You of little faith

Read: Genesis 46-48, Matthew 14:22-36

Most of us know or have at least heard the account of Jesus walking on the water. He’d had a busy day. Lost his cousin to beheading. Healed a bunch of people. Fed a bunch of people. He needed some time alone. So he sent his disciples ahead of him across the lake in a boat. By evening, the boat was way ahead of him and a storm had blown in. So he does what any sensible person would do and walks to the boat. On the water. Eventually the men in the boat see him and, after deciding that he isn’t a ghost, Peter calls out to Jesus over the sound of the wind and waves.

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “Tell me to come to you on the water.”

Matthew 14:28 (NIV)

Jesus does and Peter does. Of the twelve, only one decides it’s worth it to get out of the boat. He does okay for a while, but soon realises where he is, takes into account the storm around him, and begins to sink.

Matthew 14:31

We can have one of two responses to this story:

  1. Discouragement. Peter did exactly what Jesus told him to do—step out of the boat and on to the water—yet he still began to sink. This point of view would likely prevent any one or all of us from ever pursuing the miraculous. If all we’re going to do is fail, why bother, right?
  2. Encouragement. Peter did exactly what Jesus told him to do—step out of the boat and on to the water—and he did! I don’t know if Peter was brave or stupid, but whatever he was, we could use more of that in our Christian circles.

What I find most encouraging about this account is that Jesus told Peter that he had little faith. Most of us would see that as an insult, but I would take it as a compliment. If a little faith is all it took to get out of the boat to stand on the waves, I’ll start with that. Oh, that we would all have the little bit of faith Peter had. His only mistake was to take his eyes off of Jesus.

Jesus hasn’t told me to do anything like that. Oh, but he has!

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 14:12-14 (NIV)

Every miracle Jesus performed while he walked the earth is an example for us. Through our faith in him, we should be doing what what he did and even greater. Even if your faith is only enough to get you out of the boat, it’s a start. And once you start, don’t take your eyes off of the One who called out.

It’s okay to be of little faith—to begin with. Don’t let one failure stop you from getting out of the boat again and again. Keep your eyes on Jesus and soon, you’ll be living on the water.

It doesn’t matter

In a world where everyone wants something to matter, there are a few things that don’t matter at all when it comes to our Commission as believers.

1. It doesn’t matter where you are.

Matthew 14:13

Bono had it right when he penned these words:

You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it

We can get so caught up in our doing that we don’t notice that Jesus has gone somewhere else and we’ve failed to follow. The crowds that followed knew that Jesus had something they needed. It didn’t matter that he was in a boat and they were on land. They followed.

There are times that we may be hesitant to leave what we’re doing because we have so much time, energy, and resources invested. But is it really worth missing Jesus? We must all learn to keep our eyes on him and follow at a moments notice.

2. It doesn’t matter how you feel.

Matthew 14:14

Jesus had just received news that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded in prison. He wanted to be alone. Yet the crowds followed him and, even in his grief, he had compassion, ministered to them, and healed the sick. Whether we feel like it or not, our call to minister doesn’t go away or get put on hold. Jesus didn’t say, “When you feel like it, maybe go across the street and tell someone about me.” He said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15)

How we feel is not included in our call. In the following verses we will see that, even in one of his darkest moments as a man, Jesus was able to perform a great miracle and reach thousands of people. Perhaps by going ahead, especially when we don’t feel like it, God is able to accomplish more through us.

3. It doesn’t matter what is (or isn’t) in your hands.

Matthew 14:19

If you’re a pastor or a leader in your church and 10,000 people show up one Sunday and want to stick around all day, what would you do? Feed them or send them off with an invitation to return and hope they’ll come back? If the disciples had their way, they’d have sent away the crowds. Their hands were empty. Jesus had been performing miracles all day and the men who were closest to him still didn’t see that just because their hands were empty, it didn’t mean they had nothing.

Whether we feel qualified or equipped to fulfill the Great Commission is irrelevant. What’s in our hands doesn’t matter. It’s probably even better if our hands are empty because then we have no other recourse than to depend on what’s in Jesus’ hands.

When Jesus handed off the bread and fish to the disciples, they then handed it off to the people. And then it came back—far more than what they’d started with. Every hand that touched the food was a part of the miracle and as more people handled it, the greater it became.

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4 (NIV)

The message of Jesus is completely counter to our culture. We cannot maintain popular ideals and still be effective in ministry.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 4:30 (NIV)

God’s gift to humanity

Have you ever known someone who acted as though they were God’s gift to humanity? This person can do no wrong. Say no wrong. They are the be all and end all. Their talent and wisdom abounds… But they’re a complete jerk. You can have all the knowledge and talent in the world, but if you have no love, it’s all worthless.

If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I know all the mysteries of the future and knew everything about everything, but didn’t love others, what good would I be? And if I had the gift of faith so that I could speak to a mountain and make it move, without love I would be no good to anybody. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would be of no value whatsoever.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NLT)

We all tend to skip down in this chapter to the part about love being patient and kind. But what about why we should love? Have you ever wondered why this chapter about love is stuck right in the middle of a bunch of chapters about the gifts of the Holy Spirit? It wasn’t so that we’d have something nice to say at weddings. It is so that we understand that, while we should desire the gifts of the Spirit, we should desire to love more—because love is what makes the gifts work. Love came before them and love will endure after them. Without love, these incredible gifts that God gives to us are useless.

Like the person who believes they are everything to everyone, but loves no one, their words and actions are meaningless. How can someone receive a word of wisdom or prophecy if the person delivering it lacks love? How can the gift of faith be activated to heal if you don’t first love the person in need of a miracle? What is a gift worth if it is not given in love?

There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

God’s gift to humanity is not a know-it-all. God’s gift to humanity is love—the love He freely gives to us and the ability He has given us to love others. As Paul begins the next chapter, let love be your highest goal.

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 3-4, 1 Corinthians 13

Get out of the way!

I’ve been to a lot of church services. I grew up in the day when we went to church twice on Sundays, once on Wednesdays, and attended extra services when a guest speaker was in town. We had youth group on Fridays and maybe even a mid-week Bible study. When I say I grew up at church, I mean that I actually spent the majority of my time at the church. Not much has changed.

In all of those church services, I saw a lot of ministry lines, altar calls, hands go up for prayer. But I rarely saw a pastor or speaker interrupt his or her sermon to do so. They weren’t wrong, but in recent studies and conversations, I’ve begun to wonder if they were always right.

While they were at Lystra, Paul and Barnabas came upon a man with crippled feet. He had been that way from birth, so he had never walked. He was listening as Paul preached, and Paul noticed him and realized he had faith to be healed. So Paul called to him in a loud voice, “Stand up!” And the man jumped to his feet and started walking.

Acts 14:8-10 (NLT)

As far as I can tell, this is the first the crippled man had heard the Good News.  It was Paul and Barnabas’ first trip to the area and they were bringing a new message to the people there. Churches and training centres hadn’t been set up yet. The apostles were setting up the groundwork for future ministry.

Then this crippled man shows up. He hears a message of miracles and salvation and his faith is stirred. What do we do now?

In some churches, he’d be required to spend several weeks in studies on faith and healing before someone may or may not lay hands on him.

In other churches, he’d be told that healing isn’t for today, God made him crippled for a reason.

Yet in other churches, he might have to wait for the end of the message for a call to the altar to be offered and hope that someone could help him to the front before the altar closes to new arrivals.

But what did Paul do? The moment he recognized that this man had faith, he stopped what he was doing and called out to him to stand. He didn’t pause to teach on how healing works. He didn’t have to explain what faith is. He didn’t fall to his knees to petition God with pleading groans so the man could be set free from his affliction. In fact, I haven’t found anywhere in the Gospels where this was the case.

Miracles happened when faith was present and the men of God acted on their recognition of it. Long, flowery prayers not needed. Explanations unnecessary. A simple command was all that was required to activate the faith that was already there.

If God says He’ll do something, it’s up to us to believe and proclaim that He will do it. And when the gift of faith shows up, get out of the way! Shut up and let God show off. This message we preach is not about us. It’s about the God who came to give us abundant life. What we have to say is far less important than what God came to do.

Start looking for faith and then practice acting on it immediately. It may require retraining our minds and our spirits to respond in a different way, but if the result is seeing the crippled walk, the blind seeing, and the sick healed, it’s worth it. Isn’t it?

Daily Bible reading: Job 35-37, Acts 14

By the hand

But Peter said, “I don’t have any money for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and anklebones were healed and strengthened.

Acts 3:6-7 (NLT)

How many times have you heard of people praying, yet receiving nothing? How many times have you prayed and received nothing? Some people will keep on praying while others just give up. If God didn’t answer them the first time, why would He answer at all?

But what if all that was missing was a helping hand? What if all your prayer needed was a little extra boost from a friend or someone who cared enough to help you out?

Notice that, in this passage, the man wasn’t healed the instant Peter told him to get up and walk. Nor did the man get up on his own. Peter lifted him up and then strength came to his limbs.

Maybe you’re the one who needs the extra hand or maybe you’re the one who can give the extra hand. Either way, we shouldn’t let a little seemingly unanswered prayer stop us from receiving the things God has promised to us. A little extra help may be required to see it through. Don’t stop praying. Look to the next step. Maybe God is waiting on you to ask for a hand. Maybe God is leading you to lend a hand. Our own pride and selfishness could very well be the things that are preventing us from seeing more miracles.

Let’s not pull each other down, let’s lift each other up so we can all begin to walk, leap and praise God.

Daily Bible reading: Nehemiah 7-8, Acts 3

Do not get a few

When you pray for a miracle, do you you expect just enough to get by? Or do you expect God to throw open the floodgates and bless you beyond anything you can think or imagine? How do you prepare yourself to receive your miracle?

I’m sure that we’ve all heard the story of the widow’s oil. Elisha had offered to help this woman so that she does not have to sell her two children as slaves to her creditors. All she has is a jar of oil. Elisha tells her to collect empty vessels. He could have told her to gather all she had in her own home, but he goes further than that.

The he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few.”

2 Kings 4:3 (NASB)

He sends this woman and her sons all around the neighbourhood to prepare for a big miracle. Do not get a few. The miracle the widow received was directly related to her preparation for it. Had she only gathered a few vessels, I wonder if she even would have received her miracle since she would have been in disobedience to the word from the Lord.

When you pray for a miracle based on a promise from God’s Word, prepare yourself for the complete and total fulfillment of that promise. When Jesus says he will heal you, prepare for complete—not partial—healing. When the Word says that God will supply for all your needs, prepare for all, not a little.

I think that, many times, we miss out on our miracles because we don’t want to bother God with the big things. We just ask Him for a little hoping that we won’t annoy Him with our request. But He doesn’t want to perform little miracles. As we read through the Word, we see over and over and over again that God is a God of great big miracles. Stop preparing for the minute and get ready for the monumental.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 4-5, John 4:1-30