When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.In God, whose word I praise,In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid... Psalm 56:3-4 NASB
Life is scary!
And as we move further and further into adulthood...and even on into old age, there's more to frighten us and cause us to panic*.
How do we handle these terrors of life -- whether they be greater (like death, disease, crises with loved ones,...) or lesser (like speaking in front of a group, doing something totally new, daily mothering,...)?
Last week we looked talked about faith as responding to the Lord's gracious COME. Jesus' zealous disciple Peter gives us a good example of what we present-day disciples go through in our faith-walk. Look again at this familiar story in your Bible or click here: Matthew 14: 22 - 33.
Did you think about the questions from our last study? Here they are again with some further thoughts for your meditation and reflection. (I'd love to hear yours if you care to share in the comments below :) ):
1. Why didn’t Peter just jump out of the boat? Why did he ask Jesus to command him “Come to Him”? (vs 27-29a)
*WHO HE IS: Peter needed to know that it was really the Lord. When Jesus identified Himself, He said, "It is I." Literally this is, "I AM," ego eimi. Does this sound familiar...how about Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3? How about Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees in John 8? We too need to see Him for who He truly is...the GOD-Man, who walks with us on the chaos of our lives, don't we? It can make all the difference in the world!
*WHAT HE WANTS: Perhaps Peter also wanted to know if it was Jesus' will for him to walk to Him. And isn't that true of us too. We need to know that it's really the LORD calling us out "onto the waves"...that He's "in it" for us!
*WHAT PETER REALLY NEEDS: In a very real sense, Peter needed Jesus' call, His COME in order to be able to come. Without Jesus' call, none of us could come. We wouldn't even want to! Romans 3:10-11; Phil 2:13; John 6:44-45,65
This leads us to...
Truth #1 = God is always prevenient.
Christian theology teaches the doctrine of prevenient grace, which briefly stated means this, that before a man can seek God, God must first have sought the man.
Before a sinful man can think a right thought of God, there must have been a work of enlightenment done within him; imperfect it may be, but a true work nonetheless, and the secret cause of all desiring and seeking and praying which may follow.
We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. "No man can come to me," said our Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him," and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the out working of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: "Thy right hand upholdeth me." AW Tozer, Pursuit of God
2. What decision did Peter face once he heard Jesus' come? Do we face the same decision at times? (vs 29)
Peter needed to decide whether to go ahead and get out of the boat or play it safe, didn't he? He needed to "believe and obey," as we would say in "spiritual talk." And believing and obeying are flip sides of the same coin, so to speak. (John 3:36; Jas 2:18; Heb 4:3-6 NASB)
So the God-Man Jesus also invites us to walk with Him...into new things (open doors, if you will), like the way my the Lord gave me my ESL teaching job 8 years ago. Or it may be through dark, terrorizing things, like my then 20 year old son's cancer.
And that leads us to...
Truth #2 = With His invitation comes His enablement.
Paul says it well: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]. Phil 4:13 AMP
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 1Cor 12:9-10 NIV
3. What ultimately happened to Peter and why? What did he do in the midst of his dilemma? How readily do we do the same in the midst of our doubt and fear? (vs 30-31a)
Of course, Peter began to sink. Why? Because he turned his focus to the tumultuous waves and wind all around him. He had taken his eyes off of the stable, all-powerful Lord in front of him. And isn't that what we do also? We may start out well, fixing our eyes on Jesus. But then, when we realize "all hell is breaking loose" in &/or around us, we get our eyes off of HIM...and we begin to go down!
That leads us to...
Truth #3 = We become like what / who we focus on.
I love these verses:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. ...the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2Cor 3:18; 4:6
Then all-too-human (and that's why we love him!) Peter, in his desperation, did what we all must do...he cried out to His Savior!
You wonder what to do when you feel attacked on all sides by seemingly irresistible forces, waves that cover you and want to sweep you off your feet. sometimes these waves consist of feeling rejected, feeling forgotten, feeling misunderstood. sometimes they consist of self-pity and self-rejection. These waves make you feel like a powerless child abandoned by your parents.
What are you to do? Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from the waves and direct it to the One who walks on them and says, "It's me. Don't be afraid!" (Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20). Keep turning your eyes to him and go on trusting that he will bring peace to your heart.
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love
4. What did Peter learn as a result of the storm? (vs 31-33)
That Jesus is the SON of GOD! That He is all powerful...that He is sovereign over the forces of nature...that He cares...that He challenges...that He responds to our cries...that He walks with us on the chaos of our lives!
So we can know along with Peter...
Truth #4 = Every storm of life is Christ’s invitation to come to Him and see Who He is & how all-sufficient He is in every situation.
Not long after this storm incident, Peter made this wonderful profession. And we do too, when we walk with the Lord through trials and into new things...
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:68-69
Consider the following for prayer and your journal:
1. Are you in circumstances right now where you know if you take your eyes off the Lord for even a split second, you’ll go “under”? Ask the Holy Spirit to fix your eyes firmly on Him who “walks with you on the chaos of your life.”
2. What is your focus as you go through your day? Do your emotions follow along the same line as your focus? Do you believe it’s true that “we become like what we focus on”? Pray about your need in this area.
3. Is the Lord asking you to take a step out of the comfort-zone of your life into a new thing? Can you trust that with His call (“invitation”) comes His enablement? Pray…”Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
*Click to read about how the Lord delivered me from panic attacks.
Coming Soon: After Father's Day...the rest of the story: The Mystery of PRAYER...Inviting Jesus into my "Boat"