Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition, definite requests, with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.”
“Your foolish fears about the future come from the devil. Think only of the present, abandon the future to Providence. It is the good use of the present that assures the future.”
Jean Pierre de Caussade
Today’s Study Text:
“And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.”
“Right There With You”
“You need not cry very loud; He is nearer to us than we think.”
In a moment of terror in my own life, how has God’s presence sustained me?
How can I sustain others when they are walking through a frightening experience?
“He, (God), Himself has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down or relax my hold on you. Assuredly not!”
“Behold, I am with you all the days, perpetually and on every occasion, to the very close of the age” (Matthew 28: 20, Amplified Bible).
Yesterday evening, after a long day filled with too much activity, I finally, at about 9:00 P.M., went to my laptop to read the emails which had been sent to Transformation Garden during the day.
As I shared with you several weeks ago, the study of Matthew 14 wasn’t on my radar screen. I hadn’t planned to jump from the Old Testament chapter of II Kings to the New Testament book of Matthew – that is until it appeared that every book I was studying or commentary I was reviewing, Matthew 14 kept flashing in front of my eyes, and I must tell you, I now believe this to be a providential leading by our Father in heaven.
I had no idea that when we started studying about the sudden and unwarranted death of John the Baptist all of us would be forced to confront the fears that arise in our hearts when terrorizing events such as the recent bombing, invade our days with frightening and unforeseen consequences. Faced with the unexpected, each of us in our own way, comes to the recognition that life can be pretty scary, especially when you have no idea, whatsoever, what will happen to you next.
In the middle of the challenges we all face day-to-day, and the questions which arise that find us saying, “Why?” this chapter in Matthew not only offers a view of the alternative world of Jesus, where hunger and hurting are not evidenced, but what stirs my heart is that in Matthew 14, Jesus doesn’t just talk about how He comes to help us in moments of crisis. He specifically shows us by the actions He takes how He deals with stormy weather. Please don’t forget, those closest to Jesus felt He had intentionally sent them out onto a storm tossed sea. What’s more, they felt Jesus had abandoned them to the wild wind and blasting billows.
It was from the place I’ll call the eye of the storm where it was as though the disciple Matthew interrupted his own story and said, “But, hey there. Guess what? Between 3:00 A.M. – 6:00 A.M., you know, when things were the darkest and most terrifying, Jesus came to us. He didn’t hang us out to dry after all. He didn’t leave us all alone. No – He didn’t forget about us.” I really appreciate how Matthew Henry describes this situation: “Christ does not leave the soul, when extraordinary joys and comforts leave us. Though more sensible and ravishing communications may be withdrawn, Christ’s disciples have, and shall have, His ordinary presence with them always, even to the end of the world, and that is it we must depend upon.”
So back to last evening and the notes I received from my Garden family all around the world. There was a special email from Christine in Hawaii. Here’s just part of what she wrote because I’m going to share the rest of her email with you next week: “Dear Dorothy, I have been reading your devotionals for several years now and I just want to thank you for seeking new insight into familiar passages…I believe God did get into “our” car that was speeding toward the ultimate fatal crash when Jesus hung on the cross for us and took the impact of it all. He was our airbag. He put His arms out to protect us from the impact. He kept us from going through the windshield just as your earthly father would have done if he had been in the car with you. He would have reached across the seat with his strong arm to hold you back from hitting the dashboard and windshield even if it cost him his life. Sadly, not all earthly fathers would do the same and suffering continues to abound. However, through our own suffering we are all uniquely qualified to minister to others.”
I have to tell you, I was crying when I finished reading Christine’s words for they really are at the heart of what we are studying about in Matthew 14. As those closest to Jesus were hurled about, ravaged by wind and water, Jesus came right to them. From His mountainside “prayer room” Jesus went to them. Now at this point I had to get out my trusty Greek dictionary and it was worth it. I wanted to check out the word “went” – a rather common English word. We use it all the time. In fact, Matthew chose to use it in Matthew 14: 23 and Matthew 14: 25. But here’s the thing. In the Greek, there are two different words used for “went.” In Matthew 14: 23, the word “anabaino” (went) means ascended, arose, climbed. Since we are told that Jesus went up into the mountain, using this form of the word “went,” which means to ascend is perfectly correct. But then if we go down just two verses, we’ll find a different Greek word is used, “aperchomai.” This word means “follow.” As I read the notes on the definition of this word, I could have jumped for joy (if my crooked, crunched feet would have allowed me to) for you see, the minute those disciples hit choppy water, there was Someone following them, tracking their every move.
This thought really hit home as I’m reading a book right now by Pastor and Teacher R.T. Kendall called God Meant It For Good, about the life of Joseph. Pastor Kendall reminds his readers throughout this book that no matter if Joseph could sense the presence of God; no matter if he was in prison or elevated to second in command to Pharaoh; God was walking with Joseph. God knew where Joseph was and what he was doing. The same can be said about you and me, too. When the storm waves threaten to take us down, God knows and He will come to us, just as He “went to His disciples long ago.” In the words of St. Augustine, “You should never set (God) over against your troubles, but within them.” Yes, Jesus is right there with you and me today, in the eye of the storm.
“I feel adrift on life’s raging sea.
But though I cannot find Your hand
To lead me on to the promised land
I still believe with all my being
Your hand is there beyond my seeing.”
Helen Steiner Rice
“I know not, but God knows;
Oh, blessed rest from fear!
All my unfolding days
To Him are plain and clear.
Each anxious, puzzled “why?”
From doubt or dread that grows,
Finds answer in this thought:
I know not, but He knows.
I cannot, but God can;
Oh, balm for all my care!
The burden that I drop
His hand will lift and bear.
Though eagle pinions tire,
I walk where once I ran,
This is my strength to know
I cannot, but He can.
I see not, but God sees;
Oh, all sufficient light!
My dark and hidden way
To Him is always bright.
My strained and peering eyes
May close in restful ease,
And I in peace may sleep;
I see not, but He sees.”
Annie Johnson Flint
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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