Levels of Faith

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Published on:
May 14, 2024


When my friends join me for Thai food, we order our entrée and specify the heat level.  I enjoy the flavor of chicken pad Thai but prefer a mild heat level.  Say, number one.  My friends punch it up – asking for a 5 or 6 heat level.  Does it really make a difference?  Well, yes it does to them.  It makes it much more delicious with the heat factor.

Let’s transfer that idea to levels of FAITH. Hebrews 11:6 says “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” That proves that faith is important, but are there levels of faith?  For discussion purposes, let’s say yes there are.  Jesus taught us about faith.  He acknowledged great faith, and he noticed when faith was lacking. How does one go from “lacking faith” to “great faith?”  Let’s take a look at a passage of scripture from Matthew and see if we can find the answer to that question.

Jesus went away from there and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely demon-possessed.  But He did not answer her with even a word.  And His disciples came up and urged Him saying, “Send her away because she keeps shouting at us!” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and began to bow down before Him saying, “Lord, help me!” Yet He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord; but please help, for even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed at once.

Matthew 15 : 21 – 28


This passage records a woman whose daughter was “cruelly demon possessed.” I cannot even imagine how desperate she must have been. Picture the setting.  This heartbroken mother sought out Jesus.  Somehow, she heard about him.  She not only tracks him down, but she cries out loudly, “have mercy on me Lord, Son of David.” Notice she addresses Him with respect by calling Him “Lord,” then she begs for mercy.  She’s tenacious yet humble.

As I have studied this account, I do not see any level of “fear.” Doesn’t that seem odd?  You can hear how upset the disciples are with her.  “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us!” She was annoying them and disrupting their gathering. I tell you; I would be fearful.  There are big, strong, burly fishermen in that circle of followers.  Perhaps they carried weapons! Undeterred, this mother persists and maintains her resolve to address Jesus and only Jesus.

What gave this woman the guts to push through the resistance and insults and not give up? This is where the concept of faith comes in, my friend.  Zoom in closer to the verbal interaction between her and Jesus.  He tells her that He came for the House of Israel of which she was not a member.  Watch what happens next. She bows down, showing deep respect and begs, “Help me!” Three times she calls Him “Lord.” It seems rude for Jesus to talk about not giving the children’s bread to the dogs. But her reply to this answer is what elevates her faith to the level of “great.”

What did Jesus see in her?  Perhaps that she was willing to push through insult and opposition, humble herself, and be unashamed to make a scene?   How did she know that He could fulfill her request? Perhaps because she acknowledged HIM. She called Him “Son of David.”  She believed that He was the promised ONE – the Messiah! Only He possessed the level of power to heal her daughter. A desperate mother, in pursuit of a profound miracle, cries out for mercy from her Lord.  Even crumbs from the Messiah would satisfy her need. Imagine being happy with crumbs.

This woman sees the most powerful authority in heaven or on earth as her source of healing, without a doubt or hesitation she wholeheartedly pursues her Lord. Amazing!

Jesus sees a woman of “great faith.”  Was it her tenacity?  Was it her declaration of His deity? Was it her humble approach? I think it was the entire package. She believed that He was the Messiah and that fueled her resolve to beg for mercy.  


I have. Sitting in the oncologist’s office hearing the word everyone dreads to hear – cancer. Wide-eyed and stunned, I heard the words: “The tests show positive for stage 3, triple-negative breast cancer.  We need to get you in for surgery right away.  This is a very aggressive form.”

I would not consider myself to be a woman of “great” faith, but in that moment something stirred inside my spirit. The words bubbled up in my soul, “What satan means for evil, God will use for good.” My spiritual backbone stiffened and I began the painful journey called “cancer treatment and recovery.” Surgery, then recovery; chemotherapy, then recovery; radiation, then more recovery, followed by two more surgeries.

There is no promise that we will not experience pain, heartache, or suffering in this earthly life, only that He will always be with us.  This truth was the anchor during my cancer battle.  Yes, a “battle” because survival requires tenacity and faith.  Yes, faith because my confidence was not in the skill of doctors but in the Great Physician. Of course, I prayed that the doctors would perform the surgery with excellent skill, but ultimately I was in God’s hands. If He healed me before my surgery and treatments that would have been wonderful, but he didn’t.  Instead, I walked by faith daily, not knowing what was around the corner. Today, I am ten years post-diagnosis and cancer-free.  My testimony includes the not-so-pretty parts that I won’t describe here and the disturbing sense of being so close to death’s door that I could feel it in my bones.

Yet, I had one hope, only ONE.  Jesus.

I believed that He was not going to leave me. Even when I didn’t have the strength to walk, and couldn’t eat or sleep, it was that confidence that carried me through.  One way or another – I was holding on to Jesus.

Desperate faith kept me steady. Faith that He was carrying me through but also that He could carry me home if it was time. I’m still here so as long as I am able, I will share my message of hope to anyone who will listen.

The story in Matthew reminds me of how desperate I was during that cancer battle.  One cannot forget such a profound season in life. This I know:  when humble faith is anchored in Jesus the Messiah, it will stand the test of time.  He is the only source of hope for me.  

What level is your faith today? Is it time to kick it up a notch?

If you act upon your belief like this woman in the passage, then you are acting out your faith. Belief without pursuing Christ and pushing through any opposition is not “great.” Take that belief and bump it up a level by stepping out with a hunger and desire to walk by Faith and not by sight.  Even in the face of pain?  Yes.  Even when you feel like you can’t make it one more step?  Yes!  Even when it feels like you are all alone?

Yes…but remember you are NOT alone when Jesus is your Lord.

Catherine Petersen
Missionary, worship leader
Mother of five, Nonna (grandmother) to fourteen

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