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Radical Faith

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Jesus and the disciples had been part of the great miracle of feeding 5,000 men along with certainly wives and children…probably a crowd of over 10,000 there in the Golan Heights in the hilly eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The rumors began to spread and passions began to soar that one who could do this could be our long-awaited conqueror. They wanted Him to be King…the King who would lead in the overthrow of Rome. Jesus knew this. He and His disciples left the area. Jesus purposefully took the disciples out of that area and had them get into a boat to travel on to the northern shore where He would meet them while He went farther up into the hills of the Golan area to pray and certainly to observe the test that His disciples were about to undergo.

They were already in a storm. It was a storm of radicalism, a storm that saw a quick fix in making Jesus as king. The disciples were on the verge of being caught up in that storm of usurping the plan of God and establishing an earthly kingdom and bypassing the need for a Savior to die on a cross in payment for the disciple's sins, in payment for the crowd's sins, and of course, in payment for your sins and mine.

Jesus rescued them from that storm. That allowed Him to place them on the boat to urge them to go over, knowing that another storm, this time a physical storm, would occur to them on the sea. He knew that storm was coming, and yet He sent His disciples there. Why? Because it was quiz time. You see, the feeding of the 5,000 had been lesson time. Following a lesson comes an examination.

Coming to a service like this, going to a Bible study is lesson time, but God doesn't teach us just for us to store that away. Following lessons come examinations. Examinations are designed to show us how much of the lesson we know, and to be able to apply the lesson to the questions or to the circumstances in life. Every child of God, not only learns from God, disciples themselves into the Word of God, but God brings us to points to give us an examination, to test and see how much we have learned and how much we have grown.

So though they leave one storm on the hillside, Jesus now wants to test them…test their faith, examine them out there in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. So I want us today to look at this examination of faith, and challenge you that what Christ is looking for is…Radical Faith. Radical faith…a faith that is not comfortable, that's not even easily defined, but a faith that each and every one of us can and should have, a faith that causes us to reach out to trust in Christ in the most difficult situations in life to go beyond what our human mind is telling us to do, and to take the lessons we have learned about faith and trust in God, the lessons His Word teaches us, and to radically trust Christ even when it seems the storm is going to take us in.

In John, chapter 6, in verse 15, we find our text today. It says, "Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. But He said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid.' Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going."

We actually witness four miracles that take place in this encounter. The first miracle, of course, is Jesus walking on the sea. The second miracle that's recorded over in the other gospels is that Peter joins Him and walks on the water. The third miracle is that we discover that when Jesus comes into the boat, the storm is instantly calmed. The fourth miracle, which is right here in this verse, is that they are immediately where they were going to go. Four miracles all in this one event.

John records this portion of the event because he wants us to understand the power and the capacity of Jesus to come to us in storms, to calm those storms, and to declare that He is the King of the storm. When He says, "It is I," in verse 20, in the Greek that is literally…I am. He is giving Himself the name that God gave Moses there on the burning bush, "I Am that I Am." It's one that John knew his readers would not miss that Jesus is declaring Himself to be God, and as such, don't be afraid.

Now isn't that what God told Moses when He gave him that name, when Moses very timidly said, "And what will I say Your name is when these people come to me. They're going to wonder if I'm a crazy man or not. I've come in off the desert. I'm telling them all these great promises that we're going to lead them out of this bondage they've been in. What name, what authority do I give them?" He said, "Tell them I Am that I Am has sent you." In other words, "I am God. I am the Sovereign, and therefore you can trust Me."

Jesus here on the sea says, "Do not be afraid because I Am is here. It is I who is here." When we fear the storms that come into our lives, it is no doubt our failure to remember that Jesus is the great I Am. He is the Sovereign King even of the storm that we find ourselves in.

You know all of us are in one of three conditions this morning. Either we've just come out of a storm, or we're about to go into a storm, or we're in the middle of a storm. This lesson and this truth in these few verses that John tells us need to speak to every heart this morning that is looking for an answer to the difficulties they're in or they're headed into, or that they're finding themselves coming out of.

The Bible tells us that the Lord is the Sovereign of the storm, and those storms come in our lives. Sometimes life gets messy. It gets tough. It gets fast. Sometimes there seems to be no end to the problems we're encountering to how bad things can get. It's during these times we need a God who we can feel, too, not just a head-knowledge God, but a God who we feel in our heart that leads us. One that we see with our spiritual senses and that we can trust in.

You know of all the promises that Jesus gave us... He gave us some promises about heaven. He gave us promises about eternal life. But probably of all the promises that Scripture does teach us, of all the lessons that it teaches us, I think some of the most precious promises are ones like are found in Hebrews 13, verse 5, where the writer says of Christ, "For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"

Even in the storm, the disciples will see Jesus walking on the storm. The storm doesn't keep Jesus on the shore. He comes to them. Notice that Jesus could calm the storm from the shore, but He wants to be with them. He walks on the sea to come to the boat and to get into the boat. Your problem, your difficulty, the trauma you find yourself in this morning, I want to tell you, Jesus wants to come to you. He wants to climb into that boat and calm that storm for you. Whatever that storm is that you're finding yourself in today, Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you.

Another statement of that promise is in Matthew 28:20 at the close of the Great Commission when Jesus said, "And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." In other words, Jesus is always with His children. He never departs even until the end of time itself, this promise will remain true.

In John 14:18, Jesus would tell His disciples in the Upper Room, "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." "I will not leave you without any help," is what He is saying. "I will come to you."

Let me tell you my friend, you may be going through a difficulty, you may be going through the loss of a job, you may be going through divorce, you may be going through a breakup in a relationship, you may be going through a failure that you've experienced in life today, but I want to tell you that Jesus will not leave you orphaned. He does not leave or forsake us. If ever there is a promise that we need in storms, it's to know not even that Jesus is the Master of the storm, but that He is there with us. He never leaves us. When life stinks, and it does often, we have our Lord to help us and to guide us through it. This truth is demonstrated in these verses we look at today.

I want you to notice first of all that He sent them. He sent them. We don't have that in our text. We have it in the other gospel accounts, but Jesus puts the disciples in the boat, and He sends them to Capernaum. He purposefully has them get in a boat, knowing that three or four miles out, too far away to swim back, too far away to get help, a storm, a westerly wind is going to blow in as it often did there on the Sea of Galilee and they would be caught in a storm so strong they could not row out of it, so strong that they could make no headway, so strong that they would be toiling and laboring at it until what the Bible says is somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning.

All night, in other words, they fight this storm, and they are very much afraid. They're in the situation that fisherman did not want to be in…a storm on the lake that could topple their boat and drown everyone of them, waves so high, the Gospels tell us, that they were lapping up against the boat and into the boat. They were sure they were going to sink. By 3:00 in the morning they're not able to get the water out of the boat faster than the water is coming into the boat. So desperate, so at loss, so hopeless they are that when they do see Jesus, the Bible tells us they thought He was a ghost.

In other words, they thought they were entering the realm of the dead and they were beginning to see what the afterlife looked like. Maybe this was a ghost that was coming to get them. Listen, all of your theology, all of your good Sunday school lessons sometimes those things get washed away in the storm. Your traditions, your basic fears and even sometimes myths begin to take hold of a person's life.

This is the examination that God put you through. That thing that you amen-ed on Sunday, are you going to amen that on Tuesday when you hear this bad news? This God you praised on Sunday…will you praise Him when it's so dark outside that you can't see anything but death in front of you? You can see no good thing ahead of you. You're saying, "Whoa, why has this happened to me? Where is God in all of this?" Even though you know He never leaves you nor forsakes you because storms…they wash away our hypocrisy. They wash away our smiley faces.

Sometimes all we see are ghosts. We don't see the very God who is there to help us. Jesus sent them. He compelled them to go because they were safer in the storm than they would have been on land. Why? Because the storm was God's will, and the land was out of God's will. You're always safer in God's will than you are out of God's will. Even when God's will is a storm in your life, even when God's will allows sickness in your life, even when God's will allows a job loss in your life, even when God's will causes a setback in your life, you're still safer in God's will than you are to try to get out of God's will and try to do what you think is the safer thing to do.

Jesus sends them into the storm, but the storm is God's will. You know a lot of Christians have a lot of myths about the storms in life. Sometimes we believe that it's the result of sin. You remember back in…we'll come to it eventually in our study of John, but in John, chapter 9, I believe it is, they see this blind man and they ask, "Who sinned? This man or his parents?" Jesus said, "No, neither one. This happened to him so that God's will, God's power, God's glory might be demonstrated."

Sometimes we think when bad things are happening it's because of sin in that person's life or we might think it's the result of disobedience. Well, if you'd lived right, if you'd done right then this wouldn't have happened to you. But you know sometimes storms come into our life even when we are obedient. Sometimes storms come in our life especially when we're obedient. Why? To test us. To grow us. To challenge us.

Sometimes we think the storm comes because He doesn't care. If God cared, He would have stopped it. Sometimes God sends those storms into our life because He wants us to grow. It doesn't make sense to us. We don't understand…Why would something that's hurting people be allowed of God? Why would something so dangerous happen?

Let me give you some words of God. In Isaiah 55, verse 8, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways." Now just listen to that part. He didn't say that some of you don't understand it. He didn't say that you have to really be theological or really spiritual to understand it. He said, "My thoughts are never your thoughts. My ways are not the ways you think of," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than yours, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

Now I want you to take that verse and I want you to put those next to the verse that says, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." I want you to realize in that the truth, the principle that God never leaves us even in a storm that we don't understand. God has plans for us that at the time seems to make no sense to us at all.

In fact, when life doesn't make sense to us is the time for us to begin to trust God. When we are fearful and we become fearful because we don't know what is coming next because we are afraid of tomorrow, but that is exactly when our faith needs to kick in…a radical faith. A faith that says it looks black on the horizon and the tornado clouds are forming, but I'm going to trust God and stay in His will because He wants me right here. He wants me here. Being here means I'm right here in the midst of trouble, but His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. His ways are past my finding out, and I may not understand it now, but I know God is here. I know He wants to deliver me.

Does He care? Yes, God cares, and He knows what's best for us, so He sent them. But also the Gospel accounts tell us He saw them. He didn't turn His back on the disciples. He was watching. That means He was watching their labor. He was watching their toil. He was watching the difficulty with which they were trying to row that boat. Sometimes we're in such difficult trials in life, we're under such toil, such pressure. We can't sleep. Sometimes we can't even eat. The trauma kicks in that adrenaline. It kicks in that defense mechanism. We don't know what to do. All we know is we're getting exhausted.

I want to tell you, my friends, God is watching. God sees that. He knows the difficulty and the burden that is falling upon your shoulders. I want to give you a verse when that happens. If that's happening to you, and if you can't see any way out, if you say, "This is too much for me," Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to [everybody around you] man."

At the time it seems like nobody knows the trouble I've seen, but the fact is that different people experience the same things in their own way all the time. No temptation, no problem, no difficulty, no trial has overtaken you except such is common to man. But know this, "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted, to be tested, to be tried, beyond what you are able to bear, but instead, along with that temptation, along with that trial, along with that difficulty, He will also make the way of escape that you may be able to bear it, to endure it, to survive it, to live through it."

So often suicide and suicidal thoughts come because you fail in this verse. People fail to understand. They think there is no escape. But the Bible is so clear. It may seem to be an overwhelming burden, but God has His hand on that weight to not let it be too much. You may not have as much confidence in your faith as God does, and He is testing your faith to show you that you can endure even more than you thought you could. But you have to remember that God is faithful and He'll walk out onto the sea of your problem when you're three and four miles away from the nearest help, when you're isolated in the midst of that storm, I promise you, God will come to you, and He'll rescue you. He'll make the way of escape and you will endure the storm.

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