The gospel of Matthew tells a story that might disturb some believers: The Gentile woman with the demon-possessed daughter.
This woman seeks Jesus so persistently the disciples say, “Lord, send her away. Get rid of her. She won’t stop bothering us.” Note Jesus’ response to the woman’s pleas: “He answered her not a word” (Matthew 15:23, NKJV). Evidently, Christ ignored the whole situation. Why would he do this? Jesus knew this woman’s story would be told to every future generation, and he wanted to reveal a truth to all who would read it. So he tested the woman’s faith by saying, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Christ was saying, “I came for the salvation of the Jews. Why should I waste their gospel on a Gentile?”
Now this statement would have sent most of us on our way, but this woman didn’t budge. I ask you, how often do you give up on prayer? How many times have you grown weary and reasoned, “I’ve sought the Lord. I prayed and asked. I just don’t get any results”?
Consider how this woman responded. She didn’t reply with a complaint or an accusing finger, saying, “Why are you denying me, Jesus?” No, scripture says just the opposite. “Then she came and worshipped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me’” (Matthew 15:25).
What follows next is hard to read. Once again, Jesus rebuffed the woman. Only this time his reply was even harsher. He told her, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (Matthew 15:26). Once again, he was testing her.
Now the mother answered him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27). What an incredible reply. This determined woman was not going to relent in her pursuit of Jesus, and the Lord commended her for it. Jesus 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” (Matthew 15:28).
Beloved, we are not to settle for crumbs. We have been promised all the grace and mercy we need for our crises. That includes every crisis involving our families, saved or unsaved. We’ve been invited to come boldly to Christ’s throne with confidence.
There comes a time when certain life situations are beyond human hope. There is no counsel, no doctor, no medicine or anything else that can help. The situation has become impossible. It requires a miracle, or else it will end in devastation.
At such times, the only hope left is for someone to get to Jesus. That person has to take the responsibility to get hold of Jesus, and they have to determine, “I’m not leaving until I hear from the Lord. He has to tell me, ‘It’s done. Now go your way.’”
In the Gospel of John, we find just such a family in crisis: “There was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum” (John 4:46, NKJV). This was a family of distinction, but a spirit of death hung over the home as the parents nursed their dying son. Someone in that troubled family knew who Jesus was and had heard of his miraculous power. Word came to the household that Christ was in Cana, about twenty-five miles away. In desperation, the father took it on himself to get through to the Lord. Scripture tells us, “When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him” (John 4:47).
The Bible says he “implored Him [Jesus] to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death” (4:47). What a marvelous picture of intercession. This man set aside everything to seek the Lord to provide a word.
Christ answered him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (John 4:48). What did Jesus mean by this? He was telling the nobleman that a miraculous deliverance wasn’t his most pressing need. Instead, the number-one issue was the man’s faith.
Christ desired more for this man and his family. He wanted them to believe he was God in flesh. So he said to the nobleman, in essence, “Do you believe it’s God you’re beseeching for this need? Do you believe I am the Christ, the savior of the world?” The nobleman replied, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” (John 4:49). At that point, Jesus must have seen faith in this man. It was as if Jesus said, “He believes I’m God in flesh” because next we read, “Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives’” (John 4:50).
Many believers don’t want to believe that they will suffer hardship or know pain, but scripture has a very different word for us.
Consider the Psalmist’s testimony: “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications…. The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” (Psalm 116:1-4). Here was a faithful servant who loved God and had great faith; yet he faced the sorrows of pain, trouble and death.
We find this theme throughout the Bible. God’s Word loudly declares that the path of the faithful is through the floods and fires: “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth…. I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you” (Isaiah 43:2). “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13).
This last verse holds an important key: In every wilderness we face, our Father is holding our hand, yet only those who go through the wilderness get this hand of comfort. He outstretches it to those who are caught in raging rivers of trouble.
Putting on our new self is really important for Christians. It will affect the way we live our lives. It will affect the way that we receive the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. It has an impact on every aspect of our lives. Putting on the new self is the way to live out that new life that God gives us.
This is critical because it shows that a real meeting with God has taken place and the transformation of our hearts has begun.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:2-5, ESV).
Some people read this verse and set to work trying to put on this new self with their own efforts. If we do this, though, we’re going to be disappointed. Rules, regulations and ‘self-made religion’ cannot help us put on this new self.
This is what Paul meant in Colossians 2:23 when he said, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body…” Paul is telling the Colossian church to be careful that they don’t try to move themselves to the kingdom of light in their own strength.
Trying to be spiritual and putting on this new self in our own strength will fail eventually. Instead, every day when you wake up, ask God for the grace of the new self. Ask for him to give you a soft heart toward his will and the good of others.
They say that the hardest animal in the world to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. It's incredibly difficult for outsiders to catch, but not for the locals. This very rare animal has a love for certain melon seeds, so what the locals do is hollow out a tiny hole in a tree, just big enough for the monkey to stick its hand through, and then they throw the seeds in the hole.
The monkey comes along, sticks its hand into the hole, grabs the seeds, but then it can’t pull its hand back out. Even when its captors come up, it will still hold on to the seeds. All it needs to do is let go to slide its hand out, but it won’t. Those seeds are what send these monkeys into captivity.
A bit like these monkeys, we live in a culture that will not let a grudge go. People will hold on to something for years, even decades. When we do that, we find ourselves being brought into captivity.
I once sat in a funeral and watched somebody pull out a letter that was the reason they were offended at someone. It had been in their pocket for 40 years. This letter was so old that it had creases all over and was falling apart, and they were trying to show me what this one person had written to them 40 years ago. I wanted to say, "Seriously, you held on to this thing for that long? Let go of it, monkey hands. Just let it go.” But this is what we do.
The number one marriage counseling issue that I have dealt with for the last 35 years has not been finances or intimacy; it has been people not knowing how to resolve a conflict. That’s the number one thing. Bigger and bigger problems begin to grow off of not knowing how to resolve an issue. All of a sudden, people have a broken relationship on their hands, and they don't know how to reconcile it.
Being offended is a choice. You don't get a choice in what people are going to do to you, but you do have a choice in whether or not you're going to be offended. Forgiving others is part of God's curriculum. It is teaching us the true value of what God does when he forgives us.
“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26, ESV).
After pastoring an inner-city congregation in Detroit for thirty years, Pastor Tim served at Brooklyn Tabernacle in NYC for five years and pastored in Lafayette, Louisiana, for five years. He became Senior Pastor of Times Square Church in May of 2020.