Pastor Says…

Week 3

What would you do if you truly knew God was with you? Have you ever stopped to think about that? What would somebody like you do, in your present set of circumstances, if you were absolutely confident, beyond any shadow of any doubt that God is calling you; God is with you; God is for you; and God will never leave you or forsake you?

The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 had just taken place. Jesus told the disciples to get into a nearby boat and go on ahead while he dismissed the people. Here is what happened next…The crowd dispersed. Jesus climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He was there alone late into the night.

Meanwhile, Matthew 14:24-29 tells us the boat was out to sea when the wind came up against it and it was battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came out to the boat walking on the water. “They were scared out of their wits. ‘A ghost!’ they said, crying out in terror. But Jesus was quick to comfort them. ‘Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.’ Peter, suddenly bold, said, ‘Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come ahead.’ Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus.” – Matthew 14:26-29 (The Message)

Peter obviously trusted Jesus completely. His confidence was so strong that he was willing to dare to do the impossible. That is when Jesus invited Peter to step out of the boat and join Him on the waves. Do you realize that Jesus is still calling out today to people who dare to dream, dare to risk, and who dare to do the impossible? He invites us to trust Him and take Him at His word.

Premise: BIG FAITH is a BIG DEAL to God.

There are only two times in the Bible where we are told that Jesus was amazed. Both had to do with faith. One was about a lack of faith, the other was about great faith. BIG FAITH MATTERS TO GOD. “Without faith it is impossible to please God…: – Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) We should pray for God to give us courage to trust Him more in this new year. Without faith, we cannot please God. But not only that, we can’t be saved, and we cannot live the life God intends for us to live either.

I love this acrostic – Forsaking All I Trust Him. That is a great definition of faith. Are you willing to step out in faith and trust Him completely with your future, your family, your business, and the future of the church? You can if He is trustworthy. For some people it seems like it is easier to trust God with their eternal destiny, than it is to trust Him in the day to day living of life. I think that is because when it comes to eternity, we have no choice. We can’t manipulate or control anything when it comes to eternity. All we can do is trust.

But we sometimes feel like we can step in and help God out when it comes to the day to day circumstances of our lives. That is what happened with Abraham and Sarah. Do you remember their story? God promised a son in their old age. Sarah laughed out loud when she heard about God’s promise. She doubted God. Then it seemed like God was taking too long to come through on His promise. So, Abraham and Sarah decided they would have to help God out.

Since Sarah wasn’t getting pregnant on her timetable, she decided to offer her maidservant to Abraham so that he could conceive a child with her. That child was Ishmael. And then the promised son, Isaac, came through Sarah, just as God had promised. If you know anything about Ishmael, you know much of the current tension in the middle east can be traced back to Ishmael, the half-brother of Isaac, the son of promise. You can’t help but wonder how things might have been different if Abraham and Sarah had simply trusted God to keep His promise without their added “help”.

We create all kinds of heartache and heartbreak when we fail to fully trust God.

Do you trust Him completely, in all things, or is your tendency to trust only in what you can figure out at the end of a pencil? What if you truly believed that God was willing to walk beside you and be actively involved in your life every day? What if you were completely convinced that He would be with you every step of the way? How would that change your life? In other words, imagine what it would be like to take God at His Word?

I am talking about a faith that trusts that God is working together for good in all things, even when you can’t see how that is possible. I am talking about the faith that gives you the strength to overcome any and every temptation because the Spirit of God is at work within you. It is the kind of faith that recognize Gods as the Source of all good things. There is no self-reliant pride because you trust and depend on Him. You know where your help comes from.

When the storm clouds come rolling in, you sink your spiritual roots even deeper and depend on Him even more because you know God is in control. He is with you. He is for you. He will never leave you or forsake you. And you trust Him even more. Whether things are getting better and better, or worse and worse, you can always choose to trust Him completely. Because of your faith, you know God has a plan and a purpose for your life. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you have total peace that God will take care of you.

Wouldn’t it be great to have enough faith to live with no fear or anxiety about your kids, your marriage, your job, your finances, your healthy, or your future? It is not that everything always goes your way, but People of great faith have tremendous CONFIDENCE that God is in COMPLETE control.

You may know people like that. Maybe you had a parent or grandparent had that kind of faith. But what keeps you from being that kind of person? I think most of us would agree that there is something attractive about mountain moving faith. So, why don’t more of us have it? It is a question that is worthy of our consideration.

I have had plenty of conversations with people about our personal faith journey these past few months. As most of you now know, at age 59, the Lord has led me to step away from our ministry here at The Point. This was not my chosen path. It has been an unexpected path for our lives. But we are confident that God has brought us to this time and place.

We have sensed God’s presence and His clear leading throughout this process. But there has been one thing that has been troubling and disappointing to me. I have had numerous conversations, with multiple people, indicating their reluctance to trust God completely with their future. I couldn’t… I wouldn’t… More faith than me…

I am not here to point fingers or blame or shame anyone. In fact, these conversations have caused me to do some personal soul searching. I wonder if I somehow dropped the ball when it comes to challenging people to place their faith in God, not only for salvation, but for the daily living of life. Many don’t seem to understand why we would walk away from a ministry that is going so well. Others have questioned our sanity. I get it!

At first, some thought there had to be more to the story. My departure from The Point made no sense to them. This has been the toughest decision of my life. The church has been my identity and my livelihood for 37 ½ years. I have been a pastor my entire adult life. I expected to continue in my current role until retirement. From a practical standpoint, it makes no sense to leave. It was not our desire. It makes even less sense to leave with no place to go and nothing to go to.
Why would anyone do such a thing?

First, I must say, it was not my choice. And it was not a decision someone else made. It is what I sensed the Lord was saying to me and it has been affirmed to me again and again throughout this past year. My deepest desire is to live a God-honoring life. I love Him. I want to serve Him. I want to bring glory to Him, and I intend to trust Him, follow Him, and point others to Him until my dying day. We always miss out on God’s best when we fail to trust Him completely or when we are unwilling to obey Him in all things.

Did you know that the initial break between God and man happened around the issue of trust? It is true. We know sin is what separates us from God. The reason we sin is because we don’t TRUST God enough. A lack of trust is why we disobey. We arrogantly assume we know more than God.

In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve failed to TRUST God. Adam and Eve thought God was holding out on them. They thought He was withholding something good. They were basically questioning God. Can He be trusted? Does He know what’s best? Do you understand that God invites us into a relationship that is built around perfect trust and absolute confidence in Him? Great relationships are built on TRUST.

The question I have for you today is simply this – Can God be trusted or not? Then let’s make it personal. Do you trust Him? Do you have big faith in God? Everywhere we read about big faith and miracles in the Bible, obedience and trust are always a part of the equation. In the text we read earlier, Peter was in the boat with 11 other disciples. He was the only one to stand up and step out on faith. Are you willing to obey when God calls you to step out of the boat?

Are you willing to trust Him if it involves doing something that seems to be unreasonable? Will you trust Him, even if you are the only one? Or, do you have to have everything figured out at the end of a pencil? Do you need all the details before you are willing to act?

FAITH and OBEDIENCE open the door to God’s miracles.

But it is hard to obey if there is a hesitation to trust. In John 21 the disciples didn’t understand what difference it would make to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. They had fished all night. They had caught absolutely nothing. These were experienced fishermen who were coming up empty handed in the work they knew the best.

When Jesus told them to cast their nets on the others side of the boat it didn’t make any sense, but they trusted Him. They obeyed. They did what He told them to do, which resulted in overflowing nets. They caught so many fish they were unable to get them in the boat. Nobody could have predicted that. Faith and obedience are what opened the door to this miraculous catch.

In 2 Kings 5 a commander in the Syrian Army was covered in leprosy. The prophet, Elijah told Naaman to go and dip 7 times in the muddy Jordan River. That was the prescription for Naaman to be cleansed of his leprosy. Not only did that sound like a rotten idea it was downright unsanitary. But again, faith and obedience were the key.

What would you have done in these situations? Would you, like Peter, have stepped out of the boat? Would you be fired up to cast the nets one more time? Would you have followed the prophet’s prescription to take a bath in a muddy river?

The tired fishermen could have said, “No more casting the nets for us, we’re going to bed.” If they had chosen to respond like that, they would have missed the biggest catch of their lives. Naaman might have laughed out loud at Elijah’s instructions to dip himself 7 times in the Jordan River. There is no way I am doing that! What will people think? If Naaman was too embarrassed to go through with it, if he failed to obey, he would have missed out on the miracle of his total and complete healing

In 1 Samuel 17 we find another great example of faith and obedience in David. Nobody thought David stood a chance against Goliath. Goliath was a giant of a man. He was a soldier. David was just a skinny teenager. He had absolutely no experience in battle. But God had His hand on this young shepherd boy and when God spoke, David listened. That is what set him apart. King Saul tried to talk David out of confronting Goliath. If David had listened to Saul, he would have never defeated Goliath.

Sometimes People can keep people from experiencing GOD’S BEST.

I can just hear the disciples. Surely they were saying, “Peter, SIT DOWN, you’re rocking the boat.” They couldn’t be happy about Peter standing up in the boat in a storm.
If Peter had listened to them, he would have missed his miracle. I wonder how many times that kind of thing has happened in the church. A congregation was standing on the threshold of a miracle. They were ready to take a step of faith when somebody gave a compelling speech about safety and security. These speeches often make sense. They sound reasonable. But there is no faith or obedience and they cause us to miss out on God’s best.

Faith is required when God calls us to step out of the boat. It is easier to sit still, to stand still, to play it safe, and to stay in the boat. For Peter, stepping out of the boat didn’t make any sense. It was illogical. That is because faith doesn’t always make sense.

God sometimes calls us to do things that don’t MAKE SENSE in the human realm!

Sometimes He calls us to step out of the safety of the boat and trust Him. He might challenge us to go where we have never gone and to do what we have never done. What would you do if God called you to stand up and step out of the boat today?

Are you open to God’s call to step out of the boat and out beyond the waves to a place of total and complete obedience? Are you willing to obey Him even when it doesn’t make sense? Obedience is easy when God asks us to do what we want to do. Obedience is easy when He calls us to do what makes sense.

It’s a different story when He calls on us to do something that was not our own idea, or something we don’t want to do, or something that is outside the realm or normal. Our first response is to sometimes say, “God, that can’t be Your will.” But when you are walking by faith in God, as He brings clarity to His call, the committed Christian will trust and obey, even if he or she is outside their comfort zone. Building BIGGER faith may take you to some unexpected places. But we have a big God is has proven himself again and again.

Aren’t there enough stories of faith and obedience in both the Old and New Testaments, to convince us that our God is faithful, dependable, and trustworthy? Do you believe that? Are ready to say yes to God and trust Him regardless of the odds, and even if you are the only one?

Let me ask that initial question in a little different way. Question: What would you do for God if you KNEW that you wouldn’t FAIL? In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you, there is more to Peter’s story. Peter was willing to try walking on the water. That took great faith. And it was a great story up to that point, but the story took a dive in Matthew 14:29-30. Jesus said, “’Come ahead.’ Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, ‘Master, save me!’” – Matthew 14:29-30 (The Message)

Don’t you hate it when a good story gets ruined? This is a really great story, until we read that Peter sunk. Why did he sink? The same reason people always sink. Peter’s problems began when he took his eyes off Jesus. That’s where we always get in trouble. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus, he became more wind/wave conscious than Christ conscious.

To live a life of faith we must keep our eyes on Jesus. Otherwise, people and problems will prevent us from focusing on what matters most. When we look to Jesus, we see the possibilities. But Peter looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet and that is when he lost his nerve and started to sink. Peter faced the facts. Beginning to sink, he cried out for help…He momentarily lost focus. But I love the fact that he recovered so quickly. He cried out, “Master, save me!” And I really love what it says next…Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, ‘Faint-heart, what got into you?’ The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down.” – Matthew 14:31-32 (The Message)

Jesus was right there all the time. Peter’s journey started with his eyes on Jesus. He got distracted, but he recovered quickly because his focus returned to Jesus. Instead of focusing on the need, he focused on the One who could supply his every need. Peter focused on the Deliverer instead of his dilemma. I want to challenge you to be alive to your resources today. We serve a great and mighty God! “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” – Ephesians 3:20a (The Message)

This message has application for us individually, and it has application for us corporately, as a church. We can learn from Peter’s example. He shows us what happens when we focus on Jesus. He shows us what happens when we focus on our obstacles and our problems. But He also shows us how faith can be restored.

There’s no reason to act like you’re not sinking when you know it and everyone around you knows it. We may never know what would have happened to Peter if He hadn’t called on Christ to save him. I suppose there’s a pretty good chance he would have drowned. But he didn’t! Some of you may feel like you are drowning today…but you don’t have to. Just because your faith might have faltered a bit and just because you might have gotten your eyes off Jesus for a moment, that doesn’t mean you have failed. It doesn’t have to stay that way. You can turn it around today by making a conscious spiritual decision to return your focus to Jesus. You can choose to trust Him more. He is worthy.

It is time to grow bigger faith. CHRISTIANS need to get their eyes off the things of this world and back on JESUS. I’d rather be walking on the turbulent storm waves with Jesus rather than be sitting in the supposed safety of the boat without Him. I hope you are willing to respond in absolute faith and obedience as He speaks to you.

In fact, I want to challenge people of all ages to step out of the boat this morning. If Jesus is calling me to step out of the boat, I can TRUST HIM. My confidence in God continues to grow and I want to trust Him more and more until the day I die. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is dependable.

Next Sunday I intend to share some very personal aspects of our faith journey this past year. Then, the following week, we will head to the high school for the passing of the baton service. But today, before we go, I want to invite you to take a step of faith.

What does stepping out of the boat look like for you? What would somebody like you do, in your present set of circumstances, if you were absolutely confident, beyond any shadow of any doubt that God is calling you; God is with you; God is for you; and God will never leave you or forsake you?

What is my NEXT STEP to grow BIG Faith? (Give/tithe, start a business, begin a ministry, leave a job, accept a job, step up to serve, etc.