Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 14th Sermon- that's what faith can do

That’s what fear FAITH can do
Walk on water #4
March 14, 2009

We are such a fearful society that we do everything we can to eliminate risk.  We buy every kind of insurance – from life insurance to replacement policies for our cell phones to provide us with the security we think we need.  We pay extra for warranties on our computers and appliances.
We read safety test results in Consumer Reports before buying an automobile.  And put warning labels  on everything from guns to plastic bags.
We wouldn’t think about buying a car without seatbelts and airbags- in fact so much so, that we make it illegal.  We want a secure, germ-free, risk-free, fear-free environment. 
We only need to look at a jar of peanut butter - a lid is not nearly safe enough,  the foil safety seal is not enough, we also have to have a plastic ring heatshrunk around the lid to assure us that our peanut butter is safe.
We wouldn’t think of purchasing Tylenol or aspirin that didn’t come in a tamperproof container. 
Our nation spends a fortune on equipment and man power to keep our airports and air travel as safe as possible.
Is it any wonder that when God calls His people to move – to get out of the usual - to do something daring for Him- when He calls us to be bold and take a risk- when Jesus calls us to get out of our boat we don’t do it because we’re afraid?  We are part of a culture that loves to be secure.  And that extends to our relationship with God. 
I suspect when I talk about walking on water there are some who say- no way- not without a life preserver!  Well here we go- this week I’m preaching with a life preserver.    In Fact we life our safety so much I think two might be in order.

Some fear is natural and good.  We need to teach our children to be afraid of a hot burner on the stove, traffic on the street, strange dogs,  and strange people.  You know you don’t want to scare your child too much, but you want them to have a healthy respect for things that might hurt them.  Fear of high places keeps us from fall risks.  Fear of fire keeps us from being burned.  Fear of punishment keeps us from breaking rules at school and work.  So some fear is good and healthy.

But what place does fear have in our relationship with God?  From the very beginning, Adam started hiding from God because he was naked and afraid and we continue to this day.  Hiding from God, running from God, ignoring God, disobeying God, and perhaps worst of all- not trusting God.   I think deep down we know that God has things for us to do and deep down we know that God will take care of us.  But in order to get to that deep place, that place of trust, that place of faith: We have to get through the stuff that is not so deep.  We have to get past the wind and the waves. We have to get past our fears. And make a leap of faith.  Like Indiana Jones.
Our series called “If you want to walk on water you have to get out of your boat,” we have talked about the call to get out of the boat and the importance of answering that call,  we have talked about taking little steps toward  Jesus and the need eventually to take one big step.  On Wednesdays we have talked about what our boats are, what our gifts are and the voices to which we listen.  Today I want to go on to the next part of the story and examine what happened when Peter actually stepped out on the water.  Verses 29-31. 
   Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
 31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
You get the picture.  This is where we need our life vest.  The wind.  The waves.  The wetness.  The darkness.  The unfamiliarity.  We, like  Peter lose our nerve- no it wasn’t really his nerve- he lost his  buoyancy.  No it wasn’t really his buoyancy.  He lost his strength.  No  he didn’t walk on water by his own strength.    Jesus hits the nail on the head.  “You of little faith”  “You of little faith.  Why did you doubt?”  Peter lost his faith.  He lost his trust that God would care for him and fell back into fear.
It is not fear of the water that got Peter.  It is not fear of the wind.  It is not fear of lightening or drowning or being eaten by a whale.  What got Peter was a lapse in his belief that God was holding him up.  What got peter was loss trust in Jesus ability to save.  What Got peter was a failure of  faith.

The first thing we have to realize is that faith feels unnatural to us.  We tend to say , I’ll believe it when I see it, or  give me the hard evidence that will prove beyond a reasonable doubt,  show me the scientific methodology behind the claim.  Part of me asks why Indiana Jones didn’t throw dirt of the path before he stepped out rather than after.  I know because it is the movies--- but also because there really are times in our lives when we have to act against our own instinct for self-preservation- against our own instinct of self-reliance-- against our own instincts for security and step out in faith.

And step out we must.  Because in spite of the fact that it “feels” unnatural- for we who are disciples of Jesus Christ faith is the most natural thing in the world.  For worshippers of the almighty and glorious God of creation, of yesterday, of today, and of tomorrow  to rely wholly on that God, faith  is the most natural thing in the world.  When is the last time God let you fall to your death when you stepped out for him? When was the last time God let you down?  When was the last time God failed you?
Look at all the stories in the Bible where people stepped out into the unseen, the invisible, and the unproven and found that that God was already there.
Noah built a boat for a storm that no one believed would happen.  Abraham set out for an as yet unproven country.  Moses set out with nothing in his suitcase but a promise and a prayer.  David, Isaiah, Jonah, Daniel, James and john and Peter.  The list goes on and on.  And did God fail any of them?  Did God let any of them drown?  Did God let any of them fail?  In your life- has God ever failed you, abandoned you, forgotten you, accidently left you out in the cold?   I’ll answer that for you-  NO!  God does not fail. God does not slip, God does not make mistakes. God is 100% trustworthy-  and therefore 100% faith-worthy.  We have already taken the biggest step of all putting our lives in God’s hand-  Why do we balk at these little steps God asks of us.
Even though faith “feels” unnatural,   for those of us who follow the God who is absolutely faith-worthy.. . .it is actually FEAR  that is unnatural.  Fear to follow God, fear to respond to God’s leading,  and fear to step out in faith in Him that is unnatural. 
You see,it  is that unnatural fear that we must address because fear cripples our Christian life.  We must face and destroy the fear that sinks faith.
1.      (Cartoon#1) We must face and destroy the fear of following God’s voice  because fear  sinks spiritual growth.  Causing the Christian to stagnate and to travel along the road of life in a rut.
2.      (Cartoon#2)We must face and destroy the fear of following God’s voice because fear sinks the work of the church and hinders the furthering of God’s Kingdom. 
3.      (Cartoon#3)We must face and destroy the fear of following God’s voice because  fear sinks the work of the Holy Spirit and makes worship predictable, without wonder, without awe, without meaning. 
4.      (Cartoon#4)We must face and destroy the fear of following God’s voice because fear sinks prayer so that we Christians begin not to expect anything from God – and it leads to the sinful belief that He wouldn’t do anything new or anything better than what we have experienced for that last umpteen years anyway. 
5.      (Cartoon#5) We must face and destroy the fear of following God’s voice because fear sinks generosity and leads to greed because we think that our God will not provide for us, so we must grasp and keep and hoard as many resources as possible.

We must face and destroy the fear of following God’s voice and stepping out in faith to follow Him that in all these ways  sinks our Christian walk.  But as usual that is not the end of the story.

The one last principle to be learned here and that is that fear is banished by God’s faithfulness.  Not by our faith but by God’s faithfulness.  Peter didn’t pull himself up by his bootstraps --- Peter didn’t refocus on Jesus to continue walking-- Peter didn’t reach back and jump in his boat, or grab his snorkel, or put on his life vest.  Peter feared, Peter doubted and Jesus reached out in faithfulness to bring him back up- to rescue him- to save him.
There is nothing in you and nothing in me that makes us water walkers.  The truth is we will never be water-walkers until we are faith-walkers.  Walking in trust instead of trial.  Walking in belief father than our own boldness.  Walking in faith instead of fear.
Without a life vest Fearwalkers will die and I don’t have enough life vest for everyone.  Faithwalkers who need no life vest will walk on water, grow closer to Christ and live to walk another day with Jesus. 
Well, it’s time to step out of the boat.  What will happen.  It depends.   You may sink like a stone.  You may walk on the water.  It  depends on your trust in God.  Are you a faith-walker or a fear-walker
(( As  we think on that let’s listen to “What faith can do”))

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