Chapter 19 – The School of Faith

“O woman, great is thy faith; be it done unto thee even as thou wilt.” Matt. 15: 28.

A great faith: all should know that there is nothing on earth so desirable. Many may wish to have it and may pray for it, and yet there are but few that come to it. And why? A principal reason is this: they will not walk in the way that leads to it; they are afraid of the school where that faith is taught. Or, they have very wrong ideas concerning the way to attain that great faith, as if, for instance, it were a gift which is bestowed at once. So perverse are their thoughts, that when the Lord is going to hear their prayers and is to lead them in another way than they had expected, they suppose that He is no longer caring for them. Come, all ye that long for more faith, learn from the Canaanite woman, how the Lord will bring you to it.

First of all, He will try you. The Canaanite woman had a daughter possessed by a devil, and what a trial was not that to her? And so the Lord still sends His children trials of very different kinds. With one, it is trial in the physical life; with another, trial in the family; with another again it is inward vexation of soul; with still more it is hidden conflict with sin. But trial there must be; for so long as the flesh has everything agreeable and according to its inclination, the soul will never wholly and with power cleave to the Lord. It is by necessity that it is driven out to seek all its salvation in the Lord and to commit itself to Him. Blessed trial, the message of God to teach more faith, how many regard thee as the messenger of His wrath and aversion, instead of humbly suffering themselves to be led by thy hand to the Lord.

Further: when the Lord is to lead a soul to great faith, He leaves its prayers unheard. So it was with the Canaanite woman. He answered her not one word, and when He did at length reply to her, the answer was still more unfavorable than His silence. This is always the way. If the answer came immediately, how would the soul get acquainted with the Lord Himself. His gifts would occupy its attention so much that it would overlook the Lord Himself. It must first be put to the proof, whether it can take its stand upon its Lord and what He has provided, without any answer; whether He and His word are to suffice for it; yea, whether it will, even when His word appears to be opposed to it, still not doubt His love, but rather commit itself to it. A faith so great that it still cleaves to the Lord in spite of apparent rejection: this precious lesson, which is above all else acceptable to the Lord, is learned and practiced only in the conflict of unheard but persevering prayer.

Once more: the soul that is to come to great faith must be humbled. What a hard word for the poor heathen woman: “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs.” But she suffers it to be well-pleasing to her, and uses it as her strongest argument. She overcomes the Lord with His own weapons and turns His rejection into her plea: “Even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall under their master’s table.” Do you also likewise: whenever, in following the Lord, your sins are laid bare to you, and your unworthiness held up before you, and the word makes you feel that you are an ungodly and accursed sinner, always answer with the woman, “Yea, Lord, I am very wretched; all that my heart testifies of sin is true: ‘yet, yet even the dogs eat’; and with such a Lord as Thou art, there is overflowing grace even for the most wretched.” The deeper the root, the stronger the tree; the deeper the descent of humility, the stronger the faith; for then it leans, not half on itself, but wholly on the Lord.

See here, thou, my soul, Jesus’ school for faith. Let it not grieve you, if the lessons are sometimes heavy; He has told you of this beforehand. But hold fast this conviction: when my soul is brought into trial, when my sin and unworthiness become more distinct, and press me the deeper down, I shall look upon all this as the way along which the all-loving Jesus is to lead me to that life of faith, in which He takes such delight; and when I am dispirited, I shall read again the story of the Canaanite, and I shall be strengthened by the glorious victory and reward of her conflict of faith. The more difficult the school, the more glorious the prize; “Be it done unto thee, even as thou wilt.”