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.

Not in it

“Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” The Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was a such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

1 Kings 19:11-12 (NLT)

How often do we look for God in the storm, the quake, and the fire? He can and has appeared in those things, but He also comes in a gentle whisper. Too often, we get so caught up in watching for the big and loud that we completely miss out on the soft and quiet. On a daily basis, we’re so surrounded by sound we would never hear a whisper unless we were intent on doing so. Yet Elijah heard it—even after the noise of the storm, the quake, and the fire died down. With all that noise ringing in his ears, he would have had to be listening closely to hear the gentle whisper.

It wasn’t just that Elijah was listening for the whisper, he’d put himself in a place to do so. I’ve seen people stumble into church fifteen minutes late, frazzled by the effort it took just to get there, and then walk out in a huff because they didn’t get what they wanted from God.

Prior to the mountain, Elijah was on the run. Jezebel had made a solid threat to end his life, so he, like any other sane man, ran from the crazy lady. He planned to die in the wilderness, but God had other plans and sent an angel to feed him.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, for there is a long journey ahead of you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.

1 Kings 19:7-8 (NLT)

Elijah’s mountaintop experience didn’t just happen. He wasn’t taking a scenic hike when God just decided to interrupt him. He was there on purpose. It took him forty days and forty nights to get there. We act like God should shower great blessings on us just because we managed to make it to church before the service ended and here, Elijah travelled for forty days and nights on two meals.

It doesn’t take any effort at all on God’s part to reach us no matter where we are, but I firmly believe that He is looking for great effort on our part to reach Him where He is. Our response to Him is often akin to Elijah had he politely declined the food and water the angel brought to him. No thanks, I’d rather die in the wilderness than eat this miraculous food because I know God will ask me to do something I’m probably not willing to put in the effort to do.

After forty days and nights of travelling, Elijah could have given up when God wasn’t in the the storm. He could have started back down the mountain when He wasn’t in the quake (be honest, would you stay on a mountaintop after an earthquake?). He could have seen the glow of the fire from a distance. And he would have missed the whisper entirely.

When we put in the effort we think is required of us to hear from God, our patience can often run thin. We get to where God wants us and then expect Him in the storm and check out because God was not in it. In reality, it is our hearts that are not in it.

In his weariness from the long journey, having almost been swept away by the storm, tossed down the mountain by the quake, and consumed by the fire, I’m sure the only thing Elijah could hear was his heart. Pounding in his ears. But he stayed where he was. Maybe he was frozen in fear and couldn’t move, but when God finally spoke, he was listening.

The next time you’re ready to walk away because you don’t see God in it, check your self. Make sure you are in it. Then wait. Listen closely for the sound of a gentle whisper.

Daily Bible reading: 1 Kings 19-20, John 2

Evidence

Can you see God? You haven’t seen Him? I’ve never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind.

Billy Graham

Today, in my part of the world, it’s windy. I’m looking out my big windows and I see snow blowing across the yard. In the moments when the wind takes a break, big white flakes swirl down and add themselves to the drifts already covering the yard. Then the wind picks up again and snow both from the sky and the ground and every other surface blasts my view.

I can see that it’s windy. I see evidence of the wind in the snow coming down as well as the drifts on the ground. But I can’t actually see the wind. If I dare to go outside for a few minutes and come back in, the evidence of the wind will be on me. I’d likely have snow stuck to one side of me and not the other. My hair would be standing on end and I’m quite certain I’d be shivering. You’d see the effects of the wind in my appearance, but neither you or I could say we’d actually seen the wind.

The quote above from Billy Graham is well known. If you listened to Christian music in the 90’s, you’d have heard a clip of it on dcTalk’s Jesus Freak album. You may have heard it used many times over the years, but have you really thought about it? Have you gone to the Word for scripture to back it up?

In Exodus, Moses is sent up Mount Sinai once more (he’d come down with tablets from God once already, but ended up smashing them upon realising Israel, in the forty days he’d been gone had reverted to worshipping a golden calf). God needed a word with Moses. And so, for another forty days and nights, Moses fasted and spoke with God face to face. When he finally came back down the mountain, the people of Israel couldn’t bear to look at him, so strong was the glory of God that shone from his face.

Oh, it was just that once, you may say. It wasn’t. Read on in Exodus 34, Moses had to come up with a veil in order to hide his face when he came out from being in the presence of God. Israel didn’t see God, but they saw the effects of His presence.

What do you look like after you’ve been in the presence of God? It’s a personal, spiritual experience, I don’t like to let people know. Why would you want to hide that kind of experience from others?  It’s just for me, no one else. If it was just for Moses, he could have kept to himself and not had to bother with covering his face. When I meet with God, it’s not like that. If you’re not at all changed, are you really meeting with God?

There are many excuses we can give, but in the end, it all comes down to the evidence. If you’ve experienced the presence of God in any way, it should show. You don’t have to literally light up the room with your face, but shouldn’t your countenance show that you’ve experienced something good? Should your attitude not reflect time spent in the presence of the Great I Am?

We might not be able to see the presence of God, but we should surely be able to see the effects of it.

Daily Bible reading: Exodus 34-36, Matthew 23:1-22

Anchor

Many people are adrift. These are the ones who are tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). The worst part of it is that they honestly, sincerely believe that they are on a set course. They have no course. They have no anchor to prevent them from drifting out to sea.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain…

Hebrews 6:19 (ESV)

Our hope, our anchor is in our covenant with God.

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

Hebrews 6:17-18 (ESV)

In this stormy sea we call life, remember to hold on to your hope, your anchor, Jesus.

hebrews-6-19

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 51-52, Hebrews 6