Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

23. Cultivating Christ Like Character, Faith – Part 3

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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!” 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.

Jesus didn’t just come to them He cared for them and we see that in the first words that He spoke to them, “But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” He knew that they were afraid, and He came to calm their hearts. When we think through the “do’s and don’ts” of the Bible, I’m guessing one or more of the following come to mind: Do not lie, do not steal, do not murder, do unto others as you’d have them do to you, Love your neighbor as yourself. And while all of these are certainly Biblical and applicable today surprisingly, none of them are repeated with all that much frequency. Do you know what the most frequently repeated command in Scripture is? Fear not, do not be afraid. God knows that fear is the number one reason we avoid doing what He asks us to do. Fear is the biggest obstacle to obedience. Fear is something we all face, but I have found that the greatest antidote to the war on worry is to commit the Word of God to memory. So here are a few of my favorite “fear not’s”:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1).

“I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Genesis 26:24).

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine'” (Isaiah 43:1).

“Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36).

“So, don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).

In light of these and many other “fear not’s,” why are Christians afraid of so many things? Some of us fear economic ruin, climate upheavals, or political change. We’re afraid to share our faith, to give our money away, to publicly testify about God’s grace in our lives. We fear rejection, persecution, illness, loneliness, silence and solitude, death, and countless other things. Why? One big reason for our fear is simple unbelief. We don’t take God at his Word when he says, “I am with you, I’ll take care of you, you are mine.” I also think that part of the problem is that we have so bought into the “things go better with Jesus” philosophy that we don’t know how to reconcile suffering with God’s faithfulness. But we have a God who is not just good all the time He is fully faithful. Look we are the ones who are fickle and fail and yet our Father is still faithful. You see even when we suffer, even in the midst of the storm God is faithful. So, don’t cast aside your confidence in God just because your circumstances are crummy because even when the birds stop singing and the sky goes from a beautiful blue to a bleak black God still has your back. Have you ever wondered why Jesus was walking on the water at 3:00 a.m.? Why didn’t He just calm the storm like He did the time before? Why didn’t he just show up in the boat with them? Why the water-walking gig? Listen because this is the most important point in the passage, Jesus is far more interested in displaying His deity than He is in just making life comfortable for His followers. He knew that His disciples would not fully understand Him until they were faced with some stormy waters. The same is true for us. You see you will never get to really know Christ until He is all you are clinging onto. The beautiful blessings of storms are that they strip us of self-strength. Oh, you might be able to row for a while but its only when you come to the end of yourself that you will come to the beginning of God. Some of you don’t know because you’re still struggling to row, and you don’t see Jesus on the water because He is waiting, waiting for you to grow weary of trying to save yourself. We see Him as He really is when we’re faced with fear and wiped out by the waves of pain and suffering. But, we have to look for Him in order to see Him. And Jesus reveals who He is in three very powerful ways:

  • By walking on the water. Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha were involved with water miracles, but no human had ever walked on water before. When Jesus went for a strolled on the stormy sea, He was showing that He was more than a mere man, He was God. In Job 9:8 we read that only God can take a stroll on the sea: “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.”
  • By showing Himself. In Mark 6:48 we read, “He was about to pass by them.” This phrase “to pass by” is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament to refer to a theophany, which are those defining moments when God shows up and reveals His glory in a vivid and profound way to a select group of people. He did it with Moses in Exodus 33:19: “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name in your presence.” Jesus gave them a glimpse of His glory.
  • By revealing His name. This is striking and should have created a sense of awe and wonder among the disciples. While the waves are battering their boat and they’re huddled in fear, in Matthew 14:27 Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid, Take courage. I am here!” “I AM” alludes back to God’s self-revelation in Exodus 3:14: “I AM WHO I AM.” Jesus knows that fear can fillet our faith and so He tells us to be courageous by remembering who He is. He is the great I AM.

What about you are you focused on your fears or focusing on His faithfulness? We need to stop focusing on the storms and start focusing on the Savior because focusing on the storm grows our fear where focusing on the Savior grows our faith.

 

 

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