Monday, August 31, 2015

Wave Walking Faith

You know what’s amazing? I have seen God do some amazing things in my short walk with him.  But of all the things I have seen, the one thing that amazes me the most is how God’s word is alive and working in the hearts of people. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
I’ve seen this promise in action. About five years ago, Pastor Jeff, myself and our wives were at the national council for the Christian and Missionary Alliance. There, five pastor spoke using the same passage of Scripture. From my understanding, none of the pastors were told what passage to preach on; in fact, one of the pastor even remarked, “When I heard these other guys preaching on my passage I thought God was going to use up all the good stuff with them.” Yet each of their sermons was different, because God was working through each of them. His word is living and active. 
Recently I’ve had a similar experience. When one of our youth leaders finishes their two year training period called Servant Leadership, they graduate and become a Student Leader. At that time, they begin to teach and preach to the other youth. One of our leaders is Porsche, who some of you see around wearing all types of hats. She spoke to us on Matthew 14, where Jesus walked on water. In that passage she showed us how, when we are sinking in our lives, we need to look to Jesus who wants to pull us up.
It was a very good message, especially for her very first one in front of an audience of her peers. As I listened, I was reintroduced to the text and it was the text that I couldn’t get out of my mind. I kept returning to it again and again, because God was teaching me through it and taking me to a different place than he had taken me before. Would you open your Bibles with me to Matthew 14 verse 25, because I want to share with you what God has shown me.
As you’re finding your way to Matthew 14:25, let’s get into the context of the passage. Jesus is teaching around the Nazareth area of Israel. He had just fed 5,000 men, plus the women and children that had accompanied them. After Jesus sent his disciples away on a boat, and then dismissed the crowds, he went up by himself to pray and talk with God the Father. While Jesus was praying, the disciples had run into a storm. They had made it far from the shore, but now were going no where because of the wind and waves.  It’s here that we find ourselves in verse 25 of chapter 14 in the book of Matthew.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Now as I was understanding this passage, the way God was leading me to, I had to put it in a greater context of the whole book of Matthew. In fact I had to go through the first 14 chapters of the book to understand what was going on here. Because every time I’ve read this passage, I’ve always looked at it as Peter losing faith, but there is more there. So we’re going to go through the first 14 chapters pretty quick so that we have a better understanding of what is going on in our text. 
First off Matthew chapter 1 through chapter 3 verse 12 is the set up for Jesus life. Matthew gives us background information about the family to which Jesus is born into. Matthew is showing us all the events that lead up to the birth of Jesus.
Then, starting in verse 13 of chapter 3 through chapter 4, we see Jesus’ own preparation for his ministry. Jesus, in a sense, is getting his ducks in a row and following all that God the Father has for him to do.
In Chapter 5-7 we see Jesus’ first big teaching time. He goes up on a mountain side paralleling the time of Moses receiving the commandments of God and then teaching about those commandments and other issues, but taking them to a deeper heart place. So he’s teaching not only God’s commands, but also God’s expectations for humanity.
It’s here that we come to chapter 8 through 9. Jesus doesn’t just preach a good message, he takes what he teaches and puts it into action. Showing everyone that not only does he have the authority to teach, but to also use the very power of God in the world. 
From there we enter chapter 10 and we see Jesus sending out his closest disciples to do ministry themselves. Basically what’s going on is Jesus is saying to these 12, “You’ve heard the teachings, you see that I’ve got the power, now you’re going out to do the same things.” 
Then in chapters 11 through 14 verse 21, the disciples come back, Jesus debriefs them, teaches them some more and then encourages them.
All this leads to the next part and so on and so on. Then we come to our passage today and to crazy, foot in the mouth Peter. Peter is one of those guys, that when they open their mouth the other guys go, “Not again.” Not because everything he says is bad, but because he’s constantly talking and sometimes even contradicting Jesus. 
But we see Peter distinguish himself among the others in this passage. All twelve disciples see Jesus walking on water; doing something, that in their minds, is impossible. But with Peter’s words, “Lord, command me to come to you on the water.” We are given a realization that there are two types of faith that followers of Jesus demonstrate.
The first type of faith is the faith that the men in the boat showed. They were scared in the boat and not willing to even reply to Jesus’ words of peace. All they saw was a storm raging out of control. Most of these men were fishermen and they knew and trusted their boat. They had probably seen others go over the side and never come back in storms like the one they found themselves in. They clung to what they knew, what was safe and in the end they had, what I would call, “Safe Boat Faith.” Safe Boat Faith is faith that clings to something tangible, something that can be felt and feels secure all the time.
But on the other side is Peter, he himself a fishermen, but over the course of these 14 chapter there has been a change in Peter; a change that the other disciples haven’t yet come to. When Jesus spoke to the disciples, it was Peter who responded, but it wasn’t a, “Hey Jesus, get off those waves and get where it’s safe!” No instead he asked to come out with Jesus. Out on the waves, out in the danger, out of his comfort and his secureness. Peter had taken all that he had heard and all that he had seen of Jesus and put it into practice in this one moment. Peter had a desire to be where his Savior was, even though it seemed like suicide to be there. Peter realized that Jesus wanted him to put what he had learned so far into action,
Peter is showing us that there is a second type of faith: “Wave Walking Faith,” the faith that Jesus calls all of his followers to live.
See, we have a tendency to live our spiritual lives confined to our boats, our comfort zones. We tend to, like the disciples, live in the safest place we can find. But that’s not where God wants us; he wants us out on the waves walking with him.
If we call ourselves Christians, then we are saying that we want to follow Jesus’ example. So what did he do, he was the original wave walker. Jesus left his boat of Heaven to walk the waves of earth. If the Creator of the universe did it, how can we think that we can do anything less?
We need to find places in our lives that give us discomfort and walk out of our boats. How many of us go to church, but never volunteer, or volunteer only where we feel comfortable? How many of us give to missionaries, but never have gone on a missions trip recently? How many of us struggle to forgive others or hold onto anger? How many of us shutter at sharing our faith with someone else or pray for them?
God has called us out on to the waves to walk, like Jesus walked; to live as Jesus lives. We might, like Peter take our eyes off Jesus and begin to sink, but just as Porsche had told the youth, Jesus will be there to pull us up. The storms of life are going to beat on us if whether we’re in the boat or out on the wave. So what’s better? To be in the boat holding onto dear life to the things that are easily destroyed, or on the waves next to the Savior who guaranteed to hold us when the storms hit? What kind of faith are you living today? Are you living Safe Boat Faith, where you’re only willing to follow Jesus into the places you feel comfortable? I know I do at times, but God has challenged me to look for waves to walk. It’s not easy and it might be suicide, but we were never called to live in our safe boats, we were called to live on the waves. After all of Jesus’ teachings and examples, Peter got it. Do we? How much knowledge do we have and is there enough action with it?

What kind of faith are you living, safe boat or wave walking?

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