As I was travelling into church on Sunday morning I heard what I thought was a fascinating piece on the radio. To celebrate forty years of the mobile phone, listeners had been asked to phone in on their mobiles and share something interesting.
One lady phoned in to tell how she had been born five months before Sri Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay had climbed Everest. She related how excited and proud her father had been about the achievement of Hillary and Norgay. And then she finished her story in an unexpected way. She said she had just shaken hands with her new neighbour who had climbed Everest – twice. What Hillary had received a knighthood for was now possible for the boy next door.
Matthew 15.21-28 records a well known but rather unusual story of Jesus healing the daughter of a Syro-Phoenician woman.
Jesus and his disciples have entered the region of Tyre to spend some time away from the crowds and rest for a while. The woman somehow finds out about Jesus and goes to Him in search of healing.
The story is unusual in that Jesus seems reluctant to respond to her request. Initially her pleas are met with silence.The disciples urge Jesus to send her away. She is both a gentile and a nuisance. Then Jesus seems to want to block her request by talking about His mission and how the bread (His healing and deliverance ministry) is only for the children (Jews) and not for little dogs (gentiles).
The woman keeps pressing in. She cries for mercy. She falls down in worship. She even reasons with Jesus on the basis of His own argument – even the dogs get the scraps that fall from the table.
And then Jesus commends her for her great faith and pronounces her daughter healed!
Why did Jesus react this way to this woman? I think part of the answer is that He wanted her to press through her understanding of God and the Jewish understanding of God to a place of faith.
To attain spiritual breakthroughs we have to work through an understanding of God that is sometimes faulty. Faith kicks in when we come to that place where we are totally convinced that God is for us and wants to act on our behalf. We reach a point of breakthrough.
In only a few years healing and deliverance amongst people like this woman would be common place. It would be more benchmark than breakthrough.
You might be looking for a breakthrough in a particular area. You might feel God is silent. You might have been damaged by the impatience of the church. You might have ideas of God which in themselves are a real barrier to breakthrough.
But keep going. Your breakthrough, when you get it, might just become a new benchmark for your family and the people around you.