St Barnabas,11th August 2013
Our Gospel reading today takes up the story of Jesus on this particular late afternoon after feeding the five thousand “and he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After that he went up into the mountainside to pray”. How often do we see this? After a busy day using his mighty powers, needing to be alone with his Father to pray and regenerate and refresh himself ready for the next day to hear what His Father’s will was for him. Something for us to learn perhaps…
So there was Jesus alone praying to His Father and there on the Sea of Galilee were the disciples in the boat some considerable distance from the land but of course he was watching over them as well. No doubt they were discussing the amazing miracle of the loaves and fish, probably trying to comprehend what had just happened. It’s not every day you can feed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish can you? It’s hard enough sometimes to provide for our own families and friends isn’t it. As we learnt last week God is the great provider. Can you imagine the conversation! “What just happened there, what was that all about?” And after everything there were still 12 baskets of broken bread. I don’t believe that was coincidence that there was one basket left for each disciple. Jesus was watching out for them, not letting them starve. I wouldn’t think they could have got much sleep, they must have been on a high. They must have been reliving every moment.
Now these 12 disciples were about to receive one of the greatest lessons from the Lord and it is noteworthy here to see that some of the most important lessons Jesus wants to teach us cannot be taught in a classroom sitting behind a desk.
My son and his instructors and other lifeguards have to reaffirm their qualifications every two years and have to train hard for it as it involves not only the theory but the practical or running fast into water in a certain time etc. He is 46 next week so it becomes harder as you get older. He is very fit though!
Like the lifesaving course, you cannot just do the theory, you have to get into the water.
I can think of no lesson more important than — learning to trust in Jesus and believe in him, when storms of life are raging against us and it is scary. Those kind of lessons cannot be taught in the calm and tranquil times of our lives.
Do you ever find yourself in circumstances that are scary?
Maybe awaiting medical results from your doctor
Or Bullying at work
Or facing the possibility of being downsized and having to move house
Or maybe you are uncertain about your children’s future as they seek to leave home.
Those can be very scary and unsettling circumstances.
The disciples are facing circumstances that are scary and uncertain.
They have been in a boat for about 7 or 8 hours on a journey that should have taken a couple hours and it is now at least 3 in the morning and they are continuing to battle against a storm with winds and waves and they are in the middle of the sea of Galilee in the dark. This happened before in ch 8 v 23-27 but Jesus was with them in the boat then. Now they thought he was nowhere to be seen when in their exhaustion, not knowing if they are going to make it, they think they see a ghost walking on the water!
Maybe going through their minds – “is this is the end for us. We are never going to make it and now a ghost or the grim reaper is coming to get us!” They are completely terrified crying out in fear.
But it is not a ghost. It is Jesus and He says to them “take courage.”
But notice, he doesn’t just tell them to be courageous. Look at the reason He gives.
He says, “It is I.”
That is translated from the Greek “Ego eimi”
Those are the same words that God used to declare His name to Moses, “I am”
Jesus is saying, take courage because it is Me, the Great I AM, God in the flesh. There is no reason to fear when you trust in me and willingly walk with me.
When the Lord is with us, or He is behind our circumstance, whether personally or as a Church, we can trust and take courage that He will work things out for His glory and our eternal good, which will enable us to walk through any situation though we don’t see it at the time.
There are times in our life when the storms get so hard to deal with. The Lord is going to send us into some storm so we can grow in our faith and courage and you may have already experienced that and it is so we can take our next step of faith that the Lord has for us and so we can better the experience of a full and abundant life.
Maybe you feel like you are in one of these storms of life right now
Maybe in your life you are struggling just to keep the bills paid and fuel in the car in you have one
And now you have more bills rolling in
The house insurance is due, the car tax, need new glasses, children’s uniforms. This is on top of the mortgage or rent and utilities and your prescriptions and food. In the midst of all of this, God wants me to tithe to the church?
How can I manage?
You are just feeling exhausted from life, it is one thing after the other
The pressures of the job, the pressures of being a wife or husband, keeping the family going.
Grandparent responsibilities or the pressures of living alone, or of just being lonely. You can feel lonely even in a crowd.
Perhaps the worry of getting older and how you are going to manage and where you are going to live.
All these every day pressures we live in.
You need courage. “I am not courageous”, you may say. It is not courage in yourself that you need.
You need the courage from knowing who God is, that even in your current situation, that He is good, He loves you, He sacrificed greatly for you and He will be with you. He is the great provider, He is the great comforter, He is the one who gives us strength, He is mighty and powerful, He gives us mercy and grace and so on and so on. Do you believe that for yourself when you come worship Him. Our God is an Awesome God!
Knowing those things in the midst of the storms on this journey of life will help us have the courage to take that next step of faith.
The Disciples needed this courage.
Peter needed this courage.
You need this courage, we need this courage for our church.
When you take your first surfing lesson, you take instructions on the sand with the surf instructor who tells you and shows you exactly what you have to do. You practice on dry land first. It takes a great deal of courage to pick up your surfboard and head towards the waves. They are large long boards and when I had my first lesson with a big surfboard quite a few years ago now, it was not easy. It was scary because being short and fairly small, I found carrying the board very awkward to hold especially as you must never carry it straight up in front of you as if a strong wave came at you as you were walking out, it could break your nose. Hard to remember when you are battling against the waves and wind and sometimes rain.
I remember my son actually shouting at me when I forgot but he was only trying to protect me. But you need to remember all your instructions and you need to obey them.
So Peter asks to come out to Jesus, “Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water and Jesus tells him to come on out.
And Peter steps out of the boat, and I can visualize the first thought that comes into Peter’s mind – This is cool!!
He’s never experienced anything like this! He’s walking by faith – He’s stepped out of the boat and he’s walking on water.
It’s like when you catch your first wave, you paddle on your surfboard with trepidation just watching for the right wave, then when the time is right, you try and try to focus on all you have been instructed and try to obey and the feeling of coming in on the waves at high speed is just exhilarating even if you don’t manage to stand up!
But the lesson is that you cannot grow in your faith, by just sitting in your seat and watching.
Sooner or later, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
James says it this way: “… faith without works is dead” James 2:20
You’re not going to go anywhere in your faith until you do something that gets you out on the water.
If all you do is come to church and sit in a seat, if you’re simply satisfied with being a spectator and not a doer for God, you’ll never know the thrill of what God can do in your life. Whatever age we are, he wants us to experience that thrill of what He can do in your life if you simply let Him.
You simply have to get out of the boat and get your feet wet. You have to take courage and lift your feet up and ride the wave.
Now, granted, Peter lost sight of Jesus. He got distracted by the wind and the waves and he began to sink in his doubt, and Jesus rebuked him for faltering in his faith.
But NONE of the other disciples even got out of the boat.
NONE of the other disciples ever knew what it was like to feel this particular power of Jesus in their lives.
NONE of the other disciples felt what it was like for Jesus to reach down into their lives and take them by the hand and pull them up.
Why? Because they never got out of the boat!!!
Just think of what they missed.
I could have just sat on the beach in Croyde all day and enjoyed the rest but I would have missed the thrill of surfing and catching the wave and skimming towards the beach. Such excitement, you just want more. Just think what I would have missed!
Now, you might say “But Peter might have drowned!”
No! – Peter was NEVER in danger. Jesus was always there with him.
Jesus had never left his side, and Jesus wasn’t going to let him drown.
Likewise when you are learning to surf, the instructor is always by your side or very near and he or she won’t let you drown.
But because Peter was willing to step out in faith he and the other disciples learned something valuable about Jesus.
We see in Matthew 14:32-33
“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying,
‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
This is what Jesus wanted His disciples to understand, and the lesson was so well engrained that night in the boat, that several days later, the message still reverberated in them.
Two chapters later, in Matthew 16, we find Jesus asking His disciples who do men said that He was. “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’
‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.” Matthew 16:15-16
You have to believe that to be saved. When you give your life to Jesus, It is important to intellectually understand that Jesus is the Son of God. It is not just a warm lovey dovey feeling although it does sometimes feel like it, you have to understand and comprehend that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and He came to save you from your sins and he can indwell in you by His Holy Spirit. You only have to read and digest the word of God to know that.
But even after we’re saved, even after we’ve been to church for years, there comes a moment, a time when we suddenly realize the impact of those words. A time when we begin to fully understand that Jesus is the Christ. That He is the Son of the Living God. And those times seem to only come after we’ve been willing to step out of the boat and put our faith into action and see Him in action in our lives or lives of others. And it is so exciting and exhilarating.
If we go back to Matthew 14:30-31 –
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Things were going well for Peter. He was experiencing God’s power working through Him to accomplish the impossible
But then he took his eyes off of the Lord and put them on the circumstances and his faith waivered and he doubted what was happening could really be happening. Peter took his focus off Jesus for one second and began to sink.
When you take your focus off the surfing instructor and don’t follow the instructions you have for surfing, you have a wipe out (which is like being in a washing machine and not nice, not for one like me who doesn’t like getting her hair wet in the sea much!) You are told also to fix your eyes on something way up the beach and keep focussed on it, if you don’t when you drift sideways as I said before with the current, you may find yourself in difficulty. But despite all that, the lifesavers are always there watching you.
All of us, at points have taken steps of faith, but we need to persevere in that faith if we are going to be successful in maintaining our footing and moving on with the Lord. Are we at a standstill in our faith or do we want to persevere and really grow in our relationship with Him? Do we want more and more? Do we find it exciting and exhilarating working with him and in him to accomplish the impossible?
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
If we are going to be mature and complete not lacking anything, living the full and abundant life, then we need to persevere.
This is where Peter failed, this is where we all fail at points.
While Peter did not persevere here, he goes on to be a great leader walking in faith and persevering. Peter came a long way on his journey, from the impulsive man of little faith, even denying Christ to a faithful leader among the apostles. God grew Peter from the steps of faith he placed in front of him as Peter exercised his faith and took those steps, and He did a powerful work in Peter’s life.
God is interested in doing a powerful work in your life through the steps of faith he has placed in front of you.
What is the next step that the Lord has placed in front of you? Are you going to step out onto the water are you going to risk riding that first wave?
When we are praying about that, let us all remember three things about our God apart from what we have said already …
GOD IS OMNIPRESENT – HE IS ALL PLACES
GOD IS OMNISCIENT – HE IS ALL KNOWING
GOD IS OMNIPOTENT -HE IS ALL POWERFUL
He is indeed worthy of our worship.
Are you willing to deepen your relationship with Him. He sacrificed so much for us, are you willing to step out in faith, take the risk and see what exciting and exhilarating experiences this awesome God has in store for you whatever our circumstances “Let us give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds to men.”