Bold Faith: Piety, personal agenda or God’s will?

Jesus’ ministry was marked by His preaching to pious, religious, Jewish people, who, by Biblical accounts, held many prejudiced beliefs about Gentiles.

In St. Mark’s gospel, the story is told of how Jesus honoured the faith of a Syrophonecian woman as she begged Him to cast a demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”   [Jews regarded Syrophonecians as dogs.]

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Jesus spoke in terms to which the Jews could relate.  His play on words was really a challenge to the Jewish disciples who were listening to His conversation with the Syrophonecian woman.  This begs the question – was Jesus indirectly addressing deep-seated prejudice and self-righteous piety that may have been in the hearts of his disciples?

I believe that Jesus was fully aware of the woman’s faith and was prepared to redeem her daughter from the grip of the devil.  But Jesus’ message was clear:  Salvation is not reserved for a few.  It was the Jews’ responsibility to accept Jesus’ teachings and spread the Good News to other nations.

Two dimensions of faith: trust and belief

Faith is the universally acceptable response to the Good News.  Responsive faith has two dimensions – belief and trust – both demonstrated by the Syrophonecian woman’s bold declarations that Jesus could rid her daughter of the demon and her belief that the Good News of salvation was also for the Gentiles.

Recent events have given rise to my own reflection on how declarations of faith can appear to be a veil for self-righteous piety and the promotion of personal agendas.


Belief or self-righteous piety?

  • The US Supreme Court’s ruling that makes same-sex marriages legal, has led to an uproar of debates in many Christian communities with quotes from the Bible to justify labelling ‘us’ against ‘them.’

It’s not my intention to make or break the case for same-sex marriage here.  I have a greater concern.  I question if the reaction in some Christian quarters is really about deeply rooted fear of others who are ‘different’?  I also question, if in the heated debates and hubris, have we strayed from the baseline teachings of Jesus – love of God and our neighbours?

The core belief of our Christian faith is love.  Jesus’ death is the greatest manifestation of love, motivated by our need for redemption.   If we agree that all of us are beneficiaries of God’s redemptive love, shouldn’t our faith lead us to embrace diversity as we proclaim the Good News?

Trust in God or a personal agenda?

  • And speaking about proclaiming the Good News, I recently learned that a prosperity preaching televangelist asked his congregation to purchase him a $65M private jet.

The intention to purchase the private jet was “to help empower the ministry to reach the lost and change precious lives around the world.”  Fair enough.  But I am led to question if the televangelist’s trusting faith has more to do with his own agenda, than the big picture of God’s plan when the televangelist declared: “I can dream as long as I want to. I can believe God as long as I want to. If I want to believe God for a $65 million plane, you cannot stop me. You cannot stop me from dreaming.”  I won’t judge the motivations and faith of the televangelist and his followers.  I will say, though, that the messages are mixed.

True faith expresses bold humility

There is much we can learn from Jesus’ encounter with the Syrophonecian woman:

  • Falling at Jesus’ feet was an act of humility, setting the stage for her bold declaration of trust and belief.
  • The woman had a trusting faith as she begged Jesus to heal her daughter.
  • Before receiving Jesus’ confirmation that her daughter was healed, she boldly declared her transcendent belief in God’s universal plan of redemption for all people.

May we, like the Syrophonecian woman, have faith that is marked by bold humility as we declare the Good News and receive the blessing of answered prayers.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters.



First things first … know who you are before you know what you are to do!

Women are doers. We’re always doing things. We feel good about ourselves when we do for other people. We do things without questioning why and what we’ll get in return. We have a heavy schedule and routine that affects other people. If we don’t cook, the family doesn’t get fed. If we don’t go to the grocery store, the fridge is empty. Sounds familiar?  Speaking for myself, I love to tell people how many things I can do in a day – and how good it makes me feel when I get through everything.

Yes, I will have written several blog posts on the topics of uncovering our gifts and using the gifts in service to God.  I love to exhort you and encourage others, particularly women, to do great and mighty things for God. BUT, and this is a big but, before we think about what God wants us to do, we need to understand clearly who God wants us to be.

Without knowing ourselves and who God wants us to be, we live aimlessly, following traditions and social rules that really separate us from the blessings and enriched life experiences that God wants for us. It’s easy to follow a crowd that’s following God. People who follow a crowd that’s following God are probably doing the all the right things. They’re going to church, singing on the choir, helping out at the church dinner, going to Bible study. These are all good and right things to do. But what I want to do in my first session is to really help us all understand who God wants us to be, as women of faith.

Understanding who God wants us to be comes first before we understand what God wants us to do.

In his letter to the Colossians 1:9 – 10, Paul says:  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, SO THAT you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (NIV)

Paul made two points in these verses (i) each person needs to know God’s will for his/her life, so that (ii) he/she will live a life that is pleasing to God, a life that is fruitful and filled with good work.

Throughout Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians, he emphasised that Jesus Christ is supreme and sufficient. He pointed out that knowing God – having a personal relationship with Him, leads to doing good work for the Lord. I want to drive home the point that before we think about what we want to do for God, we firstly need to understand who God wants us to be.

Understanding who God wants us to be requires us to:

  • Get rid of some false beliefs and ideas about women and their ‘place’ in the church and in the world.
    • God created women equal to men, capable of understanding His will, of developing their talents and serving effectively in all areas of ministry.
    • Women are not in the back row, we are to come forward to do God’s work, as we are directed by God to serve Him and the world.
  •  Understand what the Bible teaches about women.
    • The Bible exalts women. The Bible applauds and honours women as they take part in the home and in the society.
    • We are all beautiful – fearfully and wonderfully made by God
  • Accept ourselves as being created by God to do good things. Our strengths can become weaknesses and our weaknesses can become strengths.
    • Let no one downplay who you are or make you believe that something is radically wrong with your personality.
    • Your personality traits make you who you are so that you can do the good work that God intended you to do. On the other hand, your personality traits can become destructive and offend God and people.
    • Know the difference between personality traits and talents. Personality traits make you who God created you to be. Talents are the gifts that God has given you so you can serve Him.

I will expand on these points in subsequent posts.