“Imaginative Faith” – Matthew 14:22-36
Lent 2 – March 12, 2017
Some people think that becoming a Christian exempts them from life’s problems. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true. God never makes a promise that following Him means that life will be a bowl of cherries, a piece of cake, a walk in the park.
Old Testament Joseph got thrown into a pit, got sold by his brothers, and got thrown into jail.
Moses and the people of Israel were stuck between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army.
Elijah had a “my God is stronger than your god” contest with 450 prophets of Baal.
David stood face to face with the Philistine giant Goliath.
Daniel stood face to face with a den full of hungry lions.
Three faithful servants of God were thrown into a fiery furnace.
St. Paul was shipwrecked and stoned and given 39 lashes… 5 times!
The Bible’s record demonstrates that even those who followed God closely faced challenges to their faith and to their faith-walk with God.
That truth continues today for those who follow Jesus Christ. Christians face all kinds of life-storms: Christians have car accidents. Christians get cancer. Christians have rebellious children. Christians get divorced. Christians lose their jobs. Christians face financial hardship.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summarized it this way: “[God] causes [the] sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” That means that sometimes life is good, and sometimes life just stinks. It also means – as hard as it is for us to understand this – that sometimes life is good, really good, for those who don’t have God in their lives at all. But we’re not going to focus on the good life of the unrighteous, we’re going to focus on how Christians deal with problems in life, those times that God sends rain on the righteous.
The essential Bible passage for our consideration today is the account of a real life shortly-before-dawn storm on the Sea of Galilee. The storm wouldn’t be so noteworthy in and of itself. What was significant is that a human interest story was taking place on that lake early that morning. Jesus’ disciples had set out the night before and were now caught in this spontaneous squall that, with its wind and waves, threatened their very lives. Jesus had stayed back on land to pray, so He wasn’t in the boat.
However, in that fourth watch of the night – between 3 & 6 A.M., when people should be getting their good REM sleep – Jesus went out to them walking on the water. As he approached their boat, the disciples cried out in fear, thinking that this vision on the water in the middle of the storm was a ghost. Jesus offered calming words: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
[I always marvel that the words Jesus used for “It is I” are literally the words “I AM,” which He uses often to say such things as “I AM the Light of the World,” “I AM the bread of life,” “I AM the good shepherd,” and “I AM the vine.” I AM – it’s really God’s name revealed to Moses in the Old Testament.]
So, here is the great “I AM” – out in the middle of the lake, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the fears of the disciples. And He simply says, “Take courage, don’t be afraid.” How can a person NOT be afraid when divorce is looming, when the doctor says it’s cancer, when your company is downsizing and a pink slip is expected any day. How can a person NOT be afraid when the winds and waves of life blow.
Peter must have recognized Jesus’ voice over the sound of the wind, and asked Jesus to invite him to walk on the water. Jesus said one word, “Come.”
Have you ever had an invitation like that? One that was exciting and intimidating at the same time? “Marry me.” “Join our team.” “Let’s buy that house.”
Part of Peter must have said, “Woo-hoo,” in response to Jesus’ invitation, while another part of Peter must have said, “What have I gotten myself into?” And then he stepped out of the boat.
Last Sunday, I showed a video of me jumping from a 20 foot tall platform onto a giant air-filled pillow. What was scarier for this afraid-of-heights guy was standing on the edge of a 30 foot rock cliff, looking down into the Bow River, just west of Calgary. My kids were like Peter – they climbed up and jumped in. I was more like the rest of the disciples, cowering in the back of the boat, watching through slightly spread fingers to see what would happen to Peter. It took me 2 or 3 minutes to take that last step over the edge. In just over one second I was in the water, and my life-jacket bobbed me back up to safety, and I floated downstream to my waiting, applauding family. That was my walking on water experience.
From the sounds of the story in Matthew 14, Peter walked on water for more than one second… maybe 5 or 10 or 15, but then the sight of the wind and waves challenged his fears, and he began to sink, crying out in fear a second time, “Lord, save me!” Jesus reached out, pulled him up out of the water, and they both climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. Jesus said, “Why did you doubt?” The rest of the boat-confined disciples marveled, and confessed, “This is really God’s Son!” and they worshiped Him.
- What can we learn
So, what can we learn about dealing with the problems of life, and about faith from this essential Bible Story?
a.Jesus is with you
First, it is important to recognize that Jesus is with you. I believe that this event happened in the middle of the night, and God recorded it for us to observe, because our storms often hit in darkness – literal darkness or spiritual darkness. It may be when we’re in a dark wilderness of our prayer and devotional life that the unwelcome doctor’s diagnosis comes. It may be in the depths of marriage turmoil that your child quietly announces… “I’m gay.” It may be in the after-midnight darkness that that RCMP knock on the door comes about a car accident. Storms often come in the darkness of our lives.
Jesus’ calming words to the disciples were simple: “It is I. I AM” These words pointed to Jesus’ identity and His authority. It’s important that we listen for them in our times of darkness and storms for they remind us that, no matter how dark the night is, no matter how strong the wind blows, Jesus is with us, the Lord of the universe is with us. Perhaps Jesus’ very last words to His disciples reminded them of that: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” When we are absolutely convinced of that, neither our fears nor our storms seem quite so big. In the Old Testament, the shepherd boy David wasn’t intimidated by the Philistine giant, Goliath, in front of him because He knew that behind him stood an even bigger God.
b. Jesus has power to help
The second thing to recognize is that Jesus has power to help. If you were playing doubles tennis and your partner was afraid of the ball, or had a mini racket, or was playing his first ever game of tennis and didn’t really know what to do, then having a doubles partner wouldn’t really give you a lot of confidence. But if your partner was world number 1 Andy Murray, you could let your partner do virtually all the work and just watch and marvel.
Jesus’ words, “Take courage, don’t be afraid,” indicated that He had power to help, that the storm was no match for him. After all, He was walking on water!!
Now, remember, just because you are a follower of Jesus, and just because Jesus has power to help doesn’t mean that He’s going to solve all your problems in the way you desire. Sometimes it’s going to rain, sometimes it’s going to storm. But realize, too, that Jesus may not take away the storm, but He will take you through that storm. There may be things to learn by going through that storm. There may be some Christian character to build up. There may be some patience to learn. There may be some deeper trust to develop.
St. Paul, who went through lots of trials and storms – both literal and figurative – wrote: “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
The letter of James says something similar: “Consider it pure joy… whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work, so that you be mature an complete.”
c. Step out in (imaginative) faith
If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat!
d. Worship and give thanks
Acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, the Saviour, my Lord (2nd Article expl.)
David – I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty
Daniel – My God sent His angel… he trusted in his God.
Three men – The God we serve is able to save us from the furnace!
Elijah – Let it be known that you are God in Israel
Joseph – God intended it for good