Let us pray: Dear Savior, sin comes calling and evil and frustration infiltrate our lives whenever we look away from You. Yes, when we keep our gaze fixed on Your love, strength, and forgiveness we are strong. But when we look to ourselves for answers to life’s tough questions, or when we embrace the latest fade to fix our inner turmoil all we do is dig ourselves in deeper. Today focus our attention on You alone. Focus our thoughts on Your goodness and Your blessings. Yes, we trust in You to make us strong. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR HELPFUL SAVIOR!
TEXT: Matthew 14: 22-33
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Everyone has heard the phrase: “God helps those that help themselves.” But, is that little catch phrase true? Well, if you’re going by the Bible, the answer is: No! Judas tried to help himself to financial gain when he sold Christ for 30 pieces of silver. But, God didn’t help him. And Judas committed suicide. Pontius Pilate tried to help himself out of a political tar-baby by sentencing Jesus to death on the cross. But, Pilate ended his life in disgrace. And in our lesson we see that when Peter tried to help himself, to save himself from drowning, he was unable to do so. But, of course, Peter did something more. He despaired of his own strength and looked to the Savior for help. And Jesus answered him, didn’t He? That brings us to the point of today’s lesson which is:
ALWAYS LOOK TO THE SAVIOR!
There are many “brands” of Christianity in America today. Some are prospering, others are failing. The question is: why? If you are preaching God’s truth, shouldn’t God bless your labors? Ah, but many mainline churches really don’t preach God’s truth today. They water it down and mingle its pure nectar with human ideas and human political expediency. They look to the world, or to human reason for strength and for answers instead of looking to their Savior. And as a result they are reaping what they are sowing. Let me give you some examples.
In early July the United Church of Christ formally adopted a call for homosexual marriage. But, that church body has been losing membership.—Are we surprised? Another church body, the Presbyterian Church has lost 43,000 members over the past year. The reason why is manifold. But it can be reduced down to one crucial point: When you modify God’s truth and discount much of what the Bible says as fables or merely cultural mores of the time, people don’t know what to believe. And so they vote with their feet and leave. This same scenario is taking place in mainline churches across America. Those that focus people on Christ alone and proclaim the whole counsel of God are prospering. While those that question the resurrection, discount the miracles, and mock the commandments are slowly withering away. Against this backdrop we always need to remember to: Look to the Savior!
I’ve always liked this lesson. I find tremendous comfort in it. Christians of every generation have. In fact, at the Otteson museum of our synod in Mankato, is an old altar piece from one of our churches which has a painting of this miracle depicted on it. Yes, our spiritual forebears embraced the truth of this little text, too. My question is: do you?
The facts of the story are well known. Jesus had just finished feeding the 5000+ with 5 little loaves of barley bread and 2 little fish. Nightfall came. He withdrew to the high hillside to pray, to be alone and commune with His heavenly Father. Meanwhile the disciples, mostly fisherman from boyhood on, rowed across the lake. About 3 in the morning Jesus looked out and saw them only about ¾’s of a mile from shore. A ferocious storm had sprung up and they could not make any headway. They were fearful of being swamped and drowning. So, what does the Savior do? He walks out across the water to be with them. To comfort them. To help them.
At first, when they saw Jesus, they didn’t recognize Him. They though He was a ghost. This terrified them even more. But, Jesus calmed their fears with the sweetest words known to man.—“Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Yes, when God Almighty tells us that we have nothing to fear you can bank on it. Moreover, those words of love work just as they did for the shepherds in Bethlehem afraid of the angels and the women at the tomb.
Peter, always the impetuous one, impulsively leaps up and says: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Think about that. Peter was a life-long fisherman. He knew how easy it was to drown. No doubt, he had a healthy respect for water and storms. And yet, without any coaxing he makes this suggestion. I find that amazing. And even more amazing is what now occurs. Jesus says: “come” and Peter does. He steps into the waves and literally walks on the water to meet his Lord.
But then disaster threatens. Peter takes his gaze away from Christ. He looks at the high waves, recalls how far he is from shore, and feels his faith and confidence ebbing. Instead of focusing on how powerful Jesus is, he focuses on how weak he is. And Peter then begins to sink. In desperation he calls out: “Lord, save me!” At that we’re told: “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’”
Doubt is the opposite of God-wrought faith. Doubt is the acid that eats away at Christian confidence. And where does doubt come from? It springs from the sin-drenched human heart. As we sit here in technologically advanced America 2000 years later, to most this story is quaint and quite unbelievable. In fact, not too many years ago one “Modern” theologian mocked this miracle by telling people that he believed Christ only appeared to walk on water because He knew where the stones were! Any time we question God’s truths as recorded in the Bible, we’re showing our doubt. Anytime we reject them we’re showing our unbelief. But, we also show our weakness of faith in a multitude of other ways.
When you have a problem person at work do you first study Scripture and see how Jesus handled such folks, or do you rely on your psychological defense mechanism to fight fire with fire, and only turn to Christ for help when that blows up in your face? Lonely and wondering why people don’t seek you out with open arms? Well, have you followed Christ and shown them that you’re more concerned for their welfare instead of your own, or not? Afraid your business will fail? Have you prayed for Christ’s help and really tried to practice Christian business ethics? Are your kids a terror? Have you followed Christ’s example of spending time with them, talking to them and not at them, and setting limits that really stick? Sick of struggling with a particular temptation? Have you really studied everything the Bible says about it, despaired of your weakness and then each time it comes calling said: “Lord, save me?” Or, have you put Christ and His truths out of your mind and then wallowed in self-pity later on?
God helps those who cannot help themselves and know it! He gives His strength and comfort to those who put their pride in their pocket and repent over their arrogance and ignorance when it comes to running their lives. When we look to the Savior it also means we embrace all His Words of truth. But especially do we cling to His forgiveness and love no matter the size of the waves that crash over us. We do so because He can and will help us, just like He did Peter. And why do we know this? Because “Truly He is the Son of God!” Amen