The Test of a Profound Silence, [Extreme Faith]

void-of-silence 

But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”

Matthew 15:23, NLT

This is exceptional.  Jesus is always engaging people around him.  He teaches and preaches, fully energized by the Holy Spirit.  He is a veritable hurricane of goodness and love.  He heard every request, and healed every disease.  But yet.  On this occasion he is completely silent.

The woman’s piteous crying, and begging was seemingly ignored.  “If Jesus won’t respond to me, I will go to his followers.”  She presses, and cajoles.  She falls on her knees.  Have you ever seen a person truly beg?  It is a very disconcerting experience.  Yet, Jesus does nothing, in spite of being able to do all things.

She is a Canaanite; a pagan widow, and her daughter was demonized.  Curiously, there was a large heathen temple to Eshmun, the Canaanite god of healing, was just three miles down the road.  But her desperate cry was for something real.  Something authentic and real that would heal her daughter’s affliction.  Only Jesus has what she needs.

Jesus is astonishingly silent.  He stands and sees, he hears her cries.  She is sobbing, clutching at the disciples robes, disheveled and distressed.  It was a desperate scene. Very ugly and very sad.

Jesus responds to his disciple’s plea.  Then there is something that seems like a negotiation.  A protracted conversation with a ‘seemingly’ reluctant Messiah.  It is somewhat disturbing as we listen.  Jesus seems to treat her callously.  I have always been mystified by this, troubled by his behavior. I can only conclude that what he did was necessary in some way.

But the Son of God sees through this. 

And then she makes an incredible statement.  Jesus is suddenly amazed at her faith in him.  This faith is what he has been waiting to see. She may have known despair, but that isn’t enough. Jesus leads her from the edge. Until she moved to a position of belief, nothing will change. Faith seems to change everything.  This is key.  It isn’t her words that alters things– it is her heart!  At that moment, Jesus declares a healing for her daughter.  She is now free from the demon’s grip.

So often I have also felt the pressure from the darkness.  I am often embattled and driven into a despair that seems to cripple me.  But Jesus is waiting for me, to come to him through an unflinching faith.  My good works can never, ever be enough.  I’m just like a dog, waiting for food under the table.  I have little, if any, decorum or sophistication.  There is nothing at all, to commend me to him. Nothing at all.

“Our Lord sometimes yet seems to be silent to His people when they cry to Him. To all their earnest supplications He answers not a word. Is His silence a refusal? By no means. Ofttimes, at least, it is meant only to make the suppliants more earnest, and to prepare their hearts to receive richer and greater blessings. So when Christ is silent to our prayers, it is that we may be brought down in deeper humility at His feet, and that our hearts may be made more fit to receive heaven’s gifts and blessings.”

–J.R. Miller

1brobry-sig4

cropped-christiangraffiti1 (1)

Shedding Self-Importance

Bryan & Lynn, Still learning to be servants

“I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man.”  D.L. Moody


April, 2000

Shortly after Lynn and I were accepted by Kachemak Bay Christian Center to be their pastor, we traveled to California to be with family for a few weeks.  On our return to Alaska we drove from Anchorage to our home in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula.  I could hardly wait to jump in and be a real pastor. It was my dream, and God had “groomed” me for this moment!

As we drove into Homer I noticed the marquee on the movie theater.  It read, “Congrats to Bryan and Abi”.  I immediately stopped the car to gawk in amazement.  I was flabbergasted.  I suddenly felt a warm flush of self importance.  Homer was recognizing me as a pastor, as well as ABI, the Bible school in town that I had been teaching at, also in Homer.

I was delighted and duly impressed with how enlightened my town had become in recognizing me since my trip ‘outside.’.  I actually drove around the block to take in this wonder and took another look.  I was completely taken in by this marquee.  My pride took over and I felt invincible.  Words would pour off my lips and my little town would be guided by my spiritual brilliance.  I felt a warm surge of “heavenly” authority.

About two weeks later I picked up the local newspaper.  As I paged through I came across an announcement for a wedding for someone named Bryan and Abby.  I suddenly pieced it together.  Abby had been an employee at that movie theater before she got married!  The management had put this message on their behalf.

Immediately the Lord jolted me back into reality.  My arrogance and pride drained from me.  I felt like a pompous ass.  I had so inflated myself, thinking I was so impressive and important that the crash devastated me.  I was not as awesome as I thought I was.  I was embarrassed by how easily I was led into this spiritual trap of self-importance.

The Bible has a great deal to say about pride and arrogance.  “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”   I would like to say that I have overcome this arrogance, but I catch it growing in the corners.  I can say that even though I was so self-absorbed and self-important that I am now immune from this sin.  But that would be a lie.

Jesus loves the humble.  He favors those who are poor in spirit.  But he resists people who are proud and self-sufficient.  He stands against the arrogant.  The Father hates my pride and my arrogance.

I want to encourage you to come to Jesus now.  Come as you are and He shall meet you.  Dispense with your pride and “humble yourself before the Lord”We do all right if we see ourself as ordinary and average.  Satan will look for any handle you give him.  Pride is one of his favorite ways to control you.  When the disciples tried to figure this out they ended up fighting (Mark 9:33-34).

 “But it should not be that way among you. Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant. Whoever wants to become first among you must serve the rest of you like a slave.  In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”

Matthew 20:26-28, NCV

The ”marquee incident” was 15 years ago, but I am determined to remember how the Lord revealed to me my pride.  It has become humorous to me now, but at the time it was brutal.  I have had to learn through weakness.  When I am weak, He is strong.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  Tim Keller

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

*

When He Questions You

  1. “But what about you?” he asked.
  2. “Who do you say I am?”

Matthew 16:15, NIV

I would suggest to you, that these two questions are quite pivotal and critical.  Nothing explains a man or woman more.  Nothing means more, or is of greater consequence than how you answer these two questions. One by one, we are led to this particular place, and it is required of us to explain ourselves.  And essentially that is what will happen.  We have to come to a decision.

“What about you?”  The first question asked, reduces us and causes us to come to a place of personal responsibility.  We dare not sidestep, or look for an emergency exit.  The issue, front and center is “you.”  It must be stated that questions like this one is not a way to stay popular.  You don’t win people’s hearts like this.  “What about you?”  In my mind this is a whole lot of personal decision-making.  Commitment is not easy.  (And if it is too easy, be very alert.)

The second question, “Who do you say that I am?” is masterful.  Jesus is speaking to those close disciples.  Essentially he is asking them to decide, once and for all, his placement into their lives. 

  • Is he a good teacher?
  • A healer?
  • A revolutionary or social catalyst?
  • A prophet?

He is all of these–but much more.  It’s interesting that Jesus never took a lesser position.  He was the “Son of God.”  He comes to us, and asks us to decide for ourselves.

The decision awaits us.  When we gather up information to evaluate him, it isn’t “Trivial Pursuit.”  Our decisions are quite significant and defining.  This here are the ultimate “fork in the road.”  Our lives will extrapolate out and then take us to places we never thought we would be.  Jesus knows this, he understands us.

In conclusion, another question.  Are you even ready to be addressed with these two ultimatums?  Are you in a “good place” where you are even approachable?  We all must go through this gauntlet of blazing truth, and decide for oneself.  Truly blessed is the person who will not stumble in this place of decision.

 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live!

Deut. 30:19, NLT

recite-25825-95458975-1jznxku