Philippians - The Advance of The Gospel: Sermon Highlight

Philippians - The Advance of The Gospel: Sermon Highlight

Scripture | Philippians 1:12-18

 

On Sunday, we started a series on the books of Philippians: a letter written by Paul to the church in Philippi. To get a little background on how this church was birthed, Barry had us look back to Acts 16. Paul was initially headed to Asia to preach, but between the Holy Spirit changing his route and a vision that led him to believe God was calling him elsewhere, he ended up in Macedonia, Philippi instead. He shared about Jesus and one of the people who heard and believed was a woman named Lydia. Lydia then proceeded to share the Gospel with her household who all went on to follow Jesus!

 

As Paul and Silas were going on to another place in Macedonia to share, a slave girl possessed by a demon began to follow them, and eventually, Paul cast out the demon. However, the owner of this girl was angry about this and they had Paul and Silas arrested. But in the prison, something incredible happened. Paul and Silas were praising God, and suddenly an earthquake took place! All of the doors to the cells were opened and the jailer, thinking everyone would escape, was going to kill himself. But Paul called out to him to stop and reassured him that everyone was still here and that none of the prisoners had left. After hearing Paul and Silas’ words and the songs they were signing, the jailer said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved.” (Acts 16:30) This man’s entire household also went on to accept Jesus.

 

When Paul and Silas were released they were asked to leave the city. They went to visit Lydia, and then they left. But the church in Philippi was started with these two families: Lydia and her household and the jailer and his. These are the people Paul is writing to in the book of Philippians. It is several years later that he writes this letter, and the Philippian church had faced hard times and persecution for their faith. They were also discouraged to hear of the terrible things Paul was enduring. This letter was written to encourage them and remind them that nothing can hinder the progress of the Gospel.

 

This story of how the Philippi church started is pretty inspiring, but, as years passed and hard times came, it was easy for them to forget all of the amazing ways God was working, so they quickly become discouraged. This is something that can easily happen to us all. I can look back on my life and see God’s hand at work in so many different ways: the doors He opened, the people He put in my path, and the way He is always in control. Then, when hard times come, I can be quick to forget it all, just like the Philippians.

 

But, in his letter to the church, Paul wants to remind them of the power of the Gospel. He tells them, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…” (Philippians 1:12) Paul is in prison, yet again, for telling people about Jesus. I have to admit if I was put in prison…again….I would probably be a bit discouraged, but Paul is not! He’s excited because even this obstacle he is facing is helping to advance the Gospel! As people talked to Paul, they asked him why he was in prison, allowing him to share the Gospel with them. Then those people told other people the story about why Paul was in prison and they got to hear about Jesus as well! Barry told us that Paul was encouraged by this because he knew it only took one time for someone to hear the Gospel and for faith the be awakened! He wrote in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing comes through the word of Christ.” This is why Paul is celebrating that so many have heard the Gospel and are now telling others without fear, because as more people hear, more people can come to know Jesus!

 

Paul ended this section of his letter with this, “Yes, and I will rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18) Even in his hardship, Paul rejoiced because he remembered all that God had already done and was still doing, and because he knew how powerful the Gospel is: that nothing could ever hinder its progress. Today let’s not forget the incredible ways God is moving around us. Let’s remember, like Paul, how powerful God's Word is and that no obstacle can stand in the way of the advancement of the Gospel.

Hope and Purpose: Sermon Highlight

Hope and Purpose: Sermon Highlight

Scripture | Luke 24:36-49

 

The story of Jesus’s bodily resurrection from the dead in the Easter story changed everything. Not only is it the most miraculous story of all time, but it correlates strongly with Peter the disciple’s story and with each of our own stories. In his Easter sermon, Barry taught us, “All Easter stories begin with tears and confusion and end with hope and purpose.”

 

We have learned about Peter’s own story over the course of this three week series. He was a fisherman by trade who crossed paths with Jesus and eventually became the leader of the disciples. He became known as “the rock” after Jesus professed that he would build his church on Peter. But, the night before Jesus’s death, Jesus gathered His disciples to celebrate Passover.  At the meal, Jesus told them that one of them would betray Him. Each disciple exclaimed that it would not be them. This morphed into a heated discussion over which of them was the greatest. Jesus stopped their conversation and told Peter that Satan desired to break him like wheat. He ensured Peter that He was praying for him and said that when Peter returned, he was to strengthen the disciples, but that Peter would fail. Peter did not like hearing that he would fail, and told Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33) Jesus told him that before the rooster crowed, he would deny knowing the Lord three times. Peter did this just like the Lord had predicted. The Scripture says in Luke 22:61-61, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” 

 

Peter’s Easter story began with tears and confusion. This man he had followed and learned from, who he had seen perform miracles and that he thought would overthrow the government had been crucified on a cross. On top of all that, he had denied Christ as it was happening. But, he had seen the empty grave and heard accounts of the risen Lord. We see Peter again at the end of the book of John. He is back to being a fisherman. He is out on his boat casting his nets. Peter fished all night but caught nothing, just like when he first met Jesus. As the sun began to rise, they heard a man’s voice call out from the shore telling them to cast their net on the other side of the boat, just as Jesus had the first time. Once again, they caught a huge amount of fish.

 

When they realized it was Jesus, Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore so that he would get to Jesus first. When Peter got to him, Jesus had a fire and breakfast prepared for them. After breakfast, the resurrected Christ asked Peter three times, once for every time he had denied Him, if he loved Him and each time Peter affirmed that he did. And after these questions, Jesus once again told Peter, “Follow me.” (John 21:19) After he had encountered the resurrected Christ, Peter started leading the disciples again. The resurrection of Jesus gave Peter hope of a restored relationship with Christ and led to a purpose! 

 

The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope and purpose. When Jesus died on the cross and then rose again 3 days later, he fulfilled the prophecies written about in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms. He paid the ultimate sacrifice, the only sacrifice that could atone for our sins, and in that, we see that the resurrection points us to the hope of redemption! But, our full redemption could not have happened without the resurrection, Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like it.” Because of this, we have the hope of being made new and through faith in Christ we are made alive! 

 

In the death and resurrection, Jesus destroyed sin and any power it could have over us. This means that in Christ, we have true freedom. But, if we are not in Christ, we are stuck in the bondage of sin. In the resurrection, we find that we are not defined by our sin or defeated by our sin, but instead, we are defined by Christ, who defeated sin and offers freedom to those who trust in Him. 

 

The story of Easter gives us hope and purpose after tears and confusion. The resurrection gives us purpose in declaring the Gospel to all people! In Luke 24:45-49, it says that Jesus enabled his disciples to understand the Scripture. He then prophesied what would happen fifty days after Passover, when he sent the Holy Spirit that empowered their ability to live their lives for the glory of God and proclaim the Gospel. The Holy Spirit still empowers Jesus’ followers today, and we are called to live our lives for God’s glory and share the story of Jesus to a world that is broken, just like Peter and his disciples were called to do.  We see, in the Easter story that commission comes after confusion, that empowerment comes after failure, and that resurrection comes after death.

Hope, Believe, Love: Sermon Highlight

Hope, Believe, Love: Sermon Highlight

Scripture | Luke 5:1-11

 

For my husband Joe and I, we are in that season of life where a lot of our friends are getting married. Wedding invitations are hanging on our refrigerator as constant reminders to RSVP. Close friends and family members inviting us to partake in an important and monumental part of their lives. Like with any invitation, we have the option to regretfully decline or gratefully accept each and every one of them. But by declining such an invitation, we are missing out on what could potentially be a beautiful evening filled with friends, family, joy and true love. That’s usually not something we want to miss out on. In this story of Peter, we see him receive invitations from Jesus he wouldn’t want to miss out on either, and we are invited into the same things as Peter was. 

 

In this scripture, we have Peter, the professional fishermen, that had been out fishing all night and caught absolutely nothing. Considering this was his livelihood, it made for a rough day. We see in the scripture that a crowd was gathering around Jesus and they made their way over to where Peter and his friends were washing their nets. Jesus hopped in Peter’s boat to get some space and asked Peter to push it away from the land a little bit so he could teach. When he finished teaching, he told Peter to let down his nets for a catch. This would have probably caught Peter off guard since he had spent all night trying to fish with no luck, and on top of that, this was the first time he had met Jesus. But, this was an invitation for Peter to have hope. 

 

Regardless of the fact that Peter had only heard Jesus speak and had just met him, Luke wrote that he said, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5) Here we see Peter accepting Jesus’ invitation to hope! We can see that in this invitation Jesus is asking Peter to set aside his own thoughts and trust in his guidance. We have this same invitation, and by accepting it, our thoughts are transformed. We see John Piper define biblical hope as, “A confident expectation and desire for something good in the future.” When Peter lets down his nets, he has this type of confident expectation in what Jesus has said. And we are called to live like that too. It could look like taking a step of faith or setting aside our own plans and ideas of what our lives should look like and trust in what God has called us to.

 

Jesus also extends an invitation of Peter to believe. When Jesus asked him to put down his nets, Peter and his friends witnessed a miracle. Jesus not only filled their nets but overflowed them to the point that their boat began to sink!! Upon seeing this, Luke writes, “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Luke 5:8). We see that Peter saw this miracle and accepted Jesus’ invitation to believe. And just as we are invited to hope, we are also invited to believe, like Peter was. By accepting this invitation to believe it transforms how we live. Barry told us that our belief in Jesus should lead our lives to look more like Jesus’ life. This means living like Jesus at work and home and school, wherever we go. Although we won’t do this perfectly all the time, Jesus empowers us to live as his people in this world for his glory. 

 

The next invitation Peter receives is the invitation to love. After Peter and his friends witnessed this miracle and Peter confessed that Jesus is Lord, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:10-11) Here Jesus invites Peter to be a part of his ministry in the world! This love of Christ enabled Peter to love people like Christ had loved him, and with this, his priorities changed. Now, instead of seeing himself and his needs as most important, he saw loving God and people as his first priority. He was no longer a professional fisherman, instead, he ministered to others and started churches, he preached and was persecuted and then, according to history was crucified upside-down because of his love for God and people. By accepting this invitation Peter is putting himself second, something we are invited into as well. 

 

We are called to live our lives completely for the glory of God, just like Christ did.  Unlike Jesus, we won’t always get it right, we will fail and mess up and probably be frustrated with ourselves at times, but through His grace and forgiveness and power we can follow God and accept each and every one of His invitations. God is alive and moving, and every day He is inviting us to take part in His story of the redemption of the world through His daily invitations to hope, believe and love. 

 

By Sydney Gautier

Confess and Be Healed

Confess and Be Healed

By Russ Jackson

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

- 1 Corinthians 10:13 

As a young Christian, this was one of the first verses that I memorized. I wish that I could say that I chose this verse for its deep meaning to me, but the truth is it was assigned to me by a Sunday school teacher.

Regardless, this verse has meant much to me all these years. If anyone reading this has doubts, fears, bad habits, or secret sin that seems overwhelming, keep in mind the first part of this verse: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.” What you are feeling and experiencing right now is totally normal. There isn’t anything that you are going through that hasn’t already been experienced by others, and I would go so far as to say that anything that you have been or currently are being tempted with has also happened to Jesus. Let’s all pause for a moment to take this in. Yes, I am saying that Jesus has been tempted just the way you are being tempted now. In Hebrew 4:15 we read, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” We have all of our temptations in common with Jesus with one minor difference: we sin.

One of the many things I love about our family at New Circle Church is that we do not pretend to be perfect. From least to greatest we all openly share the one trait of sin. Sin happens when we are tempted and give in to that temptation. We own it, we repent, we make amends as possible, and we move on.

Now to address the second part of this verse: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Need I say more? We have a great Father who knows our needs and our failures and regardless of all the times that we have been warned and encouraged, provides a way of escape. It’s like being in a burning building. We have choices to make—real life and death decisions. Will you panic and curl up into a ball, or perhaps run around in a frenzy and die? Or will you keep a clear head and exit via the fire door? It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Yet how many times do we succumb to the temptation and take the easy way out, not realizing that it is killing us spiritually?

I’ll tell you a secret that can save you years of going down the wrong road and then more years of regret and uselessness (I speak, sadly, from personal experience). We are told in James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Find someone you trust that cares about you and speak out loud the darkness that is in your heart so that you may be healed. It is really very simple, but it is also plenty scary.

Our adversary, the Devil, would love to separate us and tear us apart by whispering things like, “Don’t tell anyone.” “They will just think you a terrible and awful person.” “As long as they don’t know, it’s not real.” “No one is really as bad as you are, so they won’t understand, they will only condemn!”

On the other hand, Jesus says, “Confess and be healed!”

Acts 3:19&20 we read, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord”.

You may be thinking, “Yes, but it’s all my fault that I am the mess that I have become,” and you would be right, but Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He puts no qualifications on this rest. He doesn’t say, “You can only come to me if you didn’t do it on purpose, the rest of you are on your own!” No. He makes no qualifications except that you come to him. It is as true for the believer as the unbeliever. If you have become weary and heavy-laden, the answer lies in Jesus—not in trying to make yourself righteous on your own.

Granted, there is a time to step back and contemplate the vastness of God’s mercy to us, but do not let this momentary pause keep you from vital action. After all, you are only delaying His healing in your life. This grace that we extend to unbelievers is also extended to us who believe. Jesus is still standing at the door of your heart asking permission to come in. It seems foolish to not accept so great an invitation.

Ruwach: Sermon Highlight

Ruwach: Sermon Highlight

By Sydney Gautier

Ezekiel 37: 1-10 | 

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”  So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

 

I remember being in high school and telling myself that if I could just get to college everything would be great. And then when I was in college I couldn’t wait to be out of college because I thought then life would be easier. Then I got out of college and realized, “silly me, can I go back to kindergarten?” Because life after college was just as hard, if not harder.  And I saw that hoping for the next thing in life, assuming it will suddenly make life easier was just an endless cycle. There’s always some aspect of difficulty because we live in a broken world. I’m almost 25 and my knees already pop when I walk up and down stairs, there are hurricanes and wars and a lot of the time things look pretty bleak in the world. But when we realize this and stop hoping in the world, our achievements, relationships and ourselves, then we start putting our hope in Christ instead. We realize we are hopeless unless God shows up. 

 

When we read through this scripture of Ezekiel’s vision we are shown a hopeless period in the life of Israel. Ezekiel is set down in a large valley, full of bones, I’d imagine this would be pretty scary and confusing. And as we go back and read this story, we see something crazy happen. We see God bring these bones back together and there was an army of bodies standing there empty. But then God breathed life into them. The Hebrew word that refers to the breath God breathed into these bodies is “ruwach” which means, wind, breath or spirit. Through Scripture, the Holy Spirit is almost always referred to as ruwach in the Old Testament. We see ruwach come through wind, breath, or spirit giving life powerfully in Scripture. This is a reminder that the ruwach of God brings life and hope!

 

In a previously hopeless situation, God stepped in through Ezekiel to offer a message of hope to Israel. This was a time in Israel’s history when people had been starved to death, some were led off as prisoners of war to Babylon, and some were killed. It looked like a pretty hopeless situation. Barry said he pictured them to be frantic, running around trying to fix this mess on their own, but God wanted them to quiet their hearts and hear His words and be filled with hope,  “Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit (ruwach) within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” (Ezekiel 37:12-14)

 

How often do we find ourselves in these types of situations? Feeling utterly hopeless, frantically trying to solve our problems by our own strength; not trusting that God can see the situation from beginning to end and has full control. No matter the situation we find ourselves in, God can breathe life into it. We see this in Exodus when God was leading Moses and the Hebrews out of Egypt to the Promised Land, with the army coming after them, they came to the Red Sea and were at a loss. They couldn’t turn around but they couldn’t go through it either. There was no way out until God sent a wind, ruwach, split the waters and made a way. God is still splitting the Red Sea’s of our lives today, He’s already made a way for us through Jesus, and He continues to show up in our lives daily. 

 

Jesus is the perfect example of the hope we have in God. Barry pointed out that he fully trusted that the ruwach of God would blow upon his ministry, his sacrificial death and that the breath of God would bring him back to life three days later. His perfect hope enables us to hope in God. In our hopeless situations, let's remember that our God is a God who breathes life, that in Him, bleak situations can be redeemed and that we are utterly dependent on God to show up.

Anakephalaiosasthai: Sermon Response

Anakephalaiosasthai: Sermon Response

By Sydney Gautier

In my opinion, there are two types of storytellers in the world: the ones who give you every last detail, down to the color of their socks when the events were taking place, and then the ones who neatly sum things up and make sure you actually get the point of what they’re trying to tell you. Both are great, in different ways and depending on what the story is about. Today, we are focused on the latter type of story teller, the idea of “summing things up, bringing all things into unity, providing a center,” or the Greek word for all that, anakephalaiosasthai.

 

So that we have a better understanding of this 19 letter word, Barry helped break it down for us, here we go. First is “ana.” This word adds intensity to whatever it’s connected to. For example instead of saying, “it is cold.” We would say, “it is extremely cold.” It helps portray something as big and forceful. Next is “Kephala.” It means, “head, putting ahead, or an organizing center.” An organizing center is something that puts everything where it is supposed to be. This immediately makes me think of my husband, Joe. He loves organization and is a stickler for everything being in its rightful place, so we have various organization cabinets around our house because he knows without them, I would probably leave everything a disorganized mess. 

 

Paul used this word twice in scripture, once in today’s passage and once in Romans 13:9. He wrote, “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9). See what he did there? All of the commandment and the words of the prophets are anakephalaiosasthaied, or “summed up or unified” in the phrase, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul’s usage of this word signifies an extreme reorganization around a new center that brings unity to all things.

 

In Ephesians 1, he shows us this new center, Jesus, the great unifier. He starts off with a very elaborate welcome and salutation to the church in Ephesus. We know from Acts 19 that Paul started the church in Ephesus and had a great ministry there. Barry told us that he and his disciples had so much favor that all the residents of this part of Asia (now known as Asia Minor) heard the Gospel! So we can understand why Paul would write this letter, but why was he so excited? Barry told us that in the original Greek, Ephesians 1:3-10 was one long run on sentence. Basically, Paul just kept writing and writing. If he was talking out loud he probably wouldn’t have time to take a breath between all the words. In verse 10 Paul brings it all together, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Ephesians 1”10). The phrase, “to unite all things” is anakephalaiosasthai. God united all things in Christ, things in heaven and on earth. Jesus changed everything.

Barry told us that Paul likely wrote this letter from a Roman prison, so he probably wasn’t in a situation that would cause much excitement. On top of that, Paul had a pretty rough life. He had been betrayed, arrested, been beaten, shipwrecked, left for dead, and, to top it all off, he had to put up with fights between Christians. But anakephalaiosasthai gives Paul a reason to be excited! Paul can look back on his life and see that he has anakephalaiosasthai-ed the story of his life. He can look at everything that has happened to him but with Jesus as the organizing center, the one who brought all of his life into unity, and that changed everything. It gave him a new perspective on his life. Everything that happened to him happened for a reason. Jesus brought unity to it all and God used it for his glory! This allowed Paul to have hope! All those bad things don’t seem as bad anymore when you can see that they have a purpose and that you can see God as the one who pours forth grace and blesses and adopts us sinful men and women and sons and daughters because of his love and for his pleasure. 

This can help give us a new perspective on our own lives, just like it did for Paul. Sometimes it can be easy to look back and dwell on the bad times, the struggles, or the negative parts of life. While we don’t need to pretend they didn’t happen and block them out of our minds, the shame, terror, illness, lies, and stress we have been through are part of each of our stories, but the Gospel provides and new perspective to see that story through. We can look back on our lives like Paul and retell our story, this time with Jesus at the center as the one who brings unity to all things. In doing this we can see redemption and hope like we see in Ephesians 1. It doesn’t mean that everything in our life will make perfect sense, but it does mean that we can have faith and trust that God is doing something, that He is constantly at work in our lives and in our stories.

Jesus Walks on Water: Sermon Highlight

Jesus Walks on Water: Sermon Highlight

By Sydney Gautier

Scripture | Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 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. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

In the midst of the storm Jesus is with us.

We can all recall storms in our lives. Maybe you feel like you’re in the middle of one now, or maybe you just weathered one and are on the other side. But we’ve all been there. I specifically remember my senior year of college. The first semester was one big storm that I thought would never end. One thing after another went wrong, I felt like I couldn’t catch a break. However, the story we read in Matthew 14:22-33 reminds us that in the midst of the storm, Jesus is with us. Jonathan went through three things that this story of Jesus walking on water in the middle of the storm shows us about Jesus.

God is in control.

We see in the passage above that Jesus sent the disciples out to sea before he went up to the mountain to pray. The trip they were making was about 5 miles. They left in the evening, but Jesus didn’t come to them until very early morning. That means they were out on the sea for quite a long time—longer than they had expected to be, but they made no progress because of the storm. This trip had become much more complicated than they thought it would be. They were terrified. The storm was out of their control. However, God knew what was going to happen before they stepped into the boat. That means he knew how it was going to end as well. The storm didn’t surprise Him. He was completely in control of the situation, so it’s important to know that Jesus didn't send them into the storm to punish them. God is powerful enough to use the brokenness of storms in our lives to show us Himself!

God loves you.

The first words Jesus says to the disciples when he comes to them in the storm are, “Do not be afraid.” This is what we say to people we love because we don’t want them to live in fear. This is what Joe says to me in the middle of the night when I swear I heard someone in the closet. This is what my parents told me when I thought there were monsters under my bed as a child. We see throughout scripture that Jesus is consistently loving and gracious towards the disciples despite the fact that they got things wrong a lot and didn’t deserve it. Sounds a lot like us, but through the storms and the sin and getting it wrong often, we are still so loved by God. In the scripture above we see Peter walk out onto the water. When he takes his eyes off Jesus, he starts to sink. He cries out to God, “Lord, save me,” and Jesus does because he’s Jesus, and he’s patient and gracious and loves Peter like he loves you and I. In the following verse, Jesus says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” He doesn't say this to call Peter out or to shame him. Instead he’s saying it with love in his eyes, wanting to reassure him that he never needs to doubt—that he loves him and will never fail him.

 

It’s not about your faith, but God’s faithfulness.

My senior year, in the midst of a storm, I remember at times wondering what I could do to make myself stop sinking. Muster up more faith? Try harder? It’s easy to fall into that trap, but we learn from the story of Jesus walking on water that that isn’t the answer at all. In this story, we don’t see Jesus make Peter try harder to stop sinking in the middle of the storm. Instead he immediately reached out his hand to save him. We learned that what’s important is the object of our faith, Christ. Jonathan shared a quote about this from David Platt, “. . . if your eyes are on the wind, you will fall…But when your eyes are on Christ, when the all-sovereign, gracious, loving, merciful Savior and King of creation is the focus of your faith, you can always rest secure. Your faith will be constant, because Christ is constant.” This takes the burden of trying to muster up enough faith off of us. We just have to trust and keep our eyes on the Lord. We see that when we encounter God and his truth, it leads to worship. Despite the storm and the struggles, we can know God is in control. He loves us. He is faithful and for us, and this leads us to worship in His unexplainable peace in the midst of chaos.