Taking the Next Step of Faith
Matthew 14:22-31 (January 23rd, 2011)
Intro: For the last two Sundays I have been challenging you toward the end of the messages to pray about the next step God is wanting you to take in your journey with Him. Now we are going to focus on that. Let me ask you a few questions.
--How many would like to move forward in your relationship with Christ?
--How many have felt like you’ve been stuck in a rut?
Target: Taking the next step of faith.
Matthew 14:22 (p.692)
--Maybe it is a step if faith in moving from the pew to get out in an area of service.
-- Maybe it is a step if faith in starting to break free from a controlling relationship which has had you living in fear for years.
-- Maybe it is a step if faith for a career in which you are stuck and you believe God has more.
--But the bottom line is about moving forward in your relationship with Christ.
1. Jesus just fed the five thousand. This is a new highpoint in Jesus’ ministry because to those observing, Jesus appears like the new Moses bringing manna out of heaven. He is God’s new deliverer. As Moses delivered from Egypt, Christ will deliver
from Rome. Further, it was further a mountain top experience for the
disciples. Jesus now has a test for them to ground them in reality. He has
something very strategic to teach.
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
2. When Jesus goes to the mountainside to pray he is preparing his disciples for a turning
When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted [some translations use the terms “beaten” or “battered.”] by the waves because the wind was against it.
3. According to verse 24, a storm comes along, so rough that the disciples can't make it across this body of water—and these are professional sailors.
25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
4. Verse 25 tells us that Jesus comes in the fourth watch of the night—sometime between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Here is the picture: large waves, gale force winds, and the darkness of the night. The disciples were wet, exhausted, terrified. Remember, Jesus commanded this. He has put them in this predicament.
26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.“It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
(Illus.) Mike Stump clucking like a chicken!!!
5. I can’t help but see Jesus chuckling. But not wanting to take the humor too far…
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
6. Here is what makes Peter the leader. He wants to take risk to be where Jesus is and to
do the kind of things Jesus is doing. So while the waves are crashing, and the wind is at gale force, and it's pitch black. Peter wants to get out.
29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
7. And Peter fails, or does he? I want to submit to you that right here we some of the most transferrable and relevant lessons about what is required for our next steps
of faith in our journey with Christ.
What do I need to know?
To be a follower of Christ we must face fear.
1. The disciples see him walking on the sea, and they're terrified. Jesus says, "Have no fear. It's me." Do you know what the most common command in the Bible is?
“Do not be afraid.” It is not that we will not have fear creep up in our lives. It is an emotion we cannot help but feel at times. The command tells us we are not to be overcome by it and let it wrongly guide our decisions.
(Illus.) John Ortberg writes in his book based on this passage: “ Jesus is wanting them to see: You can trust his character. You can safely, without reservation, with no hesitation, place your life in his hands. You have his storm, you have him. Recognize which is more powerful." So Peter says, "Not only will I trust you in the storm, I’ll step right out in the middle of it.”
3. Peter lifts one leg over the side. He puts his foot on the water, and then he lifts his other leg over the side of the boat and puts that foot on the water. And then he lets go. He is still standing, and he turns and takes a step toward Jesus. Then he takes another step, and for the first time in the history of the human race, an ordinary, mortal man is walking on the water. And for just a moment, it's just Peter and Jesus.
4. Then, all of a sudden, Peter realizes what he is doing; he sees the waves; he feels the sting of the water. And his faith gives way; he is afraid again, and he sinks.
(Appl.) This brings us to an aspect of your journey with Christ that a lot of people don't like. I
don't always like either. A commitment to a life of following Christ is a commitment to facing our fears. It'll happen over and over again. Jesus commands the disciples to get into the boat. They do. A storm comes, and they're afraid. Jesus comes to them on the sea, and when they see him, they're terrified. Jesus says, "Take heart, don't be afraid." Fear will be a regular battle you will face in the process of becoming a more mature follower of Christ. Give up trying to make fear go away. Fear and growth go together.
As someone has said, like macaroni and cheese, they are a package deal.
To be a follower of Christ we must forget comfort.
1. The boat is safe, and the boat is secure, and the boat is comfortable, at least as
comfortable as you are going to get in this situation. The water is high, the waves are rough, the wind is strong, and the night is dark. But Jesus is not in the
boat. He is in the storm. To be with him you have to step out into the storm
(Illus.) Gregg Levoy talks about the Common Cold of the Soul which looks at the problems of
what happens when we do not leave our comfort zone.
Sinful patterns of behavior that never get confronted and changed.
Abilities and gifts never get cultivated and deployed,
Until weeks become months, and months turn into years,
And one day your looking back on a life of…conversations you never had;
Bold prayers you never prayed, risks you never took, gifts you never offered,
Lives you never touched, and you are sitting on the recliner with a shivered soul,
and forgotten dreams, and you realize there was a world of desperate need,
and a great God calling you to be bigger than something other than yourself—
you see the person you could have become but did not; you never followed you calling,
you never got out of the boat.
What do I need to do?
Embrace a life of growth.
1. There are few things that make Christianity more attractive than growth. We love
growth. That’s why we plant gardens and trees. That’s why we get excited about
the first blades of grass in the spring. We like companies that have a vision of
growth and are creating employment opportunities. Growth is exciting.
2. There is nothing that makes Christianity more sad than stagnation. The marriage that started with dreams and excitement and how now has contented itself with mediocrity and toleration. The man who once had fire and determination and has now contented himself just to get through work to arrive at the end of the day on the Lazy Boy with the remote control.
Face your present fears.
1. Very often God will call us to step out of the boat at the place of our present fear.
What is interesting is that Jesus called them to the place where they were forced
to face their uncertainty and fear.
(Appl.) God is His providence puts us in places where we would not want to be but we have to
rely upon Him.
(Illus.) Daniel Gilbert (a psychology professor at Harvard) drew from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index "that Americans are smiling less and worrying more than they were a
few years ago, that happiness is down and sadness is up, that we are getting less sleep and smoking more cigarettes, that depression is on the rise." He stated that the real problem is not financial—not having enough money, but something else: Uncertainty. People don't know what's going to happen. Will I have a job next week? What's ahead in the future for me? Professor Gilbert pointed to a Dutch experiment where some subjects were told they would be intensely shocked 20 times. The researchers told a second group that they would receive three strong shocks and 17 mild ones, but they wouldn't know when the intense shocks would come. The results? Subjects in the second group sweated more and experienced faster heart rates. Uncertainty caused their discomfort: they didn't know when the shocks would come next. Another study showed that colostomy patients who knew that their colostomies would be permanent were happier six months after their procedures than those who were told there might be a chance of reversing their colostomies. Once again, uncertainty caused the unhappiness. Daniel Gilbert summarized, "An uncertain future leaves us stranded in an unhappy present with nothing to do but wait …Our national gloom is real enough, but it isn't a matter of insufficient funds. It's a matter of insufficient certainty."
(Appl.) As followers of Christ we need to re-direct where our certainty lies. Do we trust Christ
to be bigger than the uncertainty of the storm we are in.
Step out in obedience.
(Appl.) What am I doing that I could not do apart from the power of God? It is placing yourself in utter vulnerability in His hands.
--Financially I need to give and live like I am dependent on God. I need to step out of the boat.
--There is a temptation or addiction in my life I need to break free. I need to take the next step
out of the boat.
--I need to have a conversation with a person that is long overdue. I need to take the next step
out of the boat.
--I need to talk with someone about my next step of using my gifts to help in the service of what
God is doing in this church.
(Jesus said that the greatest in the kingdom of God must become like little children…I think that means placing themselves in the vulnerability of God’s hands.)
(Video) Diving Into the Water (The Truth Project)
What is my next step?
(Grab a pen or pencil.) The next step will look different for different people because we're all different, because we all need to learn different things…
I will take my next step of faith by ________________________________.
(Next week—how to manage the wind and the waves.)