Unexpected Places

An important part of living for Christ is doing what he wants us to do.

Douglas Poole
Nov 11, 2018    36m
In this sermon Pastor Douglas Poole uses passages from Matthew 15, and real life examples to teach us that when we are living for Christ, that sometimes he leads us to places we don't expect to be. This even happened with his disciples at times, but they followed him, and learned that sometimes the last place you want to be, is exactly where you need to be. Video recorded at Clearwater, Florida.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Douglas Poole: 00:02 Okay, let me toss out a question here. Have you ever found yourself in a place where you really hadn't planned on being, and maybe to top it off, you were with some people you hadn't like expected to be with? And then in a moment of self awareness, you kind of find yourself asking, how in the world that ever get in this place with these people? And as you're doing some diagnostic work on that, and being self aware. Sometimes you realize, well, I made that decision, and that decision, and I made that decision. And because I made those decisions, well that's why I'm in this place that I didn't expect to be, and that's why I'm with these folks I hadn't planned on being with. Now there are some other times, I know in my own experience in my life, when I'm in this place I didn't expect to be, and with people I hadn't planned on being with in this moment. Where I look around like, how did this happen? How am I here? I want it to be there, and with those folks, why am I here? Sometimes in my assessment, I've realized it's because of some things beyond my control. Sometimes it feels like I almost didn't even have a voice in it. And so I'm in this place, and I'm with these folks I hadn't planned on being in this moment. And when I've walked with Jesus decades now, and so when I'm in this place of self awareness, and when I'm trying to be spiritually dialed in. I've asked myself this question. Am I in this place and with these folks, is it something more than mere circumstances? Is it possible that maybe somehow some way God had his hand in this. And so the fact that I am here in this place with these people, it's not circumstantial, it's providential. And what I know from my experience, when I'm open enough to ask that question and to really search what's going on in my life. Oftentimes it's been moments when God has done some rather profound work in my life, and through my life.

Douglas Poole: 02:05 And so today we're going to be looking at a group of guys, the disciples of Jesus, who were walking with Jesus who found themselves in a place they just had totally not expected to be. And with some people, they certainly had not planned on being with. And there was an interesting dynamic that happens in the narrative, that we're going to focus our attention on. So welcome to the fourth installment of the series we're doing called Three Miles per Hour. And if this is your first time with us in this series, the reason we're calling it three miles per hour, is because the average walking speed of a human being is three miles an hour. So what we're looking at is people who walked with Jesus, and when they walked with Jesus, they found themselves becoming a person they never could have become outside of Jesus. And they find themselves doing some things that never would've happened, had it not been for the fact that they were in the presence of Jesus. And we're drawing some principles for our lives, and what does it mean for us to be able to walk with him.

Douglas Poole: 03:11 So today, I can just tell you from my experience of walking with Christ for so many decades, there are those times, there are those occasions. I'm in this place I didn't expect to be, and I'm with folks I had not planned on being with. And so we're going to look now at Matthew Chapter Fifteen. If you have a bible, you can turn there, and we're going to read about a moment in the life of Jesus where this happens. We will put the scripture on the screens. Now I just want to like give you a heads up on the scripture. Okay? In this moment I'm going to read about, Jesus says some things I'd never expect Jesus to say, never. In fact, some of the things he says sounds so out of character for the person of who I knew Jesus to be. If I didn't already know that it is in scripture that Jesus said these words, if it wasn't in scripture, and somebody said, Jesus said this. I say uh, uh, there was no way that Jesus would have said that. No, impossible, he doesn't talk like that. Those words wouldn't come out of his mouth. But because I know these words are recorded in scripture, and these words are attributed to Jesus, it makes me wonder why he said them. So Matthew Chapter Fifteen, we'll begin reading in Verse Twenty One. And let me say as I've been saying throughout this series, this story, like the stories we've been looking at. If you're a church person, or grew up going to Sunday school, you're familiar with the story. And the dangerous thing is that when we get over familiar with something, our brain does this weird little twist that when we hear it, our brain immediately says, I understand that. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, I'm good. And so I need you to see the story with fresh eyes, and listen with fresh ears, open your soul in a fresh way to what God may say to you.

Douglas Poole: 05:05 All right, here's our story. Matthew Fifteen, beginning of verse number 21, "Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment." I read this story, and it almost feels like everything I know about Jesus is in disarray. LIke how can the most compassionate man who ever lived, talk like this and speak these words. Because friends, it doesn't just sound harsh, it is harsh, uncaring, inhumane. But friends, what I want us to note is that in this moment, is that Jesus is walking his followers into a brand new reality, a new reality of seeing who god is, of seeing people as God sees people. So he walks them to this place they never, ever, expected to be, and he puts them in the presence of a woman they had no intention of being with.

Douglas Poole: 07:02 So let's unpack this now, a verse at a time, and let's look at the narrative beginning in verse number 15. Leaving that place Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Now what I want you to note on this, on this scripture, look at the word withdrew. This was important to understand what's going on here. Matthew was trying to understand what's taking place in this moment, because he was there in the midst, and he's walking with Jesus. And they were` in Jerusalem, headed to the Sea of Galilee. And so he's trying to make sense of how in the world is it that we are headed towards a Tyre and Sidon. Because that's the land of the Canaanites, because that's 50 miles out of the way, 50 miles. If you're going from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee, you got to go out of your way 50 miles. And I'm sure as he's walking along, and he's getting out his phone, and looking at his app for maps, and seeing recalculating. Saying, Jesus it's that way, and we're kind of headed this way. But anyway, 50 miles out of the way, and it's the land of the Canaanites. And he's trying to make sense of this, because the Canaanites are like their mortal enemies.

Douglas Poole: 08:21 Thousands years of a bloody history, of being at war with each other, and just disdaining each other. And so he's trying to make sense, why are we going to land of the Canaanites, and so he reasons we're withdrawing. That's why. Because the demands of ministry have been so great. Jesus has been teaching nonstop. People are asking for healing and asking for grace, and it's all the time people are take, take, taking. The religious leaders all the time, are picking and nagging and arguing and fighting with this, and Jesus decided we've just got to get out of this. So we're going on a retreat, Hallelujah. Thank God, we're going to go on a retreat together, so we're going to withdraw. So he reasons that's why we're going there, because we wouldn't go for the people, they're the Canaanites. And so we must be heading this direction, we're going to withdraw and we're going to spend some time together alone, and it's going to be so wonderful.

Douglas Poole: 09:13 But what matters here is that, you see Matthew thought Jesus was withdrawing. The reality is Jesus was advancing. And what matters is that you know, they thought Jesus was going to the wrong place, but actually he was going to the right place. It wasn't Jesus taking them away from the people they wanted to be with, their people. It was Jesus taking them to the people they needed to be with. Friends, if you walk with Jesus, you will find yourself on occasion, you're going to go to some unexpected places. So let me ask you like, have you ever felt like maybe God misplaced you? Like I'm in a place, not only did I not expect to be, it's a place I don't want to be. So why is this my circumstances, my destiny is over there, and I'm here. So either God's not listening, or God's not cooperating, or something's not going quite right in this. Because I want those circumstances, and I have these circumstances. I want to be in that place, but I'm here. I want to be with those people, but I'm with these people. Because I thought my destiny was over there. Let me ask, is it possible? Is it possible in those moments where you feel lost, maybe, maybe God has placed you in the exact spot he wanted you to be, but you didn't want to go there? You didn't want to go. And so God has arranged and maybe God has orchestrated, and God has led you to the place he wants you to be, to do something he needed you to do.

Douglas Poole: 10:55 I've experienced this numerous times in the course of my life. Jackie and I were talking about one of them this last week. That a number of years ago, Jackie and I had gone to Kenya, to work with Molly Waits at our orphanage there at Springs of Hope, Kenya. We'd spent time serving there with Molly, and we got actually go to her son's high school graduation because he had graduated. And the plan was we were actually leaving on the same day at the same time, but Jackie and I were going to fly from Nairobi to Brussels to New York and then down to Tampa. And molly was flying to the Middle East, then to New York, where we were going to meet up, and then we'd fly together down in here to Tampa. And so we got to the airport early because I had a beautiful plan, and my beautiful plan was would get there early, a few hours early. And we're going to get to go to my favorite coffee shop, the Java House, and we're going to have some more great king and coffee. We're going to get wifi there too, and I'm going to get caught up on some of my work, and we're going to do some things. I'm just going to chill for a few hours. Then we'll get on the plane and we'll go. Beautiful Plan. So we get to the airport, go up to the counter, and they won't check us in, and they won't say why. And so they send us to this little section there in front of the counter, maybe maybe about as big as this section right here. And say take all your luggage, and have a seat and wait. Oh, okay, well this probably won't be long. So I gave him probably 12, 13 minutes, and then I went back to the counter. I was like can we check in now? I'm sorry Mr. Poole, but we can't check in you now. Is there a reason we can't check in? I'm sorry, you just can't check in. And so I gave them another 12, I was patient, another 12 minutes maybe. Went back, can we check in? I kept bouncing back and forth to the counter until, as soon as that would see me stand, and then I'd see them ducked behind the counter. And I'm thinking, why are we here? I don't want to be in this place, I want to be in that place. The Java House, I want my coffee, I want my Wifi, and I don't necessarily want to be with these folks. Because as we were waiting, more and more people were coming, and they kept putting people into this space. You know, so you can sit there, with all your luggage. Pretty soon, there's no more seats, and then there's even people older than me, right? Then I'm like, ah, I can't sit here, and let somebody older than me stand, I don't want to be in this place. And so this went on for probably an hour and a half or so, and I'm going back and forth.

Douglas Poole: 13:28 Meanwhile, Jackie notices a young Kenyan gal, probably early to mid teens, whose a couple seats away. Who's been sitting by herself this entire time. And Jackie does her Jackie thing, and she just engages her in conversation, and finds out she is traveling to the United States. To Colorado actually, and she's never flown before, never been out of the country, in her tribal area is all. And Jackie and Molly where her first interactions with Caucasians period in her life. And so then Jackie goes well there's got to be a story behind this, you know, you're traveling alone. And so Jackie just asks for her story, finds out this young girl's name is Nikita, and Jackie finds out that two weeks previously she had come to the airport with her mother, because they were flying to the U.S., immigrating to be with her stepfather, and at the airport, her mother died. Yeah. And so she was then sent to the home of her aunt or uncle for a couple of weeks, and her uncle was predatory, and was sexually preying on her. So Jackie, and you know Molly, hearing this story of like, you know, their bloods beginning to boil. And they discover she, you know, first time to travel. And as they're talking with her they discover that Nikita is on the exact same flights as Molly and Elijah, going from Nairobi to the Middle East to New York, and then they would split and go different directions. What a coincidence.

Douglas Poole: 15:16 And so meanwhile, like I'm still fussing, I'm in the wrong place, and with the wrong people and life is not fair. Right? And so Jackie, you know, leans over, would you get a grip. You know, she tells me about Nikita, this little girl. I'm like, oh, okay, I get it. And so then finally we board, and Jackie and I leave, we spend the night in Brussels. And then Molly and Elijah leave, and they take Nikita with her, they spend the night in the Middle East. And Molly says, you just stay with me honey. Took her through and got her checked in, helped her through the screening, made sure she slept in a hotel room with Molly and Elijah, feel safe. And then got her here back to the US, got her through immigration. Jackie got all of her information. And so when she got to Colorado Springs, Jackie has done a couple of called in for well child checks, and make sure this girl is okay. The world needs more people like Jackie and Molly, right? So now I don't know how you interpret it, but this is how I interpret that experience. Okay? I interpret like this, God is looking down and he's hearing the prayers of a young teenage girl who's now an orphan, being preyed upon by her uncle, going to a country she's never been before. And he hears the cries of the soul of this girl, and then God looks down on the airport and he sees, oh, there's some of my children right by her. And God says there's Molly and Jackie, I can nudge them, and they'll intervene. Forget about that pastor sitting there, because he's rather self-absorbed, and upset that he doesn't have coffee. I don't know how else to interpret it. Okay. But Molly and Jackie, they're dialed in, and so they swooped in and took Nikita through this endeavor. So the whole time I'm thinking, I'm just in the wrong place, I want to be in that place. I'm with the wrong people they're in my space, and now this old person has my chair. Right? But maybe we were in the right place, maybe with the right people.

Douglas Poole: 18:02 You may think that you are not in the place you want to be. You may think you're not the people, with whom you want to be. But if you are walking with Jesus, if you're walking with Jesus, he may be leading you to the place where you're supposed to be, so you can do what needs to be done. Friends, so often we think Jesus is sleeping on the job, he's not taking care of us, he's not leading me to my destiny. Oftentimes it is in those very moments, that God is wanting to do some of his most beautiful work in our lives. In us, and through us. And so we are so frustrated, we keep asking why this job, why these circumstances, I didn't sign up for this. Why this place, why these people? Have you ever maybe wondered, and discovered, well it's not about you. Maybe it's about others, that God has placed you in here. Maybe Jesus is wanting, you think you got to go to the Sea of Galilee, and he knows he needs you in Sidon. And so you're wondering, why am I not in the Sea of Galilee, that's my destiny? Why am I here in Sidon? Can you imagine the disciples on this walk with Jesus? It just had to be interesting, the whispering back and forth, and oh Jesus how do we tell this to Jesus? The Sea of Galilee is that way? It's that way, we're headed towards Sidon, but it's kind of hard to tell God he's lost isn't it. So you just keep walking, just like wherever he goes.

Douglas Poole: 19:49 Verse Twenty Two, a Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him crying out, Lord, son of David, have mercy on me. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession. You see the problem with being in the wrong place, you start meeting the wrong people. Canaanites. Unless it may be, it's really the right place, then you're meeting the right people, right? So Matthew says this woman approaches them, and he describes her, he labels her, as a Canaanite woman. Remember the disdain between the Israelites and the and the Canaanites, hostility in their hearts for each other. So they see this woman coming, and there's hostility for her. And just who does she think she is approaching Jesus and us. I mean she knows Jesus came for us, she calls him son of David, she's not a daughter of David. She's not from the right bloodline, we're the children of David, Jesus belongs to us. So what is she doing stepping into this space? But friends, I think she knows Jesus in a way, the disciples don't know Jesus. She knows Jesus is so much more than the disciples think he is, because she thinks Jesus came for everyone, and they're convinced Jesus came only for them. And she says, my daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession. For the record, I don't think there's a good demon possession, I just don't, I just think it's all terrible. Right? So she's suffering terribly from this. And so I just want to make this quick comment here, I want to take note, there is such a thing as demon possession, I've seen it up close and personal. But I want you to know at that time and in that culture that many, many physical ailments were attributed to demons. There was a lot of superstition in the culture, and so from epilepsy to other diseases, got labeled demons. And I want you to note that when Jesus intervenes here, it doesn't say a demon was expelled, it says she was healed. Now other places, it'll say the demon was expelled. But regardless of whether it's demonic, or whether it was something else, the deal is Jesus sets her free, and that's what matters right?

Douglas Poole: 22:10 Now, verse twenty three an ominous verse, utterly ominous. "Jesus did not say a word." Just pause on
that. Jesus did not say a word. So his disciples came to him, and urged him, send her away for she keeps crying out after us. Let me ask you, I've been in this place, maybe you have, where you feel like you desperately, desperately need to hear from God and you're crying out to him, and having silence. Your prayers hit the ceiling, come down, your prayer is echoing around the room, and it's just like I'm crying out and God's not responding. Jesus doesn't answer a word, and friends he doesn't even acknowledge her. And in these moments, if you've been there, you understand this. You find yourself wondering, does God even know, is he even aware of what's going on right now? And then if he is aware, you, find yourself wondering, but then does he care? And so we tend to interpret silence from heaven, as indifference from heaven, right? So we think God is silent because he doesn't really care. I think sometimes friends, I think God is silent, so we can learn to express what we're really thinking and we're really feeling. We can discover what's really going on inside of us, and express ourselves in some of the most honest ways that we can. So disciples urge Jesus at this moment, send her away. We're on a retreat, she's messing with our Mojo in this moment, with all of this screaming. We came to get away from all of this, she doesn't even care that we're tired, she's only concerned about herself and her needs. So would somebody please tell that drowning woman to shut up? Because she's breaking our silence. I really think the disciples are interpreting Jesus's silence at this moment, I think they're interpreting, and Jesus is confirming what's in their heart for this woman. We get you Jesus, we're right there with you, she is ruining our retreat. She didn't care about how tired we are, it's all about her, so send her away because she is not one of us. And the next friends, like buckle your seat belts, Jesus verbalizes the thoughts that are going on in the disciples heads. That as they're thinking things, Jesus just comes out and says it.

Douglas Poole: 24:50 Verse 24, "He answered, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." I can see the disciples in the background. Yes, tell her Jesus, set her straight. The Messiah is our Messiah, not your Messiah. You want a Messiah, get your own Messiah, he's our Messiah. You want Jesus? Good, go find your own Jesus, because this Jesus, is our Jesus, and he's just for us.

Douglas Poole: 25:20 Verse 25, "The woman came and she knelt down before him. Lord, help me." Oh Man, I love this. Friends, it is only people who have become calloused and hardened by their beliefs, that sit around and talk about who God loves and who God doesn't love. It's only people who become calloused in their beliefs, who sit around and talk about who God accepts and who God doesn't accept. And I've had that in our church, people who so love our life and our mission we're doing. When they come in and then they start seeing who's here, and then come to me to let me know what are those people doing here? God doesn't accept those kinds of people. Do you mean, like you? Right? And then they move on. I think how hard and callous can hearts be, that suddenly we start deciding for God who he will love, and who he will accept? When you're desperate, when you're desperate, you have only one theological perspective, here it is. Lord, help me. And just when you think the narrative can't get any more confusing, it gets way more confounding, way more confounding.

Douglas Poole: 26:54 Verse 26, he, Jesus, "He replied, it is not right to take the children's bread, and toss it to their dogs." Wait, is this the same guy who said love your neighbor as yourself? Did he really just call her a dog? I mean, I could make a list for you of people who would refer to other human beings in dehumanizing terms, and call them animal names. I can think of a long list of people. Jesus wouldn't make the list. He wouldn't make number 999,000 on that list of possibilities of anybody. It just seems so totally and completely out of character for this person of Jesus. They may just be the ugliest words Jesus ever spoke, but remember here, okay. Jesus is just verbalizing, what the disciples are thinking. So the common moniker that Jews gave to Canaanites, is they called them dogs. Canaanite dogs. They're not humans, they're Canaanite dogs. So in this moment Jesus is right now, he's holding up a mirror, as he calls her a dog. And he's not holding up a mirror to this woman so she can see that she's a dog, because she's already heard that enough times in her life from Jews who were referring to her, he's holding up a mirror in front of the disciples. He wants the disciples to see themselves, and as he says these words, he's wanting to disciples to see how uncaring and bigoted they are in this moment. He says, take a good look, take a good look at yourself. See Jesus said to her face, what they were thinking in their heads. Why would God ever want someone like her? Why would God ever help her? I think sometimes the best way to deal with darkness in our hearts, is to just expose it to the light. Just put it out there, what's in there? And that's what Jesus does. Let's just say it, but just say what you're all thinking right now. And her response is utterly amazing friends, you call me a dog on the wrong day, I might go mad dog on you, right? Might go Pitbull on you. Jesus calls her a dog. She says this, yes Lord, she said, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table. These are the words that that flow from a mother who desperately loves her daughter, these are the words that flow from a mother who determinant believes that God really is love. No matter what's going on, he's love. And so she's saying this, Jesus, I know who you are. I know who you are. Because I know who you are, I don't need the loaf, just the crumbs will do Jesus. Crumbs from your table, they are way more than I need. The woman sees Jesus in a way that not even the disciples see him. You see, the disciples were convinced there's not enough for everybody, only so much bread to go around, and it's ours. All of its ours. She could see the beauty of Jesus in this moment, and she knew you came for everyone, I know you came for everyone.

Douglas Poole: 30:41 I love how the story concludes, verse 28, "Then Jesus answered, woman, you have great faith your request is granted. And her daughter was healed from that very hour." And when her daughter was healed, it validated everything she knew to be true about Jesus and it validated everything that the disciples were afraid of, that Jesus came for everyone, everyone. And by the way, do you know the scriptures only record two times that Jesus commended people for their faith. Two Times is all. One was the Roman Centurion, the other was a Canaanite woman, both are enemies of the Israelites. Both are considered irreligious, but the only people Jesus commends for their faith, are these two people. Friends, it's because religion has a belief, this woman had faith, and there is a difference.

Douglas Poole: 31:38 So the disciples we're in this place they never ever planned to be, and they were with a person they did not want to be with, but they were in this place and with this woman because they walked with Jesus. And Jesus took them to that place, so they could be in a place, where he could get their hearts in the right place. And when he got their heart's in the right place, they can be the kind of people who would do the work of God. And sometimes friends, God will take us to this place, that is not the place of our choosing. But God will take us to this place so he can get our hearts in the right place, so that God can do his work in and through us. And you know what? He also took them to this place because there was a child, who was demonized, a child. And so yes, I'll go 50 miles out of my way to help this child, this Canaanite child, who was suffering terribly. So here we go. Oh, Jesus is amazing, isn't he?

Douglas Poole: 32:49 So what place are you in right now? What place are you in? If you are walking with Jesus, maybe it is not merely circumstantial. Maybe it's providential. Maybe it's not just bad luck. Maybe it's not just like took a wrong turn, or it was wrong timing. If you're walking with Jesus, maybe just maybe he lead you. So maybe in these circumstances, it's like you know where you don't want to be. Maybe just maybe what we need to do is we to just stop demanding why God, I demand you give an account. Why God? Why am I here? Maybe it's time we start saying what God, what? What are you wanting to do in me in this moment? What do you want him to do through me in this moment? Because maybe just maybe there's an Akita around you, maybe there's a Canaanite woman around you, maybe there is a demonized daughter around you, that God is hoping that one of his children will be open and receptive so God can do his work. What place are you in? What moment are you in? Because you're in a moment right now, and so oftentimes in this moment we do what I did in the airport in Nairobi. Why am I in this place? We start grousing, I need my coffee, I don't want to be around these people, I'm uncomfortable and tired of standing, what's going on? And we start getting upset. And God give an account of yourself. And we get worried, and we get depressed, and we get angry, and we're fighting God who's wanting to do something beautiful in us. So maybe in this moment we just need to stop and just ask, what? What are you wanting to do? God, what is it in me? What does it through me? Don't waste the moment you're in, with your anger, and your frustration, your worry, and your fear. Stop wasting your moment, step into the moment. If you're following Jesus, maybe he led you to this place. Maybe he put these people around you. Maybe he wants to do something beautiful in you, and you through you.

Douglas Poole: 34:58 Let's stand for closing prayer. Father we're literally standing in this space, and many of us figuratively are standing in a moment. And the moment, the place we're in, does not [inaudible]. God, it's just we didn't expect to be there, it's not of our choosing, these circumstances, this situation. But the reality is we're here. And some of us have found, just maybe some people, that you know are in our life. That we're surrounded by, that we hadn't planned on that either. And everything inside of us is wanting to ask you to give an account, and tell us why. Father as we're walking with you, maybe it's a moment where we need to be asking what God, what is it? What is it you're wanting to do in me? What it that you're wanting to do through me? So Lord, help us now to sort of take our eyes off our self in this moment, and put them on you. And in this moment God, we're not going to waste it, we're going to step into it, and ask that you do something beautiful. And everybody agreed and said, Amen. God bless you. Cypress.

Recorded in Clearwater, Florida.
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Cypress Meadows
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