Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

21. Cultivating Christ Like Character, Faith – Part 1

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Matthew 14:22-33

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[a] 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![b] 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[c] 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.

As we continue to look at “Cultivating Christ Like Character” in Galatians 5 we come to the seventh virtue in the fruit of the Spirit, Faithfulness. Strictly speaking, the word in Galatians 5:22 is faith, which is one of the most common terms in the New Testament. It is correctly translated as faithfulness because it carries the idea of fidelity as well. The English word was originally linked to the thought of personal dependability and meant, “to fasten oneself to.” This is a great image because it reminds us that only when we fasten ourselves to Christ will we become reliable people.  The Greek word for faithfulness means a “firm persuasion, conviction and belief in the truth.” When the Hebrew words “faithful” or “faithfulness” describe God in the Old Testament, the focus is on steadiness, safety, and certainty. It’s the same root that gives us the word “amen” which means to take care, to be faithful, reliable or established. When we end our prayers with the word amen we are saying so be it. It’s an expression of agreement because we trust in and so rest in the faithfulness of our Father. Number 12:7 tells us that Moses was faithful, “But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house.” Acts 6:5 describes Stephen as a man who was “full of faith and the Holy Spirit.” Psalm 36:5 describes God’s reliability: “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” God is faithful and as we follow His Spirit we also will overflow with faithfulness. When Paul send Timothy back to the church in Thessalonica to see how the church was doing, he didn’t want to know how many people they had, or how nice a building they had, or how much their offerings were. His primary concern was whether or not they were flourishing in their faithfulness. Look with me at a few verses from 1 Thessalonians 3:

Verse 2: “We sent Timothy…to strengthen and encourage you in your faith.”

Verse 5: “…when I could stand it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out about your faith.”

Verse 6: “But Timothy has…brought good news of your faith and love.”

Verse 7: “…we were encouraged about you because of your faith.”

Verse 10: “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.”

When Jesus told the Roman centurion in Luke 7 that He would go to his house to heal his servant, this commander told Jesus to just say the word and his servant would be healed. When Jesus heard this tremendous expression of faith, verse 9 says, “…He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’” On the other hand, when Jesus went back to his hometown of Nazareth, it says in Mark 6:5-6 that “because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.” As the Lord looks at your heart today is he amazed at your faith or is He astonished by your fickleness? Is your faith flourishing or are you floundering in fear? One of the most vivid pictures of faith is found in the well-known story of Peter walking on water found in Matthew 14:22-33. It’s here that we see both the faithfulness of Jesus as well as the faith of Peter. I want us to focus first on the faithfulness of Jesus. Now to give some background context to the story, Jesus had just been told that John the Baptist, a close relative of his had just been beheaded by Herod. When Jesus heard the news, he got into a boat and left for a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. When Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped out of the boat he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Because it was getting late, the disciples wanted Jesus to send the people away, but Jesus had other plans and he miraculously fed over 5000 people with only 5 barley loaves and two fish. John 6:14 tells us that the people were very excited and said, “Surely this is the prophet who is to come into the world.” Verse 15 reveals that Jesus knew that they wanted to stage a coup and make him king by force. They wanted a Messiah who would turn the nation of Israel into a world power. It’s here in the pain of His loss and grief as well as His exhaustion from ministering to the constant crowds of people that we see the faithfulness of Jesus. His faithfulness is demonstrated in at least four ways.

  1. He Calls and Commands.

Verse 22 says: “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd.” Jesus took charge and commanded his disciples to get into the boat. This word means to “compel by force.” The disciples didn’t want to leave this celebration, because they didn’t want to miss out on what was about to happen. But Jesus knew that they would be influenced by all this flattery and so he got them out of there immediately. Jesus recognizes that the people’s motives weren’t right, and He knew that the disciples were not mature enough in their faith to handle all this attention. So, let me ask you, what is your response to Christ’s commands?  Sometimes Jesus commands don’t seem to make sense, but will we follow them by faith and exhibit the fruit of faithfulness? Jesus called them away from the party for their own protection. Like a loving parent who could see the danger ahead He cared enough to call them out. Which, like many of us when we were kids they probably didn’t appreciate at the time. What about you, are you faithfully trusting in Christ’s commands or are you basing your faithfulness on your feelings? Are you obeying or objecting to His call and commands? When Jesus commands you to get in the boat do you obey? If we want to grow in faith we must first feed on His faithfulness. Because we will never be found faithful as long as we are filled with disobedience.

 

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