Click here for a copy of the Bible study outline – Doubt and Fear Week 5
Ok so faith has been defined as – believing in what you cannot see or prove to be true. We have faith that when we get into an airplane, it will fly. We have faith that when we put food into a microwave oven, it will heat it not ruin it (and we hope it does not blow up, unless you are a 7th grade boy). We have faith that when we open our mouths and suck in air, it is a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide, as well as some other chemicals, and it’s good for us – it won’t kill us. But do you have faith that when you face a fearful situation, God can help you? It’s hard to take that step sometimes. When things are scary, we don’t always think of turning to God. Instead we think of posting on Facebook, putting up a Tweet or filling up cyberspace in any other way with our fears and thoughts. We think of running away as far and as fast as we can or we think of sitting down and crying. It usually isn’t a natural thought to turn to God for strength and help. But when we do turn to God in these fearful times, amazing things can happen. This week we are going to focus on Peter – a disciple (follower of Jesus) who wasn’t always known for his faith, but took a giant step of faith as he followed His Lord out onto the water.
In Matthew 14:22 the scene is set –Can you imagine what the disciples were thinking at this point? They were probably tired – they had gone to Bethsaida to get away from people after Jesus had learned that His friend John the Baptist had been killed, but instead, they had ended up feeding 5000 people. They left sometime before sunset when Jesus sent them off in the boat, telling them He would catch up with them later. But they ran into some trouble on the sea – there was a lot of wind, and wind equals waves. At that time, they didn’t have powerboats – someone had to row the boat! So they were tired to begin with, and then had to fight the wind and waves on the sea.
Think of the fear that must have been in place. After hours of fighting the winds, shear exhaustion sets in. In the misty, predawn hours, they suddenly see the figure of a man walking toward them through the mist. But how can that be? They were miles from land! Terror fills them as they imagine all sorts of horrible things. When we talk about fear, I bet they were feeling it very vividly at that point!
Jesus calms them, and fear is dismissed–-Jesus probably knew they were afraid, so He called to them and told them it was just He – that they shouldn’t be afraid. Jesus had come to them in their time of need, when they were buffeted by the storm. Their need was real, and so was their fear when they saw what they thought to be a ghost. But in the presence of Jesus, fear can be dismissed.
As the account continues we see Peter react in faith when he heard it was Jesus. Peter was always the impulsive disciple, and this impulse led him to experience a rather unusual demonstration of God’s power.
I don’t know about you, but I very often speak without thinking through the consequences of what I’m saying. I think Peter was the same way. I can just imagine what He was thinking when Jesus replied to his impulsive demand with a simple, “Go ahead – come on out!” I can see him gulping, looking for reassurance from the other disciples, who were probably thinking that it was about time Peter’s big mouth got him in trouble, then gingerly lifting his legs over the side of the boat. I’m sure he was afraid, but he knew Jesus was there. His faith in the power of Jesus overshadowed his fear, so when Jesus said ‘come’, Peter left the boat and began walking on the water. Read Matthew 14:29
See what happened…Peter was doing really good walking on the water, until he took his eyes off Jesus, and began to focus on the waves around him. Read Matthew 14:30-31. Peter’s doubt became his downfall. But Jesus response showed Peter that help from the divine, powerful God was the thing that he needed in times of testing. Jesus grabbed Peter, saving Him from drowning in the waves.
We are not very different than Peter, matter of fact our faith is very much like his. We’re okay when we don’t focus on the troubles around us.
Think about this. When you can forget about all the trouble or bad things going on around you, or when things are going really well, it’s easy to have faith that Jesus can get us through. But as soon as you take your eyes off Jesus and start looking around and thinking of all the bad things that can happen, your faith wavers.
In Peter’s faltering faith, we see the path of discipleship. It’s not just you who has weak faith when you’re really fearful of something – we all do – even Peter did; and he was walking around with a living and breathing Jesus! The thing we learn from Peter is that we have to exercise faith to have the power of Christ within us. But too often we start off with good intentions and then falter along the way; we never fully grasp the power of Christ that is available to us through faith. I like to think of it as Jesus standing in front of me with His hand out. And I start running toward Him, reaching out for His hand. But then a gun goes off somewhere to the side of me, and I turn my head quickly because it scares me. As soon as I do that, I lose my balance and fall, just out of reach of the power awaiting me in Jesus’ hand.
We need to take a step of faith, and then KEEP OUR EYES ON JESUS. It’s easy to talk big about taking a step of faith, and it might even be easy to step out. But faith is a long road – it’s not a single step. The true test of faith will come when you are tired, uncertain, and scared. That is when it is more important than ever to keep your eyes firmly fixed on Jesus – look to Him for the help He can offer, and don’t look away! Don’t let the chaos and terror going on around you distract you from the power He offers you