Thursday, August 10, 2017

Matthew 14:22-33 Staying Afloat in Life's Storms

KEY TEXT: Matthew 14:25-32 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 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. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" 

KEY THOT: Walking on water is not something we do everyday. But Peter did walk on water--until he doubted. Some think Peter was foolhardy, but Peter did something no one ever did--to literally walked on water, even if it's only for a few minutes. True, he did falter, but that does not deny the fact that Peter was the only person who has walked on water (beside Jesus). We may not want to walk on water as a matter of daily living. But the principles behind Peter's success (and failure) are lessons we can apply to our everyday life as we struggle to keep afloat as we navigate the treacherous waters called Life.

So how can we stay afloat in the midst of a turbulent sea? How can stay on top of the fray of daily grind? 

Firstly, we need to be sure that Jesus is walking on the same sea: "And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea" (v.25). 

That is not always the case. If we are engaged in activities that are contrary to His will, we may be way off course. We cannot have the assurance that he is "with us" if our decisions and lifestyle are drawing us further and further into the oceans. However, if we are committed to do His will (that is, going to where He is heading), we can be assured that He will always be with us, as the disciples discovered in the midst of turbulence caused by contrary wind and waves: "Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds" (v.22). The only reason Jesus came back to the boat is because the boat was heading the same direction Jesus wanted to go, despite the forces working against it: "the boat by this time was a long way from land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them" (v.24). 

Secondly, we must learn how to discern the Holy Ghost from unholy ghosts: "they were terrified, and said, 'It is a ghost!' and they cried out in fear" (v.26). Sadly, many Christians still react in fear when they see something they cannot understand--confusing the Holy Ghost with the hungry ghosts of their own superstition. If we want to walk on water, we have to learn to discern Jesus' presence in our situation. We must not confuse the presence of Jesus with the presence of evil spirits. Right discerning of the presence of Jesus inspires faith not fear. 

Thirdly, once we have discerned that Jesus is with us, the next thing is to wait for further instruction. Peter was impetuous and he wanted to be sure it was Jesus: "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." And Jesus said to him: "Come." (vv.28-29). Peter didn't walk on water out of impulse but only after he heard Jesus' command to "Come!" So, he wasn't acting on impulse, though he was not going to sit around if Jesus was walking on water. He wanted to be like His Master, walking on water. The other disciples were still analyzing and wondering if this was for real. But Peter had no time to waste: he wanted to be like his Lord. He wanted to walk as He walked--on water! 

And that is really the critical point in this story: when we hear God's voice and obey His voice, we can walk above the storms. If we have not been commanded to do anything but did it because we are wise in our own eyes, then we do not have the assurance of a miracle. We must step out in faith only as we hear the word of faith spoken. Faith is a response of obedience to Jesus' command. Faith is never a passive "believing"; it is always an active response of obedience to God's command. If we think we have faith because we believe, our faith may not rise upon the demons who also believe and tremble: "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!" (James 2:19).

Fourthly, we need to step out of the boat and walk. We cannot walk on water while we are still sitting on our bums in the boat. We have to get out and start walking towards Jesus: "So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus" (v.29). Peter didn't just walk everywhere--he walked toward Jesus. If our purpose in life is to draw near to Jesus, we can always walk above the storms of life. 

Finally, we can learn also from Peter's "failure": "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.'" (v.30). As long as Peter kept his eyes focused on Jesus, he was fine. But once he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the wind and the waves, he started to sink. Fear will always sink us; but faith keeps us afloat above the storms. Faith is simply keeping our eyes on Jesus and walking and working towards that objective--to draw near to Him and be like Him.

Abba-Father, help us stay focused on Jesus no matter what storms we may face in this life, that we might be like Him and walk above the storms of life. Amen.

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