#3 (THE "COURAGE" SERIES)
"THE COURAGE TO VENTURE LIKE PETER!"
TEXT: Matt. 14:22-36
INTRO: There is a certain law of nature that goes like this: "everything takes the path of least resistance." Whether it is electricity flowing, rocks falling, or water running, things follow the path of least resistance when left to themselves. Have you ever noticed a river and how it differs from a canal? Canals are straight because they are man made -- the shortest distance between two points created by man. A river however meanders around all kinds of angles and obstacles going from point A to point B, it may actually take twice the distance to go from A to B than a canal does -- why? Because left to itself a river will naturally follow a path of least resistance, if it hits a hard spot it will simply go around it rather than try to go through it.
Human nature is the same way; in our fallen sinful condition we tend to take the path of least resistance! It is natural to follow easier ways rather than tougher ways. Only with the power of the Holy Spirit do we find the courage and strength to press through hard places.
PROP.SENT: The Bible teaches us that with faith we can venture with courage against the strongest opposition, the secret is keeping our eyes on Christ and not on the storms of life.
I. FOLLOWING CHRIST'S DIRECTIVES 14:22-24
A. Direction 14:22-23
1. Jesus had just finished feeding the 5,000 miraculously and was tired, so He sent the disciples to their next place of ministry without Him, He wanted some time alone to recuperate and pray.
a. Christ commanded them to go to the other side of the lake to the next ministry opportunity.
b. This command to go was thus completely God's will; it was by Jesus' directive to go that they went -- they were obeying Christ when they went.
2. As Christ’s disciples their desire was to be obedient to His will, so without question they left in the boat to get to the other side.
a. There is no better thing that we can do than to follow Christ's direction for our lives.
b. Little did they know that following the will of God would not necessarily mean smooth sailing! (Many of us have discovered the same thing, haven't we?)
3. They might have left thinking: "Jesus asked us to go there so it should be an easy trip" – but did they find out differently!
B. Disappointment! 14:24
1. Following God's will this time wasn't smooth sailing, in fact, they were literally found themselves going nowhere! (How many times when we believe we are doing God’s will does it seem we are going nowhere?)
a. I wonder if they questioned this direction from Christ when the storm hit, wouldn't we have – they were being obedient but couldn’t complete the mission – WHY?
(1. “If this is God's will, how come we are going nowhere?”
(2. “Maybe one of you guys has sin in your life; God is punishing us for it!”
(3. “How could this be God's will with all this opposition from the wind and sea?”
(4. “Maybe Jesus isn't God; we are just idiots to believe all this spiritual stuff!”
(5. “Maybe Jesus meant another time and we misunderstood!”
b. They couldn't get to where God's will had directed them because the opposition was just too strong for them!
c. Mark’s gospel account of this same story says that they were "straining at the oars." Mark 6:48
d. In other words, they were not lazy here, they were working hard at being obedient to Christ's will but they were still not going anywhere!
2. Did God make a mistake? This just didn't make sense?
3. How do you explain God telling you to do something that you cannot do because the circumstances are impossible, and they prevent you from doing what He has asked you to do?
ILLUS: ERIC BARKER WAS A MISSIONARY FROM GREAT BRITAIN WHO HAD SPENT OVER 50 YEARS IN PORTUGAL PREACHING THE GOSPEL, OFTEN UNDER ADVERSE CIRCUMSTANCES. DURING WORLD WAR II THE SITUATION WHERE HE WAS MINISTERING BECAME SO BAD THAT HE DECIDED TO SEND HIS WIFE AND 8 CHILDREN BACK TO ENGLAND ON A BOAT FOR THEIR SAFETY. HIS SISTER AND HER 3 CHILDREN ALSO JOINED THEM ON THE BOAT WHILE HE STAYED TO CONTINUE MINISTERING, BELIEVING THIS TO BE GOD'S WILL. HE WOULD STAY TO CONCLUDE SOME MISSION MATTERS AND THEN JOIN THEN LATER. THE NEXT SUNDAY AS HE WAS ABOUT TO PREACH HE RECEIVED WORD THAT THE BOAT THEY ALL HAD BEEN ON HAD BEEN TORPEDOED BY A GERMAN SUBMARINE AND THEY ALL PERISHED ... HOW COULD THIS HAVE BEEN GOD'S WILL? YET HE KEPT HIS LOVE FOR THE LORD AND FOUND GOD’S PEACE, EVEN THOUGH IT DIDN'T MAKE SENSE! -- SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. While we do hit tough times even when doing God's will we are not always guaranteed an easy ride or that everything will always make sense to us, we will experience disappointments from time to time!
a. There is a difference between disappointment and discouragement!
b. It must have been hard to keep trying, using oars with all their strength and yet still going nowhere!
c. It would have been tempting to have quit and rationalize: "Jesus certainly doesn't expect us to keep trying when we are obviously going nowhere, why don't we just quit and let the wind blow us back to shore, we can always try tomorrow when things let up!" But this wasn't what Jesus had said, He had told them to go to the other side that day!
II. FEARS, COURAGE, DISTRESS 14:25-31
A. Defects! 14:25-26
1. The storm did not let up, it was now somewhere between 3-6 a.m.!!
a. These guys must have been tired, even exhausted! They at least deserved some credit for the effort of trying to obey the Lord!
b. Most of us would have given in much earlier no doubt; after all we would have needed our sleep you know!
2. The storm is blowing hard, the waters are turbulent, and the boat is being tossed!
a. Suddenly they see what to them appears to be a ghost!
b. Here's where they reveal some weaknesses of their spiritual life, they are still carrying around baggage from before their discipleship days!
c. Popular Jewish superstition of the day held that any spirit that appeared to someone during the night always brought disaster to the one who saw it!
d. It is obvious by their reaction that they were still somewhat superstitious! They still carried pre-salvation superstitious views; they were still in the process of learning from Jesus!
3. They reacted as men who didn't know Jesus, they were literally terrified!
a. How could these guys be disciples and be like this? Simple: They were just like you and me!!!
b. Even today, we carry around baggage from our pre-Christian days, things that make us react a certain way that as believers we know we are wrong … it just happens to be the gut way we react from what we used to be before Christ!
4. You can almost see these guys shaking for fear, waiting to die!
B. Desire 14:27-28
1. Jesus understood their fear and compassionately responds to them: "TAKE COURAGE! It is I, don't be afraid!" 14:27 It is clear in Mark 6:48b that Jesus had planned on just walking by them to the other side and not stopping. Jesus had planned on simply meeting them on the other side.
a. It is interesting that Jesus didn't come aboard; maybe He was afraid they might jump overboard in their fear! At any rate, He wanted them to take notice of Him, to focus on Him and not on the situation!
b. At this point Peter realizing it was Jesus did what Peter was good at doing, he was eager to be with Christ no matter what … he wanted to get to Jesus!
2. But, Peter is smart enough to know that you do not presume on God's grace, he asks first if it is o.k. to come to Jesus on the water, he doesn't dare go anywhere Christ does not invite him to come first!
a. He knew it would have to be by Jesus' invitation and not his own desire, so he seeks permission from the Lord first!
b. We could learn from Peter here, first get Christ’s Word, then go!
3. Peter's strength was that he always liked being close to Jesus, even here, it was not that he wanted to show off by walking on water as much as it was to be next to Christ!
a. This was the desire of Peter's heart and what endeared him to the Lord!
b. For all his faults, this love to be near Jesus gave the Lord something to work with!
4. Jesus honors Peter’s desire by saying “COME!”
a. Now remember the storm is still going full blown!
b. Imagine watching Peter walk away from the other guys all hovering together hoping for the boat not to sink!
c. What would their response be to Peter getting ready to go overboard?
(1. “Peter has lost it guys, he thinks he can walk on water!”
(2. “What kind of fisherman are you Peter, you should know better than to think you can walk on water!”
(3. “Peter, you’re not Jesus, how do you think this is going to work?”
(4. “Peter! Look around you man, are you nuts!”
(5. “Oh, fine Peter; just leave us here to save the ship while you go off doing your own thing!”
5. Imagine how hard it was to step overboard in this storm, just as his leg started to go over the waves would either lift the boat or have it sink into the lower part of the wave, how does one get a good footing on stormy seas!?
a. This was no easy demonstration of faith on Peter's part!
b. He does not step over onto smooth water, it was still rough!
c. We give him a hard time for sinking but the first steps were not easy and he does those!
d. "Jesus' call gave him courage to venture out!"
e. When Christ calls you to do something be sure to have the faith to venture out, even in stormy seas! Be sure it is His call however and not yours!
C. Desperation! 14:29-31
1. Peter did walk on water! … and he must have gone a fair distance toward Jesus, we know this because when he began to sink Jesus was able to reach out and grab him -- he had to have been close at that point to do this!
2. As long as Peter kept his eyes on Christ he was o.k., he was on solid ground so to speak, but as he got close to Christ he looked away briefly and so noticed the turmoil around him!
a. As soon as he saw the turmoil and not Christ he was in trouble!
b. He didn't immediately however go "plop-plop, fizz-fizz" … he sank slowly!
c. He was able to cry out on the way down! (Always a good idea!)
d. He certainly had a terrible "sinking" feeling; we always get this when we look away from Christ!
3. Why didn't Jesus calm the storm for Peter to walk to Him? GOOD QUESTION! Jesus did NOT make it easy for Peter to walk to Him!
a. Just remember this, even with all the enthusiasm that you feel when He calls you to do something He won't always make it easy to walk in His will, but you won't sink if you keep your eyes on Him!
b. AND, if you find yourself sinking do what Peter did, cry out "LORD SAVE ME!"
c. Peter manages to pray the right way as he was sinking: "LORD SAVE ME!"
d. Christ has never ignored this prayer, and He will respond quickly to it … as indeed He did here!
4. "Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him." 14:31a
a. Christ hears desperate cries!
b. Sometimes God allows desperate situations to happen to give us momentum and return our focus on Him!
ILLUS: THE STORY IS TOLD OF A FROG THAT FELL INTO A HUGE POTHOLE AND COULDN'T GET OUT. EVEN HIS FRIENDS COULDN'T GET HIM TO MUSTER ENOUGH STRENGTH TO JUMP OUT OF THE DEEP POTHOLE. FINALLY THEY ALL GAVE UP HOPE AND LEFT HIM TO HIS FATE. THE NEXT DAY HOWEVER THEY SAW HIM BOUNDING AROUND JUST FINE, A FREE FROG ONCE AGAIN, SOMEHOW HE HAD MADE IT OUT, AND SO THEY ASKED HIM OUT OF CURIOSITY, "WE THOUGHT YOU COULDN'T GET OUT, WE THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO CROAK FOR SURE, WHAT HAPPENED?" THE FROG REPLIED, "YOU WERE RIGHT, I COULDN'T GET OUT BY MYSELF, BUT THEN I SAW A TRUCK COMING DOWN THE ROAD AND I KNEW I HAD TO GET OUT!" DESPERATION CREATED THE NEEDED MOTIVATION! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
3. Jesus does help Peter recognize the mistake he made, he had doubted, but Jesus' love didn't leave him to the fate of his mistake … that is God’s grace!
III. FAITH, CHRIST, DUTY 14:32-36
A. Decision 14:32-33
1. Notice that the storm still had not abated, even after rescuing Peter from sinking, they still had to walk back to the boat during the storm!
a. It wasn't until Jesus was on board that the storm stopped!
b. It was not enough to just reach out to Jesus; they had to let him on board!
c. With Jesus firmly on board, the storm finally subsided!
2. Now something new opened up for their understanding, Jesus is a whole lot more than they realized ... they were now faced with a decision: to recognize Him for all that He is – He is GOD and not just man!
a. This decision to acknowledge Jesus as God demanded a response: Worship!
b. You cannot simply acknowledge Jesus theologically and intellectually and fail to respond by worshipping Him as God!
3. Their understanding of Christ would never be the same, nor could the relationship ever be the same again!
B. Duty! 14:34-36
1. What now? Notice that they don't just float around in the calm seas; they must have started up again for shore.
a. There is a time for celebration & worship and then there must be a time for duty and work again!
b. Too many Christians like the celebration and worship but don't engage in duty!
c. Jesus would not have allowed them to take their ease and just float for several days, there was much ministry to be done and many needs to meet!
2. Others were depending on their service, there were sick needing healing, people needing to be saved, others who needed a touch from Jesus, this courage to venture out like Peter needed further expression than just on the rough waters of the lake!
a. Worship services are great … but people who only participate in worship services in their local church and do not get involved in ministry are NOT fully obeying Christ!
b. Christ called His church to save the lost, to go out and minister, not just to have nice worship services in nicely decorated buildings and then call this “church.”
3. And indeed, God's will was accomplished and they made it to the other side, no doubt they were exhausted but that's all a part of ministry sometimes – while they arrived exhausted they still had ministry waiting for them!
a. They were guys in the rough, but they were usable by the Lord and this was all preparation ground for future ministry as well!
b. This episode would be an important lesson later when opposition was strong and they needed the courage to keep venturing forth in faith!
ILLUS: MANY YEARS AGO IN ENGLAND THERE WAS A SMALL BOY WHO TALKED WITH A LISP. WHILE GROWING UP, HE WAS NEVER A SCHOLAR. WHEN WAR CAME ALONG, THEY REJECTED HIM BECAUSE THEY SAID THEY NEEDED "REAL MEN!" HE ONCE ROSE TO ADDRESS THE HOUSE OF COMMONS AND THEY ALL WALKED OUT! HE OFTEN SPOKE TO EMPTY CHAIRS AND ECHOES. ONE DAY HE BECAME PRIME MINISTER OF GREAT BRITAIN AND LED HIS COUNTRY TO VICTORY IN A WORLDWIDE CONFLICT. THAT MAN WAS SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL, WHOSE IRON WILL TO PERSEVERE RALLIED ALL OF HIS COUNTRYMEN TO DEFEND THEIR LAND AND EVENTUALLY WIN THE WAR. WHERE DID HE LEARN TO GO AGAINST THE ODDS? WHEN HE WAS GROWING UP … IT WAS THE FERTILE GROUND THAT GAVE HIM THE COURAGE TO VENTURE IN FAITH FOR A JUST CAUSE – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. Everything we go through is used by God to prepare us for works of service for His kingdom! Keep the faith!
5. Just remember to keep your eyes on Jesus!
CONCLUSION: Peter's strength was his desire to follow Christ. Peter's problem was taking his eyes off Christ. Peter's legacy was that he knew how to get back on track, and so he did great exploits for God! He had the courage to venture out where no man had gone before and so he experienced God's power! The old saying, "nothing ventured nothing gained!" is true! What is God asking you to venture out in faith to do, and have you taken the first step yet? – keep your eyes on Christ the whole time!