Reclaiming Your Faith

  • Reclaiming Your Faith
  • Matthew 14:25-32
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • April 22, 2018
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4-22-18 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

This morning we are moving forward in our Reclaimed series.  The inspiration for this series came from all of the cool things that people make today out of reclaimed wood such as chandeliers, furniture and accent walls.

The projects that flashed on the screen are all made of pallet wood which is generally considered to be junk wood.  If you don’t believe me, you can look for yourself at some of the pallets we have propped up at each of our welcome centers this morning.

If you get something delivered to you on a pallet it can be almost impossible to get rid of the pallet because they aren’t considered to be worth much. That is unless you have a little vision. By taking the pallets apart and sanding the wood, even the least desirable boards, when worked together, can become something amazing to behold.

That is a great imagery for what God can do in our lives. It is a demonstration of how God can take our lives and make something beautiful out of them when His resurrection power is brought to bear. For the same resurrection power that was able raise Christ from the grave is made available to us for our daily living.

To this end we’ve been looking at topics like reclaiming our lives and reclaiming our relationships. This morning we want to take a look at what it means to have the element of faith restored to our lives.

Today, we look at a passage of Scripture found in Matthew 14:25-32, “25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’

28 Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’

29’Yes, come,’ Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.”

Jesus needs some time to himself so Peter and the other disciples hop into a boat and go on ahead of him. Nothing is unusual about all of this. Peter has gone out in a boat many times. This is a routine event for Peter, until a storm begins to develop.

This isn’t any ordinary storm. This is a huge storm, the mother of all storms. Even the most veteran of fishermen amongst the disciples are beginning to get scared. They are shaking in their sandals. It is all that they can do to keep the boat afloat, as a matter of fact, it is all they can do to keep themselves alive.

Then all of the sudden, one of the disciples notices a shadow moving toward them on the water. As it gets closer and closer to them the image of the shadow becomes clearer. It looks like the outline of a person walking on the water toward them, but that couldn’t be the case because that doesn’t make sense.

Think about it for just a minute. People don’t walk on water. You might swim, but you certainly don’t walk on water. Frightened by the sight, someone suggests that it must be a ghost. This is getting a little bit freaky. Giant storm. Boat rocking. Ghost approaching. Help!!!

What the disciples don’t understand is that the one person who was equipped to help them in this situation was approaching them, and He was not a ghost. This was Jesus making his way toward them. In the midst of the storm, in their time of need, here comes Jesus, but they don’t recognize Him.

Remember that we have the benefit of hindsight as we read the story. Some people have read Matthew’s account of these events and have suggested how could the disciples not have realized it was Jesus walking toward them on the water? Who else could it have been?

But what we need to understand is that sometimes it take the eyes of faith to be able to recognize when Jesus is present in our midst, especially in the middle of life’s storm.

Many of us are no better at recognizing the presence of God at work in our lives in the midst of our own stressful situations and circumstances.

There were twelve disciples in the boat that night and we don’t know how eleven of them responded to the voice of Jesus calling out in the storm. Maybe they were confused. Maybe they had a sense of wonder. Maybe they were in complete disbelief. Maybe it was a little bit of all these responses wrapped up together.

But one of them, Peter, was about to step out of that boat and walk on the water with Jesus. Unflinchingly, Peter blurts out, “Hey Jesus, if that’s you out there walking on the water tell me to come out there to you.”

This is a very important part of the story. This isn’t a passing detail. Miss this part of the story and you’ve missed out on a key element.

Peter could have just jumped out of the boat and onto the water, but he didn’t. You see, this isn’t a story about being a risk taker, that isn’t it at all. This is first and foremost a story that has the theme of obedience to God.

You see, we have to be able to discern in life between what is the call of God upon our lives and what is a foolish impulse. The distinction makes all the difference in the world.

Taking a risk for the sake of risk isn’t something that God values. Having the courage to obey when God asks us to do something is a trait God values.

I’ll never forget when I had to go in for a psychological evaluation before becoming a Methodist pastor in Florida. All Methodist pastors have to go through this process, no exceptions.

I had taken all of the tests and submitted my answers for evaluation. Joni and I flew into Orlando for a quick trip so that we could look at homes and while we were in town one of the things I did was meet with a licensed counselor to go over my results.

I didn’t really expect anything all that unusual to happen. I had taken all of these tests before so that I could be a pastor in Arkansas. I saw this as just another hoop to jump through in the process of transferring to Florida.

When I walked through the door of the counselor’s office I was greeted not only by the counselor, but also by a psychologist. They introduced themselves and asked me to have a seat.

Holding her folder open on her lap the psychologists looked at me and asked, “So tell me, what do you like to do for fun?” It seemed like an innocent enough question. I think I said something about spending time with my family, going to amusement parks and drawing from time to time.

She wasn’t impressed with my answer. She looked at me as if I was lying to her. Her follow up was, “Have you ever been bungee jumping or hang gliding? Do you like to drive high rates of speed? Have you ever been sky diving?”

My quick response was “No”. I don’t think I would ever want to do any of those things. Again, I got the look that said, “You’re lying to me.” She said, “Well, that’s interesting, Lyndol. Your test scores show that you are an off the chart risk taker and that you would be highly likely to engage in what is considered to be risky behavior.”

Then it hit me. I had answered all of the questions for the psych evaluation through the lens of being a church planter. I looked at her and explained. I have no desire to do any of the things you suggested. I had always thought parasailing sounded fun, but none of the other things she suggested.

I explained to her that I felt called by God to be a church planter. I had started one church and we were getting ready to start another.

Church planting is very challenging work. It is difficult to start something new where there has previously not been anything. There are no guarantees of success, but because I felt like this is what God was calling me to do I was willing to pack up my family, all of our belongings and move across country.

In my way of thinking, it was more important that I try to be obedient to God by stepping out of my comfort zone than it was to keep doing what I was already doing.

Fortunately, this seemed to make sense to the psychologists. She scribbled something down in my file and they eventually passed me on through the process.

Before you think I’m trying to exalt myself by sharing this example with you, let me go on record as saying that I’d love to tell you I’ve always been so courageous, but the truth is that I haven’t. This is something God is still shaping within me.

As one biblical commentator put it, “Jesus isn’t looking for bungee jumping, hang-gliding, day-trading, tornado chasing Pinto drivers.” Walking on water isn’t something Jesus is asking Peter to do for recreational purposes.

Take just a moment to walk in Peter’s sandals. Walking on water would be an amazing experience for any of us under the calmest of conditions. Peter is going to walk on water in the middle of the night, during a ferocious storm.

Jesus is asking him to walk on the water with Him in an incredible adventure, but at the same time, it had to be more than a little bit scary to think about. We know what Peter chose to do, but what about you? What would you choose to do in similar circumstances?

On one hand the boat is safe and secure territory. On the other hand the waves are high and the water is extremely rough. If you decide to take a step of faith out of the boat you just might sink. You might go down.

But if you don’t decide to follow the call of Jesus you will never know what it is like to walk on water. You can’t stay in the boat and walk on the water at the same time. It is one or the other.

I think most of us have a very clear understanding that there is something more to life than sitting in the boat. I think most of us understand that we were made for something more than merely avoiding failure. I think that within most of us is a desire to walk on the water with Jesus… to live a life of great faith.

The clear and obvious question becomes, “What is your boat?

The boat represents anything that stands in the way of your ability to follow God wherever He is calling you. Your boat is anything you find yourself placing your trust in other than God.

It has been suggested that if any of us are confused about what our boat is in life that our fears will reveal the answer to us. Let me explain what I mean. A simple question gets to the heart of the matter: What produces the most fear in me – especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?

For some people it is their jobs. They know that God is calling them to step out in faith and follow Him somewhere, but they are too scared to do so. Instead they try to appease God by giving away money and doing many good things, but still they wonder if they haven’t missed out on God’s calling.

For other people it is because of relationships. They are in relationships that are not healthy for them and everyone around them knows it. They know it too, but they don’t want to admit it. Somehow they end up clinging to the mediocrity of the known rather than embracing the thought that something better exists for them. Maybe they even refuse to believe that they could deserve anything better.

For some the boat is a deep dark secret. They are addicted to drugs, alcohol, food, pornography… you name it. They feel like they are pretty much in control of it because it hasn’t cost them their marriages or jobs…yet. No one else really knows and they are afraid to come clean. What stays in the dark, grows in the dark. Addiction is their boat.

For still others it is success. They have many things and the many things have their affections. To follow Jesus would be too costly. It would mean having to give up certain comforts and amenities in life. They love their things and their status so much that it has become their boat.

Scripture says that one day each one of us will stand before God and that we will be held accountable for the way in which we have lived our lives. I don’t know about you, but I would hate to make it to that moment and have God look at me and say, “Remember that time when I asked you to come and follow me and your answer was no?”

Today each and every one of us has an amazing opportunity in front us. We can choose that which seems safe and secure, or we can take a step of faith to follow Jesus where He is calling us to go.

I have memories from my childhood of riding in my grandfather’s red pick-up and how he would always listen to Paul Harvey on the radio with his signature line of… “And that’s the rest of the story.”

If Peter’s experience of stepping out of the boat is a story of great faith; and if taking his eyes off of Jesus and then sinking is a story of little faith; then I think we find ourselves in need of the rest of the story.

Here’s the thing about Peter, he was prone toward acting in brash sorts of ways and then failing. It was a pattern of behavior for him that we witness again and again as we read through the biblical narrative. Peter knew what it was to act or speak boldly. He also knew what it was to find himself in the place of needing to be restored and reclaimed.

You see, I identify with Peter and maybe you do as well. Not only am I encouraged by Peter’s missteps,  foibles, and failures, but I’m also challenged by the post-resurrection dynamo that Peter becomes. For Peter, Jesus’ return changed everything; Peter is restored, commissioned, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This brash fisherman who would hide and disassociate himself from Jesus becomes the one who stands before the crowds on Pentecost—calling 3,000 people to repentance.

 

Peter’s sermon shows that something dramatic, something supernatural, had happened inside of him. Peter clearly communicates the origin of this change in 1 Peter 1:3 when he states, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . .”

 

Christ’s resurrection had changed everything; it restored his faith. Because of this, Peter overflowed with life-giving hope. This resurrection transformed Peter entirely, from his status before God to his responsibility to others.

 

On this side of Easter it is a good opportunity to ask ourselves some important questions. Do I make decisions based on short-term gain or living hope? Am I living in a way that only reflects a “little faith” or  am I living in a way that only makes sense in light of the resurrection?

 

Peter’s life reminds me that the resurrection isn’t part of the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith. And that my friends, is the rest of the story.