A Continuous Faith

August 14, 2022 | Jess Rainer

Passage: Matthew 14:22-36

 We all want great faith (or at least we all should want great faith).  We all want to be able to trust God no matter what the world throws at us.  The problem is that most people want the result without the process.  They want the masterpiece without learning to connect the dots.  We come to a passage where Jesus looks at His disciples and teaches them to spiritually connect the dots.  And it clicks for them.  Their eyes are opened and they see Jesus.  They answer the question, “Who is this Man?”  That’s the big question we are answering over 7 weeks.  We started last week with 3 people that failed to see Jesus.  Today, we see the disciples see Jesus as the Son of God and in doing so, they learn what it means to have a great faith.  

The disciples just watched the miracle of feeding 25,000 people.  But within a few hours, they will find themselves in a really difficult situation.  Here’s where we start today:  Your faith will find difficulty.  “Jess, if you want me to believe in Jesus, this doesn’t really get me excited…”  Actually, it should. Here’s why:  If I were to stand up here and tell you that once you follow Jesus your life is going to be all peanut butter M&M’s and sunshine, I would set you up for failure.  BTW, peanut butter M&M’s are the best M&M’s.  I get it. No one WANTS to be uncomfortable, scared, or worried.  But those seasons of life are unavoidable.  What I can tell you is that you can walk through those seasons of life in a way that like never before.  Let’s find out what that looks like.

1) Your faith will find difficulty. (vs. 22-27)  Jesus fed the 25,000 people on the hillside and He did what?  Well, He did two things:  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.   First, Jesus put His disciples on a boat.  It says, “Jesus insisted.” We’ll find out why in just a second.  The second thing Jesus did was go away by Himself to pray.  23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.  On a side note, Jesus consistently modeled spending time alone with God.  As Jesus is away praying, look what happens to the disciples:  24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.   I want you to see the series of events that happened:  Jesus sent His disciples away.  The disciples obeyed.  Now the disciples find themselves in a big storm in the middle of a massive lake.  Did you catch what happened?  The disciples obeyed Jesus right into a storm.  There is a phrase that I’ve heard and said a lot of the years:  “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.”  Now if James would have stood up on that boat and said, “Guys, listen to me. This the safest place to be because it’s what God wants for us! This is His will,” I don’t know if it would have been received well.  But it would have been absolutely true.  

Following God’s will doesn’t mean it will be safe and easy.  Some of found yourself in a storm years ago that caused you to run from Jesus.  You determined that your will is the safest place to be.  And you’ve been running from Jesus ever since.  Let me tell you this: whatever that storm destroyed in your life, Jesus can heal it. You just need to let Him.  Following God’s will IS the safest place to be.  Why?  What was Jesus doing? He was praying!  I don’t know His prayer, but I can imagine that the disciples were part of that prayer.  While the disciples were fighting in the storm, Jesus was interceding for them to the Father.  Jesus sent them into the storm and Jesus will carry them in the storm.  The whole reason the disciples are in this storm is because Jesus is doing something inside of them.  Jesus wasn’t do something to them. Jesus was doing something for them.  Jesus spent several hours in prayer before He goes out to the disciples.  25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.   Just picture this scene for a moment:  The storm is going crazy. The waves are high. The disciples are fighting to stay upright in their boat.  And then here comes Jesus, just casually strolling along the top of the water. 

The book of Mark, gives us a little bit more about this scene:  “…About three o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them,” – Mark 6:48b  Jesus wasn’t even planning to stop!  He wasn’t planning to come over and save them.  What a scene that would have been!  “Hey, John, is that Jesus over there?!”  (Jesus just waves and smiles as He walks on by…)  Jesus’ leisure stroll was interrupted when the disciples saw Him.  Well, they saw something:  26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  In their fear, not their faith, they cried out.  Now Jesus stops.  27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”  He calms their fears and let them know He’s there.  Why is Jesus doing all of this?  We learn from Mark 6:52 their hearts were still hard:  52 for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.  I mentioned it last week, the miracle of 5 loaves and 2 fish were for the disciples.  He was trying to teach them who He was.  He was trying to teach them He is the One who will meet their needs.  He was trying to teach them what He can do through them.  But the disciples missed lesson in the miracle.  Last week, the disciples missed Jesus.  So, now Jesus is bringing their hearts to a place where they will truly see Him.  Where Jesus will be the only object of their faith.  Peter is about to learn what it means to have a great faith.  Peter is about to learn what it means to have a continuous faith.  

2) Jesus must be the enduring object of our faith. (vs. 28-31)  Jesus tells the disciples to not be afraid and to take courage because He’s there now.  Guess who jumps up first and says something?!  28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  Everyone who reads the gospels finds some kind of affinity for Peter.  We just connect with his authenticity and humanity.  At times, he’s acting all “Simon” like and then other times, he’s walking on water acting all “Peter” like.  Just look at how these next few verses unfold:  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?” 

In a matter of minutes, Peter goes from walking on water towards Jesus to sinking in the waves in front of Jesus.  The man’s all over the place.  And so are we…  But yet, Peter shows us what it means to have a great faith.  What does it mean to have a great faith?  Let’s break down this:  What did Peter do when Jesus announced Himself?  Peter called out to Jesus.  The way the English is translated here, it feels like Peter is uncertain that it’s actually Jesus.  But the Greek lends itself that Peter knew it was Jesus.  Peter knew what he was asking and to Whom he was asking.  Now, remember, they are in the middle of a storm.  What did Peter NOT do?  He didn’t ask Jesus to stop the storm.  He didn’t say, “Jesus stop the storm and tell me to come to you.”  Great faith looks for Jesus first in every situation.  So often, we ask God to change storm in our life before we look to Him.  And it’s not wrong to ask Jesus to fix what’s wrong, but that shouldn’t be our FIRST reaction.

Now that Peter has found Jesus in the midst of the storm, Peter starts moving towards Jesus.  Look at verse 29: “So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.”  How cool is that?  Peter walked on water!  But it was short lived. What happened?  Peter begins to sink into the water in the middle of this storm.  Now, before you start ripping on Peter for sinking into the water, I want to point out something here:  How many disciples were in the boat? 11  How many disciples were walking on water? 1 

Peter had enough initial faith to step out of the boat.  Some of you need to step out of the boat.  God is calling you to greater faith, but you are too scared to step out of the boat.  It’s time to make that phone call you’ve been needing to make.  It’s time to make that confessions you’ve needing to make.  It’s time to step into the generosity that you’ve been needing to step into.  It’s time to get to know that neighbor that you’ve been needing to get to know.  Whatever step of faith God is calling you to do, it’s time.  And it may not be easy. It may be full of some of difficulty.  It was the same with Peter. He had began to sink. But at least he got out of the boat!  Why did Peter sink? What does it say Peter did in verse 30?  “When he saw the strong wind and the waves…”  What’s the one thing that changed that caused Peter to start sinking?  The storm was still raging. The other disciples were still watching in the boat. Jesus was still standing on the water.  Peter took his eyes off Jesus! 

You can imagine this scene…Peter on the boat. Getting out of the book. Focused on Jesus. Walking on water. Looks down. Loses Jesus. Begins to sink.  The only reason that Peter sank into the water is that he lost sight of Jesus.  Peter’s faith dwindled when he focused on the chaos instead of Christ.  Jesus must be the enduring object of our faith.  Peter’s reaction when he began to sink was immediately to look back to Jesus.  Peter cries out and Jesus immediately picks him up.  What does Jesus say to Peter as He picks him up out of the water?  Look at verse 31: “You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?”    The reason that Peter began to sink was not that he didn’t have ENOUGH faith.  Peter had enough faith to get out of the boat and start walking on water.  Peter’s intensity wasn’t the problem.  What Jesus is asking Peter is “Why did you START doubting me? Why did your faith STOP?”  Peter’s problem was that his faith didn’t last.  Faith is measured by duration, not intensity.  All Peter had to do was to continue to keep his gaze on Jesus.  Most Christians can have a moment of intense faith.  But where most Christians drop off is the continuous act of faith.  Great faith is a continuous faith!  

Some of you feel like you are spiritually sinking right now.  You feel like your faith is dwindling.  The storm seems to keep raging on and you don’t know when it’s going to end.  Some of you keep trying to muster up this moment of intense faith thinking that will cause your breakthrough.  That’s not what Jesus wants you to do.  In some ways, that’s making your faith about you.  All Jesus wants you to do is to look to Him every day.  You don’t need moments of intense faith, you need a daily, enduring faith.  I want to close by briefly looking at the outcome of this whole scene.  The moment following all this ends with one action: worship. 

3) Our best and first response to Jesus is worship. (vs. 32-33)  Look at what happens after Jesus picks up Peter.  32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Jesus and Peter walk back to the boat (on water).  Now, safely back in the boat with Jesus, the storm stops.  Now here comes of the response, not just from Peter, but of all the disciples:  33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.  It was this moment that Jesus was wanting the disciples to see.  The whole reason he fed all those people on the hillside… The whole reason Jesus sent them into a storm… The whole reason Jesus told people to get out of the boat and walk on water… The whole reason Jesus stopped the storm… Was so they could see that He is the Son of God.  This was the moment the disciples answered the question, “Who is this Man?”  They recognized Jesus as the Son of God and they did what?  They worshiped Him!  A whole boat party broke out!  Matthew grabs his guitar.  Peter starts tapping on the side of the boat.  And Thomas lets out a big “hallelujah!”  There wasn’t a time for questions, it was a time for worship.  Our best and first response to Jesus is worship.  

The small continuous steps of faith towards Jesus will result in worshipping Him for what He’s done for you.  Do you want great faith?  Take continuous small steps of faith and worship Jesus along the way.  Here’s your challenge as we go out into the harvest field this week:  Take the next small faith step.  What if everyone in this church took one small faith step each week?  Can you imagine the collective impact on our community?  On our workplaces?  On our families?  What if all the disciples decided to take a step out of the boat with Peter?  Some of you need to take the first step of faith into a relationship with Jesus today.  Let’s be a church full of people who take daily, continuous small steps of faith.  God will use those steps in massive ways for His kingdom.

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Series Information

Who Is This Man? The Inescapable Power of Jesus is a series that examines aspects of Jesus’s character. His character is revealed by his interactions with his disciples, with those who need healing, and even with children. In these interactions, Jesus shows that his heart is for all people, even (perhaps especially) those outside the traditional community. Through words difficult and caring, Jesus declares that his people should trust in him and participate in his work, for the sake of their neighbors.

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