Vol. 10 — No. 11 March 16, 1969


The Faith that Alone Can Overcome the World

Matthew 15:21-28

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

In Christ Jesus, in whom and through whom we can do all things, Fellow Redeemed:

The woman in this story had a problem. In this respect she was like any of us and like everyone that ever has lived upon this earth, for who is there who has no problems? This woman found a solution to her problem. In this respect she was unlike most people who live on this earth and perhaps unlike some of us. Do you find that you have problems that seem to defy solution? Do your problems weigh you down? Do they at times seem almost about to crush you?

What happens when people are unable to solve their problems? Many become depressed. They find themselves unable to function normally on the job and in society and in their homes. Unless their depression is relieved they may soon be unable to care for their personal needs. They may just sit and stare. The pyschiatric wards of hospitals and the mental hospitals are full of such people that have been overwhelmed by their problems.

Sometimes the inability to solve one’s problems leads to suicide. The increasing number of suicides among young people of college age is alarming. Many of these young people are idealists. They decide that the world is sick, and there is nothing that they or society can do to cure the ills of the world. So they take what they believe to be the easy way out—ending it all for themselves. Some young people make a mess out of their own lives by failing prey to their own lusts. What began with a desire to really live it up or to escape personal problems soon becomes a nightmare of sordidness. Pleasures turn to gall, and hopes and expectations become despair and hopeless. Satan offers a seeming way out—end it all!

Is there no power, no energy, no force that will enable man to triumph over his problems? There is! Such a power has been known to children of God of all ages—though many fail to use it properly in their lives. St. John expressed it in this way: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God,” I John 5:4-5. Faith in the Lord Jesus is the spiritual power that will enable a child of God to overcome the world with all its problems. Of the potential of that faith Jesus assured His disciples: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Matthew 17:20. Our text is a story of such a faith in action. Let us take a look and see how such a faith functions;

The Faith that Alone Can Overcome the World

I. Seeks out the Lord Jesus in the day of trouble.

We are told that Jesus “departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.” Opposition was mounting against Him in Galilee, and so He prudently withdrew. But even in the border regions of Galilee and across the borders in the Gentile regions reports of His words and works had found their way and had achieved their purpose. Gentiles, who were acquainted with the hope of salvation given the Jews, realized that the time of fulfillment had come. David’s greater Son had come. All of this had special meaning for one woman of that region, for she had a problem. The day of trouble had overtaken her, for her daughter was “grievously vexed with a devil.” Satan had made her daughter the special object of his attention. An evil spirit had taken up residence with in her body, taking control of both her body and mind. The mother could find no help from man. She turned to the Son of man, to David’s greater Son, and cried unto him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” The faith that alone can overcome problems in this world, yea overcome the world itself, seeks out the Lord Jesus in the day of trouble.

How simple is not that truth, but how easy to forget it! In the day of sickness or accident, we tend to panic. When we collect ourselves sufficiently, we most usually call the doctor or the emergency room of the hospital or the ambulance first. Whatever the trouble may be, we tend to reach for human help first in whatever form it is available. When human help seems unable to solve the problem and we find ourselves at our wits’ end, we may turn to Him, to whom we should have turned in the first place. How often in our lives do we not multiply our problems, burden ourselves with needless worries, take the road that leads to depression and despair—all because we fail to seek out the Lord Jesus in the day of trouble—whatever the trouble may be.

But notice and note well! This woman sought out the Lord Jesus for help. Hers was not a modern day ecumenical faith that superstitiously trusts some vaguely defined “man upstairs,” who is hopefully on call when emergencies arise in human lives. No, her faith was definite. It had come to rest on Jesus of Nazareth whom she believed to be the Son of David. She knew and she believed that the one true God was bringing salvation from the Jews. She knew and she accepted His design of the Jew first and then the Gentile. She submitted humbly to that which she knew to be the way of the Lord. Her faith was based on a knowledge of the way of the Lord and a humble obedience to it. Such a faith overcomes the world. We live in an age of religious illiteracy in pulpit and pew. Let us dedicate and rededicate ourselves to learning the will of God and understanding how all comes to rest upon Christ. We live in an age that believes all truth to be relative. Let us cling to the truth that is revealed clearly and simply in Christ. We live in an age which believes that there are many roads and innumberable by-paths which lead to God, to fulness of life here and life everlasting. Let us reject all ways except one—Jesus Christ who has testified of Himself that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Only a faith rooted and grounded in Him is able to overcome the world!

Such a faith—

II. Grapples boldly and persistently with Him.

The initial plea of this woman brought forth no response from the Lord. “He answered her not a word.” One could not blame the woman if she felt discouraged, especially when the disciples “came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.” But she persisted and that boldly, even though He rebuffed her with the words: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” She was not one of God’s chosen people. Did she think it right to take blessings belonging to the Jews and give them to her, a dog of the Gentiles? One would think that she would have hushed, but she didn’t. Her need was great, her faith strong, her hope intent. “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Just a crumb of blessing. This was all that she wanted. But she asked for it boldly and persistently.

Why do we so frequently seem to be on the verge of being overwhelmed by our problems? Can we not trace it to a lack of boldness and persistence in faith that will express itself in prayer? Our boldness takes the wrong turn. We become bold in self-confidence and self-reliance. He imagine that we can solve all our own problems. We make ourselves bold in soliciting all kinds of human help and relief, but we fail to become bold in knocking at the door of divine help. Our persistence—is it not too frequently the persistence of littleness of faith and of unbelief? “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” Matthew 17:17. Must not our Lord direct those questions at times at us?

Boldy and persistently Abraham bargained with the Lord God until he had reduced the number of godly necessary to save Sodom and Gomorrha from fifty to ten. He saved not the cities, but he did save Lot and his daughters. All through the night Jacob wrestled with The Angel of the Lord. He refused to cease and desist until he secured a blessing. When the Lord informed King Hezekiah through Isaiah that he was to prepare himself to die, Hezekiah boldly and persistently took issue with the Lord in prayer and secured for himself an extension of fifteen years to his life. These examples have been recorded for our learning. They reveal to us how we are to exercise our faith in prayer and so overcome our problems and gain victories, yea overcome even the world itself. Our littleness of faith and our unbelief so frequently keep victory from our grasp. “Only believe,” our Lord cries to us. “Ask, seek, knock.” What a pity it is that we so frequently fail to use the power of faith that could help us so much from day to day.

Let us realize that the faith that alone can overcome the world does—

III. Gain the victory without fail.

The Lord could not hold out against this woman. He “answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” All authority in heaven and earth has been given unto our Lord. No force or power in either heaven or earth can stand against Him—except the power of a faith that turns to Him in prayer. What is so remarkable is this that our Lord delights in being overwhelmed and constrained by the prayers of His people. He rejoices in giving us the victory by faith in Him.

How powerful is not faith! It gains every victory without fail! Oh that we would but realize this! When we begin to look about us and see the evils in this world and the victories that Satan is able to score even over those who profess Christ, we begin to fear for the survival of the Church. We wonder whether we can survive as a congregation by remaining faithful to the Lord and His Word when all about us congregations seem to prosper by being unfaithful to the Lord and His Word. When do we feel that the waves and winds will overwhelm our little boat and sink us? Only when we believe Jesus to be sleeping and so ignorant of our needs. Only when we imagine that we must save ourselves because the Lord is either unwilling or unable to save us. But once we see the Lord awake and in full charge, then our fears should flee and our faith gain the victory. The Word of the Gospel that we preach and teach is not ours but His. It is His responsibility to guard and protect it. The Church is His creation, not ours. He made the promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and He shall keep it. Let us let Him do the worrying, for the cause is His. Only believe! Such a faith gains the victory without fail.

St. Paul expressed such a faith in these words, “I can do all things through Christ which strenghteneth me.” Philippians 4:13. That is a faith that cannot fail to gain the victory. We sing and that daily, yet we gain that victory over sin through His forgiveness which becomes ours by faith. We hear the consequences of sin in our bodies by sickness. Yet we gain the victory over those sicknesses because He came to hear those burdens also and because He can and does give healing. We struggle for existence because sin has caused us to eat our bread in the sweet of our brow, but we gain the victory because He is pleased to bless the labors of our hands. We encounter hostilities in those we associate with, yet in the power of His love we can generate love sufficient to overcome all enmity. We grow older and suffer the ravages of increasing age, yet faith gives us the assurance of eternal renewal. We will one day die, yet we shall pass victorious through death to life. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Faith can move mountains. Faith does overcome the world.

Lord, give us such a faith! Amen.

—Pastor Paul F. Nolting

Preached March 2, 1969
Holy Trinity Independent
Evangelical Lutheran Church
West Columbia, South Carolina

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