Commendable Faith

by Greg Laurie

Faith. We talk about it a lot. We pontificate about it. We tell others to have it. But what about when we are in a situation where we have a great need? Suddenly we might find ourselves struggling with our faith.

The truth is that we have to apply faith every day. When we order meals at restaurants, we have faith that the food was prepared properly. We have faith that when pharmacists fill our prescriptions, they are putting the right pills in the right bottles for us. We have faith that when we board a plane, it is going to fly. We put our faith in things maybe hundreds, even thousands of times daily. Yet there is no safer place to put our faith than in God himself.

The Bible defines faith as the confident assurance that what we hope for will happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see (see Hebrews 11:1) . The very existence of faith despite our circumstances is a proof of God. The fact that faith is present even when things are difficult proves that God is there and has given us that faith. I’ve seen Christians in the most trying circumstances imaginable exhibit the strongest faith.

But here is the problem that some people have regarding faith. They treat it as though it were a fragile little object. Be careful. Don’t drop it. We can look at faith, but don’t get too close.

That is not faith. Faith is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Muscles get stronger through use, not neglect. In the same way, faith needs to be flexed. It needs to be used. It needs to be put into action. Faith is belief plus action.

In the book of Jude we read, “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit” (verse 20 nlt).

Faith is active. Faith is living. Faith cannot be inoperative. Living in Southern California, I’ve noticed how some people like to drive around in four-wheel drive vehicles, yet they never seem to use them for what they actually were designed for. They wouldn’t think of getting them dirty. It is all show and no go. That is how a lot of people are when it comes to faith. They talk about it, but they seldom put it into action.

The Bible tells the story of a woman who had great faith. She wasn’t raised as a Jew in a covenant relationship with the Lord. Nor did she have the opportunity to personally walk and talk with Jesus and see his miracles. In fact, she was a sinful woman living in a pagan country, and she had a great need. But she rallied with a faith so dramatic that Jesus commended her for it.

Jesus was, of course, an expert on the topic of faith. He had seen the faith of all his followers from the beginning of human time, from Abraham to Moses, from Sarah to Ruth, from Elijah to Elisha, from Peter to John. Yet he singled out this woman for her faith.

What was her great need? She had a daughter who became demon-possessed. She had tried everything she could to deliver her daughter, but nothing worked. Her daughter was under the control of Satan himself, and this mother determined that if she could have a personal audience with Jesus, her daughter’s problem would be solved. And she would not be deterred.

Another thing we know about this woman is that she was from Canaan. That may not mean a lot to us. But when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, it was the land of the Canaanites, people who worshiped false gods. They were the avowed enemies of Israel.

So here was this Canaanite woman reaching out to Jesus. So what did Jesus do? “He answered her not a word” (Matthew 15:23 nkjv) . Jesus knew what she was made of. He knew she would rise to the challenge.

The disciples had a different reaction. They said to Jesus, “Send her away, for she cries out after us” (verse 23 nkjv). In other words, “Lord, this woman is driving us nuts. She’s creating a scene.” But Jesus wasn’t going to send her away; he was going to draw her out:

Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”

But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”

Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” (verses 24–26 nlt).

A better translation of Jesus’ response in verse 26 would be, “Is it right to take the children’s food and give it to the little puppies?” I think this woman knew exactly what Jesus was doing. I think she saw a twinkle in his eye and heard the warmth in his voice. So she came right back with the reaction Jesus was waiting for: “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table” (verse 27 nlt)

Then Jesus made an amazing, jaw-dropping statement: “Dear woman, . . . your faith is great. Your request is granted” (verse 28 nlt).

Why was this woman’s prayer answered? Because of her persistence and commitment. When the door was shut in her face, she just knocked at it harder. She wasn’t going to give up. She wasn’t going to back down.

Faith is often found in unlikely places. You would have thought a strong faith like this would have come from an Israelite. Yet it was a Gentile woman whom Jesus commended for her faith.

The Bible says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Job 2:32 nkjv). What if this woman had stayed home that day? Would her child have been delivered from demon possession? It’s doubtful. She probably wouldn’t have. But her mother sought out Jesus. She called out to him, and he heard her and answered her.

If you will call out to the Lord, he will answer you as well.