Steadfast in Trial
Today we are talking about overcoming fear. Have you noticed there is a lot of fear right now?? Fear of viruses, political situation, social issues, racism. You may be having trouble getting sleep.
Fear is a powerful thing.
Fear is… an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
Let me tell you how powerful fear is. What you fear will control you. It will move you like a joystick.
If you fear falling off the stage you are not going to come anywhere close to this edge.
But you know what some of you might be more afraid that people are going to think you are afraid so instead of avoiding it you try to show how tough you are and so you go up and get as close as you can to it.
Two completely different actions both driven by fear. Your fear controls what you do.
What you fear controls you,
So fear and worship God above everything.
This is why there is a lot of fear based propaganda. If people can make you afraid they can control you. Political candidates do this. News does this. If they make you afraid they control you. Doctors can control you. Bullies
You may look at me and say well you are a pastor and you just want me to fear God. Yes, that is correct. Because as Scripture says, the fear of the Lord leads to life.” All these other fears rob you of life. Fear of God is a well spring that leads to freedom.
We are going to read a passage that shows how fear controls us, and we are going to see how God can meet us in fearful situations. After Jesus feeds 5000 he sends his disciples out late evening on a boat to cross a sea.
“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 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. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33 ESV)
Let’s look at what we learn about fear.
1. God is going to call you to places that test your faith.
Are you surprised to hear that? If so you will be surprised by Corona. You will be surprised when hardship comes.
God doesn’t call his disciples to be comfortable or risk free, but to abandon all for him.
Story begins even before he tells Peter to come out on the water. V23 says “when evening came,” period after sunset and before darkness, Jesus “compels, forces” his disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side. It’s a strong word. He tells them to do this and it is already dark. Might not think it is a good idea to go sailing at dark.
Stadia is about 600 feet. John tells us the distance of their trip 25-30 stadia, about 3 miles. Greatest width of the lake is about six miles. They are rowing 3 miles at night. And have a strong headwind.
Romans divided the night into 4 watches. This is the last watch of the night, getting close to morning. They have been at it all night and making no progress. Probably upset that Jesus made them do this. All this sets the stage for seeing a miracle.
Why did Jesus allow this to happen to his disciples? Keep them safe. Jesus doesn’t call us to himself so that we can live safe lives. He calls us to sacrifice, to take risks, to do things that don’t make sense in the eyes of the world.
Where is God in all this? Note Jesus made, compelled the disciples leave and then went up to pray for them. What do you think he was praying about? I bet the disciples are grumbling, thinking he doesn’t know what he is putting them through, and that he doesn’t care because he is not there with them. From first to last Jesus has a plan for the growth of the disciples.
*Jesus is more interested in forming disciples than pampering them.*
Faith is like a muscle. When you workout your muscles develop microtears. Your body then begins to heal these tears and that is how your muscles grow. If you don’t work out your body then you will not grow. Jesus repeatedly asked, called, positioned, and commanded his disciples to go into challenging situations that require faith. What is he calling you to do?
We are in a pandemic. I don’t know why God did this. I don’t know when it will end. I don’t know how bad it actually is. But I do know God is with us in the midst of all this. This pandemic is not outside the lines of how God works in the Bible. God puts us in difficult situations to see his greatness.
2. You overcome not through a denial of fear but a proper placement of your fear.
We think the solution is don’t fear! Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. And we tell ourselves that because we are scared to death. Don’t keep looking at that thing you are scared of.
V27 Tells them to take courage in him. to have confidence and firmness of purpose in the face of danger or testing – ‘to be courageous, to have courage, to be bold.’
Once on the lake Jesus comes walking. They are terrified. But Peter being bold says,
“Lord, if it’s You,command me to come to You on the water.” (Mat 14:28)
“Come!” He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. (Mat 14:29 CSB)
But when Peter saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Mat 14:30 CSB) Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mat 14:31 CSB)
Peter saw the effects of the wind. Waves. Spray. Pushing on his face. He began to think the wind was greater than Jesus. He began to doubt Jesus’ provision and protection.
Peter must have made it almost all the way. “Jesus took hold of him.”
-There are things in life we should fear. Fear is the beginning of wisdom. Fear of the storm is what helps sailors make good decisions. Fear is what keeps us from danger. Fear is appropriate at times.
-Fear must be geared towards a proper object. Do you fear the wind or the creator and sustainer of the wind. *Peter began to fear the lesser even though he was in the presence of the greater.*
Peter had some issues, but there are some things to highlight about his response.
He didn’t move to anxiety.
Anxiety. We fear what is to come and we double down on our ability to control life’s circumstances. We try to control our future to prevent the recurrence of past pains or prevent future fears. Anxiety often propels us to try to control things that we ultimately have no control of. Anxiety often commands that you make yourself invulnerable. We need to let go. Peter could have become frantic about trying to control things.
He also could have walked the path of rage. Rage can lash out silently or loudly to harm whatever is in our path. Fear the wind, so you lash out at your shipmates to get out there and get you out of the water. Lash out against those who may think differently than you about the pandemic. Rage filled people are often scared of being found out. Scared that you didn’t have faith to walk on the water. That you want social problems fixed immediately and you are going to harm or degrade others until they are fixed. Rage is counter productive in every way. It destroys others.
-Peter fears the wind, and his fear of the wind took him away from what Jesus is doing. But Peter also expresses a vulnerability toward Jesus. He cries out to him, and that vulnerability brings him into a closer relationship and a greater experience of Jesus. Feeling fear is natural. It is a part of life. Fear brings awareness of limitations, inabilities, powerlessness. We can move toward anxiety and rage or to one who does have ability and power.
Corona is revealing something about our society and even yourself. All the things you trust in are taken away and you are fighting for something to stand on, something to bring it back. Anxiety because you are trusting in yourself. Rage because people are an obstacle and you have to get them out of the way. This pandemic is blowing hard. Waves of political differences are crashing. Social frustration is splashing. Do you see these or the Lord who is over all of it.
You can find peace in the midst of the storm, but trusting in one who is greater than it all.
Do you really think the president is going to solve all our problems. If you will be at peace because of an elected official then Jesus didn’t need to come. Is a car, a house, a certain income bracket going to satisfy you?
Are we praying to have more of what we cannot lose? Are we praying for God to use this shaking in powerful ways in our lives? The lives of our community. What is controlling you? That’s your God!
Much of our fear is not about the threat of imminent death. But rather the loss of our perception of being able to control the world we live. We live under the assumption we can organize every part of our lives, and this pandemic throws us into confusion with the reality of how little we actually control. We expend inordinate amounts of energy preserving what is not guaranteed, what probably isn’t going anywhere, and what probably doesn’t matter. 1 Cor 7 “fear of famine was worse than the famine itself.” You may feel like you are sinking, what are you focused on? The wind and waves, or Jesus who is able to hold you up in all things.
*It’s about living a life that says there is more to life than what this world offers. Peter got out of the boat and almost died. But he came away with a greater experience of Jesus than anyone else.
*Yes, he feared the storm. But His fear took him to Jesus. We need to draw close to the Lord in this time. Don’t push him away.
Let’s fear Jesus’ words. Let’s hold other things more loosely. Unity in essentials. Liberty in non essentials. Charity in all things. Churches divide because they fear the wrong things. Let’s hold together, and as we think differently let’s not belittle others or push them aside. We need a healthy fear of God.
- Overcoming Fear Leads to Worship.
Fear that is conquered leads to praise. They got back to the boat. The wind ceased. No longer cowering, cryings, paralyzed, but free. Rejoicing. Praising. They have rested in Jesus.
“Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!” (Matt 14:33 CSB)
Worship is a word applied to worshipping a deity. Strong reference to his deity.
Peter will tell the story of about sinking in the water,
and will also boast about Jesus catching hold of him. v31
Seeing Jesus as greater than everything else. Seeing Jesus prove worthy over everything else. Serving Jesus faithfully despite the challenges. There is a pattern here that I think we can all identify with.
- Great idea.
- Great initial experience
- Challenges begin.
- You sink.
- Jesus bails us out.
- We worship.
We return to him. Peter’s experience here. That was his experience in Acts when he was arrested. That was his experience when he was killed for his faith, hung upside down on a Roman cross because he was not worthy to be crucified like his Savior. He now stands in glory worshipping without restraint.
This event was just the beginning of Peter walking with Jesus. Many more leaps of faith. Many more times sinking in fear. But also many more times falling at the feet of Jesus and worshipping him.
Today’s trials are tomorrow’s praises.
I want to encourage you to worship now. Jesus was just as worthy of being worshipped before Peter walked on water, but because Peter followed Jesus he experienced the greatness of Jesus.
You need to stop looking at the wind and look to Jesus. Cry out to him. Listen to what he calls you to do. Read his word to know him, his character and his grace. Some of you are not hearing the voice of Jesus because you are so fearful. You don’t read his word because life is so busy with other things. Turn off the tv, twitter. Silence those voices. Part of Jesus bringing peace to you, is giving you the strength to silence distractions and polarizing voices. The things going on are like 1000 alarms going off on your day. You are frazzled and tired because of it.
You won’t experience freedom and worship if you are focused on your fears. Some of you are sinking. Some of you are at the bottom of the ocean. But Jesus is able to hold you. But you have to make the decision to let go of things, humble yourself, and cry out to him.
I want to give you a chance to make a decision to separate yourself from your fears and look to Jesus. We are going to sing one last song. And if you have felt controlled by fear of other things I want to invite you to come up front and confess that to the Lord. You can approach this like taking out the trash. Make a decision to leave your fear at the curb, and follow Jesus.
- What stands out to you in this passage? What does this passage tell you about God?
- Who or what do you most identify with in this passage?
- How have you experienced a sinking fear recently? What were you focused on in this time?
- In light of this passage, what do you need to do this week to more fully experience Jesus?