Staying Focused on God's Will

Matthew 15:21-28

Did you ever try to help someone out but only to find that your help really wasn't appreciated? The disciples seemed to be caught in such a tug-of-war. Here they were trying to help out Staying FocusedJesus, but He just wouldn't cooperate! Jesus was the one who wanted to get away. He went faraway into another country called Tyre. He is the One who told everyone to don't tell anyone about where He was staying. (1) He wanted to be quiet. A kind of vacation or retreat. A time to be spiritually close to God. He wanted to be alone with the disciples. However, as in real life, Jesus found these planned retreats can be rudely interrupted.

This morning I remember having a siege on my office. My office is at home so it perhaps is more prone to invasions than the average office building. But neither is impenetrable from distractions. One person requested this. I kindly asked them to close the door and not disturb me. Another person came with the same question. This happened several times more. Then there was one of these children's song/story being played too loud. I asked them to kindly turn it down and close their door for I was studying. Even the little 2 year-old joined in. He didn't know he wasn't to push the door open because Daddy was concentrating hard. After this went on for about fifteen minutes (I was surprised how much I really got done!), I just finally wedged my study chair against the door. I became desperate for some privacy! The next person came by and pushed the door hard causing the chair to slide from its place just a bit. After noticing the chair there, he regressed rather quickly. He had never seen their Dad so desperate as to place a big chair against the door!

Jesus was in this Canaanite land to find quietness. His healing ministry caused a great commotion wherever He went in Israel. The religious leaders were beginning to get antagonistic and show their resistance to the God they pledged to love. But no matter why Jesus was there, He always did His Father's will. His disciples were less slow to learn it.

"21 And Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman came out from that region, and began to cry out, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." 23 But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came to Him and kept asking Him, saying, "Send her away, for she is shouting out after us." 24 But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" 26 And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27 But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once." (Matthew 15:21-28, NASB)


We should first complement this woman on her faith. No matter how many obstacles in her way, she persisted. Though the disciples were not being helpful here - "Send her away!" We see Jesus was none too cooperative either. But it is here we see a great difference between the disciples and Jesus. The disciples took the smaller goal of being alone and made it their primary goal. They became blind to God's larger will. Even if God had them go so far away to actually meet someone's special need, they could not see this.

Jesus on the other hand was playing it out. He knew His goal was to be alone and refreshed. He was to have private time with His disciples, but He always wanted to do the Father's will even at His great inconvenience. I'm not trying to say that this was hard or easy for Jesus. He could easily have healed this woman's afflicted daughter, but when one gets away, enters a relaxation mode and begins to unwind a bit, even good things can be harder than usual to do. I suppose it is like a person having their eyes narrowly focused through his binoculars but needs to wait for a minute for his eyes to adjust. How did Jesus test whether this was a real need from the Father for Him to attend to or just another disruption from the evil one? Jesus responded four times to the woman's persistent pleading.

  • Firstly, we see Jesus was absolutely quiet. He said nothing. The first test is to ascertain real need. If the person seeking you can be quiet, then they need no special care.

  • Secondly, Jesus stated His mission, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Jesus analyzed the request in light of the mission God had sent Him on. In this case, we clearly see that Jesus was sent to His own people (2) - the Jews. Jesus was very mission-conscious. The woman saw this too, but it didn't stop her.

  • Thirdly, Jesus tested her faith. He shared a story that excluded her from gaining a portion of God's goodness. But her desperateness, her willingness to humbly respond, and yes -her faith, all came alive in her tremendously astute answer, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." If this woman's request was from the Father, then He would send someone with faith. Faith is a gift of God.

  • Lastly, we note Jesus' clear affirmation of her faith and an announcement that her daughter suffering from severe demonic oppression would be fine, "O woman, your faith is great; be it done for you as you wish." Jesus was poised to rest, but His delight was to care for people God had sent to Him no matter what He was doing.

I recently heard a testimony on discerning God's will. This man, Bruce, had a full schedule. At a meeting he met with a few representatives from South Africa. They asked him to develop some material on AIDS. Bruce quickly and simply said, "No." He knew he was far too busy but anyway this task did not fit into the ministry God had given him. He knew these guys would go back and tell others to pray.

"No."
They met again the next year. They again asked him whether he would do it. They said that they knew he was the right person for it. But again Bruce, a bit more reflective this time, paused and affirmed that this was not what God was calling him to do. This was not the ministry God had given to him. They again said that they would pray. Bruce knew they would. He was confident, however, that this was outside God's purpose for him. The next year they again met, and they again asked him. He was already to say 'no' to these guys again, but this time was different. Once they spoke of the project and need, something happened. He began weeping. A great unexpected and deep compassion for these people filled his heart. He knew that God had called him to develop these materials even though it was outside his normal focus of ministry. God greatly helped him develop the materials in spite of his heavy load.(3)

We need to be focused. But the focus, the mission, the ministry, the duty and present responsibilities that we hold to will all be tested. As Jesus' disciples, we might be disgusted with a person's persistent requests. Our plans, though, must always be ready for the exception. Whether we are on vacation, spiritual retreat, or just plain tired sitting in our backyard, we need to be alert to possible interruptions. We should not easily give up our mission's focus. We will be tested. However, we must not lose focus by others that are wishing for us to short cut the necessary tests to discern what the Father's will is. We might use the silent test or the 'no' test. But when desperate faith is so apparent and confirmed in our spirits, then we should know our Heavenly Father has sent them and will give us all the extraordinary grace to meet that special need.

 

Dealing with Demands on our Schedules
Dealing with Demands on our Schedules Our understanding of God's purposes for our lives can be seen by the chart. Ideally all our present responsibilities should stay within both God's purpose and the purpose He has designed us for. Our mission/vision is the maturing understanding of God's purpose for our lives. God's overall purpose for our lives incorporates the other features but also includes different situations and events which are outside the other two circles.

A godly response would mimic Jesus' response to such challenges to our daily routines. Two examples include Jesus' visit to Tyre (above) and His ministry to the Samaritan woman. God will have us be involved in certain activities that are outside our normally understood 'mission' or responsibilities. Jesus' response to the Canaanite woman reflected His flexibility, patience and ability to test her challenging demand. This heart response reveals a love not for our schedules, plans, or our own wisdom but for the will of God.


Walking with Jesus: Abiding in Christ Series

Impossible Love
Mark 8:1-9

Jesus responded to their needs. The disciples responded to their resources.

Genuine Friendship
John 15:15-16

I don't want my Heavenly Father to treat me the way I treated my son!

A Vial of Love
Mark 14:1-9

Our relationship with God is to take priority over our works.

Following is Not Easy
Mark 10:46-52

I wanted Jesus to be with me, but I didn't really want to be with Him.

Listening Carefully
Mark 7:17-18

The Lord wants me to sit down and listen to Him.

A Faith that Counts

I was not sure how many prayers I have absolutely wasted.

Staying Focused
Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus found these planned retreats can be rudely interrupted.

Discovering Treasures
Mark 10:21-27

What were they amazed and later astonished at?

Worth it all!
Mark 10:28-31

His disciples would often if not always be required to make a sacrifice of one kind or another.

The Capsizing of Religion
Mark 3:1-6

Many churches just wouldn't want Jesus attend!

Family of Jesus
Mark 03.31-35

If you or I were part of this crowd, wouldn't we do the same thing as they?

Growing Confidence in Jesus
Mark 7:31-37

What Jesus I am following?

A Word on Christian Suffering
John 15:1-2

We didn't do anything wrong to deserve such pruning! John 15:1-2

Genuine Worship
Mark 12:28-34

Anything not built on this one command is best left in the periphery of life.

Dreams to Dust 911
Mark 13:1-3

Jesus felt compelled to take their dreams to the dust.

A Faith of Action
Mark 11:27-33

The world starts getting concerned when the church starts practicing its faith.

The Felling of Fame
Mark 2:1-2

Stopped in my tracks. Time to deal with my desire for fame.

Perspective on Worry
Luke 12:25-26

We are really surprised at Jesus' comments about our worry.

Overcome Fear of Man
Mark 11:27-39

Outnumbered. Outflanked. Out-educated. Compromise was begging Jesus to conform for acceptance.


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Paul J. Bucknell


Biblical Foundations for Freedom

Notes
(1) "And from there He arose and went away to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice." (Mark 7:24, NASB). The parallel passage is Mark 7:24-30.
2) John 1:11, "He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him." Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
(3) From Bruce Wilkinson's seminar talk on the "Beginning of a Vision."