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!”



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. 


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.


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).


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).


“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!


When a boy living at our home ran in a relay race at his high school, he passed the baton too late.  Though I was one hundred yards away, I could see the outburst of anger. When I talked with him later in the morning, he was deeply disappointed in his performance, as is understandable, and I shared his pain.  But that emotion never converted to working harder. Instead, he got more lazy and even cynical regarding track.

By sharp contrast, godly sorrow (literally “sorrow toward God”) produces abundant fruit.  Let’s look closer at 2 Corinthians 7:8-11:

EARNESTNESS.  It is just the opposite of laziness. It is the picture of intensity, action, quick response.  Paul uses it of Christians who must exert themselves to maintain unity (Ephesians 4:3). Rather than leading to passivity, closer to fatalism than faith, godly sorrow brings an exertion of energy, appropriate for the gracious offer of God. 

EAGERNESS.  The NIV says “what eagerness to clear yourselves” (2 Corinthians 7:11). Godly sorrow produced in them communication with Paul rather than withdrawal, a typical response to regret.  They had been distant, and it had broken Paul’s heart, but now the letter he risked writing produced words and actions.

INDIGNATION, anger resulting from injustice.  It is possible to be so passive that we are incapable of appropriate anger.  Some things are worth getting angry about, and the immorality and disunity in the Corinthian church were two of them.

FEAR.  The NIV says “alarm.”  The word is phobos, from which we get phobia.  Fear in meeting a bear in a forest leads to necessary action, a change in direction.  The Christian community in Corinth needed a jolt, and Paul’s letter gave it to them. Fear, especially a fear of God, needs to be present lest we take a complacent outlook regarding iniquity and fall into the trap ourselves. 

LONGING.  Desire that goes to seed produces a longing that can lead to action.  Longing is a cousin of passion, a necessary ingredient to pursue one’s destiny.  Regret puts us to sleep, while godly sorrow lights a fire.

ZEAL.  The NIV uses the word “concern” to translate “zalos.”  That seems too weak for the context. The Greek lexicon says it means “zeal, ardor.”  The Corinthians were shaken out of lethargy and became zealous to connect again with Paul and to deal with the problems in their church.   

PUNISHMENT.  The KJV uses the word “revenge.”  The NIV says “readiness to see justice done.”  It is used of the widow who receives justice after many requests (Luke 18:7).  Justice goes two ways: the release of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty.  Parents and leaders need to know the difference between mercy and indulgence.

The inaction of the leaders in Corinth to gross immorality was creating an unhealthy climate–toleration of evil.  But now godly sorrow was producing good fruit, taking them from regret to repentance, from inactivity to Spirit-led response.  One look at this list can tell us how desperately godly sorrow is needed in the body of Christ, especially where grace has lulled people into sleep rather than action, where mercy means permission rather than forgiveness.

My final exhortation: stay away from regret and live in repentance!


School is in session 24-7.  Life is a test, an opportunity to choose God’s way rather than the way of bitterness, unforgiveness, or revenge.  Everything is useful for us, especially the difficult things, because they bring tension, which can produce growth.  We don’t have the right to be wounded when we are afflicted—we have the right to be healed. If you are stabbed and don’t feel it—congratulations; you are dead.  We want Christ-likeness in our lives, but we, like Peter, sometimes prefer the short cut, the pain-free options. There aren’t any. No skipping classes, no mail-order degrees.

We are not responsible for what people do to us, but we are responsible for our responses.  And according to author Charles Swindoll, life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it.  You’ve heard it before–God is more concerned about what happens in us than what happens to us.  He is teaching us how to respond to Him rather than react to others.  He is after character, Christ-likeness. That is what will cause the world to pay attention.  The world is looking on and says, “See how they hit one another.” We’re not that impressive–yet.

What kind of person can return good for evil?  One who is…

  • secure in the love of God.
  • filled with the Spirit of grace.  Under the law people were permitted to get even up to a tooth for a tooth. Grace calls us to get good rather than get even.
  • quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger (James 1:19).
  • caring enough to know the effect of the cause, so doesn’t react to their reaction, knowing the need behind the deed and is therefore merciful.

What kind of person cannot respond in a godly manner to wrong?  Perhaps one who is…

  • too insecure to overlook an offense (Colossians 3:13).
  • wounded and not healed and therefore defensive rather than responsive.
  • full of jealousy or personal ambition (James 3:14,16).

What happens if we react to people rather than responding to God?

We stir up more anger. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).  Reacting to evil intensifies evil. Brace yourself!

We are defiled.  Jesus made clear that we are not defiled by what goes in but by what comes out (Mark 7:17-23).  Unkindness defiles us, regardless of what has been done to us. It is not illegal to suffer wrong, but it is illegal to respond wrongly.

We frustrate the grace of God.  He wants to pour out grace upon us, but if we react in our carnal nature, we shut off heaven’s supply, which is given to the lowly.

We play God.  “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:  ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19). We try to pay people back because we want to make sure they get what is coming to them. And justice wins over mercy. God is more just than we are, and He will see that justice is carried out.  He doesn’t like it when we assume the prerogatives of deity. He says, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20,21).

What happens if we respond in a Christ-like fashion? (Find out in Part 3).


The same God who engineered the death of Jesus is working on ours.  His highest goal is that we are “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). He gives us opportunities to die—through people who misunderstand us, irritate us, criticize us, ignore us.  The problem–we are more accustomed to reacting to people than responding to God. So like a good teacher, He continues to design tests to teach us how to respond. The job of irritable people is to grow fruit in our lives.  We don’t develop mercy by having people show us kindness. It is when others are unkind and we respond with the opposite spirit that good fruit is produced. If it’s easy to love someone, there’s no growth. And if we only love those who love us and not our enemies, Jesus says, “What credit is that to you?” (Luke 6:34).

Testing means tension.  We often interpret tension as a sign that something is wrong.  In fact, it is a sign that something is at work. Tension is required to grow spiritual fruit, because “the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want” (Galatians 5:17). A civil war takes place within us when we are tested to respond in the opposite spirit, to return bad with good. Not our normal way of dealing with wrong.  Justice kicks in when we are treated unkindly, and we feel the need to pay people back. Words and actions come to mind, and keeping them under control often proves difficult. But when the Spirit wins over the carnal nature, good fruit is developed.  

Because God is a good Father training His children for maturity, as a friend says, “He allows with his wisdom what He could prevent with His sovereignty.”  Nothing is incidental or accidental with God on the throne. He is orchestrating our growth and allows tension so we can go deeper. He is intentional and purposeful about everything.  He wants us to come to the place where we are dead to ourselves. When that happens, the life of Christ will flow out of us powerfully. What is God asking you to die to today? Think about it–it’s hard to offend a dead man. Tell a guy in a casket that you can’t stand his blue suit and ugly pink tie, and it hardly affects him.

The life of the Spirit is about choices, right decisions, lots of them, like getting up a little earlier, stepping out a little more, obeying more quickly, keeping our mouths shut when tempted to complain:  “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires” (Romans 8:5). “Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it…If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:12, 13b).  You can be filled with the Spirit in a moment, but you still need to make right choices—a long line of them. If you sow to the Spirit, expect a good harvest next spring. (Part 2 coming).


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?


If you’re having a difficult day at work, but you were invited to a Twins World Series game in the evening, the day just got easier. If your week includes two difficult assignments, but you have a ski on the weekend, the week’s doable. If winter breaks records for the coldest and longest, a summer month-long trip to the Bahamas enabling you to endure well. If your life has included unbelievable setbacks, heaven looks beyond all imagination.

Destroy someone’s hope, and they start dying before they stop breathing. On the other hand, hope for tomorrow gives you a hold on today. Does anyone live that way? Listen to Paul: “This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). You might feel like saying, “Who is calling my affliction ‘light and momentary’? It’s heavy and long-lasting.” I’ll tell you who–a man who endured far more than we ever will–multiple beatings, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, stoning, and more. If you have eight parts of affliction and only two parts of hope, the affliction overpowers you. But if you have twelve parts of affliction, and thirty parts of hope, you are being fueled by the future, and hope wins.

Do you know anyone who has blazing hope? I will tell you how they live. They don’t seem to be taken down by what takes down normal people. They have their share of hardships, but they don’t complain about them much. They are too busy praising God for his goodness, even in the midst of trials. They are not immersed in their circumstances; they are asking you about yours. It feels like they have one foot in eternity. They don’t–they have both feet.  Peter told suffering saints, “Set you hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). In other words, put all your marbles in the world to come. That way nothing today robs you of peace.

Oh, we’ll have some doozies. The man who called his hardships “light and momentary” said earlier in the same letter that “we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). For some life can become almost unbearably difficult. So while we “rejoice with those who rejoice,” we continue to “weep with those who weep.” But, we help one another not to abandon the hope that we are marked for eternity. Ninety years here is an infinitesimal fraction compared to forever.

Look who faced disabilities without letting it disable them.  Maybe they can give you hope rather than dismantled by difficulties. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for “lack of ideas.” Helen Keller was the first blind and deaf person to get a college degree. Marla Runyan was the first legally blind athlete to compete in the Olympics–as a runner. Beethoven composed some of his greatest masterpieces while deaf. Christy Brown, an Irish painter and writer, could only use his foot for writing and painting. Albert Einstein had a learning disability and didn’t speak until he was three. John Milton became blind at 43 and still wrote his most famous work, Paradise Lost. Thomas Edison frustrated his teachers, too stupid to “get it.” Henry Ford went broke five times before he made it. Anchor your hope in eternity–and live with joy today!