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THE OUTSIDER SOMETIMES HAS MORE FAITH THAN THE INSIDER

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

15 AUGUST 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Matthew 11:20-24
            15:21-28
Luke 4:25-27
John 4:7

As we begin to look at why the outsider sometimes has more faith than the insider, let's consider some situations other than those related to faith, and how and why this insider to outsider relationship functions.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone was struggling over something, when you came along with a fresh outlook and immediately solved the problem?

Or perhaps you were the one who was struggling with some sort of problem, and someone else came along and solved it for you.

Trying to balance a set of accounting books, or your check book, can at times be such a problem; and many a time I have looked over the shoulder of someone and almost immediately saw some simple reason for the problem.

The same thing happens when I write something, such as this morning’s sermon, and I may write the same word twice or leave out a word and never catch my error. This happens because I expect it to be correct; yet Mary will catch it instantly.

Faith in God can be a lot like this, too.

We have a tendency to become complacent in our faith; or we try to reason everything out and miss the little miracles or the spiritual nudges from God.

We may even reject something from God, and try to explain it away through or by some cause or source.

This is one of the reasons why the church is so weak, and why Israel fell away from God.

And when this begins to happen, those outside the congregation sometimes end up having more real faith than those inside.

Jesus deliberately had such encounters in order to try to show Israel, and his disciples, that their own faith must be exercised, or those on the outside would develop more faith than theirs.

In Matthew 15:21-28 we see the recording of such an encounter. Let’s turn there in our Bibles and come to understand what is taking place.

And as we look at these words, keep in mind that the Bible is not a book of a collection of words to teach us about tangible things, but a Book of faith in God and of a way of life that will lead us to an everlasting life with Him which is intangible, for we can't see it or touch 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."

This Canaanite woman, this outsider, saw Jesus for who He is spiritually, and not simply who He appeared to be physically. By her words she is saying that she is acknowledging Him as the Jewish Messiah, whom she believes in by faith to be hers, too.

Also, she didn't see the demon, or demons, who possessed her daughter; but by faith she knew they were there and, by faith, she knew that Jesus had the power to cast out demons.

Jesus knew that she came to Him in faith; but to show the disciples their own lack of faith, and the truth of His unlimited ministry, note the way He responded to her:

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."

If you don't have any faith, such an answer could “shoot the wind out of your sails” to the point that you might want to give up.

But listen to how this woman responds:

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."

Here Jesus even seems to be insulting her – which He really isn't doing – but He is saying this in order to further expose her faith to His disciples, and in turn, to us.

I know of many a person who has left the church after having someone other than the Lord say far less to them.

So what does she do?

27. But she said, "Yes Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."

She doesn't give up, does she?

And neither will any other person with true faith.

At times, we may feel like giving up because of the lack of faith and sensitivity of others within the Church; but we don't give up, if we really have faith, for our faith allows us to see beyond the present situations to the true answer in the spiritual world.

That is exactly what this Canaanite woman is doing.

And that is why Jesus responded as He did:

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 [or from that very hour].

Even in Jesus' answer, He further tests her faith.

He said to her, "Be it done as you wish."

He didn't just cast out the demon. In essence, He is giving her the power to cast out the demon by His power, or to the extent of her own faith.

As we see, the demon left and the girl was healed.

This wasn't the first time Jesus did something like this. Do you remember that in John 4, we are told of His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well? And remember that this woman was also considered an outsider. (John 4:7)

7. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”

In Luke 4:25-27, Jesus rebukes those in the synagogue for their lack of faith – for not recognizing Him for who He is – by telling them that He was going to deliver the same message to the outsiders, for they would have more faith than the insiders of the synagogue; and He gave two examples from the Old Testament.

Let's take a look at what He said in these verses.

25. "But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land;

26. and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

27. "And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian."

We see a similar comment in Matthew 11:20-24.

20. Then He began to reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.

21. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

22. "Nevertheless I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you.

23. "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you?

You shall descend into Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.

24. "Nevertheless I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."

How do you think God would view your own faith, and how would it compare to the faith of those outside the church?

As a whole body, how do you think God would view this church's faith?

How do you think He would view the faith of the Church in general?

And what comments do you believe he would make about us?

I'm not going to answer these questions for you, for God has given you the spiritual insight to accurately discern your own true nature and that of everyone else around you.

To do this is an act of faith.

Then to recognize our flaws and failures, and do something to correct our ways, becomes an even greater act of faith.

An equally great act of faith is to constantly improve our walk with God, recognizing our true acts of faith, in the love and sensitivity and compassion of the Lord, for what they are; and then realizing that God doesn't want us to sit back upon our previous successes, but to move out with even greater ones.

Do we truly and wholly love the Lord our God and His creation?

Do we love one another – every person? Do we love them beyond their sins to the person God wants them to be, so that we can still show God's love and our love to them?

Do we truly feel the pain and suffering of people and other animals enough to do something to stop it?

Do we have the compassion to reach out even to our enemies and to stop the killing?

Such a way of life requires a tremendous amount of faith, but not more than you are capable of expressing and living.

As Jesus tells us in His word, we are to recognize the fact that when outsiders are more faithful than we are in any of these areas, we have failed to fully live by faith.

Those faithful outsiders should be insiders, and we must make them feel welcome by setting an equal or, preferably, an even greater example of love, of sensitivity, and of compassion.

Are we collectively prepared to do this?

And are you individually prepared to take that challenge?

I truly pray so, for this is the message I have been preaching for a long, long time.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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