Pastor's Desk: Persistent Faith

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When was the last time you were discouraged in your faith? Are you waiting for an answer from God? Has He recently made clear to you His answer and it was "no"?

Our journey of faith will be marked by seasons of great faith and joy, but also by seasons of doubt and discouragement. In my own journey, I have found encouragement in the lives of those who have gone before me. There are many Biblical examples and historical examples of those who exercise faith in God even when their circumstances are discouraging. When I consider how they persisted in their faith despite the circumstances presented to them, I'm encouraged to remain faithful and obey the LORD nonetheless.

Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
— Matthew 15:28 (NIV84)

Jesus was approached by a woman from the region of Tyre and Sidon who pleaded with Him to heal her daughter of a demon that tormented her. She came to Him because He was "Lord, Son of David" a title that acknowledged His true identity as Messiah and Savior. She came begging for His mercy and what baffles us as we read the account is that "Jesus did not answer her a word."

Is this the same Jesus who had compassion on the hungry crowds, the blind, the lame, the sick and demon-possessed? Is this the same Jesus who taught His disciples to "Ask and it will given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened" (Matthew 7:7)? At first glance, it's hard to understand why the woman wouldn't receive a response, but then we realize she was not the first person in the Bible to receive silence from the LORD.

God remained silent through Job's difficult ordeal and the accusations leveled by his friends, until He finally spoke in chapter 38. Daniel had to wait 21 days for the explanation to a vision he had received, and when the messenger finally came to his assistance, there was a heavenly reason his mourning, praying and fasting had to last so long. Asaph and David in their psalms pleaded with God not to remain silent and even Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).

When God chooses not to answer, we often mistake His silence for a lack of concern or care. Nothing could be further from the truth. He certainly cared about Job, Daniel, Asaph and David and He certainly cares about about us. He has revealed Himself to be loving, caring, wise and faithful and, even when He remains silent, He has something good in store for us. "He will never leave us nor forsake us," we're assured (Hebrews 13:5). "Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you," we're instructed by Peter (1 Peter 5:7).

The woman, after much pleading, finally did receive an answer from Jesus and it was essentially a "no." His calling and ministry was to the Israelites and since she wasn't one, she would not receive the blessings meant for them. Again, it's hard to understand Jesus' response because we know now that Jesus was also sent as a light to the Gentiles. But, that part of God's plan had yet to unfold. Sometimes, when we are discouraged in our faith, it is simply because our expectations are based on our plans and not on God's. We expect Him to meet our timetable instead of trusting His timing. It's important for us to remember, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8,9).

Jesus gave the woman a metaphor to explain why He would not grant her request. Not to be deterred, the woman used the very same metaphor as a good reason from Him to yet grant her request. So, Jesus commended her great faith and granted her request by healing her daughter that very moment. That does not mean God will always change his answer when our faith is persistent, but we can see that God does honor faith and does as He pleases and deems right.

Will we trust Him enough to let Him choose when and how to respond to our requests and pleas? Will we continue to have faith in Him and obey His will even when it seems like He hasn't noticed our obedience? If "without faith, it is impossible to please God," then we know that He is pleased when we "remain sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1, 6). We demonstrate that confidence and certainty through obedience to the commands, instructions and principles He has already revealed to us in His word. He gives us the opportunity to do so when He remains silent or responds with a "no."

God is looking for those who will have faith to trust Him no matter what His responses are to our requests. Many are the saints who have gone before us whose faith journeys inspire us and keep us from being discouraged in our faith.