August 28, 2021
Blessed Are Those Who Seek the Lord
Walk on Water
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Welcome! Have you ever done something in your life that at first, you were thinking-nope-no way! But after you did it-you were so glad you did?
It’s usually some fear that keeps us from wanting to try something or saying yes to something right? For me when I was younger and we were at Great America-I came front and center with my fear when I looked at the size of those roller coasters. That was when the American Eagle was fairly new and if you remember that huge hill the carts would slowly climb up-it was frightening!
There was a battle happening within-part of me thought “wow that looks fun” and the other part of me was saying, “are you crazy? You’ll die!”
Somehow my mom talked me into going and I would only ride with her-I thought well at least if we die, it’ll be together! Oh, it was so scary that slow, slow climb up that great big hill. My fear just welled up even more. We finally made it to crest the top and before I could panic about what came after the top of the hill, swoosh we went flying down the hill at warp speed. I think my stomach stayed at the top. Then up another hill and around several twists and turns, we whirled throughout the ride.
When we came back in and it came to a stop, I said something to the effect, “that was awesome! Let’s go again!”
I was still be afraid of going up that hill ever so slowly as we went again, but the next time I knew the fun that was coming so my fears were tempered by what I had already experienced to be true. To this day, I still get nervous and have a bit of fear rise up in me if I go on roller coasters, and I still scream as we go racing down and maybe grab someone’s arm, Jonny knows…. But it’s all part of the experience. I would have missed the great fun if I had let my fear keep me from stepping into that cart. I would have never known the joy that comes from cresting the top of that hill and racing through the rest of the track. I felt my fear and I trusted my mom who said it would be safe.
When we’re little if our parents are a safe place, we trust them fully right? If they say it’s ok, we believe them.
Have you had that kind of feeling of fear and hesitation when a new job opportunity came along? Maybe it was a different company causing you to leave one place. Maybe it was a promotion causing you to take on new roles and maybe greater responsibility? Maybe a job caused you to move?
If you’re too young for that know this will likely happen at some point.
I have had this happen several times now, but there was one time in particular when I was offered a pretty high-level position including a lot of pay and a huge amount of responsibility. I was surprised I would even be offered the position. But I trusted my boss and he made it very clear he would support me and train me up in the position. In fact, he said to me once-fairly randomly, “as long as I’m here, I will always make sure you are safe.” I thought well that’s an odd statement, but I just said thank you and didn’t think much more about it at the time. Little did I know the truth behind those words. I trusted he would be there for me so even though I felt fear in saying yes to that position, I stepped into it.
It was very good for a while. A great deal of responsibility was given to me, but true to his words, he was there to support and guide me in the role. So it wasn’t so scary as I walked with him and others on our team. We truly were a team for a while.
Then everything changed. My boss was let go suddenly and shortly thereafter an entire team that supported our area was let go. So fear for what was next rose up pretty quickly. I had no more support and no one walking with me.
Then those words he had said came flooding back to me. Without him there, my position was no longer safe. No ones was. It was a lonely and confusing time. I kept thinking, I’m a good employee. I work hard. I’m positive. Why isn’t anyone offering support or help in this difficult time? Do they want me to fail? If you have been part of corporate America, then you have likely experienced something like what I’m talking about. I was naïve then. Sadly, this happens frequently and those in the highest leadership positions are the quickest to be let go when someone decides they want a change. As many of you know, I lost that job and for a while, it felt like I was sinking under the water. It was a very strange time and a huge blow to me.
Now looking back, I can see God’s hand throughout it all. My hope and trust than was in a person who ultimately had no more control over the outcome than I did. My identity was in a job title, rather than in who I am in Christ which never changes. My fears rose because I didn’t know how I would recover from that and thinking I was alone. The truth was I was never alone. And if you have ever lost a job, you learn your life isn’t over just because a job ends. You do go on.
I also learned God will allow things like this to happen in our lives to draw us to His path. Where I was going was not on the path He had for me. Or for some, it might be to spare you from other trouble or hardship or to teach you to seek Him and trust in Him. You see this was the beginning of my journey in seeking Him. I didn’t know it right away-but this loss caused me to search for something more.
That something more was Jesus.
So, I am grateful. I am grateful for my boss who believed in me and caused me to step into something greater even though it brought some initial fear. I am grateful for that opportunity and all I learned about myself and what I believe in and what type of leader I want to be even though I had to walk through fear. I am grateful for the hurt and wandering that came with the loss because it led me to Him.
Since then, there have been many times Jesus has called me into the deep water with Him and while I might feel some fear rise up, I know I can trust Him. He, unlike my boss, is sovereign. He does have authority over the wind and waves. He will never leave me. My boss meant well, but he couldn’t uphold that promise. Only Jesus can. So, by faith, I go into the water where He leads me, for His glory and for my growth to become more like Him. I trust Him fully as I trusted my parents when I was little because He says so, I believe.
Blessed are those who hear their Shepherd calling to them and they follow Him into the deep waters, trusting He will hold them up with His mighty right arm.
Today’s message is focusing on someone who did just that. To set this scene we have to look at what had happened just before this encounter on the water. The disciples had just witnessed the miracle feeding of thousands-probably close to 15,000 or more with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish! Everyone was amazed and rightly so!
We read in John’s account of this miracle that 14 When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” 15 When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself. (John 6: 14-15)
As we’ll read in our key Scripture, Jesus knew this was not God’s plan for him to be established as an earthly king and His time had not yet come for His true purpose to be fulfilled, so He had to get away from the crowds. He also sent His disciples away from the crowds, but He sent them into the boat on the water while He went to the hills to pray. Why would Jesus send them away on their own? Let’s look and see what is about to unfold.
Matthew 14: 22-32 NLT
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here]” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.
This has been really fun to study with fresh eyes and openness to what God wanted to show me. This passage has had many interpretations and we can get confused on what is really happening here. Jesus sent them away intentionally. Notice He didn’t ask them what they wanted to do after this great miracle occurred. He gave orders, insisting they get into the boat and cross to the other side. He had another test for them to solidify their faith in Him as the Son of God. Feeding people was pretty awesome, but could have been chalked up to a neat trick and left at that. What He was about to do would cause their hearts to believe He is God Almighty.
Now Jesus saw they were struggling as He was on the hill praying. He saw the winds rise up and how much they were beating against their boat. He saw how tired and weary they were getting trying to battle the winds and yet He waited to come to them. He waited until what they call the fourth watch of the night-somewhere after 3 am. So they were tired and worn out. They were not able to see clearly because it was dark and they were likely filled with fear on whether they would survive.
Why did He wait so long? To build their faith and dependency on Him.
Did He really leave them? No He was watching over them the whole time.
At this point when He came, they couldn’t make out who it was visually because it was too dark and they were too tired. They had to rely on what they knew in their heart and to tune to the voice speaking to them.
Peter heard the voice and it stirred his heart. He knew the one approaching them was not some night demon or ghost, but in fact it was his Lord!
- Faith Calls Us to Walk
Peter was caught up in awe watching Jesus walk to them on the water. Now keep in mind there are huge waves crashing about-this is not a calm body of water. The waves had no affect on Jesus as He was walking. In knowing Peter, he was spontaneous and often acted based on what he felt in the moment. He loved Jesus and he wanted to share in what Jesus was doing in that moment. Maybe he thought, “if you’re out there walking on water, I want to do that with you Lord! You are so amazing, I want to go where You go!” He blurted out this crazy request that stemmed from pure awe of Jesus and out of faith in Him.
Matthew 14: 28-29 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.
What is most awesome, is Jesus grants this request and says, “Yes, come.” What??? Come walk on the water with You? “Yes, because I see your faith in Me and I will honor that.”
Peter out of all the others, knew the voice of His Master. Jesus said, “take courage, I am here.” Peter heard and did just that. His courageous faith asked for the impossible to become possible if Jesus was willing.
John 10:27 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
In that moment, Peter wasn’t focused on the huge waves crashing against the boat. He was fixed squarely on Jesus-all that He is and was driven purely by faith in what Jesus could do through him if Jesus chose to.
2 Corinthians 5:7 7 For we live by faith, not by sight.
Peter didn’t hesitate when Jesus said yes.
Notice that, faith caused Peter to step over the side of the boat and it was faith in Jesus that activated the power of Christ to hold him above the water.
If Peter had stopped to analyze everything that was unfolding and really determine if he should go or not, he would have likely talked himself out of this incredible miracle he was about to experience. Because of his faith in Jesus, Peter was walking on the water! Not by his own ability, but by his faith in Christ was it made possible.
Faith calls us to walk into some strange places that would not otherwise seem possible, but GOD. Do you know the Shepherd’s voice? Can you tell it’s Him even when you can’t see clearly? Do you ever ask for bold requests like Peter just out of pure awe for who He is? Call me to do something incredible Lord that I can’t do on my own! The Lord delights in this! He said yes to Peter! Because it was to His glory to do so and it was for Peter and the other disciples’ great gain in their faith to witness a moment like this! Faith calls us to walk on to the waves in life.
- Doubt Leads Us to Sink
Now here is where things can get confused and we can have different interpretations. So let us look closely. Doubt will cause us to sink-this is true. You know this and have felt this when you allow your focus to shift from Christ Himself and Him being all-powerful, your sustainer, your Rock, your provider and you start fixating on the waves that are crashing against you. You feel the wind hitting you and you think, “what was I thinking? I can’t do this?” “There is no way this is going to work. There is no way out of this.” The greater your doubt, the more you sink under those waves.
This is what happened to Peter.
Matthew 14:30 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
Now many people look at this and say, “Peter, Peter, ye of little faith. Shame, shame.” To those people I want to ask, have you willingly stepped out of a boat into choppy waters and walked upon them?
Let’s not forget it was Peter who asked to come to Jesus on the water-because of faith in Him. No one else did. When Jesus said come, no one else said me too! I want to come too! It was faith that led Peter to step out of the sturdy boat into the crashing waves. Peter did the hard part-he sought, he believed and he stepped out into the waters. AND Peter was walking on water. He experienced the miracle!
But have you ever felt the power of God moving in you and as you’re experiencing the awesomeness of the moment it also became overwhelming and even frightening to know there is some other power working through you. Then you panic and back off saying “nope I can’t do it.”
Try to imagine what that would have been like to walk on the water-knowing there is no way you could do this on your own. Exhilarating? Yes! Frightening-yes I’m sure. Peter in his humanness began to look around and question how can this be? Doubt rose up stronger than his faith in that moment and he sank.
It’s not that we won’t ever doubt-when we experience the power of God moving in and through us. When we witness miracles happening. It’s our human nature to doubt because what we’re encountering is divine and supernatural. As we begin, as we’re taken further in our faith, we will all have moments of doubting can this really be? How is this happening? There is no way this is possible. And in those moments our faith dwindles and we begin to sink. But Jesus says,
Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.
This isn’t saying if you are my follower you can’t ever doubt. He knows we will just like Peter did. What He’s teaching us is what can truly happen when we hold on to faith over our doubt. There is nothing impossible for Christ, but our doubting does hinder the results of the miraculous from being experienced. So we practice choosing faith over our doubt, and we practice and we practice and we practice. Each time proving His faithfulness and building our faith muscles.
In this text, He’s teaching us the power of prayer with sincere belief in Him. Jesus is telling the disciples that prayer, coupled with sincere belief, is more powerful and effective than they comprehend. “Don’t be surprised at what happened to this fig tree,” He’s telling them. “This is nothing compared to the work you will do in prayer.”
Ephesians 3:16-17 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
3. Love Rescues Us
In those moments we let doubt and fear rise up and we begin to sink, our Savior reaches down to rescue us. He never lets the waves take us under. Not ever when we cry out to Him to save us.
Matthew 14: 30-33 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.
I don’t see this statement from Jesus as a rebuke. I see Jesus with a grin-so proud of Peter for asking such a bold request and getting out of the boat to come to Him. I see this statement as encouragement to have Peter remember, “You did the hard part Peter and you were walking on water-remember this. I had you and I always will. Trust in that.” So He’s not rebuking his lack of faith because it was faith that called him to ask and faith that called him to step out and faith that enabled him to walk on the water. Peter had faith, and he had to learn to build on that faith.
Jesus was teaching him to deepen that faith because Peter would surely need it for all that was to come. I see Jesus saying “Yeah Peter! That’s it! Look what you can do when you focus on Me and let My power flow through you.”
Much like a parent does when a child is learning something new like ride a bike. Do we scold them when they feel the fear of actually riding and then look around and crash? No we encourage them and tell them to keep going.
Or a coach when an athlete does something great but doubt rises up later (which is very natural by the way-even in ministry-any time something great happens, doubt is sure to follow shortly there after). The good coach-will encourage and remind the athlete to trust in what they are capable of and let it flow out of them-just trust and do. This is what Jesus is saying to each of us as we step out by faith. “Trust Me. I am with You. It is awesome and different because it’s not of this world-look to Me and let My Power flow through you.”
Now let us not miss the other awesome blessing in all of this-those who stayed in the boat, but were also in trouble with the crashing waves.
Because of Peter’s faith and Peter’s cry for help, all of them were saved. The moment Jesus stepped into the boat, the wind stopped and the water was calm. His very Presence brings calm and peace. He made it known to all of them, He has authority over the wind and over the waves. When chaos rises up around you-run to Jesus and He will bring calm.
Psalm 50:15 15 Then call on me when you are in trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory.”
And in this moment, they all had their faith in Him solidified, He is the Son of God. Now we can understand why Jesus sent them off without Him so they might witness this incredible moment and miracle and so that their faith in Him would grow. He will do that for us too. If we don’t ever experience the waves crashing against us, would we have any reason to walk by faith in Jesus as our Savior? Would we call on Him to rescue us? Would our faith grow as we witness the miracle working power He sends through us when we believe? He always has a purpose and He is always watching over us.
Conclusion: Peter responded in faith to the voice of His Lord. He stepped into the supernatural and walked in the power of Christ. He and others experienced a miracle because Peter sought and followed Jesus’ responses to “come.” Let us seek. Let us listen for His response. Let our faith compel us to walk the path some see as impossible.
Jesus help us to live in Your power through Your Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Help us to trust You Lord and listen for Your voice to guide and beckon us to come. Let us have a willing heart and obedience to come as You call us. Lord help us believe if You have spoken it, it will surely happen no matter what we currently see. Help us in our unbelief Lord. Strengthen our faith in You. Remove doubt that weighs us down and causes us to sink, instead of rising up to join You in the spiritual realm. Lord You said, with man things are impossible, but all things are possible in Me. Let us walk fully dependent on You, as our power, our strong right arm to hold us up, our light to our path knowing with certainty you will never let the waves take us under. We invite You Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us Your ways. When we wan to shrink back, rise up in us Holy Spirit with boldness and courage. Remind us who our focus is to be upon, that is Jesus and Him alone. For when we keep our eyes on You Lord, Your Peace washes over and calms the winds that fight against us. We thank You Lord for Your faithful Presence, Your Power manifested in us and Your patience as we build our faith in You. Keep calling us into the deep waters with You Lord for we will surely step farther each time we walk by faith. Whatever it is for each of us, help us Lord respond like Peter and climb out of the boat trusting if you have said, “come” we can confidently come. Amen.