As I write these words to encourage you, you may be walking through a difficult time in your life. I purposely write about the “hard” things of the journey of faith because I have been there myself. These truths have encouraged me! You may be fighting against the crashing waves of grief, disappointment, or difficulty in your life. This article is based on a sermon preached Sunday, June 19, 2022. This sermon/article idea came from 2 sermons from Adrian Rogers. You can watch these sermons for yourself here:
Setting: Passage 1 Matthew 14:22-33
Prior to this episode, we need to consider the following from verse 1-21
- Jesus hears that His cousin John the Baptist has been unjustly executed v1-12
- Jesus withdraws to pray by Himself.
- A crowd of people finds Him and Jesus has compassion and heals.
- Jesus feeds thousands of hungry with the five loaves and two fish.
The disciples and people have just experienced a miracle. Remember that every miracle in the Gospels is recorded for a reason–to reveal Jesus’ identity and power. Jesus reveals Himself to be the Bread of Life (John 6:26-51).
Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus “compelled” the disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus sends the crowd away and goes up to the mountain to pray by Himself. An important question is why He had to pressure them to get into the boat? It’s possible that the disciples having being fishermen were aware of the contrary winds and possibility of a storm forming/coming. Why didn’t Jesus accompany them? Why did He send them into a storm and difficulty?
Why Does God allow or send storms into our lives?
God will send storms in our lives. Christians face terminal illnesses, lose jobs, have family problems, and ultimately die just like the lost people of the world. Have you ever considered the missionaries and believers who followed God to a place where they ultimately died from illness or murder? Why did God send them where He knew that they would experience difficulty and death? Why does God allow horrible things to happen in churches or lives of His people?
This doesn’t seem like a Loving, Kind, Forgiving God. But this is the reality. How many church and school shootings have happened over this past year? How do we reconcile the terrible things of our lives and this world with the truth that God is Perfectly Good and Wise?
We face an important choice in what we believe about God. First, we can believe that things just happen due to “fate” or some accident. This heresy teaches that bad things just happen. We are victims to bad circumstances or “luck.” This belief has it roots in paganism. Consider the Greek “fates”. Similar is that people suffer because they have done bad things. In John 9, the disciples ask why the man was born blind–who sinned? It’s a false notion that we suffer because of sins we have done. This is partly, but not fully true. Our sins do lead to suffering in our lives and others, but this man was born blind. 3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. KJV
This man’s situation-blindness and begging–happened so that God’s might reveal Jesus as the “Light of the World.” God had a purpose for his blindness. God has a purpose for us too!
We can wrongly believe that God isn’t active or involved in our world (Deism). Some wrongly believe that God is aware, but learning (Open Theism) or unable to control people due to “free will” of humans. This is a popular, but serious heresy that distorts God’s Revealed Nature according to God’s Word.
It’s difficult to fully understand that God is All Powerful and All Loving. We want God to stop all the evil, protect us, and prevent the horrors of life. Why do we struggle with this? Because we know that things should be better. God has put a desire in our hearts for eternity. This world isn’t our home! We can’t be truly comfortable or safe here!
What if God sends us into storm(s) so that we experience His presence? For the believer to grow/mature
What if God sends difficulties to teach us more about Him that we wouldn’t learn any other way? In verses 24-25, the disciples are fighting against contrary winds and waves. Jesus has sent them into a trial. They’re fighting hard and struggling in the early hours of the morning. It’s dark and stormy. Jesus is still on the mountain praying. Ever feel abandoned? I wonder what was going through the disciples’ mind as they are straining against the wind and waves for hours in the dark night.
Our tendency as sinful humans is to attempt life on our own. We desire to be “self-made” and self-reliant. We will invest all kinds of time, energy into improving ourselves or making ourselves “feel” more comfortable. We want to do life on our terms. We want things to go our way in our own time. Like the Burger King slogan we demand to “have it our way” This is the nature of the human rebellion against God. This started in Genesis 3 and continues today.
What if God’s Mercy sends the storm?
What if God sends storms to save us from self-reliance and eternal separation from Him? What if the storm is God’s way of getting us to look to Him to save us? As long as we live for and through ourselves, we are missing Christ! Life is only found in Christ.
A comfortable, safe “spiritual” journey leads straight to destruction and eternal separation from God. Those who foolishly live life apart from Christ will perish eternally! Which road are you walking on? Why does God say that the road to Him is narrow?
Then in the fourth watch of the night (3am to sunrise), the disciples perceive someone walking on the water. During this time period, storms were thought to be caused by evil spirits or demons. People don’t walk on water so with the chaos of the water they assumed it was a “ghost” or evil spirit coming to them. They naturally cry out in fear.
Jesus identifies Himself and calms them.
One of the challenges of walking in faith is recognizing Christ’s presence in the dark, stormy times of our lives. When the fear is highest and the storm waves are crashing down on us, do we recognize God’s presence? Jesus has left the mountain and is walking to them. What if Jesus is walking close to you (Holy Spirit’s Presence), but you can’t see Him? Obviously, Jesus is physically present in heaven with God (Hebrews 1:3, 12:2) . But He has sent Holy Spirit to us (John 16). We never walk alone! Never do we face any storm where He isn’t present! But do we recognize Him?
Peter’s Brave but Imperfect Faith
Peter is one of my favorite Gospel heroes because he shows both the best and worst of human followers. He loves and trusts Jesus, but imperfectly. Like us, his faith falters! Peter wants to be with Jesus and walks on the water toward Him! He walks on the water until he takes his eyes off Christ and focuses on the waves!
His motives and intentions are good. He is “stepping out in faith” then becomes overwhelmed with the situation. Like us, his faith needs to grow. Yet, he gets close to Christ before he sinks. He does the right thing when he starts to sink! He cries out to Jesus and notice how Jesus responds:
30But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? Matthew 14:30-31 KJV
Jesus immediately reaches out to him and rescues Him. All Peter had to do was cry out! Got questions “Peter Walking on the Water” sums this up: emphasis mine
Quote passage 1 “For believers, the lesson here is unmistakable. If we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on our circumstances, we will fall under the weight of our problems. If we call to Jesus in faith, he will catch us and lift us above our seemingly impossible situation. Peter let doubt displace his faith. In all the time he had been with Jesus, even Peter, one of Christ’s closest friends, was still learning to trust the Lord completely.”
Quote passage 2 “A crucial lesson remains to be explored. When Peter jumps out of the boat, his heart is full of good intentions. Sometimes we take a leap of faith with similarly good intentions, but, like Peter’s, our faith soon falters. Peter’s exercise of faith does not end in failure. Although he is sinking in fear, he calls out to the Lord, “Save me!” God loves to hear our cry for help. It means we know we can’t save ourselves. Peter helplessly cries out to the only one who can help him. The disciple’s experience reminds us that a lapse of faith is merely a stumble. The Lord is near to raise us back safely to our feet when we call to Him for help.”
Faith is a journey and learning process for us all.
Final Thought: The Storm Ends John 6:21
21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. KJV
The following article explains this concept in detail:
Once the disciples welcome Jesus into the boat, the storm and journey are immediately over. The storm and difficulty lasts until God ends it! Jesus delivered them to their destination. While we will struggle in life, we have the assurance that Jesus will see us to our destination (eternity with Him)! Have you welcomed Christ into your life? Have you trusted in His grace and mercy to save you?
May God grant you wisdom and courage to recognize His presence in your storms of life! May God’s Living Word encourage and strengthen your faith! I write these words to encourage you!