Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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12 Obedience, on board or over board – Part 1

Matthew 14:20-33

20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children! 22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Twice in this passage we see Jesus calling His disciples to obedience, the first time He calls them to

  • Get into the boat

Jesus as He ministered to the crowds miraculously fed 5,000 people using five loaves and two fishes. Instead of the disciples just watching Jesus had instructed them to wait on the people, and just like them Jesus also invites us to participate in His plan. Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. At first this may seem like a strange command, Jesus puts an end to the party, sends the people away, and instructs the disciples to leave. At the pinnacle of popularity and human praise Jesus packs it in and sends everyone home. This may be where we want to linger, in the lime light, and the sunset of success. But Jesus didn’t come to bask in God’s glory, he came to conquer sin. Success is never found soaking in God’s glory, it’s found in faithfully following His plan.  It was never about living in the lime light it was always about living for the Father. Are you living for the praise of people or the approval of the Almighty? Will we trust Jesus and get into the boat, are we going to leave popularity and follow His plan? We may want to focus on how we feel about His call, but the real question is whether we will faithfully follow.  Are we going to listen to the Lord and obey or linger and listen to our wants and what seems to make sense to us? After Jesus sent everyone away we see Him seeking time with His Father. Instead of basking in the glory of men Jesus bows before the Father. He spends several hours alone in prayer preparing His heart for what is ahead. You may think that you don’t have time to pray, but what is really the most pressing, time with God or your to-do list? Are you going to give priority to the pressures or to prayer? The truth is we don’t have time not to pray, if Jesus needed the renewal and reconnecting that only comes from time alone with God, how much more do we? So what is it that you need to dismiss from your life so you can be freed up to focus on the Father? What are the crowds that are crowding out Christ in your life? After climbing back into the boat to obey Christ’s command and to head to the other side the disciples seem to run into disaster. Being obedient to the commands of Christ doesn’t exempt you from the storms of life. Jesus knew what they would face but He still sent them on ahead. Obedience doesn’t mean life will be easy; in fact it might get harder first. In John 16:33 Jesus said: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” And in Acts 14:22 as Paul and Barnabas encouraged the believers to continue in the faith: “they reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” The disciples should have already been across the sea and safely on the other side but instead they are surrounded by a surging storm. Despite their best efforts they are being driven by the wind. In their own strength they struggle to make progress and soon things get desperate. Finally, at the fourth watch, between 3:00 am and 6:00 am in the morning Jesus comes out to join them, taking a shortcut straight across the water. Discouraged and desperate the weary disciples who have been fighting the wind and waves suddenly see a shadowy figure. Not only are they surrounded by the storm but now they are seized with fear, for they believe that they have seen a ghost. It’s interesting to note that when we rely on our perception it often leads us to panic. As people we tend to paint the worst possible picture. So let me ask you what is your view of God? What lens are you look at the Lord through? The disciples were looking through the lens of fear not faith. Do you see the Almighty as an angry and vengeful God or one of grace? Are you looking through the lens of hurt instead of holiness? Despite their strange and shortsighted view of Jesus He still met them where they were. Jesus first words in verse 27 remind us that He understands our feelings and knows our fears: “But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” We have a Savior that seeks to sooth our fears in the midst of the storm. Jesus doesn’t seek to first calm the storm he calms their hearts. It is here that we are reminded that peace is not the absence of storm it’s the presence of the Savior. We don’t need Christ to calm our circumstances we need Him to change our hearts. There’s an interesting thing to note here about what Jesus said to them, for He said” I am”. This is the name used by God in Exodus 3:14 when He met Moses at the burning bush. God tells Moses, “I am who I am” and he instructs Moses to tell Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” What Jesus was communicating to His frightened followers, as He walked across the water, was to take courage because the same God that created the water and crafted the wind cared for them. Today despite your desperate situation you don’t have to be afraid because the great I Am is with you. If you really thought that God was standing next to you right now, do you think that you might have a little more courage than you’d otherwise have? Well let me let you in on a little secret, He is, He is right there with you. Never forget that you are surrounded by a power greater than any storm, your Savior Jesus Christ. You don’t have to surrender to the fear of the storm you can have faith in the Savior. This truth alone should make a mighty difference in how we approach the difficulties of life. May be today you have answered the call of Christ only to get caught in the storms of life. You obeyed the Master but now life just seems to be a mess and you’re tempted to turn away from trusting and start trying. Let me remind you that no amount of self-effort will silence your storm. The truth is it’s not the storm or the junk of this life that matters it’s just Jesus. Remember obedience does not mean the absence of storms and struggle, Jesus didn’t call us to a trouble free life He called us to a triumphant one, and you are never alone in the storm. Don’t let difficulties cause you to abandon obedience, bashed about with Jesus is better than calm waters without Christ.