Faith through Trials

I am preaching tonight at our church so that the guys (Pastor and husband included) can go to a mens only event at New Life with John Bevere.  If interested, here is essential the message God has laid on my heart. I’m excited!

Matthew 14:22-33

Dark, Stormy, and out at sea, many of the disciples probably haven’t even been able to sleep.  They know the sun will be coming up soon, but they are just trying to make it through the windy night. In their exhaustion, they find at sea, like a faint, white phantom, something approaching their boat, gliding across the water.  I imagine John, the beloved young one, backing up in terror with a wide-eyed expression of fear on his face.  “You look like you have seen a ghost,” pipes up Thomas.  John, frozen in fear manages to lift a finger in the direction of the “ghost” he saw.  Thomas then doubles back, shouting to the others, “GHOOOOOSSST!!!!” One by one they turn in fear.

Then from across the water comes a voice they recognize! “Do not be afraid.  Take courage. I am here.” With a huge sigh of relief and amazement, I am sure they exclaimed, “Oh my goodness… It’s just Jesus.”

Something wells up in Peter.  Perhaps it is the adrenaline from such a scare.  Perhaps it is a deep desire to do, see, and be just like Jesus. Perhaps, after seeing Jesus just feed over 5,00 people with two loaves of bread and five fish, he just knew this would be nothing for God. We don’t know really why Peter asks this, but Peter shouts out to Jesus, “If you really are my Lord, if you really are my Jesus, tell me to walk out on the water to you!”

Jesus simply says, “Yes, come.”

Peter without skipping a beat, steps from the boat onto the water.  He didn’t think about the waves.  He didn’t think about how he was denying every concept of physics.  For a brief moment it was him and Jesus walking on water. His faith was at an ultimate high. He had complete trust in Jesus!  In the surreal moment, he begins to look around. He thinks, “I can’t believe I am walking on water.  Is this real?” And as he looks down at his feet and back up, his eyes lose sight of Jesus.  He no longer defies physics because his faith is bound by reality.  The waves begin to overtake him and he sinks, even though Jesus was right there in front of him. In a deep breath of air he cries out, “Lord, save me.”

Jesus reaches out his hand, helps Peter up, and says with loving sorrow in his eyes, “You have so little faith.  Why did you doubt me?”

As they climbed into the boat, the winds stopped.  The disciples worshiped Jesus, but Peter, I am sure, sat by the edge of the boat catching his breath thinking, “What just happened? Do I not know Jesus is capable of doing anything? Why DID I doubt? What happened?”

~~~

Although I have read this story all my life, I found myself reading it with a fresh perspective on Jesus response to Peter’s faith, but before we get to that, there are a few things to recognize first.

First of all, we need to recognize that in life there is going to be terrifying circumstances and trials.  I am sure you don’t need me to remind you of this.  Sometimes it feels like trouble is all around us.  The disciples were out on the windy waves and they were terrified when they saw “the ghost.” But notice Jesus words. “Do not be afraid.  Take courage. I am here!” Notice he didn’t say, “I am Jesus,” “I am your teacher,” or “I am not a ghost.” He simply said, “I am here.” The Great I am is here.

No matter where we are or what we are going through.  God is there.  We do not need to be afraid.  The Psalmist said it beautifully, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me; your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:7-10, NIV) God is there with us in all situations.

Take Joshua for example.  He had been watching and learning under Moses.  He saw how selfish, unfaithful, and misguided the Israelites were.  He saw how they overcame, by God’s grace and power, some unthinkable circumstances.  Yet as Moses was dying, as the role of leadership was passed to Joshua, Joshua was afraid to lead so many people, an entire nation.  This is what God says to him through Moses, “Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the Lord swore to give their ancestors.  You are the one who will deliver it to them as their inheritance.  Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord is the one who goes before youHe will be with you; he will neither fail you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT, emphasis added)

When we face difficult situations that scare us. When we face trials of every kind.  We can take comfort that God is with us.  He is faithful.  He never fails us.  He doesn’t leave us behind.  Even Job, in the midst of all his trials and anguish, was not alone.  The Sovereign God was still at work in his life! God is with you in all circumstances, so seek his face and his perfect love that casts out all fear!  Jesus even tells us in John 16, “But the time is coming—in fact, it is already here—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone.  Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (16:32-33 NLT, emphasis added) Not only do we have no need to fear because he is with us, but because he has overcome every obstacle in our way.

The next thing we need to understand is that if Jesus is with us, we can accomplish anything.  Romans 8:28-32 says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.  And having chosen them, he called them to come to him.  And he gave them right standing with himself, and he promised them his glory.  What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, wont’ God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?” (emphasis added)

Do you see that if God is in your circumstance.  If God is using your situation.  If God is with you, then even the worst situation is under control.  We can trust God.

This week I was reading from my devotional book, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  Here is what one of the days said:

“I AM WITH YOU. These four words are like a safety net, protecting you from falling into despair.  Because you are human, you will always have ups and downs in your life experience.  But the promise of my presence limits how far down you can go.  Sometimes you may feel as if you are in a free fall, when people or things you had counted on let you down.  Yet as soon as you remember that I am with you, your perspective changes radically.  Instead of bemoaning your circumstances, you can look to Me for help.  You recall that not only am I with you, I am holding you by your right hand. I guide you with My counsel, and afterward I will take you into Glory. This is exactly the perspective you need: the reassurance of My Presence, and the glorious hope of heaven.”

Now that we know these things, we still have to activate our faith.  We still have to trust God in the midst of our circumstance.  God promises to use our circumstances and to be there, but more times than not, our healing, provision, job, etc, do not just fall into our lap.  We have to do something that activates our faith in God’s power.  We have to step out of our secure little boat and walk toward what God has for us, whether that means prayer and fasting, or applying to jobs.

We see here that Peter had the faith to say, “If you are my Lord, tell me to come to you on the water.” Without hesitation, Peter stepped out of the boat.  He took the step.  God was there.  He walked on water.  He defied physics. The storm was still raging around him. His situation did not change, but his perspective of faith elevated him above the circumstance.  He kept his eyes on Jesus. Peter then began to look at his situation.  He began to see the waves.  He sank.  His faith was weakened by the circumstance.

When you face a trial of any kind, you must not let the circumstance weaken your faith.  Even though Peter had made the bold step of faith to even walk on the water, his faith was called out as weak by Jesus. This is because faith is much like physics.  General concepts of physics says that an object is only as strong as its weakest point.  A soda can is only as strong as the perforated seal that we pop open to drink from.  A container is weak if it has a hole, a weak point.  Achilles in greek mythology was strong and was a hero int he Trojan war. His mother dipped him in the river to make him immortal, holding him by the foot. Because she didn’t go back and dip that foot, his heel was believed to be a weak point, and it, among other things, destroyed him.  We may have the faith to see God do miracles.  We may have the faith to walk on water.  We may have the faith that God will provide, but if we let our circumstance in an area determine our faith in God, our faith is weak.

In Romans, Paul tells us to rejoice when we face problems and trials.  They help us learn to endure.  “And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation [that’s faith!!].  And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

I encourage you to do one, or all, of these things:

1. Seek God’s presence, that your heart would know he is at work in your situation.

2. Seek God’s guidance.  What is the step of faith he is asking you to take?

3. As you seek God, fix your eyes on Jesus and let him be the source of your strength to hold up your faith.

In all things, remember Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and ALL these things will be given to you as well.”

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