A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinOctober 30, 1988 (Baltimore)May 14, 1995 (Phoenix, Revised)
Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ (Mt. 16:24)
Our lives are filled with struggles. There is not a day that goes by that we don’t have something unpleasant to contend with. The challenges that we must deal with come in various degrees of difficulty and intensity. Some battles are so insignificant that we do not consider them struggles at all; in fact, we may even regard them as humorous things. However, there are other natural circumstances which are very difficult and hard to deal with. They can be so intense that it requires all the strength we have not to become fully devastated with the hardship. The death of a family member or a close friend can be very difficult to adjust to. The loss of a job can cause a person to be filled with loneliness and low self-worth. And a serious illness that leaves us incapacitated can make it very difficult to find enjoyment with life here on earth. Not only do we have struggles on the natural plane, but we experience struggles on the spiritual level. At times, it can be very difficult to try to continue living a good life. The allurements of evil can be very attractive to indulge in. There doesn’t seem to be anything enjoyable, in the Word or a life from it. Even the seems to be absent or unconcerned about the dilemmas we are confronted with. Such was the struggle a Canaanite woman had to deal with when she came to the Lord.
One day the Lord was in the land of Canaan, to the north of Israel. This was a very significant thing. The Jews at that time despised everyone that was not a part of their race, especially the Canaanites. For the Lord to be even in the land of Canaan was a very bold statement. While He was there, a Canaanite woman came to Him and begged that He would heal her daughter who was severely possessed by a demon. The woman was desperate to have her daughter become sound again. She was even willing to submit herself to a Jew and plead with Him to heal her daughter. She was not too proud; especially when she realized that her daughter could only be healed by the Lord. We also must be willing to go to the Lord without pride in ourselves, and be willing to submit ourselves to Him. We must acknowledge and confess that we are incapable of overcoming our difficulties, especially our spiritual ones, from our own power. Instead, we are entirely dependant on the Lord’s power to heal us of the difficulties that comes from the hells. Like the Canaanite woman who came to the Lord, fully realizing that she could not remove the demon from her daughter with her own strength, so too must we approach the Lord, fully realizing that our deliverance from the attacks of the hells can only come from Him. If we come before the Lord with conditions of what we can and can not do before we allow the Lord to help us, than we are approaching the Lord with pride in ourselves. But if we approach the Lord with the willingness to submit ourselves to anything He would have us do, no matter what, than we are approaching the Lord without pride, but with a full acknowledgement of His power and our dependency upon Him. This acknowledgment of the Lord’s power is how the Canaanite woman came to the Lord and pleaded with Him to heal her daughter.
However, the Lord showed very little concern about the woman’s grave predicament when she first came to Him. At first, He did not say a word to her. Then He said that He was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel, implying that since she was not a Jew, He could not help her. And when she persisted, He said that she was not worthy to have His services. For He told her:
It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs. (Mt. 15:24)
And all the while this was going on, the disciples were urging the Lord to send her away.
Things must have seemed helpless during this time for the woman. It must have been quite obvious that the Lord was not going to heal her daughter because she was a Canaanite. During times of our troubles, we quite often feel the same way the Canaanite woman did. When we are struggling with an evil love that is enticing us, the Lord does not seem to respond. We do not receive a flash of enlightenment or a surge of heavenly affections that will immediately cast the allurements from the evil spirits away. Instead, there is no significant change. When we go to the Word and pray to the Lord for help, we are still battling with the same evil delights as before, and instead of them becoming weaker, they seem to be intensifying. The Lord remains silent and does not answer or plea for help. And when He does answer, it quite often is not what we want to hear. His answer seems to indicate that we are outside of the Lord’s flock. Because we are afflicted with the difficulty, it seems to indicate that we are not one of the Lord’s sheep. The Lord seems to be telling us what He told the Canaanite woman:
I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Mt. 15:24)
And if we continue to strive to have the Lord deliver us, it seems we are unworthy for Him to work with us. We are just too evil, because of the attraction to an evil delight, for the Lord to be able to help us. He seems to respond to us as He did to the woman:
It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs. (Mt. 15:26)
And all the while we are seeking the Lord to help us, the standards that are presented in the Word discourage us instead of encouraging us. It seems to bring out our frailties and our failures. It seems to bring out more and more vividly our shortcomings, whereby it seems we are more alienated from the Divine truth. This alienation is pictured by the disciples urging the woman to go away strictly because she was a Canaanite. It is during these times that it seems useless to continue to try to do good and to succumb to our evil conditions, just as it seemed to the woman to accept that her daughter would always be demon-possessed.
But the woman did not give up. She continued to ask the Lord to heal her daughter. And when the Lord told her that it is not good to give bread to the dogs, she responded by saying, “True, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” (Mt. 25:26) She was willing to call herself a dog if it would help her daughter. And in spite of all the rejection she had endured thus far, she still believed in the Lord’s compassion and power. She still believed her daughter could be healed, and she did not want to have the pride in herself prevent that from happening. This woman’s perseverance gives us a great lesson today. We too must continue to conform our lives to the Word, no matter how hopeless it may seem. We must still strive to do the best we can to live according to the Lord’s teachings. We must never abandon the commitment to shun evils as sins and apply the commandments of the Word to our lives. We are to continue to have faith in the Lord’s mercy and love that He will never forsake us in our desperate situation. And we must have faith that the Lord’s power is strong enough to heal our spiritual afflictions, and cause us to be able to delight in what is genuinely good. We also must be humble. We must sincerely acknowledge that we are evil as to ourselves, and our salvation is solely form the Lord alone. If we love ourselves more than the Lord and others, then we will reject the Lord just as quickly as the seed is scourged by the sun when it is planted on the rocks, as told in the Parable of the Sower. Certainly, the Canaanite woman could have turned away from the Lord when He ignored and insulted her. But because she loved her daughter more than herself, she was able to remain with the Lord in spite of the harsh treatment. And if we strive to love the Lord and others before ourselves, then we will be able to be true to this dedication in spite of the trials we must endure.
And like the woman, we will have our desires accomplished. For when the woman was willing to stay with the Lord in spite of the discouragements, the Lord praise her. Instead of calling her a “dog”, He now said, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” (Mt. 15:28) The Lord did not play games with this woman’s emotions or feelings. He treated the woman harshly so she could demonstrate her faith in Him. Even though it looked hopeless, she still had confidence the Lord would still eventually heal her daughter. And because she had a true faith in the Lord, she was able to go through the rebukes and neglect without losing faith in Him. If she had the slightest doubt about the Lord’s love or abilities, she would have never continued being with Him. And when her daughter was healed, she had a greater assurance that she was a part of the Lord’s flock even though she was a Canaanite.
We also must have the same perseverance when we go through our trials, be they spiritual or natural. We must relay on the truth that the Lord is still leading us during our times of temptations, even though the appearance is to the contrary. We must dedicate ourselves not to distract ourselves in activities we know are in opposition to the Word. When we are distracted in evil ways, we then have succumbed in temptations. (AC 3488:7) But if we have a true faith in the Lord, one that fully confess His love and power, then we will be able to endure the storms of attack the hells will wage against us. When the attacks are over, and we emerge victorious, our faith and love to the Lord will become stronger. We will have a greater assurance that the Lord has given us salvation. Salvation is the ability to reject the enticements to do evil from the hells. (TCR 484:2) Only the Lord has the power to deliver us from their enticements. And when we have endured the struggles, we can have a greater assurance in the words of the Lord, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Mt. 24:13)