Faith vs. Fear – Matthew 14:22-36

March 27, 2011

INTRODUCTION – One reason the Holy Spirit led four different men (namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) to write an account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ is because – those of us who are seeking to know and follow Him today need all the help we can get. And there’s nothing more helpful and more memorable – than being able to learn from the real life mistakes and experiences those first disciples of Jesus Christ had.

I trust you are here this morning – to become a better, more devoted disciple of Jesus Christ – because – that is exactly what He is after in His pursuit of you. He didn’t die on the cross for you to pay Him lip service every Christmas and Easter. He died on the cross for you – so you could first – get out from under the crushing weight of your sins, and all of the guilt and condemnation that comes with that; and second, so you could be His hands and feet and eyes and mouth, …. and a conduit of His life to a desperately needy society around you – – as you learn to live life – His way.

Our theme this year is “Your Kingdom Come” – – because we believe Jesus Christ wants to and is able to and intends to expand and manifest His kingdom in this coastal region in a way none of us have ever seen before. And He intends to use you and I in that process.

As we jump into today’s passage – in our ongoing series through the gospel of Matthew, ….I want to share with you four things that will help us get to a place in our walk with Him – where He can do exactly that. Here’s the first one:

I. Jesus expects His disciples to withdraw from time to time to process our times of ministry and output vs. 22,23
“Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. “

A. Can I remind you of the immediate context to this passage? Jesus Christ had just fed probably around 10,000 people with five loaves and two fish, which should have only fed 2-3 people. Not only that, but there were twelve baskets full of leftovers. And He distributed all this food through the hands of His 12 disciples. Can you imagine how pumped and excited and thrilled they must have been to have taken part in that? Probably too pumped for their own good.

B. Please note the text says, He “made or literally “compelled” the disciples…” , which implies they were not wanting to part with Him, and possibly also not wanting to part from the adoring crowds after this amazing feeding miracle. The time right after a miracle or great work of God, or even a small work of God can be dangerous for our hearts. Jesus knew that, and wanted them to have some time together – away from the crowds – to process what just happened. Now as for Jesus – there were times where He chose to withdraw with His disciples after intense times of ministry. This time He chose to be alone.

C. Jesus Himself modeled – time after time – getting away to be alone with the Father (vs. 23) after great times of ministry and miracles. Luke 5:16 says “He often would slip into the wilderness to pray.”

D. A time is coming where there will be more and more exhiliration in this coastal region over the acts and works of God through His people. Now is the time to learn to extricate yourself from it; and not develop an addiction to it. There is a spiritual adrenaline that is almost as dangerous as other mind altering drugs in seeing God use you. If God used you, it had little to do with you, and the sooner you remember that – the better. And the best place to be reminded of that is in His presence- either with those you just ministered with or alone.

The second principle that will help us be more useable in His hands is this:

II. Jesus expects His disciples to expect Him to do the unthinkable, and thus not to walk in fear. – – vs 24-27
“But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

A. Ushering in or expanding the kingdom or rule of Christ in our region will require disciples who can see God in the midst of chaos and calamity, and who expect Him to show up in supernatural ways, because the chances are very good that we are going to be seeing more shaking and storms in the days to come, and not less.

B. Should the disciples have known it was Jesus walking on the water?
1. “He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him” (vs. 22) implies He would catch up with them eventually. They probably expected He would do that in another boat, not on foot on the sea, in the dark without a flashlight, in the midst of a storm.
Up to this point He had:
– Calmed a storm that his disciples thought was going to be the end of all of them. (ch. 8)

– Healed all kinds of people; raised a little girl from the dead; cast demons out of many. (ch. 9)

– He healed the demon possessed man who was both blind and mute so that the man spoke and saw on the spot (ch. 12)

– He had just fed 10 thousand people with five loaves and two fish that should have only fed 2-3 people – that after healing all of the sick people among them. (ch. 14)

C. The problem of fear. Vs. 26,27
Every one of the disciples freaked out and concluded this being – – walking on the water – was a ghost.
When Jesus tells them not to be afraid, but rather to be courageous – His basis for this demand was their knowledge of who He was. You see He hadn’t stopped or calmed the storm yet. He hadn’t miraculously done away with the darkness. …… If we know how to see and focus in on Jesus – we can be in the middle of a tsunami – or a 8.9 earthquake, and still never lose sight of Him, and fully expect Him to show up.

If your God is small; if He is limited in your mind in any way; then you will find it difficult to see or find Him – when you are in the midst of a storm or the darkness of trials. If He is big, and you have a track record of living as if He is big; and believing that He can do whatever he wants, whenever He wants, however He wants – – then you will live in increasing expectation of His – against all odds appearances and deliverances.

Well that leads me to the third principle that is very similar to the 2nd, but not quite the same.

III. Jesus expects disciples to be focused on Him, and not on their adverse circumstances vs. 28-33
“Peter said to Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

A. Ushering in or expanding the kingdom or rule of Christ in our region will require disciples who can step out of their comfort zones, and attempt the impossible – when He gives the green light; and who will be unflappable when circumstances turn adverse, or continue in an adverse way.

When Peter walked, the storm had not abated. (vs. 30) That came afterwards (vs. 32) For his first few steps – he literally walked on the water in the midst of a storm no less– in the darkness,; and I’m sure the other disciples were absolutely astonished at what was unfolding before their very eyes.

But then Peter somehow got his eyes and focus off of Jesus and onto the wind – perhaps a big gust hit him in the face; the text says first he became frightened; and then he began to sink. Fear will always sink one’s faith.

Well Jesus graciously but firmly grabbed him – while standing on the water mind you – rebuked him for his unbelief and doubt, and then helped him get into the boat.

Had Jesus not instructed them to walk in faith and not fear in the sermon on the mount, and had Jesus not calmed the storm some days or weeks previous when they were all in the boat together in the midst of the storm, and He had fallen asleep, perhaps His expectation of Peter wouldn’t have been so high. But in Jesus’s mind, this lesson should have been learned by now.

Doubt is so much a part of our consciousness, that I’m afraid many of us are not even aware we walk in it. But doubt in His power and faithfulness is a dagger against our faith. Listen to how James speaks of it, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” Jas. 1:5-8

When I came back from Hong Kong – I had discovered the life changing revelation that Jesus Christ was not only fully God, but was also fully man. And that therefore His example on earth was applicable to our lives in every way – because the same Holy Spirit who filled Him wants to fill us. We initially flew into L.A., and spent some time with Anne’s folks. I had the opportunity to preach in her home church; and a day or two afterwards had a long conversation with one of their associate pastors, whom I had grown to love in the years before we left for Hong Kong. We were discussing this concept, and I’ll never forget that he really challenged me on how realistic it was for us to do the kind of supernatural things that Jesus did while He was on the earth.

Can I remind you that Peter did actually walk on the water – in the dark – in an awful storm – for a moment with faith in His Savior. I think we should give him some credit for that. And I think the Holy Spirit had Matthew record this because He is looking for us to get out of our comfort zones, and step out in such a way – where if He does not show up and do His part – we will certainly sink. Perhaps what threw Peter was – He knew from past miracles Jesus had done – that Jesus had power over the winds and storms; but the winds were not subsiding; and perhaps that caused Peter to wonder if maybe Jesus had lost some of his nature controlling power – – or maybe this storm was more stubborn than previous ones – – even though He is literally standing on top of a raging sea – with no surf board or Free Willy under him..

Well this story of sea walking ends with the disciples, who had watched this whole incident – worshipping Him – proclaiming with certainty that He has to be God’s Son, which by the way – wouldn’t have been as convincing – if Peter had not asked to walk on the water with Jesus, and then if they had not seen Jesus grab Him while standing on the water.

One more principle from this passage.

IV. Jesus rarely turns away from a sincere prayer. Yes He has high expectations of His disciples – especially those who have seen Him do His miracles, and who are familiar with His teaching; but for those who are on the outside – He delights in responding to a simple prayer or request. vs. 34-36
“When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.”

A. Some of you here today need to personally respond to Jesus Christ, and quit standing on the fringe – watching and somehow ruling yourself out. Many in this crowd saw Him; but only those who touched Him got healed. This same Jesus who walked on the stormy sea, and eventually calmed it – is amazingly approachable. But we do have to approach Him.

B. Commentators tend to think that Matthew is painting a contrast here between people who truly intend to follow Jesus and those who just want a miracle. Nothing in the text lends to this thinking. We just read back in ch. 9 about a lady, with a long term hemorrhaging problem who fought through the crowd, so she could just touch the hem of his garment, and was healed instantly by Him. Matthew is revealing to us a Savior who invites and welcomes all – regardless of their unworthiness – – and regardless of their motives – – to come to Him and experience His reality and power. If He wants to disqualify someone – let Him do it. But the scriptures are clear – that no one is out of His reach – – and we must learn to relate to everyone we see – in the same way.

C. This is why we need to pray that our neighbors will cry out to Jesus…

CONCLUSION – COMMUNION – Today as we come to the Lord’s table together, let’s allow Him to cleanse and do away with our fears and our doubts. Let’s ask Him to enlarge our faith and expectation that He will show up in the darkest of times; and in the most challenging of circumstances.
Corporate Prayer

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