Miracles of faith are what we are seeing in our church today!
Matthew 14:22-33 (ESV)
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The fact is, all of us face storms in our lives. Some of you are facing them right now. That medical report, that fight with someone you love, that bill you didn’t expect, we all face storms in life. We can sing, “When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with You above the storm,” But when you face the storm, it’s still scary, right?
The Sea of Galilee lies at the bottom of the Jordan Valley, 700 feet below sea level. The mountains that surround it are 4000 feet high. Cold air rushing down the mountain slopes collides with warm air coming off the lake. Creating phenomenally violent and aggressive storms. Jesus sent the disciples into one of these storms.
And look, there are storms, and storms. Dr. Thomas Constable said this… “there are two kinds of storms: storms of correction, when God disciplines us; and storms of perfection, when God helps us to grow. Jonah was in a storm because he disobeyed God and had to be corrected. The disciples were in a storm because they obeyed Christ and had to be perfected.”
Jesus had told them to hop into the boat, and go ahead of Him while He prayed. He didn’t do it to punish or correct them, He did it to grow their faith. Then they faced a storm seemingly driving against them. Some people think that when you come to Christ life becomes easy and enjoyable, but that is a lie!
Listen, sometimes when you obey the Lord, the storm against you intensifies! He doesn’t take you around the storms of life, He takes you through them, and allows you to triumph over them. Jesus promised,
John 16:33 (ESV)
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
IT’S NOT THEIR FIRST RODEO
Remember, The disciples were, for the most part, seasoned fishermen, so a storm at sea was not a new experience. In fact we read earlier in Matthew 8:23-27 of another storm at sea while Jesus slept in the boat. They woke Jesus, and He calmed the storm, so imagine the scene here… Peter says,
Guys, the storm is fierce, and we are tired and scared. Quick, wake Jesus up and let’s deal with it, pronto! Ahh, excuse me Peter, Jesus isn’t here, He is back on shore. Whoops, we are on our own guys, now it’s time to hit the panic button!
And sometimes in your storms, even though you’ve seen God do miracles time and time again, your faith falters. The waves are too big, the storm too fierce, you feel like God has abandoned you and you’re alone.
THE STORM BATTERED THEIR FAITH
Matthew 14:24 (ESV)
but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.
The Greek word for beaten is BASANIZO, meaning tested, battered, harassed, even tortured. The waves were torturing their faith, and the wind is described as ENANTIOS, which means to be a hostile adversary or opponent. They felt that even the wind was hostile against them.
How true to our own experience! We are often storm-tossed, perplexed, in despair, and we feel like everything conspires against us, like you can’t take a trick, as my dad use to say. The Saviour seems far away. But all the time He is praying for us, and He is making His way out to us. When the night seems darkest, He is near at hand. We often mistake Him even then, and in our fear push the panic button.
If you are going though storms today, listen for His comforting voice and remember that the waves that caused you to fear, are actually under His feet.
So the disciples fought the elements all night, until 3-6 am
Matthew 14:25 (ESV)
And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.
NOTHING TO FEAR EXCEPT FEAR ITSELF
The disciples thought the approaching Saviour was a ghost, but then Jesus spoke. If you are fearful today, if the storms are surrounding you today, you need to hear the Saviour’s voice. Nothing can calm the sea, or the raging in your heart, like a word from God. Some of you are looking for that today.
I could not tell you the number of times God’s Word has spoken into my storm. I remember when we lost everything in the aptly named Storm Financial collapse, and God spoke to me from His Word.
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
For the disciples in their storm it was like this.
Matthew 14:27 (ESV)
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
The Word for afraid in Greek is PHOBIO, as in the English phobia. We live in an age of phobias, where fear is a universal trait across the globe thanks to COVID.
Erophobia is fear of going to work, so you stay home… oikophpbia is fear of houses, so you stay at work,… ablutophobia is fear of washing, panphobia is fear of everything, nomophobia is fear of being without mobile phone coverage and, of course, the new kid on the block is coronaphobia.
The whole world lives in a climate of fear, and nothing will break through the fear in people’s lives like encountering Jesus Christ. And sometimes Jesus lets us labour long into the storm until we are at our wits end. Why? , because when we get to the end of ourselves, we often find Jesus.
FEAR stands for false evidence appearing real. Most of what we fear never actually happens, or to quote Franklin D Roosevelt, we have nothing to fear except fear itself.
COME ON ON THE WATER’S FINE
I once went snorkelling with a friend, and someone grabbed him by he foot suddenly, and he pretty near walked in water! But this was far more than that.
So the miracle is that Jesus strolled a few miles out to sea in a huge cyclone, walking on water. And no, it wasn’t thick sea ice, it was actual water… A genuine miracle.
Peter, rather than getting sea sickness and hanging over the side throwing up, he asked a big question. Can I do that too? Jesus says “Come on on, not in, on, the water’s fine.”
Matthew 14:28-29 (ESV)
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
You can criticise Peter’s faith all you like, but Peter was the only disciple with the faith to step out of the boat and into the storm. What about you? Are you faithful enough to step into the unknown? Never be afraid to trust and unknown future to a known God.
So here is Jesus, walking on water, and Peter has the faith to do the same, and he starts well. One step, 2 steps, his eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Jesus called him, he stepped out in faith, and he was actually part of the miracle. Until what?
THAT SINKING FEELING
I remember seeing a YouTube video of the German Coastguard. A ship says mayday, mayday, help us we are sinking, we are sinking. The Coastguard radio operator say, “Vot are you sinking about?” Well, there was no misunderstanding here, Peter took his eyes off Jesus and started sinking.
Peter has certainly been criticised for this. They say that he should not have asked to walk on water. Well, I rather admire the guy. William Carey said, “Expect great things of God, and attempt great things for God.” Certainly Peter did that! I am afraid that most of us are satisfied with little things from God. We are happy to just muddle by in church, but I really want to be the guy stepping out and attempting great things for God… Pass or fail, if I go down I do so swinging!
WHAT YOU FOCUS ON IS WHAT YOU GET
So Peter took his eyes off the Lord Jesus while he was walking on the water. When he began to sink, he prayed the shortest prayer in the Bible, “Lord, save me”! If Simon Peter had prayed this prayer like some preachers pray, “Lord, Thou who are omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, we beseech thee by thy bountiful blessings …,” Peter would have been twenty-nine feet under water before he would have gotten to the point. Peter got right down to business, and you and I need to pray like that. Skip the fluff, pray like your life depends on it, because it does. It certainly did for Peter. As Moody once said, “Most prayers should be cut cohort at either end and set on fire in the middle.”
And since Peter would rather swallow pride than water, a hand comes through the rain and pulls him up.
Matthew 14:31-32 (ESV)
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
I believe this was a gentle rebuke, where Jesus was saying to Peter, “dude, you nearly had that, why did you take your eyes off me for?”
Frederick Lenz said, “What we focus on, we become.” Focus on unhappiness, you become unhappy, focus on fear, you become fearful. Focus on God and you become more godly. Focus on Jesus, and you grow to be like Him.
That’s why Paul implores us,
Colossians 3:2 (ESV)
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
He says to the Philippians,
Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Peter may have failed, and you might fail too, but failure is not defeat, unless you say it is.
Albert Einstein said, failure is just success in progress. If you fail and then give up, you defeat yourself. But if you fail and learn from it, you fail forward and grow into success. Former president of IBM Thomas Watson Jn said, “If you want to If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”
Thomas Edison failed over 1000 times before he invented the light globe. Lincoln failed multiple times in elections. Decca records rejected the Beatles saying, “Guitar groups are on the way out.” Walt Disney went bankrupt and was fired by a Missouri newspaper for not being creative enough.
It doesn’t matter if you fail, if you start to sink into the raging sea, because Jesus is there to rescue you. But it matters that you are the one who steps out of the boat. So what of it? Do you want God to use you to His glory in some incredible way?
FIX YOUR EYES
Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
The Greek for looking to is APHORAO, which means to fix your eyes or focus on Jesus. What you focus on determines what you become.
I’m an Optometrist, and I might be able to fix your eyes, but only you can make the decision to fix your eyes on Jesus. I can’t give you glasses for that!
Have you ever been running and felt like you wanted to quit? If someone draws alongside you and encourages you to keep going, it enables you to go farther than you could have managed by yourself. It shifts the focus from your pain to the person helping you, and you get a second wind. Similarly, if you keep your attention on him, Jesus will enable you to persevere.
Peter stopped looking at Jesus and started focussing on his circumstances. He saw the waves, heard the wind, felt the damp, cold chill. He began to sink, but Jesus intervened and rescued him, and then at that very moment the storm was suddenly quiet.
Matthew 14:32-33 (ESV)
And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
All genuine miracles have as their primary aim giving glory to God. Yes we are blessed, yes we see God’s hand and provision, but the real reason for miracles is to say, with the disciples, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
TURN YOUR EYES IN FAITH
So how can we avoid what happened to Peter on that Sea? Never get out of the boat, never step out in faith, never trust God? Sure, but then you will also never make a difference in eternity.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, and the things of earth, the fears, the failures, the worries and cares and confusion, just fade away
SLIDE OF DOT
Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
Some of you here today face situations that fill you with fear, but I want to pray for faith. Fear knocked at the door, faith answered, there was no one there.
What do you face right now, and what are you focussed on? The dilemma or the deliverer? The problem or the protector? The situation or the Saviour?