Fear is one of the most prevalent human emotions, capable of influencing or controlling our decisions and behavior. Peter experienced a moment of fear when he jumped out of a boat to meet Jesus in the middle of a storm. How Jesus responds to him teaches us how we can find faith in the midst of our fear.
Full Sermon Script
We’re in the series we’re calling Carriers…
We are all carrying the weight of this experience we’re all living.
But we can choose what we carry
last week we learned how to be carriers of peace rather than worry
today, faith rather than fear
next week, hope rather than despair
This week I thought of times I felt fear…
As a child, attempted break in at my home
As an adult, getting the call my daughter was
Some of the fears at the front of our minds right now…
fear of not providing for your family
fear of losing your home, job, business
fear that you’re not going to be able to retire when you planned
fear that you’re going to lose something … or everything
fear of exposure every day at work
fear of death
We all experience fear
Maybe that’s why 365x in the Bible we’re encouraged “Do Not Fear”
Easy to say, believe … practicing in certain situations can be more difficult
There’s a tension we can feel as a Christ-follower, that maybe I shouldn’t be feeling afraid … I’m lacking faith in God … I must not be as far along in my journey with Christ as I thought …
Some of you have been told this … you lack faith
There’s a story about Peter in the account Matthew wrote of Jesus’ life …
I think we all can relate in ways…
Peter had a moment where fear became faith which gave way to fear, only to be redirected back to faith
How many can identify with that?
Matthew 14 has the story…
Jesus just healed sick people, fed thousands … some really miraculous stuff
Tells disciples to jump in a boat, meet Him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee
a lake about 8 miles wide
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.”
Normally 4 hours to cross … rowing for 8-9 hours and only half-way
Exhausted physically, emotionally … they’re at their end
No doubt wondering if they’d make it across
”Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.”
As if the storm is not bad enough, now a figure walking on the water towards you
Response was terror and fear … who’s wouldn’t be???
“Cried out in fear” … what did that look like?
Took our kids to Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights last October
You can already feel the poor parental judgment in that
Two adult daughters had nightmares for a week or two afterwards
FEAR IS A CONSTANT COMPANION
It strikes at will
The illusion; “it’s the circumstances I face, the situation I’m in that produces fear in me.”
Reality is COVID-19 didn’t create your fears, it simply brought out what has been lying underneath all we thought we had under control or built up around ourselves to insulate us with comfort
Fear is part of human nature
There are four basic fears:
Legitimate fear that tells us a course correction is necessary to avoid injury or harm
Serves as a protector
Its job is to keep our fragile egos safe at all costs
will I be accepted, successful, admired, remembered
Slippery; hard to pin down, has a million ways to lie to us
Embedded so deep in our psyche, we barely understand it or control it, let alone conquer it
It can fundamentally change who we are
An invitation rather than a warning.
A message that we’re on the right track, we’re about to step into something important and life changing.
The disciples were not expecting Jesus to show up in the storm; they didn’t recognize Him
“But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.””
“Take courage (heart), it is I…” ego eimi (ā-mē’)
The Greek meaning is I AM.
Referring back to Moses, burning bush, Moses was afraid to do what God was asking
God reveals himself as “I AM” – Name of God
I AM is sending you … I AM is with you
Jesus using language and a name that to the disciple’s ears would paint the picture that GOD is here with you!
Take courage … Do not be afraid … I AM is here
Jesus doesn’t take them out of the storm, he enters the storm with them
28“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Peter’s response – prove it
How many times have we said this to God?
Prove to me you’re good and caring by rescuing me … changing my situation…
Or let’s negotiate God … if you’ll do this … then I’ll …
We test the waters … we want proof.
“OK, God, IF it’s really you, give me a sign…. no… another sign… just ONE more sign, OK?”
29“Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”
If that was the end of the story …
… But it’s not …
30″But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Didn’t take long to get over the excitement of walking on water and remember he was standing in the middle of a storm
Waves were coming at him. The sky was dark. It was hard to see
The rain in his eyes, hair and beard soaked. He could feel the cold wet fabric of his clothes against his skin
His heart began to race, adrenaline surging through his body
His toes dropped below the water, then his feat, his ankles and calves
Confidence sank … He looked down … WATER! WAVES!! OCEAN!!!
1st wave … virus spreading around the world
2nd wave … shelter in place
3rd wave … instant homeschool mom & dad
4th wave … business non-essential, closed
5th wave … balancing work & home all in one place
6th wave … furloughed
7th wave … loved one in hospital, can’t visit
8th wave … 9th wave … 10th wave …
Fear gives us tunnel vision … all we see is the trouble in front of us, around us
Its mission is to get you to believe “this is it … no way out, nowhere but down from here.”
FAITH IS A CONTINUOUS CHOICE
We all become people of prayer in moments of desperation
We all have had a moment like this, whether you’d call yourself a person of faith or not
No options left, imminent danger, suddenly we all reach out in desperation to God
Peter could have turned around and started swimming back to the boat…
But he called out to Jesus … Lord, save me!
Take a moment and watch Lisa’s story …
Author Susan Jeffers says, “The ultimate fear — underneath all of our other fears of loneliness or rejection or failure or so on — the ultimate fear is, ‘I can’t handle it. Something really bad is going to happen to me, and I won’t be able to handle it.’”
The story of the Bible is not how God will save us FROM the storm
The story of the Bible is how God will save us THROUGH the storm
The story is not how will I handle it, but how will God show himself faithful
God designed us to experience fear so that we’d respond differently
Fear is the seed of faith … where faith is born
It’s where faith can emerge
31″Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
The part I love. Jesus reaches out, grabs him…
Jesus was that close to Peter when his fear took over
FEAR IS A CATALYST FOR FAITH
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
In essence asking, why don’t you trust me?
Fear begins with doubt
That God knows your situation
That God is really in control
That God cares
That God is doing anything
But Jesus reaches out his hand … it’s like an offer of peace, reconciliation
And have you ever thought … they had to walk back to the boat!
Peter’s faith, placing his hand in Jesus’, got him walking back to the boat
Notice Jesus didn’t say no faith.
Fear does not mean you have no faith. do not let anyone tell you that lie
Peter had enough faith to get out of the boat… give credit where credit is due!
So, what is the faith God wants us to experience in the storm?
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
We’re to have a faith that believes in the hope of the future, a confidence that is not dependent on the circumstances that surround us
How is this possible?
My faith is in myself … my abilities … my business model … my investment strategy … my portfolio …
Then a virus comes along and shuts down economies, drives down markets, changes how society operates
Our faith is founded in the hope of the One who defeated sin and death
Right before this, the writer of Hebrews said this…
Hebrews 10:19-22 “…since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings…”
Confidence and assurance…
It’s possible because of Christ, who was crucified and rose again in life
It’s by the power of Christ who gave his life and now through his life we have access directly to God
The writer of Hebrews says we can get close to God, just as Jesus was to Peter, and have this kind of confident faith because Jesus has made the way
Mark 6:48 tells us that Jesus intended to pass them by
What was his intention? What was his thought?
The disciples had already seen Jesus calm a storm once before … Matthew 8
Often, God is waiting for us to take the next step of faith
Then He displays His faithfulness
Now, there are practical actions we can take to overcome fear and lean into faith
Let me give you some simple next steps…
Protect your thoughts
The 24/7 bombardment of the news cycle will wear you down
What you feed your mind controls your thoughts … don’t let you mind dwell
The fears are real, but God is still in control
Raise the practice of prayer
Prayer may be obvious, but my observation and experience is when fear kicks in, it’s easy to allow prayer to slip
As Matt showed us last week, as we take EVERYTHING to God in prayer, we find peace
Look beyond yourself
When you get stuck in your fears, your world shrinks.
Fear narrows your mental focus and it can cause you to lose sight of the world around you. Then your attention will become overly focused on yourself.
The best way to avoid tendency toward a fear-driven self-centeredness is to focus on what you can do to improve the lives of others.
Thank God for what you already have. There is always something to appreciate, always something to thank God for. It may take a little work, but no matter what your current circumstances, you can still bear witness to the many ways God has blessed you. Even while waiting, you can still thank Him for His goodness, faithfulness and presence in your life.
By cultivating an attitude of gratitude, we effectively turn our thoughts away from fear and onto a different track.
Trust God with what you can’t control
When we reach the end of what we can do, trust God with what only He can do.
Could it be the fear you’re feeling is an invitation into greater, deeper experience of faith?
Maybe you need to face your fear with faith and get out of the boat of self-reliance
Trust that Jesus is in the storm with you
Maybe you need to get your eyes off the waves and back on Jesus
Take his hand, he’s with you
Maybe you need to place your hand in his and follow him back into the boat and find peace as he quiets the storm around you
We respond to fear with FAITH … confidence … assurance … trust in God
Fear is very real … but so is our God …
And God is bigger than any fear we face
In just a moment, Michaela is going to lead us in a song that’s a confession, a declaration … greater than the storm that surrounds me, bigger than the doubt and fear I have, is the God who call me his own.
Let’s pray …