GROWING LIKE JESUS—FAITH FACTOR
by Pastor Mike Fortune
January 19, 2008
Introduction: BlueFish Video Chris Hill Faith Tested
A growing faith...
- Walks on the word
- Boasts only about Jesus
- Keeps its eyes fixed on Jesus
Did you catch point number one in that video clip? A growing faith walks on the word. I used to think our passage today was all about the water. And the waves. And the wind. And since the Sea of Galilee 685' below sea level is surrounded by highlands, when cool air rushes down through the deep ravines to the surface of the lake, to this day, they very often cause sudden and violent storms with white cap waves high enough to scare hardcore fisherman straight out of the water. Sort of like that greenhorn on the Discovery Channel show called The Deadliest Catch. Anybody else seen that thing? I TiVo it. Forty‑foot waves. Freezing temperatures. And nearly 100‑percent injury rate. It's all about a bunch of fishermen crab fishing off the Alaskan coast on the icy Bering Sea. Talk about intense. It's way better than Fear Factor.
I'm not sure how high the waves were on the Sea of Galilee; perhaps someone could Google that information and bring it back to us next week, so we could compare today's teaching about Faith Factor with The Deadliest Catch. But however high those waves were, they were deadly. And that's why many people, to this day, travel around the Sea of Galilee near the shore. They don't go straight across it. They hug the shoreline. Which is how Jesus and his disciples got from Capernaum on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee to the hilly wilderness east of Bethsaida on the northeast side where last week's feeding of the 5000 took place. And where this week's message begins.
So if you have your Bible with you, turn with me to John 6. If you don't have a Bible, let me know and I'll give you one next week or you can just use the one in front of you behind the pew. We're continuing our new sermon series called Growing Like Jesus. Asking of the text at least this question: What is it that God is revealing to us about a growing faith? In the New Year, we want to grow more like Jesus. What's that look like?
John 6:16‑24. "16When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." 21Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. 22The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus."
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell this story. But none of them except John add these ominous words in verse 17. "By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them." Where was he? He was in the hills. One version of John 6:15 says Jesus "fled" to the mountains. Why? Because the crowd including the disciples in it had decided to coronate Jesus king. They thought, here's a guy like Moses. Who can lead and feed multitudes. And not only that, He can even heal us our soldiers so they would never die. You can see why they wanted to crown Jesus commander in chief.
So we talked about last time how a growing faith grows in God's time not ours. But the disciples didn't get that. We know this is true because the Bible says Jesus "withdrew" or "fled" to the hills without them! Matthew 14:22 says Jesus dismissed the crowd before doing so. And told the disciples to go to the other side of the lake. Meaning Capernaum, according to John, which they eventually did. But notice they didn't do so until evening came according to verse 16. Jesus had given them His word. Go to Capernaum. Now! Immediately according to Matthew 14. But they didn't go. At least not right away. They waited for him to come back. Hoping He'd change His mind I guess. But Jesus didn't come. At least not when they were expecting Him. And now it was getting dark.
And John says that on purpose. Most folks believe that John, writing in the common Koine Greek, sort of like a kindergartner with a crayon, uses darkness as a metaphor. When Nicodemus comes to Jesus full of doubts and questions, it was night. When Judas left the upper room determined to betray Jesus, John says in chapter 13 verse 30, "And it was night." Now, those closest to Jesus are not obeying the word of Jesus. So Jesus sends them away to learn on water what they failed to grasp on land. Which is point number one: A growing faith walks on the word.
And this would be an extremely powerful lesson to learn. Especially on the sea. Why? Because in ancient mythology, the stormy sea was the domain of evil. Filled with sea serpents and other scary creatures. Its darkness could at any time swallow you up like boats in the Bermuda Triangle. I'm not making this up. That's what they thought! Matthew 14 makes this clear when it says that when Jesus came walking to them on the water, they were terrified crying out in fear, "It's a ghost."
Listen to how John describes this in verses 18‑20. "18A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20But he said to them, 'It is I; don't be afraid.'"
I like that. Jesus is always telling us not to be afraid. Probably because He knows we often are. He's not saying it's impossible for Christians to be scared. Me? I'm scared of heights. I don't even like cleaning out the gutters. Getting anywhere near that top rung of the ladder makes me queasy. Not when I was kid for some reason. I could jump off the roof of the house into the pool in our backyard no problem. Even doing a little running jump over the 6' pavement surround the pool on the way down. But for some reason as an adult, I really don't like heights. My brothers talked me into going on that ride at Cedar Point last summer that shoots you way high into the air and then drops you like a rock. I nearly died. Seriously. I am never doing that again.
You should have seen the scaffolding in here this week. Dr. Marsa and Bills Sr. were in here climbing layer after layer of scaffolding until they were literally standing eye level with that light up there. I couldn't believe it. Made me nauseous just looking at them. They were changing light bulbs and adjusting the lighting to point in a different direction. Aren't they amazing? I really wish they wouldn't do that anymore. But if Marcene and Lu can't stop them, I doubt I can.
That’s why I think faith is not the absence of fear. Fear will always be a factor in faith. Even mature Christians still get scared. But when we are, Jesus always arrives to cast fear out. Isn't that what 1 John 4:18 means? Perfect love casts [and I think] keeps casting out fear. But having him near makes all the difference doesn’t it! It allowed Peter to walk on the word.
John's account doesn't go into the details about what happened next. But Matthew's does. So let's turn there to read Matthew 14:28‑31. "'28Lord, if it's you,' Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water.' '29Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!' 31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith,' he said, 'why did you doubt?'"
I think Jesus is gently scolding us. Reminding us that it's not about the water, wind, or waves. It's not about the darkness and the evil. Not when you know the Light of the World! And not when the light of the world is also the Lord of heaven and earth, land and sea! Which is something the disciples apparently forgot. Because Job 9:8 says, "8 He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea." And Psalm 86:8 adds these words, "8 Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours."
So I hope point number one this week is becoming obvious to you as well: A growing faith walks on the word. This story never was about Peter walking on the water. It's about Peter walking on the word. Finally listening to Jesus. Not the crowds. Jesus always makes it well with our souls. And calms our fears. No doubt, we live in a scary world. In the United States alone, over 30k children get shot each year. Some at the bus stop. Some at the mall. Some in their bedrooms. And if some of the evil in this world doesn't scare you, I think there may be something wrong with you. You may not have a pulse. Or a heart. But Christians growing like Jesus don’t give up because they live in scary world. They listen for the voice of Jesus and ask Him to save them from sinking in it. And then they swing their legs over the boat and into the evil darkness and they jump. A growing faith walks on the word.
Afterward, back in John, verse 21 says, "21Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." I never caught this 2nd miracle did you? Matthew 14:24 says, "24The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it." In other words, they got blown away off course. But John says that when Jesus showed up surfing on the waves He not only saved Peter from sinking, He also brought the boat to shore faster than any outboard motor.
Which leads us to point number two. A growing faith boasts only about Jesus. Why? Because He’s the only one worth bragging about! He’s the one who rules the land and the sea. He’s the one who created heaven and earth. And all that is them. He’s the one who came walking on the water. To save Peter. And, according to John 6:21, to “immediately” bring the to the shore where they were heading.
Imagine that! They’re exhausted. Been rowing for hours. Past the 4 th watch of the night. Now it’s nearly dawn the next day. Matthew says they were “a considerable distance from land.” John says they were three or three and a half miles out. But the very next thing that happens, some might say even in the twinkling of an eye, they’re miraculously delivered to the very shore they set out to reach nearly 12 hours earlier. Three and half miles in a heartbeat with no oars needed. I never noticed that second miracle before did you?
Aren’t you glad that Jesus saves and sanctifies? That when we surrender to Him, according to Philippians 2:13, he promises to work and to do in us that which we cannot do on our own? That’s what this 2 nd miracle in John 6 reminded me of. That Jesus does both. Our job is not to save ourselves. We can’t! Our job is not to sanctify ourselves either! We can’t. Our job is to sing the praises of He who can! And that is something we can do! Now and one day in heaven. Revelation 15:2-4 says eventually there will be a multitude on the shores of the Sea of Glass in heaven singing His praises. Why? Because He alone is worthy. This is significant because the group of people singing his praises are the very ones who lived in the scary world right before Jesus comes again. They are among those who are alive and remain when Jesus returns. But they are also the very ones saying that they still aren’t worthy. That only Jesus alone is! What you gonna boast about?
Listen up friends: You won’t hear this everywhere you go. But it’s the unsugarcoated Gospel truth. Jesus lived a perfect sinless life. And on the cross, He died to give us both His perfect and eternal life. Neither one is something we earn. Or achieve once we’re saved. Both are given as gifts of His grace. Which takes just as much humility to receive as it did to give. That’s how I know the disciples were singing Christ’s praises and not Peter’s. Boasting in no one but Jesus.
Paul said it this way in Galations 6:14. “14May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” In Philippians 3:15-16 he adds these words. “15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”
Point number one: A growing faith walks on the word not the water. I don't know how I missed point number two all this time. A growing faith boasts only about Jesus. And point number three: a growing faith keeps its eyes fixed on Jesus.
John 6:22-24 says, “22The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. 23Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.”
This was a mixed up crowd. The day before they wanted to force Him to be King. The Bible says in John 6:22 that the crowd had stayed where they were waiting for Jesus to show up. And while they were probably waiting for the wrong reasons, as Jesus sadly implies in verse 26, at least they were there! There eyes were fixed on Jesus! Right? They were at least looking for him. Had they grown up completely? Obviously not. And the disciples hadn’t yet either. Even after Jesus whisked them from the middle of the lake to the shore in a heartbeat. But you know what? None of us have either! And the Bible says in Philippians 1:6 that none of us will be completely grown up until the day Jesus literally comes again. “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Which means we should all be carrying around those orange construction cones and signs reading “Construction ahead.” Why? Because God is still at work in us! Just like He was still at work in the disciples. And just like He was still at work in the crowds looking for Him. But God always finishes what He starts which is another reason we should sing his praises. Even in a scary world. The question is: Will we let him?
My hope and prayer for you today is that you walk on the word of Jesus. That you will boast only about Him. And that you will keep looking for Him. Keeping your eyes fixed on Him. The author and the finisher of our faith.