Let’s take a look at another time when the disciples’ faith was being tested. They’ve had some experience with testing so it should be easier for them this time, shouldn’t it? They should know what to expect and what to do, shouldn’t they? They couldn’t possibly make the same mistake again, could they? Let’s look at Matthew 14.
Jesus had just just fed a crowd of five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. They even had leftovers. Is there anything this Man cannot do? Matthew 14:22 “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, (of the lake.)
Jesus told them to get into the boat and go on ahead of Him and they did it. Once again, the disciples are in the center of God’s Will, acting in obedient faith. Our faith always gets tested when we’re in the center of God’s Will acting in obedient faith. If your faith is being tested right now, you can be confident that you are exactly where the Lord wants you to be and you’re doing what He’s called you to do.
Mathew 14:23 –“while He dismissed the crowd.” There were always crowds of people following Jesus wherever He went. Many, like Zacchaeus, were curious and just wanted to see Him. Others were fascinated by the things He said. Many followed Jesus because they wanted and needed something from Him, some kind of miracle.
Jesus was very patient and accommodating with the crowds and He let them follow for a while. But eventually, every individual in the crowd had to make a decision about Jesus.
Matthew 14:23 – “After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone.” Jesus turned to the crowd of uncommitted followers and said, “Go back. Go home. “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
Regardless of how long we’ve been going to church, at some point in our lives, ALL of us have to make a decision about Jesus. Am I a sinner, or not? Do I need a Savior, or not? Is Jesus the only way to heaven, or not? Then we have to be prepared to accept the consequences of our decision. After we’ve made the decision, we must make a commitment to deny ourselves daily, take up our crosses and follow Him or we can expect to be dismissed someday too.
Jesus said to the crowd, “Go back.” He said to His disciples, those who were putting their faith and trust In Him, “Go out – into the world and preach the Gospel.” Then He said, “I’m going up, but I’ll join you later.” And that’s exactly where things stand today. Either we go back as uncommitted spectators or go out into the world as repentant believers. Jesus has gone up to be with the Father, but He’ll be joining His children again someday soon.
Matthew 14:24a – “But the boat was already a considerable distance from land.” John, who was actually in the boat at the time, remembers that they had rowed three or three and a half miles with the wind blowing and the water getting very rough. (John 6:18-19)
Unlike their first test, the situation right now is not life-threatening. They’re not afraid of dying. But it IS very exhausting, stressful and extremely discouraging for them. The water keeps getting rougher. The wind keeps getting stronger. It’s getting dark and they are tired. Every time they row three strokes forward, they get pushed two strokes back.
This time, their biggest problem is that Jesus is not in the boat. He is not with them, physically, as He was before. When our life is spinning out of control and we’re facing life-threatening situations – terminal illness, family crisis, job loss, marital collapse, etc, the first thing we do is look for Jesus. We know He’s with us and we know He promised to always be there for us, but right now, He doesn’t seem to be paying much attention. It almost seems like He’s asleep.
Their first test came on suddenly, without warning. But the situation the disciples are in this time built up slowly, over a period of time. They’e concentrating on fixing the problem themselves. They’re so focused no doing what they normally do that they’re not even thinking about Jesus right now.
This test is not about fear, it’s about discouragement. It’s about burn-out. We don’t start looking for Jesus, we don’t start praying until we’ve reached the point of helplessness and were on the verge of quitting and giving up.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a great harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NIV)
Satan is right there, heaping on the guilt and insecurity. He keeps telling us that we’re not trying hard enough. Our priorities are all messed up. We’re not putting Jesus first. The Lord is not pleased with us. God can’t use us.
We’re in the center of God’s Will, acting in obedient faith, and Satan is doing everything he can to get us to stop. If Satan can’t bring the work of God’s Kingdom to a halt, he at least wants to slow it down as much as possible. Three strokes forward, two strokes back until we just don’t have the strength or the desire to do it any longer.
The reason we’re so tired and discouraged is because we’ve been trying to do it in our own strength. In the first test, we knew that Jesus HAD to help us because there was nothing else and no one else who could. In this second test, we don’t recognize or admit that we need ANY help until we realize that we can’t do it and we’re ready to quit.
“The testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:3) It’s one thing to endure something we endure suffering or fiery trials. When we’re enduring something, it means we’re just sitting there taking whatever life or Satan may be throwing at us. We just stop rowing and let the wind and the storm do whatever they want to with us because we know we’ll b victorious in the end.
But perseverance in the midst of a trial means that we’re going to keep rowing regardless of how strong the wind and the waves may be. We’ll be obedient to God’s Word even when we’re rowing against the current.
It means we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing because we know the Lord has told us to do it. We’ll stay in His Word and we’ll keep praying, praising and trusting Him until His Will has finally been done.
“Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the Will of God, you will received what He promised.” Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)
Well, my words are up for today. We’ll finish this next week, Lord willing. I WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE any comments, questions, suggestions or feedback you might have. Please feel free to reply, maybe even “like.” If you believe this Word is needed today, please help me find ways to reach more people.