, this is what you’ve got, we’ll operate in two hours.  Here’s the deal, if we operate, you may be paralyzed, but you’ve got little time.’  And so as he was sharing he says “I couldn’t in two hours agree to brain surgery, I haven’t done my will, I’ve got kids, I couldn’t do it.”  They said, ‘Well you’ve got very little time’, they gave him six days, ‘Take care of this in six days, you’ve got little time, you might buy another year or two.’  Well his wife started to research and they found another doctor, Keiser hasn’t done many of these surgeries before, there’s doctors, Duke University and other places like that have done a lot of them, now trying to work it out.  But he needs money, because that’s outside of his insurance, he needs 100 Grand to go to Dr. Black in L.A. if he does that.  So people at work, raising money, and he’s just telling me the whole story.  But again I say, ‘How’s your wife doing, how are your kids doing?’  “We’re doing great, we’re doing great, I just trust God in my life.”  And you might think that’s just bizzaro, but it isn’t bizzaro when you know there’s more to life than the 67 years I get on this planet.  There’s an infinite God that made my life, and I’m someday going to be with him, and it’s all about him that changes life and your outlook on everything.  Well, I guess Ken, he’s a little like this gal here.  What do you do when the answer isn’t what you expected, and who knows, God may take his life.  They’re asking people to pray, but God may just have that be the case.  And what do you do?  If you know who your God is, and you know his plans that he has for you, if you truly do believe there is eternal life.  I believe it so much, I don’t even doubt it.  Then you look at those situations differently, and you can take a “no”.  You know, I heard a story, one particular story, it blew my mind, but it happened a few years ago, I read in the paper, there was a family that was in the Chicago area, and they were driving their van, and as they were driving their van, they had a number of kids, it was a Christian family as you get the story.  They were driving along, and their van went over some kind of piece of metal from something, and their vehicle actually caught fire, it caused a spark and punctured the gas tank, the vehicle caught fire while they were driving, they pulled over and they just jumped out.  But unfortunately, being a van, you had to get out quickly, and as the parents got out, this thing was just a fireball, and it has a sliding door, and the kids are in there, and they could not get in that van.  And so their kids died, several kids.  But, this I read in the secular press, that when they were interviewed, they didn’t go on about how evil God is or whatever, they even on that very place on the side of the road gave glory to God, and just like Job.  Job is a great example of that.  A u-turn came in life, and we just sang the song, he said “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”  And that is “God, my life is in your hands.”  See, that is what you have as a Christian that the world doesn’t have.  You have God in you, the hope of glory.  And when something like that happens to a non-Christian, they’re ready to jump off the bridge.  But you have Christ in you, you have hope in you.  I have this hope, I can’t even manifest it, it’s this thing that’s in me that God has put in me, I have supernatural peace.  And I can worship God at this moment, and give glory to him.  What do you do, when the answer isn’t what you want to hear, well what you do is you worship the Lord. 


Prayer, effective prayer is moved with love and faith, and is boldly persistent


And there are times, God may even say “No”, but that doesn’t necessarily, it doesn’t always mean when God says “no”, I just say ‘OK, I’ll never ask you again.’  There are times, this is an example, where you may even come back later and say ‘Lord, I know you said ‘no’ before, but yet Lord I feel led, I want to ask you God, I want to ask you.’  There are times, sometimes ‘no’ to the Lord is maybe a timing thing.  This gal is boldly persistent, man.  She is so boldly persistent.  And prayer, effective prayer is moved with love and is boldly persistent, where you come to God in faith, and you’re persistent.  Those who say ‘ask once and just don’t ever say it again, they don’t understand the Scriptures.  He says, you know, she worships him, and then she says  “‘Lord, help me.’ He then answers---it’s like another road-block---‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’”  And that was a strong statement.  It didn’t stop her either, she’s very persistent.  But what does that mean when he says that?  ‘It’s not good to take the children’s bread’, of course he’s referring to ‘children’ as the nation of Israel.  At this time, Christ has come, he’s come to the Jew, and yet he is working at the same time.  It is interesting, this passage, and the following passage, the one we’ll get to next week, God is working, Christ is working [with] all the Gentiles, pretty much, it’s a foretaste of what’s about to happen, the Age of the Church, just about to burst forth.  But he says “It’s not good to take the children’s bread”, meaning what was intended for the Jew, “and give to the little dogs.”  Now that would be seen, if any rabbi said that to you, other than what Christ is doing, that would be seen as an insult.  The Jew at the time, the rabbi would say [or pray each day] “Thank you I’m not a Gentile, a woman or a dog.”  The Jew would actually call the Gentile a dog.  That was a form of an insult, a cursing.  They called them dogs.  You know, if’ you’re a Gentile like I am, they would at the time call you a dog, 2000 years ago.  [The Orthodox Jews still call us Gentiles Goyim.]  And so it was an insult.  But there’s different Greek words for dog, and the general word they would use is the word goyim, they would do that insult.  Goyim would refer to the stray dog, the nuisance dog that’s out in the street, those Goyim, Gentiles.  The word Jesus uses here is a little different.  Some of the translations even pick that up, as the New King James says “little dog”, it’s the little dog, it’s the puppy.  And for that reason, some say this isn’t necessarily an insult, and wouldn’t even be seen as an insult, he’s referring to a puppy, actually a family dog.  And he’s seeking to draw a principle out of her, about a family dog, he’s using it in a different way.  Although I think it’s possible he’s doing what the rabbi would do, although probably if she looked in his eyes she could tell, ‘This isn’t a harsh statement’, there’s actually maybe even a light in his eye, he’s drawing something out of her, there’s faith in her that’s beautiful.  And maybe for the very reason that he knows that Matthew and Mark are going to record this someday, and you and I and generations of the Church will read about this woman’s faith.  But she gets what could be seen as a rejection again.  And she’s got a desperate need, but it doesn’t slow her down one moment.  As you see, man, in fact she comes back with some, maybe you’d call it wit, real wisdom, as she says “Yes, Lord, that is true”, she doesn’t deny it, but then there’s that word “yet” or “for”, ‘the dogs, man, the little dogs in the house’, you got the picture, you’ve got the table, they didn’t have chairs like we do, or silverware, they’d be down, the day table would be at the floor, and so you’d be down leaning on one arm, and you would have the sauces and if you ate in another culture like that, it’s in like India or something like that, you might be sitting on the floor and you’ve got the breads, you don’t have silverware, you’re eating with your hands.  And that’s what they would do, and what would often be the case, is they’d leave that last piece of bread, they would go through, dirty hands [dirty with food, not dirt], greasy hands and they would take the bread and they would wipe their hands with it, they don’t have little hand washes like we do.  And they’d clean up their hands, and they would take that, little dog around, they would toss the bread to the family dog, that piece of greasy bread, and the dog would eat it.  And that’s the point she makes, she says ‘No, we don’t yet get the meal’, meaning the work that you’ve come here to do, but that’s around the corner, ‘But hey, man, dogs, they get the little piece of bread at the end.  Give me that crumb, man.  Give me a crumb, that’s all I need from you.  Because of who you are, give me a crumb.  You’re the Son of God, you’re the Son of David, the Messiah.’  This gal has got faith, man, oh man.  And so as you see, Jesus responds, he says “Great is your faith”.  You know, today, if you’re asking the Lord about an area of your life, and you have a need.  Continue to persist in prayer.  That is faith to persist in prayer.  It’s possible God may say “no”, and then I just want to worship him and say ‘Alright Lord.’  And he may say “no” in a way that you know the answer is no.  I’m not going to continue anymore, because it’s “no.”  But persistence in prayer is faith.  He says there’s only two times, in fact, those exact words “Great is your faith”, this is the only time Jesus says this as far as it’s recorded.  The Centurion, another Gentile, he works in his life powerfully, he doesn’t use the exact words, but very similar, he says “I have not seen faith like this in all of Israel.”  And now he says this to another Gentile, the two people where he says positive things about their faith are Gentiles.  Interesting, two times.  “‘Great is your faith, and let it be to you as you desire.’  And her daughter was healed at that very hour.”  She overcomes obstacles, she traveled there, she overcame the fact that this is a rabbi, Jewish rabbi, ‘so, I’m a woman, a Gentile, and the disciples are trying to get rid of me, and the silence, and the negative response.’  But it says she overcame and she persisted.  And that’s prayer.  As we come to our last minute or two, let’s just note verses 29 to 31 and we’ll stop there.  We’ll just quickly note it.


Jesus goes next to the Decapolis, a predominantly Gentile region


Verses 29-31, “Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there.  Then great multitudes came to him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and he healed them.  So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”  He goes to the other side, he goes to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, he goes to the area of the Decapolis, this is an interesting region.  There were Jews there because we saw earlier there in the Decapolis where he heals the one demon possessed man [two demon-possessed men, actually] where they were selling the pigs in the area.  But also this is predominantly a Gentile region, there’s ten cities aligned together.  The Romans gave them a lot of liberty, they would mint their own coins, had there own army, had their own courts, interesting region, predominantly Gentile.  [Comment:  The Decapolis was a region where the Roman soldiers and rulers would go to take their military liberty and leaves---time off.  That is why the Jews in the region were in the pig farming industry---the Romans wanted their bacon, ham and pork sausage.]  And as we go on into next week, the following passage, it seems he’s ministering predominantly to Gentiles, they come to him, great multitudes.  Why they come, obviously the Legion, he cast out the demons.  And that man, it said earlier, went to the Decapolis and he told everybody, this man everybody was scared of, and he’s now healed and in his right mind.  But also Mark tells us there’s another man right before the city, he heals at this spot.  And the man, Jesus says ‘Don’t tell anybody’, crowds are big enough, but he goes out and tells everybody.  And they come with an urgency, when it says ‘They laid down their loved ones,’ they laid down these people that needed healing at his feet, that word has a force to it.  There’s a sense in the Greek that it’s actually very quickly, it’s urgent, and it’s like so many people are coming, and you’re trying to get your friend out there, one person after another.  And you get the picture, he’s healing people so quickly, there are people that are going up to him in this Gentile region that are blind, that are walking away with their sight and they’re all excited.  There are people that have withered hands that are moving their hands, there are people that are lame that were carried to him that are getting up and walking, there are people that were mute that are talking and praising.  It’s all kinds of excitement and energy at this point.  This is radical what’s going on, and you think of Isaiah chapter 35, verses 5 and 6, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.  Then the lame shall leap like the deer and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.  Then water shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.”  Streams in the desert, man, there’s this stream, this has been a desert, this Gentile territory for a good season.  For God’s economy and the hearts of man, the Gentiles were not in a good place, durth, darkness.  And this water is starting to trickle in, man.  And in a little while it’ll become an ocean, as the Church Age begins, and we’ll get there.  [Comment:  For a peak into a research paper into the early Church, covering the first 300 years of the early Church, log onto:]  Let’s close in prayer…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on Matthew 15:21-31, given somewhere in New England]     


Related links:


Learning to pray the Bible way:


George Mueller, man of faith and miracles: