Horrendous fires in the northwest, along with hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. There was a huge and horrible earthquake in Mexico. In a few short weeks millions of people faced “storms in their lives.”
In a moment, the mere twinkling of an eye, storms appear on life’s horizon, challenging our resolve, and sometimes testing our faith. A health diagnosis, a friend letting us down, or maybe even a spouse being unfaithful, whatever the reason, stormy seas rock our boat, and in turn, our so called security.
So how do we prepare our faith for life’s storms?
Most people are quite familiar with the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand (The men and women sat separately, and the children ate with the women. There were more than likely 10,000 to 15,000 in attendance.). The story is in Matthew 14:13-21. Let’s pick it up in verse 15, “That evening the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.’ But Jesus said, ‘That isn’t necessary, you feed them.” The disciples saw an impossible problem but Jesus had other plans.
I can almost hear the disciples, “Hope they are not hungry.” The disciples uncovered five loaves of bread and two fish and Jesus asked the disciples to bring what they had to him. He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.
If I had witnessed this great miracle I would have been jumping up and down, and maybe the disciples were too. No matter, because there is a very valuable training for faith building in this lesson. Give whatever you have to Jesus and he will bless it, multiply it, and then hand it back to you, so you can give it to others. Think about the gifts God has given to you, they may seem small, but he knows the possibilities when we are obediently serving His Kingdom work.
After feeding the people, Jesus begins another lesson in verse 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. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.” Christ was setting an example going to his secret place of fellowship and prayer with his Father in heaven. Jesus set himself apart to be alone with God. Our alone time with God is another important faith building way to grow closer to God. Over and over again the Bible tells of Jesus spending time alone in a quiet place in prayer with the Father. We need to follow his example to be refreshed, renewed and healed. It is in the secret place where God molds and shapes our faith.
The Sea of Galilee is notorious for sudden storms, and I do not believe it was by accident that Jesus sent the disciples across the lake. He was preparing them for another lesson, and this time it was about facing our fear with faith during the storms of life. Picking up in verse 24, “Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. It was about 3 o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear they cried out, it’s a ghost! But Jesus spoke to them at once, don’t be afraid, take courage I’m here!”
What a great word of encouragement! “Take courage I’m here!” Jesus is reminding us that he is always with us. I believe we can all agree we are either in a storm, coming out of a storm, or can see a storm on the horizon. He is telling us “Do not be afraid, I am here to comfort you in your trials.”
Now the storm continued and we continue in verse 28, “Then Peter called to him, Lord if it’s really you, tell me to come to you walking on the water.” “Yes, come Jesus said.” So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water towards Jesus.”
Have you been like Peter, asking if it’s the Lord speaking to your heart? I know I have been like Peter questioning if “this or that” is God’s plan. Perhaps you step out of the boat, start walking by faith, but then see the wind, rough seas, and towering waves crashing down and you become afraid like Peter. Here’s another word of encouragement, “Save me, Lord! He shouted, Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him.” “You have so little faith, Jesus said. Why did you doubt me?”
We have such good intentions. We want to walk by faith and not by sight. Even though Peter faltered, and took his eyes off Jesus, he still knew his only hope for salvation rested with Jesus. He called upon the Lord to save him! This is not criticism, but a word of encouragement. Jesus is telling us we must mature and grow our faith, and we cannot do that sitting in the boat! Jesus will be there to reach out and save you when you step out of the boat.
There were other disciples in the boat with Peter, and all were afraid. Peter activated his faith and stepped out of the boat. No other disciples followed Peter out of the boat. Do you believe the other disciples were impacted by Jesus and Peter’s faithful act of courage? Verse 32 explains, “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.”
There are times I attempt great things for God, and expect, with confidence, his will to be done. As he directs me out of the boat, the storm kicks up, the cold water splashes my face and the vastness of the waters cause me to feel afraid. Sometimes I feel cold and alone, and as though the waves will swallow me up. Perhaps you have felt this way as well?
Jesus is teaching us to give all we have to him, spend time in prayer with our Father in heaven, and keep our eyes on him, to mature and grow our faith. But faith untested is like a boat in dry-dock, it’s a boat, but it just as easily could be a lawn ornament. God is asking us to look beyond our circumstance and situation, and confidently and obediently, step out of the boat, and into his will for our life.