Focused Faith (Matthew 14:22-36)

150904_Stay FocusedThis Sunday marks the last message in our miracles of Jesus series. Jesus' miracles serve to remind us of His power, His presence and His purpose in all the circumstances of our life. In Matthew 14:22-36, the setting for this story is the Sea of Galilee.  After the miraculous feeding of over 5000 men, women and children, Jesus sends the disciples in a boat to go ahead of Him to the other side. Meanwhile, Jesus dismisses the crowd and then goes up on a mountain to pray.

While Jesus is praying the disciples are rowing furiously through a storm and not making much headway. Because of its geographical features, severe storms could be generated by strong winds across the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Sometime between 3-6am Jesus comes to them, walking across the water.

The exhausted disciples think it is a ghost! Jesus reassures them of His identity by saying, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." (v.27) "It is I" is better translated as "I AM" the name that God uses for Himself when He speaks to Moses in Exodus 3:13.

But the story doesn't end there. For some crazy reason Peter says, "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water." Isn't Jesus walking on water proof enough? What's interesting to me is that Jesus doesn't say to Peter - "if you believe, then come and walk out to me." Peter is the one saying, "if it is you, tell me to come to you." The highlight is not Peter's courage in getting out of the boat, but in the power is the word of Christ that enables Peter to walk on the water.

And through the miracle of Christ, Peter is able to walk on the water! However when Peter starts to focus on the winds and the waves, he starts to sink and cries out for the Lord to save him. This is what Jesus has come to do - to rescue those who know they are drowning in their helplessness against sin.

After rescuing Peter, Jesus adds, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Jesus had proved to them over and over again His power and love and purpose and yet they continued to struggle with their faith. In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says that even a mustard seed of faith can move mountains. It is not the amount of faith that makes the difference but who their faith is in.

When they get back into the boat, the wind dies down and the disciples begin to worship Jesus saying "Truly you are the Son of God." This is the first time in the gospels that the disciples acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God. The first time Jesus calmed the storm, He was in the boat with them sleeping. That time they said, "Who is this?" This time they say, "Truly you are the Son of God."

And with that pronouncement, we learn that everything Jesus has been doing is pointing to this - Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the King over all creation.

How can we have a focused faith regarding this truth? Focus = what you are paying attention to. How can you pay attention to Christ in the midst of all that is going on?

Don't doubt: 1) God's power and love; 2) God's presence - even when Jesus wasn't with them, He was praying for them; 3) God's purpose - Jesus was the one who sent them across the sea in the first place; He knew what would happen; Jesus was teaching them that even when He wasn't with them, He would rescue them.

Do doubt: 1) your perception of things - the disciples thought they saw a ghost! Many times we don't see things correctly and we make wrong assumptions about God, about others; 2) your fears - are you afraid of what people think? afraid of loss of security? why are you afraid? 3) your failures - failing and making mistakes are not a sign of God's punishment or disapproval. Sometimes we need to fail to learn, to humble ourselves and a way to gain perseverance.

How will you stay focused this week? What will you pay attention to? Your circumstances and fears or the God who overcomes and prevails and is present with you?