Monday, February 15, 2016

Satisfied with Whatever God Gives to us

It has happened to all of us before. We ask God for
something, and we don’t hear an answer. We ask again and again. Finally...we
hear His answer and the answer sounds like He said, “NO!” Frustrated, we sulk
in a corner wondering why God gives everyone else what THEY ask for, but when
it comes to what WE want, He always says, “NO!” In the story of the Canaanite
Woman in Matthew 15.21-28, we see a woman who seems to be struggling with the
same problem. She asks God over and over again to heal her daughter until she
finally hears Him say, “It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw
it to the dogs.” The difference is that this woman didn’t sulk, and she didn’t
accuse God of giving everyone something that she deserved. The Canaanite Woman
had deep faith and a deeper humility that allowed her to be satisfied with
whatever God gave to her, and her daughter was healed from the moment she
reached that pure faith.

Hello. My name is Father Athanasios Haros. I'm the pastor, here, at the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church, in Florence, South Carolina. I'm your host for Be Transfigured Ministries. Here at Be Transfigured, as we say, we invite you to live a new life in Christ. We feature our sermons, and our bible studies, and other special events, in the life of the Church. We do it to inspire you to join us in living a new life in Christ. I hope you'll join this. I'll be back in a moment, after this video, to share some information about our ministry.
                                One of the things that, sometimes we ponder, we wonder about, when we read the scriptures, we see stories like this morning's Gospel, where there is a woman in need, her daughter having a demon possession, having a demon taking over her body, and you see this plight of a woman begging God for help for her daughter. We hear this story more than once throughout the year. This Gospel reading is one of the seven Gospels read during the service of Holy Unction. One of the things that we can understand, from the way the Church uses this scripture reading, is that the Church wants us to consider healing, physical and spiritual healing, when we hear this Gospel.
                                This is not simply a story about God's healing miracles. It's about our healing. I want to take apart bits and pieces, this morning, of the Gospel, and we're also going to talk about the Epistle for just a moment, and I hope we can have a little better understanding of why the Church feels that this particular Gospel is healing for us. If it is not healing for us, my brothers and sisters, then it's just another story. It doesn't do us any good to memorize this story, and to remember how He talks to the woman, and how the crowd talks to Him, and how the woman talks to God, if it doesn't somehow heal us.
                                The first question we have to ask is, heal us from what? What is our illness? We're not talking, here, about a cut hand. We're not talking about pneumonia. We're not even talking about cancer, today. This woman's daughter was possessed by a demon. Our illness, my brothers and sisters, is the constant attack, and the effect that the demons have on our lives. Each and every one of us goes through life under a constant attack, and sometimes we find ourselves like this woman, asking God for help. Lord have mercy on me.
                                The first thing we see in the Gospel, it says, "He didn't answer her one word," and immediately we wonder, what's God waiting for? If He's going to heal the daughter, why doesn't He just do it right away? Why does He make this woman suffer? Why does He not even answer her one word? We find ourselves, many times, in the same place as this woman.
                                We think our prayers have gone unanswered. Where is God? Why didn't He do for me, what I asked Him? The disciples say, "Lord, come on. Send her away. She's pestering us. She's following us, crying out to us." Again the Lord responds, but not to her, He says, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." She was a Canaanite woman, so she was not one of the house of Israel. Again we wonder, we look around, and we think we see God treating other people better than He treats us. Well, they got what they asked for, how come I didn't get what I asked for? It goes on, and on, and on.
                                Finally, the woman comes, and she bows down in front of Him. She makes it now so He cannot avoid her. This is a deep challenge, the words that He says to her, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." Imagine, now, what this woman must have thought. Excuse me. Are you telling me, God, that I am the same as these little puppy dogs running around? The little puppy dogs that, if they're here one day, and gone the next, nobody notices? Is this what you're telling me, God? That wasn't her response. Her response was, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master's table."
                                You see, this woman had a deep, deep faith, and an even deeper sense of humility. She understood what God was trying to help everyone understand. She understood in her heart that, yes, we ask God for things, but what God wants us to understand is exactly what is necessary for us. What do we really need from God? Sometimes, in our own lives, my brothers and sisters, this is a very similar exercise. We ask, and we ask, and we ask, and God continues to hold us off. I've said this before, you may remember, and I said, "There are three possible answers to every prayer, yes, no, not yet."
                                In this woman's story, the first two answers were not yet, because He was going to heal the daughter. He wanted the people to see what it meant to have a deep faith, and a deep sense of humility. Not the kind of humility that the world expects us to have, speaking down upon ourselves, oh I'm garbage, I'm this, I'm that. That is a false sense of humility. That's what the world thinks makes us look better. What God wants us to have, my brothers and sisters, the kind of humility that this woman had, is understanding that, in spite of everything that's going on around us, we are not the most important thing in the world. Including all of the struggles that we may have, we are not the center of attention. That ultimately, we have to be okay with whatever God throws our way.
                                This woman showed God, and of course He already knew it, this woman showed to God that she was going to be satisfied with whatever He did for her. Like we would say in Greek, Να είναι ευλογημένο, may it be blessed. If the Lord would have given her one little crumb, she would have been satisfied. He knew her heart, but He wanted the crowd to see this deep humility, and this deep sense of faith that this woman had, willing to accept whatever answer the Lord gave, not believing in God only on her terms.
                                So many of us believe in God on our terms. I hear this all the time, "I don't believe in a God that would... fill in the blank." We find ourselves believing in God in our own terms, and so the struggle, my brothers and sisters, is how do we take what we naturally want to do, and that is bestow our terms on God, "God, we want what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, we want it right now." How do we get from there, to this faith of the woman? “Yes master, but even the dogs eat the crumbs, the leftovers, the most insignificant bits of nothing, even the little dogs eat that when it falls from your master's table.”
                                How do we get to that point, my brothers and sisters? It is by remembering the words of Saint Paul on this morning's Epistle. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, said this, and it is incredibly important for us to remember these words, "For you are the temple of the living God. As God said, I will dwell in them, and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate says the Lord. Do not touch the unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."
                                Are we truly willing to live as if we are the temple of the living God? Are we really prepared, my brothers and sisters, to cast away, to separate ourselves from the world? This woman was. This woman had no sense of worldly desire. She wanted God, and a relationship with God, and she knew that He would take care of her daughter with whatever He chose to do. How do we get to that point, my brothers and sisters? The life of the Church. The rhythm of life. God gave us this wonderful mission to be, and to live, as temples of the living God. Our very body, God dwells within us. The rhythm of life of the Church is meant to help us tame our bodies. The rhythm of life is meant to help us tame our desires, and our passions.
                                By looking at the way of life, fasting for example, I had a conversation with somebody, this was several months ago, and the response to me was, "Every time I go to the mall I can't help but shop, and buy, and buy, and buy more things." My response was, "You have to fast more." This person said to me, "What do you mean? What is fasting...what does what I eat have to do with what I buy at the shopping center, at the mall?" I said, "Until you can learn to do without." Until we can learn, my brothers and sisters, that life is not about pleasing ourselves, until we can learn through disciplining our bodies, we'll never learn how to discipline our soul. Our body is filled with very powerful urges, and the urges are always to please ourselves.
                                Our struggle is to separate ourselves out from that, and to become this faithful, humble woman, who is satisfied with whatever God sends our way. Are we ready for that? If we cannot imagine telling God, "Yes God, whatever you're willing to send me is fine." If it's three crumbs for today, να είναι ευλογήμενο, may it be blessed. If we cannot bring our minds to that, then we have to further embrace and practice the way of life, the rhythm of life, in the Church. By coming to holy confession on a regular basis. By fasting, not how we choose to fast, but fasting how the Church teaches us to fast. By praying, not how we want to pray, but being taught to pray, by the Church who has been guided by the Holy Spirit. Taking care of the poor, not how we desire to take care of the poor on our own terms, but taking care of those who are in need, on the terms of the Church.
                                You see, my brothers and sisters, every time we turn around, we have an opportunity to choose our way, or God's way. Believe it or not, an atheist can feed the poor. A Satan worshiper can feed the poor. Feeding the poor is not what makes us believers in God. Loving God, living as the temple of the living God is what makes us Christians. Separating ourselves out from our own desires, and being satisfied with whatever God gives to us, that, my brothers and sisters, is what makes us Christians. That is the rhythm of life that the Church is giving to us to help us accomplish that, to help us get us to that point.
                                I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters. It's an intimate relationship. God is our father, He is not our angry master looking down from some tower. He wants the best for us. He wanted the best for the woman in the Gospel. It isn't always what we think we want that is best for us. Sometimes God says to us, as He said to the woman in the Gospel, "Not yet. Let's wait a little bit. Let's make sure we really know what you want, and let's wait to see if what you want is really what is good for you." Then once we reach that point, God's blessings will overflow upon our head, because we'll finally want what He wants in our life, and there'll be no stopping the grace from flowing. As it says in the Gospel, "When she came to that point, her daughter was healed from that very moment."
                                We too, my brothers and sisters, can be healed by the spiritual illness, the genuine sickness that we suffer with, the moment we bring our heart to the point of this woman. From that very moment, God will heal us, and his grace will pour down upon us. Glory to God, for all things.
                                Well, I'm back, and I hope this video was an inspiration to you. I hope it helps you live a new life in Christ. Please share our message of hope with your friends, and family, and invite others to live a new life in Christ. Find more information about Be Transfigured Ministries by joining us on our website, at You can also find many of our videos on the Orthodox Christian Network, our partners at As we say at Be Transfigured, until next week, God bless you, and don't forget to live a new life in Christ.

Closing:                Be Transfigured is a production of the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church, in Florence, South Carolina, and presented by the Orthodox Christian Network. Contributions in support of this ministry may be sent to 2990 South Cashua Drive, Florence, South Carolina, 29501, or online at our website, at

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