Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Happy are you, O daughter, O son, and blessing is yours! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the Shield of your help, the Sword that exalts you! Your enemies shall come fawning and cringing, and submit feigned obedience to you, and you shall march on their high places.”
Deuteronomy 33: 29
“As true as God’s own word is true;
Nor earth, nor hell, with all their crew,
Against us shall prevail.
A jest, and by-word, are they grown;
God is with us, we are His own,
Our victory cannot fail.”
Charles H. Spurgeon
Today’s Study Text:
“But when, he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried, saying, ‘Lord, save me.’”
Matthew 14: 30
“Heaven’s Solution to Earthly Fear” Part 7
“Lord, Save Me”
“Our salvation, thank God, depends much more on His love to us than on our love of Him.”
Have “boisterous” waves ever made me feel threatened that I might drown in the trouble I faced?
What has happened in my own life when I have called out, “Lord, save me”?
“I remember two things; that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior."
Sir John Newton
“Remember, you have been saved to soar, not sink.”
There he was doing the impossible. Walking on water. WOW! I asked myself how I would have felt had I been Peter? Invincible? On top-of-the-world? Excited? Exuberant? Probably all of the above! Peter was doing it, no doubt about it. And here’s where Biblical scholars and commentators have a garden-variety of reasons as to why what happened next, happened at all.
James W. Cox, one of the leading authorities on preaching, compiled a 7-book series entitled, Best Sermons. It is like digging into a treasure chest as I have gone through these books, sermon-by-sermon. In Volume 7, there is a tremendous work by Eduard Schweizer, a pastor and teacher from Zurich, Switzerland. This particular sermon entitled,”In the Storm With Jesus,” was translated from the German language by James Cox and all I can say is, “Thank you, thank you,” for I don’t know how to read German and I doubt that if James Cox had not taken the time to translate this fantastic sermon, I would never have been so blessed by the message contained in this hidden gem. As Eduard Schweizer tells his listeners regarding the story found in Matthew 14, the perfect “storybook ending, the happy end,” to this event would have been when Jesus arrived at the boat with the words, “Take heart, it is I, have no fear,” on his lips and boom, the storm would be gone and peace would descend over the sea.
But this isn’t where the story ends. Someone speaks up. Someone wants confirmation that Jesus is for real and He is really present – right in the middle of the storm. Quite frankly, I don’t think Peter’s request was all that strange. In fact, I’ve found myself treading down this identical pathway with Peter before, especially when surrounded by the hassles, harassments and heartaches of everyday life. Who doesn’t feel like crying out, “Who is out there? Does anybody hear me? Does anybody care?” Sounds normal to me. And if there’s anything I can say about Peter, he was a normal person. A lot like all of us. Hardworking. Dedicated. Passionate about life. A little headstrong, but who isn’t these days?
In telling this story Eduard Schweizer notes, Peter “ventured something unprecedented. He steps over the edge of the boat into the storm. He disembarks from the relatively safe boat into the completely unknown…into the very stormy and baffling world.” It is at this time we need to remember Peter was the only disciple who was courageous enough to make such an unheard of move. For a moment, Peter went to the very top of the “faith hero” list. How bold can one person be?
However, when we look at our study text for today, it begins with the very telling connector phrase: “But when.” These two words tell us volumes. Despite the fact that Peter was really walking on water, all alone, right there in the middle of Galilee – “but when” happened!
The Bible says that our close friend Peter, who is in every way so much like you and I, saw the “wind boisterous.” Now you know I just had to get out my Greek dictionary and check out that word “boisterous.” It is used only in this form, “ischuros,” once in the New Testament and it’s right here in this verse. The word means, “mighty, powerful, forcible, and valiant.” This is a critical point for us to uncover because the meaning of this word is the key which unlocks for you and me the secret to what got Peter into trouble in this situation. What’s more, from personal experience, it is the basic reason I find myself drowning in Galilee’s waves when I should be walking hand-in-hand with Jesus, skimming over the crashing waves and letting the wind of my Father’s power carry me safely to the other side of the lake.
Here’s the deal, when Peter let his focus become centered on the power and force of the storm, he couldn’t think about anything else except the trouble around him. This is exactly what has happened to me, too. And just maybe, you’ve faced the same challenge. Let’s take one trial I know many of you face – a financial crisis. With your phone ringing off the hook and threatening letters coming in the mail, it’s hard not to let your life be consumed with your financial problems. Or let’s take the situation of a single mom who is responsible for her two teens. Out of the blue, the school calls. They found something in your kid’s locker. And now on top of work and home, you’re worried sick about what is going on in your child’s life – how do you possibly get your mind off the storm?
See. This is real life. When Peter got out of the boat, he just stepped into the “real” daily activities which like Galilee’s storm, nearly drive each one of us to the bottom of the sea. And when our attention becomes overwhelmed by our troubles, it is not unusual to think we’ll drown in the storm. While some commentators say that Peter was doubting Jesus, I don’t believe it for a minute and here’s why. If Peter really doubted Jesus, he certainly wouldn’t have called on Jesus to save him. He would have asked his friends to throw him a life preserver. Or he would have started to swim back to the boat and told his buddies to put a ladder down the side. No, Peter trusted Jesus. But here’s the problem – he trusted him only just so far! He thought the power of the storm, because it could overpower him, was strong enough to overpower Jesus, too. And oh my, dearest Garden friends, that for me, in times of trouble is where Dorothy starts to sink, too. I just forget Who has all the power. Historian W. M. Christie, who spent many years in the region of Galilee tells us: “The storms on the Sea of Galilee are in many ways peculiar, and sometimes the wind seems to blow from various directions at one time, tossing the boat about. This arises from the fact that the winds blow violently down the narrow gorges and strike the sea at an angle, stirring the waters to a great depth.” Sounds like the way life can undermine and overpower us. But watching Jesus walk on the wildness of our world, helps us understand that the power point isn’t contained in the storm, it is contained in Jesus who treads upon the storm. The only way we can ever let the storm touch us is if we forget Who holds all the power.
In the book, And He Had Compassion, William Barclay shares this touching story by Henry J. Taylor, a famous American journalist who told of an experience he never forgot:
“(My) father was a mine-owner. A new elevator was being installed; and before the proper cage was fitted, a descent had to be made in a barrel at the end of a rope. His father took him down with him in the barrel. It was a terrifying experience with the barrel swaying at the end of the rope and knocking against the sides of the shaft. Henry was terrified. But his father’s strong arm was around him and his father’s voice was saying: ‘Don’t be afraid, son.’ They got to the foot of the shaft. Everything was strange and frightening. A miner came up and warned them to be careful of gas, and the warning made things worse. Then, Henry Taylor said, someone came up to him and said: ‘Aren’t you frightened?’ ‘Well,’ he answered honestly, ‘I’d be awfully scared except my father is with me.’”
And as William Barclay continues, “That is exactly what God does. We can never be separated from the love of God nor from the presence of Jesus; and if we remember that Jesus is always with us, we will find the storms of life become a calm.”
“When trouble comes upon us, how often we are like Peter! We look upon the waves…our footsteps slide, and the proud waters go over our souls. Jesus did not bid Peter come to Him that he should perish; He does not call us to follow Him, and then forsake us. ‘Fear not’, He says; ‘for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine” (Isaiah 43: 1, K.J.V.).”
E. White (1898)
For our affirmation today, I have chosen a poem written by the Scottish author, poet and Christian minister George MacDonald who was born in 1824 and died in 1905. As a reflection on the deep spiritual thoughts shared by this man of God, renowned Christian author, Oswald Chambers, whose book, My Utmost For His Highest, is among Christians one of the most respected volumes. He said this about George MacDonald: “It is a striking indication of the trend and shallowness of the modern reading public that George MacDonald’s books have been so neglected.” This one quote inspired me to get out my shovel, spade and hoe and go to work, over the last few months, plowing through the written words of Pastor MacDonald and I have to tell you, my heart and soul are so much better off for the time spent reading the words penned by one who was so desirous of deepening his relationship with Jesus but also, sharing his Christianity with what we call popular culture. Word has it that he even positively influenced the well-known American author Mark Twain.
The George MacDonald poem I’ve chosen to share is called, “The Boat” and it is Simon Peter’s testimony. May this be our testimony, too.
(Simon Peter’s Testimony)
“I owned a little boat a while ago,
And sailed the morning sea without a fear,
And whither any breeze might fairly blow
I steered my little craft afar or near.
Mine was the boat
And mine the air,
And mine the sea,
Nor mine a care.
My boat became my place of mighty toil,
I sailed at evening to the fishing ground,
At morn my boat was freighted with the spoil
Which my all-conquering work had found.
Mine was the boat
And mine the net,
And mine the skill
And power to get.
One day there came along that silent shore,
While I my net was casting in the sea,
A Man who spoke as never man before.
I followed Him; new life began in me.
Mine was the boat,
But His the voice,
And His the call,
Yet mine the choice.
Ah! ‘twas a fearful night out on the lake,
And all my skill availed not, at the helm,
Till Him asleep I waked, crying, ‘Take
Thou the helm – lest water overwhelm!’
And His the boat,
And His the sea,
And His the peace
O’er all and me.
Once from the boat He taught the curious throng
Then bade me cast my net into the sea;
I murmured but obeyed, nor was it long
Before the catch amazed and humbled me.
His was the boat.
And His the skill,
And His the catch,
And His my will.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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