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!”


     We could all use regular exercise.   For some, the motivation is not there until the doctor says, “Adjust your eating habits and get exercise—or die.” How about an exercise program for the soul?  God has provided it. A temptation is a test. It’s like a good workout, and the result of consistent victories is strength of character. Temptations are often viewed as annoyances.  It’s no fun to walk on the beach anymore, because we men are riveted with temptations. How about changing the way we look at these irritations? God could have snuffed Satan, but He chose to keep him around to help us stay in shape.  So “count it all joy” and brace yourself for a workout. No one smiles while pumping iron, but they do six months later when results begin to show. The same principle of resistance puts muscle on the soul. Try out some truths about our training:


Self-confidence precedes falling: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (I Corinthians 10:12).  Satan has three main weapons in his arsenal–accusation, intimidation, and deception. The latter is the one most used in temptation.  He tricks us by making false promises that we are foolish enough to believe. Or he fools us before the temptation even comes–by getting us to think we’re invincible. Temptation is a mind battle.  Overconfidence is dangerous thinking, isolating us from help. Stay sober. Paul saw the possibility of falling. He disciplined himself so that he would “not be disqualified for the prize” (I Corinthians 9:27).  If the veteran apostle saw failure as a potential, then I should not think that I can easily handle any temptation that comes my way. Larry Christenson, under whom I worked for many years, once asked me how I was doing with temptation. I answered that I was doing just fine.  He responded, “I am not. I battle with it often.” I wished I could have retracted my response. I felt like a fool, realizing that my outlook would not serve me well in the war.


Paul writes that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man” (1 Cor. 10:13).  The word “seize” is a strong picture and suggests grabbing, carrying off. The RSV uses the word “overtake.”  The action is aggressive, not passive. Temptation confronts us with force, however friendly the invitation. Give the advantage to the temptation; surprise is a battle strategy that puts its proponents at the advantage.  Every temptation comes with a reward or a punishment. James writes, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial (the same Greek word is used for “temptation”—“peirodzo”), because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12)  The reward is a crown, a picture of reigning. But then he goes on to say that “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death” (15). The net result of giving in to temptation is death. Sort of looks like life at the outset. So we have the reward of life or the curse of death with each temptation.  A “no” decreases its power, while a “yes” increases its authority. Sin is aggressive, progressive, and addictive. (More truths about overcoming in part 2).


“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry” (Luke 4:1,2).  


Ask the Israelites. The desert is a place of testing and temptation. It comes to us all–between the promise and the promised land. Tests come from God to prove us. Temptation comes from Satan to take us out, so we don’t walk into our destiny. Jesus went from the Jordan (lots of water, vegetation, and people) to the desert (no water, no trees, no crowd).  His company was wild animals and angels (Mk.1:13). Sometimes we hear the voice of Satan more than the voice of God. The Israelites flunked out and never made it into their promised land. Really sad!


Just learn to say “no.” Put your tongue on your upper palate, widen your mouth, hum, shape your lips like a fish, drop your tongue, and let the sound come out–nnnno! If Jesus was tempted, then it is not wrong to be tempted.  In fact, it is a good thing. Temptation can strengthen our resolve to follow Jesus regardless, voting for God and denying the devil access. The Spirit led Jesus to the desert to be tempted, and he will do the same with us. “Submit to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Good advice!


The devil sometimes comes when we are weak, physically or emotionally. He comes before major changes or important breakthroughs. He tempts us with things that are possibilities, not impossibilities, but outside the will of God. The devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. The stones even looked like bread, especially to a hungry man. The devil showed him the kingdoms of the world that would someday be his–but not yet, urging him to rush the process. The devil tempted him to do something spectacular–but outside the will and purpose of God. The devil tempts us to be religious rather than righteous, to be self-centered rather than God-centered, to turn desires into demands. He pounds away mercilessly.  He tempted Jesus for forty days.


Three times we read, “The devil said…”  Three times Jesus answered, “It is written…”  The devil speaks to our minds, giving us ideas, suggestions, alternatives.  Jesus didn’t consider them opportunities; he responded with truth. The longer we consider what Satan suggests, the closer we are to doing them.  We need to resist him, not entertain him. When tested, it is good not to get into our emotions. The Word of God is “out there,” objective, unchanging.  Temptations are not fun. They are sometimes endurance contests. Who can outlast the other? Satan finally left. Keep resisting until he leaves you as well. You can win if you don’t give up!



It is not a temptation if it does not pull on our sinful desires. I have never been tempted to jump out of an airplane. I had the thought once, but it did not take any will-power to resist. A temptation grabs my attention and must be resisted. Eve was tempted to grow wise outside the will of God. The fruit looked good and it came with a promise (Genesis 3:6). It attracted her enough to defy the God who created her and fellowshipped with her. James wrote that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (1:14).


It is not a temptation to be moved to read the Scriptures. That is an invitation, not a temptation. We are tempted to say with a temptation, “It’s not wrong,” or “Not that wrong,” because we know it is.


God tests us to bring us into new places of victory. Satan tempts us to step outside of the will of God. James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (1:13). 


The serpent managed to put doubts into the mind of Eve about God. He made her think that God was a bit too controlling, selfish, manipulative, unwilling to share His wisdom. Every temptation is an assault on God’s character. It maligns Him, like He is holding back from us something we have a right to have: “One more drink is not that big a deal.” “Speeding won’t hurt me.” “She said she was a religious person.” “You would have done the same thing if you were in my place.” “It was something that I simply could not resist.”  We must justify it in our mind, so we boldly challenge God in order to give in: “He is not looking out for me.” “He is not as faithful to me as I expected.” “He doesn’t answer all my prayers.” “I’ve waited long enough.” “My life has been too hard.” “I need a harmless break.” Listen to your self-talk. It is coming against God.


“Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). It is never profitable to give in to temptation. Satan will tell us that it is harmless, that it affects nothing. Giving in to temptation IS a big deal and is step one toward death. Not a good idea. Every sin has the seeds of death in it. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Obedience brings life, disobedience brings death, one sin at a time. One look at porn seems so harmless, but two months later when the addiction takes us away the Scriptures and into deeper sin, our mind is dulled from saying “yes” to God, and Satan wins big. There’s a better way: “Submit to God; resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).


Karen just left for a cruise with her three siblings, paid for by her parents who are also going (at 95 and 94). She called to inform me that her carry-on suitcase that she checked had been lost. Then the airlines reported by scanning that it had come down to baggage claim and must have been stolen. Airline personnel said it happens to one in 500 bags!! Some people go to baggage claim specifically to steal. Karen will be reimbursed for losses, including jewelry I bought for her in Brazil and Prague. She put her valuables in the carry-on and the meds she was taking. VERY unsettling as you can imagine.

I felt for her. What a way to start a cruise with her family, hit hard before the cruise ever started. So I called her the first night. They were on the ship, but it had not departed. I could tell she was having fun with her siblings, whom I could hear in the background, meeting up from different parts of the country. I asked her about the luggage. She had already dealt with it emotionally and chose to have a good time. I was proud of her for living above her circumstances rather than under. She could have been discouraged and down. Not in the slightest.

We hear people say, “Under the circumstances, I am doing okay.” Why would we want to live under our circumstances? Not a good place to land.  Way to go, Karen!! Take it as a good lesson. Things that could rob us of joy don’t need to. We choose not to give any person or circumstance the power to make us miserable!! People sadly do it all the time–at the workplace with a grouchy boss, in a marriage with an unforgiving spouse, on our block with a neighbor who refuses to turn down his blasting radio. We can understand why horrendous circumstances could rob people of joy and peace. I am just saying that it doesn’t need to.

Are people getting you down? Are circumstances taking away your joy? Are we to pretend that we are happy when we are not? Paul tells us, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thess. 5:15-18). Yeah, who’s talking?? I’ll tell you–a man who was stoned, left for dead, run out of town often, physically and emotionally abused many times, shipwrecked, thrown in jail for years at a time. He can talk! Might be a good idea to listen. It worked for Karen–and it will work for you!


Your hope, anchored in a sure future, enables you to cope today. Joshua and Caleb tried to talk a fearful nation into going for it. Ten spies had told them about the giants in the land who made them feel like grasshoppers in comparison (Numbers 13:33). Joshua and Caleb said, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us…And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us” (Numbers 14:7-9). The people responded by trying to stone them. Joshua and Caleb were fueled by the future. The ten other spies were more comfortable with their dismal past than their unknown future–and never went there. Really sad!


  • Present afflictions are light and momentary and the future is glorious (2 Cor. 4:17).
  • You say, “What if,” rather than, “If only”. “What ifs” take us into the future. “If onlys” bring us back to our past. “What ifs” dreams of what can be. “If onlys” remind us of what can’t.
  • Circumstances do not rule our life. We live above the circumstances, never under them. People say, “Under the circumstances, I’m doing okay.” What are they doing under?
  • You are a victor, not a victim, because the present struggle does not take you down. Your anchor holds onto the eternal rock.


  • The present is oppressive and the future is daunting. We live in the past because we are afraid of what is ahead. We prefer settling in the past to challenging the future.
  • It is going to get worse rather than better.
  • We dream about what was rather than what can be and we romanticize it. We make the past look better than it really was, because that is all we have.
  • We are victims and we don’t have courage for what is ahead.
  • We say “why” rather than “why not.” “Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” (Numbers 14:3). Really?!


1  A settled tomorrow makes for a doable today.  The ultimate equips us for the immediate. Settle tomorrow, and today just got easier.

2  Between the promise and the promised land is the process–always. Accept the process and you will enjoy the promised land. You go through the desert to get to the promised land.


1 Do not worry,  2 Do not get discouraged, and 3 Turn tests into testimonies.

SO (some application questions)

Is there anything that I am doing that I need to stop doing?

Is there anything that I am not doing that I need to start doing?

Is there a door that I need to close? Is there a door I need to open?


I don’t like storms, especially internal ones. They blow in unannounced. Life isn’t the smooth ride I thought it was going to be. But I’m learning (slowly) to thank God for the storm—even when in it.

Jesus planned to use His disciples powerfully, so He gave them tests. Two took place at the center of the lake. One tested their endurance (Matthew 14); the other threatened their lives (Matthew 8). In one, Jesus was praying up above; in the other sleeping in their midst.

Some storms find their source in God. Others come from the enemy. Some result from personal decisions, while others come simply from being in the human family. Regardless, God uses storms to build us, removing crutches so we are thrown upon Him. Ouch!

Because of their intensity, storms can bring new trust. But they can also defeat us. We don’t panic with a “3,” but an “8” changes the tone of our prayers. We face the danger of losing something precious—our reputation, our health, our job, our child. The storms the disciples faced were an “8” and a “10!”

One storm proved a defining event for all of the disciples, but especially for Peter. If we think we can avoid storms, we won’t grow. We must learn to fear God more than the fiercest storm. The disciples were terrified. When they discovered that Jesus controlled the waves, they relocated their fear.

The more mature the disciple, the bigger the storm. Sorry. Paul wrote, “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked.” The mightier the storm, the higher the potential for influence. As is the storm, so is the grace to endure it and grow.

When confronted by a storm, we might want to ask questions like, “Did I bring this on?” If so, repentance would dispel it. Think Jonah. Like Jesus, he was asleep—but he was running, not resting. Throwing cargo overboard didn’t solve the problem; tossing the prophet over did. The sad truth is that our disobedience brings storms into the lives of those who are close to us.

Other questions: Is God sending the storm to guide me? To change my direction? Or is He adjusting something internal, like faith? Is God answering my prayer to grow in trust? Is He allowing me to be challenged so I will see His power? And we can trust God regardless.

How can we pass the tests that storms bring upon us?

  • Don’t make life decisions in the midst of a storm.
  • Hang on.
  • Let the storm address your inadequacy. Storms often cause some people to grow in fear rather than faith.
  • Get ready for them. Put in storm windows. Strengthen the deficient areas.We don’t pray for storms, but we do prepare for them by wise living and upgrading trust.

Try to remember three things during the storm that the disciples learned: Jesus is watching. Jesus is praying. Jesus is coming!


Most of us would not regard it like that. We want to avoid it or make it disappear. But after Graham Cooke told us that “tension does not mean something is wrong, it means that something is happening,” I began to get it. I now recognize tension and respond appropriately—some of the time! Here are my discoveries:

Tension gets my attention
…like the gauge on the dashboard. It signals that something needs attending to. It would be strange to put a piece of tape over it, as if the signal annoyed us. It speaks an important word. Call it a friend.

I was driving up a hill that goes down into the high desert of Southern California, when the light came on telling me the car was overheating. I told Karen, “We’ll make it to the top, then coast down.” Wrong. Blew the head gaskets. When tension flashes, ask what it means.

God often causes tension.
He puts different siblings together. Consider Cain and Abel, Peter and Andrew, Martha and Mary. Differences cause friction. When we acknowledge the heat, the friction is used to wear down rough edges. Reacting to tension means not changing.

God creates tension by putting two very different people together in marriage—a man and a woman. Given our selfish nature, people are incompatible. Marriage binds two folks together for life, so they have time to work out incompatibilities. React to the tension—or learn from it. Imagine Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax collector on the same team. Yikes!

God always uses tension
…if we let Him. It appears that the relationship between Martha and Mary grew. The last time we see them they are working together, each exercising strengths in ministering to Jesus.

Paul’s prison time proved a shameful experience and a great challenge. Yet he came to see it as part of God’s strategy for getting the gospel out.

Two truths about God concerning tension:
He doesn’t waste anything. A friend of mine says, “Everything belongs.” God is the most economical person in the universe. Failure is not failure. Garbage makes great fertilizer.

He works all things together for good for those called according to His purpose. God works purposefully, even with incidents that did not happen for a good purpose.

Tension precedes breakthrough.
Tension was common in the life of Jesus and the early church. Most of Christ’s dinner gatherings turned into uncomfortable encounters. Truth trumps peace, and those committed to truth embrace tension as a gift, while circumstantial peace goes out the window.

God gave Peter a disturbing vision—three times! It would appear that Peter should understand the vision. He didn’t have a clue. Then he was invited by Gentiles to go to the home of Cornelius, another uncomfortable experience. He eventually got it—and so did throngs of Gentiles!

Maybe you want to respond in repentance and faith:

• I am sorry for reacting in the face of tension.
• I choose to move toward tension rather than away. I will embrace it as a friend and let it speak its message.
• I will trust the Lord to use it for good.