MY DEALING WITH DEMONS (part 2)

Paul addressed the nature of spiritual gifts in answer to a letter the Corinthian church wrote him (I Cor. 12:1).  He said that “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (7). Then he gave a list of gifts, including “the ability to distinguish between spirits” (10), which my architect friend Roy Jones could.

A few times while a pastor at Trinity Lutheran in San Pedro, I received calls from people who said strange things were going on in their home late at night. They would hear creaking sounds, see lights go on and off. I would call Roy and we would head over. The parents showed us around and pointed out the places where these strange occurrences took place that were putting fear in the hearts of the children. I looked at Roy and he gave an affirming nod, letting me know that he discerned the presence of darkness.

I anointed with oil the doorposts of every room in the house with the sign of the cross. I then spoke to the darkness and commanded it in the name of Jesus Christ to leave and never return. I did it in a normal voice and in faith that we walked in the authority of Christ. We then prayed over the household members, closing with the Lord’s Prayer and Benediction. We never had to return to a house that had been cleansed.

On a ministry trip, a pastor asked me to pray with a gal about twenty-five who showed signs of demonization. When I spoke with her, she could not look me in the face. The presence of demons often depersonalizes people. Her speech was labored, occasionally she twitched, and she was noticeably uncomfortable. She spoke of being seriously abused by multiple men who took advantage of her sexually.

I listened to her sad story and told her it never should have happened. I shared with her that I would understand if she could not forgive them, but I asked her if she would be willing to do so. I explained that forgiving them did not mean that they had not seriously sinned against her. It meant that she would leave them to the justice and mercy of God. She said that she could never do that. It took about thirty minutes to convince her that for her own physical and spiritual health she needed to (Matthew 18:34). I told her what to say. She could not get the words out. It was as if she would start, but demons would interrupt her and make it impossible. We tried for twenty minutes, urging her to say, “I forgive them.” She would stutter, stammer, and stop. The pastor and I knew we were in a serious battle against dark powers. Finally, the words came out in a slurred sentence, “I forgive them.” IMMEDIATELY the darkness lifted, her countenance changed, and peace overtook nervousness. We commanded the powers of darkness to leave and never come back and invited the Holy Spirit to take His rightful place in her body, His temple. She was a Christian who had been traumatized and invaded through the tearing down of the walls by selfish and sinister men. Now she was free, and all the signs were present. We rejoiced with her and gave her instructions on how she could walk in the Spirit and maintain her freedom. Glory to Jesus! (Part 3 coming).

MY DEALING WITH DEMONS (part 1)

I leave on Thursday (Oct. 17) for Tanzania. The bishop there gave me the subject, “Discerning and Combating False Spirits.” Gearing up. What is below will be one of my messages. If you think of me, please pray for discernment (not one of my gifts) and the authority of Christ to help bring freedom to the captives.   

It’s that time of year again. Decorations are going up—large webs on doorposts, clothes of ghosts hanging from windows, and witches on brooms. People see the make-believe and smile, knowing it is as unreal as unicorns and red devils. Someone says to a squirrelly child, “You little devil.” And on Halloween kids dress up kids as goblins in this imaginary world that fascinates our culture.

It ‘s not imaginary to an abused child oppressed by dark spirits, nor to a depressed young adult who stepped over the line with the occult and is imprisoned, nor to a senior lady who has lived a life of bitterness and goes to bed tortured—every night. Our society has domesticated the darkness. We take germs seriously, though we cannot see them, because we have learned to trust the medical world and what it sees under a microscope. Some of us haven’t heard enough about the existence of unholy spirits in the same atmosphere to believe that they pose a far more dangerous threat. We would do well to read the Book!

Millions desperately need deliverance, and the Son of God came for that very reason. He said as he launched his ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18,1). His disciple John wrote decades later, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (I John 3:8). 

Jesus overpowered the darkness in three ways: 1) He cast out demons regularly, not in a rare moment. Read the book of Mark in 120 minutes and you may conclude that it happened every week. 2) He lived a sinless life, giving demon powers no place to land. He said of Satan, “He has no place in me,” meaning that he never let down his armor. Paul wrote that we should “give him no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:27), meaning that if we do, he will take it. And 3) He died on the cross, devastating the enemy. He said as he approached Calvary, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out” (John 12:31). Paul wrote that “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).

We come against the darkness in the same way: 1) We do as he did—casting out demons who have gained entrance to people. When Jesus sent out the twelve and later the 70, he commanded them to cast our demons. When they returned, they declared, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name” (Luke 10:17). The response of Jesus: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (18).  2) We put on the armor of God, the character of Christ, so we are not subject to the enemy’s tactics of deception, intimidation, accusation, and temptation. One way we do this is to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). And 3) we die to ourselves. John wrote, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives even to death” (Revelation 12:11). Peter wrote, “Resist him, firm in your faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (I Peter 5:9; part 2 & 3 coming).

A DARK HOUR FOR ME

I raised my ten-year old hand when Paul Lindell, a missionary, came to town. I don’t remember the moment, but my parents let me know years later. It took. I knew in high school that I was going to be a pastor. I was different from the guys I connected with, not mature enough to reach out to them, but they respected me. I was filled with the Holy Spirit the summer after graduation. Praise God for that.

College days were good, growing in the Lord. Under the influence of Hal Lindsey at UCLA, I spent two years at Dallas Seminary. Then I took a year off to teach at a Bible college in Kenya, study in Israel and travel, before deciding that I was homesick. After a summer with family, I headed for my final year of seminary at Luther in St. Paul. It was the worst/best year of my life. I went from the happy, outgoing, young man to the withdrawn, fearful, depressed senior who was supposed to be ordained in a year into the ministry. Didn’t look like it. I was attempting to reach out to my fellow classmates, though it was not easy to connect. They talked about gross things at lunch, yet I still wanted to reach and impact them. B. Mark Anderson, a pastor friend in Iowa, was my pillar during those months. I was sometimes consumed by fear. I was afraid to answer the phone in my room, not sure what to say, and I certainly did not want to lead chapel, the responsibility of every senior once before they graduate. I didn’t want to raise my hand in class for fear I might stutter or say the wrong thing. And yet in my darkness, God drew close to me. I prayed often with those who wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit, though I don’t remember doing it.

The impact of this difficult year hung with me for years. I got the wind knocked out, and it took time to regain confidence, though I was thrust immediately into full-on ministry the fall after graduation. Being a pastor fit the person God had made me. Little by little He healed me from the darkness, and I had twenty-four rich years at Trinity that included marrying Karen and having six children, before being called to direct Lutheran Renewal.

A year after starting my new role, Dick Denny, lay leader at LR, said to me one day, “Hey, you missed the pastors’ meeting today.” I said, “Yeah, couldn’t be there.” He responded, “You should have.” I wondered why. Seemed like he was getting in my face. I asked why it was so important. He responded, “Many of the pastors said that their lives were dramatically changed when you prayed for them at Luther Seminary.” I was shocked. I couldn’t remember one of them. And yet in my darkness, the light continued to shine. I share this to comfort those who go through dark and difficult times. God is especially near to you in your brokenness. He doesn’t abandon you when you are struggling, and you still shine with the brightness of Christ!

WHAT’S THAT HOLY SPIRIT STUFF?

People have said, “Don’t give me that Holy Spirit stuff. I just want Jesus.” Okay, but they just asked for the Holy Spirit. The angel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). If you want Jesus to be Lord of your life, Paul wrote that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ apart from the Holy Spirit” (I Cor. 12:3). It was the Holy Spirit who empowered Jesus to preach and do miracles. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind…” (Luke 4:18,19). How did Jesus open eyes or deliver people enslaved to sin and Satan? The Holy Spirit. In fact, how was Jesus himself raised from the dead? Paul wrote, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). Paul was a Holy Ghost man. Do you know who brings about the new birth so you can belong to Jesus? The Holy Spirit.

Jesus said six remarkable things about the Holy Spirit in his final message to them (John 14-16). Then just before lift-off, the disciples, still feeling like orphans and stunned that Jesus was leaving, wanted to know when the nation of Israel would experience a restoration. They were looking back. Jesus said in effect, “I am not going to talk about that now, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:4-8). When the Spirit came on Pentecost and filled the room and 120 bodies, they got it and never asked for Jesus back. 

Paul spoke often about the Spirit and His works. He said that the Spirit empowers us to live the Christian life. The Spirit gives us gifts to carry out the work of Christ, like discernment, wisdom, and healing. The Spirit produces the character of Christ in us (he calls it fruit), so we can represent Jesus to a broken world. The Spirit helps us in our weakness: “We don’t know how to pray as we ought, but the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).

By the way, who was the agent of creation? Genesis 1:2 says that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” Who enabled the prophets of old to speak truth? Who wrote the Bible? “…men spoke from God as they were moved along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Then He can help us understand the Book He authored. It is the Holy Spirit from beginning to end. The Holy Spirit is God. Dear Brothers and Sisters, you are absolutely nothing without God the Holy Spirit. That is why we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit!”

HOW TO FORGIVE–WHEN YOU CAN’T (part 3)

FORGIVENESS

IS TEARING UP THE IOU.

I have often invited people hurt by others to write out their IOUs, that is, what the offending one owes them.  I tell them I would understand if they could not release forgiveness, but then I encourage them to carry around the IOU as a reminder of what unforgiveness really means.  I share with them that forgiveness means that they are willing to tear up the IOU Many have found freedom by ripping up the debt and releasing others for God to deal with them in His justice and mercy.

FORGIVENESS IS POSSIBLE BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN.  Imagine if God were to say, “You have hurt me too much; I cannot forgive you.”  But He says instead, “I forgive you.” Jesus said at the cross, “Father, forgive them,” giving us the power to forgive.  Loved people are able to love; forgiven people are able to forgive. Forgiveness means that we give up our “right” to get even. We exercise the power that was released at the cross. Forgiveness is not excusing the offense. We are not saying, “Oh, that’s okay.”  We are not letting the offender off the hook, as if it never happened. It’s not a matter of pretending an offense never happened. I don’t forget the pastor who hurt me at seminary, but by forgiveness I have erased the emotional response. Forgiveness is not easy.  It wasn’t for Joseph or for Peter, who felt his ultimate ability to forgive offenses would stop at about seven. Jesus called him to forgive seventy times seven.

FORGIVENESS IS BELIEVING THAT GOD IS MORE POWERFUL THAN THE OFFENSE. Only God can reverse the irreversible.  Only He can heal broken hearts, shattered lives.  And He can even use the pain of the offense to sanctify the offended as well as to heal the offender.  The cross is the place of the greatest offense ever—and it is the place where God’s power is shown most clearly. Forgiveness sees the offender as broken, imperfect, and needing forgiveness, just as we do.

If God has allowed us to be hurt, offended, or stepped on, He is able to defend us. And He can use this event in our lives to draw us closer to Him.  If we respond to injustice in a godly way, we find His approval, just as Jesus did (I Peter 2:20-25). We need to forgive out of obedience, even if we don’t feel like it, because it is the will of God.  Holiness is a higher goal than happiness. We are wanting to please God more than ourselves. Those who have grace to thank God in the midst of suffering are going the way of the cross. God will pour out His mercy upon them. It is not illegal to suffer unjustly.  Don’t wait until the offender confesses—forgive freely. And if we are involved in the offense, we don’t wait until the other party confesses; we take the lead, even if we see it as only 10% of the guilt. God will honor our humility. Don’t “wheel and deal,” thinking, “I’ll do my part if they do theirs.” You are giving in to God more than to the other person.

SOME QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:

  • Am I blaming anyone for my unhappiness? I should not give another person the power to make me miserable.
  • Am I keeping score with anyone?
  • Am I reacting with a ten on a problem that’s a three? (May be a clue to unresolved anger).
  • Am I carrying around an IOU, or have I released people from the debts they owe me? 

 

HOW TO FORGIVE–WHEN YOU CANT (part 2)

UNFORGIVENESS IS PLAYING GOD.  He said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”  To forgive is to give up the right to get even, a prerogative of divinity. Joseph said to his brothers, who expected revenge, “Am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19). Unforgiveness puts us on the slippery slope of having to be the judge of another person.  We are simply not qualified. That is one reason why we feel oppressed when we refuse to forgive—we are entirely out of our element. 

UNFORGIVENESS IS BEING IMPRISONED BY THE PAST.  We replay the video of the crime over and over in our minds and feel the pain each time, as if it just happened, keeping our resentment up to date.  These destructive emotions put us behind bars of torment (Matthew 18:34,35). We thought we were punishing the offender, but we are the imprisoned one. As we replay the video, we define ourselves by our history:  “I am the one who was abused…who was left by my spouse…who was rejected by my parents…who was fired.” We lock into our past and close off the future. We are playing the role of victim, and victims have no future, only a miserable past.

FORGIVENESS

AS AUTHOR LOUIS SMEDES SAYS, IS RELEASING THE PRISONER

and realizing the prisoner is you. It is ironic, since our reason to withhold forgiveness may be that we want to keep the offender obligated to us, or at least dish out some punishment.  In fact, we punish ourselves, and release comes only through forgiveness. Forgiveness releases us from the past, so we can walk into our future. Joseph showed that he was not holding onto his painful past in the way he named his children.  He called his firstborn Manasseh, saying, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51). He named his second son Ephraim, for “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (v.52). He could have been tied by regret to his past with a series of “if only’s.”  “If only my brothers had not been so cruel…” “If only my father had not been so foolish…” “If only Potiphar had not believed his foolish wife…” “If only I had not ended up in Egypt…” Instead of letting his past identify him, he walked in forgiveness—and into a prosperous future. Do you have any “if only’s”?

FORGIVENESS IS TEARING UP THE DEBT 

that people owe us because of their offenses.  The Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  When we are hurt by others, they become our debtor. We carry around an imaginary IOU until we forgive them.  When we think of them, we remember what they owe us, and we say in our hearts, “Pay up!” Most people probably won’t pay back their debts.  We need to forgive the debt as God has forgiven us. When people are willing and able to do this, they experience new freedom. For some, it takes time for the emotions to catch up with the actions. Forgiveness is not something we feel; it is something we do. We agree to release others from the debts they owe us, whether we feel forgiveness or not, because it is the will of God and because it is for our good.  The emotions will usually follow the act of forgiveness. As a wise counselor once said, “It is easier to act your way into a new way of feeling, than to feel your way into a new way of acting.” (Part 3 next to finish this series).

HOW TO FORGIVE–WHEN YOU CAN’T (part 1)

A father promises a fishing trip but doesn’t deliver.  A friend shares a trusted secret. A spouse regularly puts down the partner in public.  A parent nags incessantly. Theoretically, it seems right to forgive. “Let’s be gracious,” we muse.  Then it happens to us. We’re betrayed, embarrassed, ridiculed, resisted, deceived, overlooked. It doesn’t feel anywhere near nice. Our first thought is to defend ourselves or fight. We are angry, and we want to get even.

 I have preached sermons on forgiving. Easier to preach than live.  When I was humiliated as a seminary student by a young hot-shot pastor at a reception, I wanted to disappear.  I felt trapped. Years later I realized that I was still carrying resentment. We need to walk free from that bitter poison. I once pleaded with a young man to forgive his family who had hurt him deeply.  He said he couldn’t. A few years later he died, still poisoned by rage. The following motivations to forgive may help you.

UNFORGIVENESS

IS NOT AN OBLIGATION,

though it often seems like it.  When we are hurt, our sense of justice kicks in.  We can feel a duty to get even through unforgiveness.  Forgiving when we have been hurt can seem cheap, like denying the fact that we are wounded.  Unforgiveness appears more reasonable than forgiveness, but it is not. St. Paul says that we are not debtors to the flesh (Romans 8:12), and hanging onto resentment coddles our sinful nature.  Joseph’s brothers expected him to get even, because they would have. But he rose above revenge, feeling a greater obligation to God than to his own selfish nature. People absorbed in unforgiveness often embrace self-pity.  “You owe it to yourself,” they think. But those willing to let go of unforgiveness say, “You owe it to God.”

UNFORGIVENESS PUTS CANCER IN OUR SOUL.  It takes great emotional, physical, and spiritual energy to withhold forgiveness.  We hold to unforgiveness because we feel a need to hurt those who have hurt us. In fact, we hurt ourselves.  The offender may not even know we are resentful. 

UNFORGIVENESS GIVES SATAN AN OPPORTUNITY TO FURTHER DEFEAT US. Paul writes, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26,27).  A young man was brought to a renewal meeting by a pastor who thought he was demon-possessed. We discovered that because of his severe abuse, which led to unresolved anger, he had opened the door to satanic attack.  When the door was closed through forgiveness, he experienced freedom. Anger is like manna; it is only good for one day. After that it mildews and poisons the soul. When we are angry, we sometimes clench our fists. When we remain angry, our soul is clenched, making it impossible to receive from God. That is why we are commanded to put away anger before receiving the word of God (James 1:21).  Our friend had been more open to Satan’s attack than to God’s blessing. (Part 2 coming).

NEVER GIVE UP–NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP! (part 3)

Insulted. 

Okay, one more negative, and potentially the hardest, one that could have sent people like us away in disgust: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs” (v. 26). What is he? A racist? Is he calling her a dog? Sure sounds like it. But instead of turning and stomping away with her feelings hurt and her daughter still demonized, she said in effect, “That’s right. How about letting this dog have just a few crumbs? It wouldn’t take much.” What incredible persistence. Humble people are not easily offended, while overly sensitive people take up their offense and others as well. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11). When God offends us, when He disappoints us by not doing what we need, our wounded hearts can close themselves to His love. But not this woman.

Jesus cannot but respond to her astounding endurance: “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (v. 28). God is not reluctant. He simply asks people to press in. We want to say, “If it be your will,” which matches our passive stance. Our faith easily drifts into fatalism. It resigns itself to an inferior situation rather than persisting and rising to a greater possibility. Faith, on the other hand, grabs on and does not let go. It is not demanding God, but it is seeking Him in a way that He wants us to. He is called “the rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). The Canaanite went after Jesus in a way few Jews ever did—and Jesus memorialized her faith. 

He didn’t say, “Woman, great is your persistence.” He called her perseverance faith. Her humility and faith translated into boldness, and her little child had a powerful mother to thank for her deliverance. Most would have been gone after the first two rebuffs. She stuck around for four—and received what she came for.

The cause of demonic assault upon children sometimes rests with a parent. Perhaps she took responsibility for the attack, so she also took responsibility for the release, which Jesus granted because she would not back down. The writer of Hebrews said that “through faith and patience” we inherit the promises of God (Heb. 6:12).

Think of the lesson the disciples learned. The woman they wanted to send away was held up for her great faith. Theirs—not so great. Had they been in charge, the daughter would have remained under the power of the devil. How tragic when we allow personal irritations to rule over the will of God, and people who need deliverance must try elsewhere because of our pettiness.

We find only one person in the Gospels whose faith Jesus called “great,” this Gentile woman. She recognized Jesus as one capable of delivering her child even from a distance, apparently not even bringing her child along. And an unnamed woman of the wrong race gives us a powerful message: “Never give up—never, never, never give up!”

NEVER GIVE UP–NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP! (part 2)

Ignored. 

The inactivity of God looks as one of the most disturbing silences for those who suffer. Why doesn’t God say more? Why doesn’t He do something? If He is all-loving and all powerful, He both wants to and is able to help me. Maybe He is not as powerful as I thought. Or we interpret God’s silence as His disfavor. Maybe I was wrong in asking. Perhaps my timing was off. Maybe I need to learn something first. He’s probably teaching me a lesson because of what I did last month—or last year. Questions bombard our troubled minds as we attempt to take a passive God off the hook. It is hard to be ignored, especially by heaven. We want to ask, “Don’t you see me, God? Can’t you hear? Why aren’t you doing more?”

At other times we take His non-response as absence. If He is not talking, He must not be here. He is not as close as I had hoped. For the Canaanite woman, the silence of Jesus could certainly have translated into indifference. Was He not even moved by a heartfelt request? 

In fact, silence often reveals love. Jesus is drawing this woman into a place where she will see His power demonstrated. He is quietly setting her up for a miracle. She could have missed it by responding wrongly to His inactivity. Jesus knew her heart. He saw her pressing in. He risked the silence because she would not be turned away. He was always moved by the human condition. He stopped a funeral process because of a weeping mother. He stopped many synagogue services because of the sick. And “the man of sorrows” stopped a crowd on the way to care for a girl to bring healing to a desperate woman with a twelve-year old malady. 

Shunned. 

While He was silent, the disciples were not; they were irritated. Some people are bugged by our hardships. What plagues us perturbs others. No one can feel for the daughter the way the mother does. The disciples wanted their time with Jesus. “So his disciples came to him and urged him, ‘Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us’” (v. 23). Make that the second ‘no’ this Gentile woman received.  Hardly encouraging words. This flies in the face of everything she has heard concerning Jesus and His band of men. She could easily have left at this point with hurt feelings, hardened against ever believing again.

This was not the first time that the disciples wanted to send someone away. They tried to transport a crowd of five thousand plus, hoping for some down time with Jesus. It didn’t work then either. Jesus was not irritated as the disciples were—but His silence could make it look that way. They wrongly took his silence for apathy.

Overlooked. 

When Jesus opened His mouth, it was worse than His silence. He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (v. 24). The Son of David knew His target audience—and she didn’t fit. She had recognized that there was something about Him and His religion that she didn’t have.  But then Jesus let her know that she was the wrong nationality. Too bad for this Canaanite. It’s hard to know that you won’t receive preferential treatment, that you’re second rate. God has His close friends. You just don’t happen to be one of them. Rebuff number three. But she still somehow heard love coming from Jesus, even behind the sharp words that should have excluded her from His help. (Part 3 next).

NEVER GIVE UP–NEVER NEVER GIVE UP! (part 1)

Jesus once told a story about a widow who persevered and received what she needed. It came from a judge who wasn’t inclined to help her. Jesus told it so that we would  “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). He concluded the parable by asking this troublesome question: “When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (v. 8). Jesus saw many quitting as end-time pressures escalated. He was spelling faith p-e-r-s-I-s-t-e-n-c-e, and few things gave Him more encouragement than seeing it lived out. Two things moved Him deeply—great faith and the lack of it. He told a would-be disciple who had competing priorities, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). 

He illustrated persistence—faith for the long haul—through the host who is surprised (and food-less) by a midnight guest and goes next door. He is rebuffed by his friend who says: “Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything” (Luke 11:7). Sounds like a ‘no’ to me. Wouldn’t that have sent you away? Not the desperate inquirer. He was not prepared to accept anything but a positive answer—and he walked away with the bread. 

I was preparing to speak to a group of pastors in Finland. As I prayed I saw a picture of people throwing in the towel. So before the message, I asked ministers to stand who had considered quitting within the last few weeks—and ten rose. I wasn’t expecting that kind of response. Pressures that did not let up made them look at their alternatives.

I ran a few marathons in my younger days. On the race that I had trained for the least, my mind kept thinking of other things I would rather be doing, like sitting in a jacuzzi. Winning the mental battle rivaled the physical pain. Giving up looked like a good option.

Now to an example of persistence that deeply impressed Jesus. He had just experienced another unsettling encounter with the religious leadership. He withdrew to the north of Galilee for a retreat with His disciples. “He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it” (Mark 7:24), but it usually didn’t work for the Son of Man to travel incognito. “A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, ‘Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession’” (Matt. 15:22). She properly identified Him not only as “Lord,” but this non-Jew called Him the “Son of David.” The Jesus we know is moved by the faith of parents on behalf of their children who struggle, especially when the cause is rooted in the arch-enemy of Christ, and especially when we are told that it is a little girl, hopelessly demonized (7:25). We expect Jesus to respond quickly. Every instance in the Gospels shows Jesus responding to such a request—but this one. Matthew says that “Jesus did not answer a word” (v. 23). Not a glance. Not a knowing nod that could say, “I am thinking about it.” Not a polite, “I’ll be with you in a moment.” Nothing. Ouch. (Part 2 & 3 coming).