Victory

Do you hold on to your victories? As we continue on our journey through the gospel of Matthew, we come to a place where we are reminded that we must hold on to our victories (15:29-39). When we win a game we reminisce, but when we win a championship we hold fast all the victories. In our faith life, we need to grasp that victory is ours in Jesus Christ. The Bible reveals that in the end, Jesus is victorious. Not just in this life where sin persists but also in the eternal life to come. Jesus is our victor and what He gives to us is (στέφανος stephanos) the victor’s crown. The symbol of victory given to the winners in the Greek games. A reward or a prize where the victor would ascend the bema and be crowned. As believers, we are crowned as winners in the Christian life. 

Not because we were good, but because Jesus Christ overcame. This word stephanos is used in 1 Corinthians 9:25~Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown (στέφανος stephanos) that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (NIV) Why did you get saved, going into strict training? Why participate in 21-Days? To train up our most holy faith and receive the victor’s crown. Revelation 3:21~To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (NIV)

Moreover, in 2 Timothy 2:5 the word stephanos is used as an ornament for festivities and celebrations as in Proverbs 1:9; Proverbs 4:9; Isaiah 28:1. The stephanos was also used to honor someone publicly who had distinguished themselves in service or given to someone for their worthiness. Song of Solomon 3:11~come out, and look, you daughters of Zion. Look on King Solomon wearing a crown (στέφανος stephanos), the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, the day his heart rejoiced. (NIV) As part of the bride of Christ, I am ready for a wedding, the marriage supper of the Lamb. It is the victor’s crown worn at the parousia, the word that gives us advent or the return of our King. Jesus is crowned and He will return to catch away His bride.

Mark 7:31~Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. (NIV) Christ remains in this a predominately Gentile area, know as modern-day Jordan, where He teaches and heals many who glorify God. (15:29-31) Matthew 15:32~Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way. (ESV) 

How would you respond when Christ Jesus says, feed the crowd. He has just worked many signs, wonders, and miracles over many days. Does faith increase as we get tired, or do we become short-sighted to all Christ Jesus has done in our lives. Today, why not take the time to hold your victories? Sit down with a pen and paper and start writing the victories that Christ has won in your life. There is our salvation, our family, our jobs, homes, lives. Start considering how each of these came into our lives. I bet you end up praising Him, as you sing for joy.



Ask

In Matthew 15, we find the Lord saying something that just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps that is because we are not first-century Jews understanding the lingo. Most of us have been around kids or those younger than us and heard the jive talk, yes a dated reference, or we tried to use a hip word, like cool, only to be reminded it was no longer cool. Or even worse you heard it was sick and stayed away, though it really was something perfect for you. As Jesus shares His response we need to be educated on Matthew 15:26~And he answered, It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. (ESV) This woman who has come to Christ has brought her deepest need and seems to be meeting the requirements of Psalm 55, more than we might suspect. 

The 55th Psalm is a psalm of lament where the psalmist is surrounded by his enemy and in desperate need. This sounds just like the woman here in Matthew 15 who is crying out, not for herself, but her innocent child, who is plagued. So, let’s take hold of the three reference points offer and learn: Children, bread and dogs. 1st—Children: The Jews are God’s children (τέκνον teknon) this word reminds us that God is our heavenly Father. 2nd—Bread: Do we give bread (ἄρτος artos) to dogs? (ἄρτος artos) This is the same word Christ Jesus uses in John 6:35 as He references, the first I Am saying, I Am the bread (ἄρτος artos) of life. 3rd—Dogs: Jews referred to Gentiles as (κυνάριον kynarion) little dogs. This would have been the way a Jew would speak about Gentiles in casual conversation.

Jesus is reminding us that His earthly ministry is first to the Jews and they take precedence over His ministry to the Gentiles. Paul writes concerning the Gospel in Romans 1:16~For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (NIV) This poor woman respectfully fires back, Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs…Matthew 15:27~ She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (ESV) The woman first recognizes Jesus’ divinity. Then she doesn’t deny the priority of Jews in God’s plan but suggests that it doesn’t exclude Gentiles.

This Canaanite woman demonstrates a complete absence of pride as she humbly continues to ask for mercy, saying, Lord, I am whatever you say I am. In other words, I’ve no right to ask, but please help me. She is willing to be content with the crumbs that fall from the Messiah’s table. She believes the crumbs of His ministry are enough to heal her daughter. Such faith! She offers a wonderful example of 1 Peter 5:5~In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. (NIV) 

It’s because of her humility in great faith, Jesus says in Matthew 15:28 ~Then Jesus answered her, O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire. And her daughter was healed instantly. (ESV) Though she probably hasn’t heard it, the woman is following one of Jesus’ principles for answered prayer: ask, and it will be given to you. Luke 11:9~So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (NIV) If we want to be Fortified in our Faith then we must become persistent in our prayers.

What are you asking of God right now? Where are you asking Him to move in your life? What are you knocking on heaven’s doors for today? Whatever it is, be persistent. God will answer, and when He does, I want you to accept what He says. 



Fortified

After confronting the Pharisees and scribes about their hypocrisy, Jesus explains that our hearts are the origin of defilement. Then He withdraws. Matthew 15:21~And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. (ESV) Known as southern Lebanon, it’s about 40 miles to this Gentile region where Christ will minister and reveal how faith can be Fortified.

The first thing we need to do to help fortify our faith is to become a person who is persistent in prayer (15:22-28). One thing we all need to be reminded of is that our requests, needs, and desires must be made through or in persistent prayer. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:6~Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV) Not being anxious can be pretty hard. That is why as we journey through this Gentile territory, we meet a Canaanite woman who comes persistently to Jesus. Now the Canaanites were bitter enemies of the Jews when Israel was settling the Promised Land. 

The woman comes to Jesus and cries out, “Have mercy!” Matthew 15:22~ And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, Have mercy on me, O Lord (κύριος kyrios), Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon. (ESV) Despite her pagan background, she calls Jesus by His messianic title, Son of David. She also reverently addresses Him as Lord (κύριος kyrios), meaning master or controller, you got what I need. She says I know who you are and I call on you.

Now Jesus ignores her at first. Matthew 15:23~But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” (ESV) Matthew 15:24~He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (ESV) We know His answer is meant to test the woman’s faith, for Jesus does minister to Gentiles. In Matthew 8:5-13, He heals the Roman centurion’s servant with a word. Moreover, He chats up a Samaritan woman who He offers living water to at the well in John 4:7-29. All the more this woman cries.

As she comes before Christ, she kneels, and says, Lord, help me. This is an all too familiar picture. Where we, as believers kneel before our Lord to plead our desperation in great prayer and supplication. As Jesus answers her, He uses three points of reference known to the Jews. Saying in Matthew 15:26~And he answered, It’s not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. (ESV) Now for us, who are not Jews of the day and don’t understand this reference, it would seem that Christ is without compassion. Yet, we know that Jesus cares for us and that we are to cast all of our cares and concerns upon Him. It was the psalmist who first penned in Psalm 55:22~Cast thy burden upon Jehovah, and he will sustain thee: He will never suffer the righteous to be moved. (KJV) 

What burden is there in your life that needs to be cast on Christ. Why not embrace the 21-Days of prayer and fasting this year to set a tone for your faith and life moving forward. Go ahead and cast the burden that you have been toting around on Jesus. He cares for you and will be the one who sustains you. Let the Lord become your strength today.