Let us pray: Dear Savior, it is truly awful to live in fear and uncertainty—thinking the worst when life throws us a curveball. For fear breeds doubt and doubt breeds unbelief. So, today we thank You in advance for taking our fears away by fixing our gaze upon You and Your love for us, alone. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST IN WHOM THERE IS NO FEAR!
TEXT: Matthew 14: 22-33
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
The mark of a healthy person is laughter, specifically the ability to laugh at yourself. Dr. Luther was especially good at this. For example, the English version of his dog’s name was: Klutz! On one occasion, Luther was talking about prayer. He said: “Look at how attentive Klutz is when there a piece of meat on the table! O that we could be so attentive when it comes to focusing our prayers to God!” Yes, laughter is the mark of a healthy soul and a healthy church.
In today’s lesson we don’t find laughter, but fear, faith, and then more fear followed by deliverance and relief. In this miracle of Peter walking on the water, there are basically three key phrases. They are: “Don’t be afraid. You of little faith, why did you doubt? And, Truly you are the Son of God.” So, let’s key in on them and while doing so learn to:
EVALUATE THE HEALTH OF YOUR FAITH
After feeding the 5000+ with a miniscule amount of food and sending them away for the night, Jesus retreats by himself to a hillside to pray while the disciples are sent by boat to the other side of the lake. One of those violent squalls that the Sea of Galilee is famous for arose. The disciples rowed and rowed and by 3 a.m. were only about 3 ½ miles out from the shore. Obviously Jesus knew they were worried and fearful for their safety, so He decides to walk out to meet up with them. He walks on the water—3 ½ miles! The disciples suddenly make out this figure approaching them over the waves. What is it? Who is it? How is this possible? They are terrified. “It’s a ghost,’ they said and cried out in fear.” And then come the most comforting words in all Scripture: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Whenever God says, either through Christ or an angelic messenger: “Don’t be afraid” it is pure Gospel. God is in charge of all things—even the wind and waves. If He says it will be o.k. then it will be o.k. His words always work confidence and trust and dispel doubt. They did so when Mary was confronted by Gabriel. They did so when angels announced the resurrection to the disciples at the empty tomb. They do so here, too.
Let’s evaluate our faith for a minute. Whenever something happens which is unexpected in life, what’s your first response? Is it to think: “Oh, I wonder how God will use this for a blessing?” Or, it is: “Oh, no, bad things await me?” If your answer immediate answer is the former, it means your focus is on the Gospel. If it is the latter, your focus is on the Law. And focusing on God’s Law brings with it doubt and negativity to our lives. BTW, don’t feel bad if you flunked this test. I flunk it all the time. Time and again, whenever something upsets my comfort zone I immediately seize on the worst case scenario, whip myself up emotionally, expend all kinds of energy examining alternatives, and 98% of the time I’m dead wrong and it’s all a big waste of time!
By fixing his gaze on Jesus, Peter started out the right way. But, he needed to be sure. So, he said: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said.” And then Peter climbed out of the boat and walked on the water out to meet his Lord. Focusing on blessings is always a positive. Good things always happen when we do so. They certainly did for the Apostle Peter, didn’t they? So, I guess Peter passed the original evaluation test of his faith.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. He shifted his gaze away from Jesus and blessing to the big waves and howling wind and started to go down. He’s afraid again. “Lord, save me!” Since He’s our loving Lord Who is all about saving people, Jesus does exactly that. He reaches out His hand, catches Peter and gently pulls him into the boat. And then the storm subsides.
Think of how much emotional stress Peter could have avoided if he had not focused on the negative scenarios to all this? Think of how much stress you can avoid if you would only do the same? If you think about it, Lutherans should be able to laugh at sin and its allies because God’s love for us in Christ knows no bounds. As Paul said last week in our epistle: “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!”
As we go through life and learn to evaluate our faith’s reaction to it, there is only one true response to living under the Gospel and focusing on blessing instead of pain. It is the reaction of the disciples to this miracle: “Then those who were in the boat worshipped him saying: ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'”
This little miracle scenario is played out again and again in our lives. It will continue to play itself out until the day we leave this world. We get sick, we have an accident, financial troubles hit us, family troubles erupt, world events make our heads spin. And as long as we fix our attention on our solutions to those problems, doubt will always follow and second guess our fixes—over and over again. But when we focus on Jesus and His forgiving love; when we say with confidence: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Well, honoring Him for His goodness will always calm our stormy hearts.
I can well imagine the disciples sitting around the table a few days after all this and Peter being ribbed a bit for his doubting. I can also imagine him being a bit chagrined by it all and laughing at himself in retrospect. Yes, the blessings of the Gospel will always breed joy, happiness, relief and yes: laughter to the human heart. So, work at putting all that to good use when it comes to your faith. And: Don’t be afraid any more! Amen