Sun, Sep 30, 2001

THE STORMS OF LIFE! MATTHEW 14:22-33

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
THE STORMS OF LIFE!
MATTHEW 14:22-33
 

Please turn in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 14 as we look at the story of Jesus walking on the water. This is probably a familiar story for most of you and yet, there are several practical principles that we can glean from it and apply to our own lives as we are going through the storms of life. And as you are probably aware, there are and will be storms in our lives, and the question is, "How are you going to ride them out?" "How are you going to handle them?" Hopefully you will get some insight this morning. Now as you are turning to Matthew chapter 14, listen to this story of a vine clinging to a tree even during the fiercest of storms. It goes like this:

The vine clings to the oak during the fiercest of storms. Although the violence of nature may uproot the oak, twining tendrils still cling to it. If the vine is on the side of the tree opposite the wind, the great oak is its protection; if it is on the exposed side, the tempest only presses it closer to the trunk.

In some of the storms of life, God intervenes and shelters us; while in others He allows us to be exposed, so that we will be pressed more closely to Him.

- B. M. Launderville

We are going to see in our study this morning God’s perspective of the situations we find ourselves in. Then our perspective of the situations we find ourselves in. And finally, what God is doing through those situations we find ourselves in. With that said, let’s begin reading in Matthew chapter 14, starting in verse 22, and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

MATTHEW 14:22-33

Now keep in mind the events that transpired prior to them getting into this boat were miraculous to say the least. Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children, some 15,000 to 20,000 people with just 5 barely crackers and 2 small fish, like sardines. Now Jesus sends His men away as He goes up on a mountain to pray.

As they are on the Sea of Galilee a storm hits, and they are going nowhere. The harder they tried to row, the less they moved, and it was between 3 AM and 6 AM now, during the fourth watch, and they are in trouble. And as Jesus continues to watch them, He then arises and walks out to them, into the middle of the Sea of Galilee, and the men are terrified, they think it is a ghost!

But Jesus calms their fears, and Peter desires to go out of the boat if it is Jesus, and Jesus tells Peter to "Come" and he does! But, as the waves begin to crash around him, realizing it is impossible to walk on water, he begins to sink and he cries out to Jesus, who lifts him up. And as they got into the boat, the storm ceased and they had arrived at their destination. It is at this point that the disciples of Jesus worship Him, saying "...‘Truly You are the Son of God.’"Matthew 14:33.

Now that is a quick overview of this story, but we are going to dig deeper than that, looking at things that will encourage us, strengthen our faith, help to draw us closer to God, and with the Lord’s help, we will all see these things and apply them to our lives.

1. GOD’S PERSPECTIVE

It was springtime, during the time of the Passover, and thus there was a full moon. So as Jesus sent His men out on the Sea of Galilee, knowing that a storm was going to come, and please understand that this was a strong wind so the moon was still shining and Jesus is up on a mountain and thus, He could look down upon them, He could watch them toil, He could watch them rowing nowhere.

Now that does not seem right. It seems like God is being unfair or uncompassionate to these men. But that is not the nature of God nor is it what we see here. First of all, I believe Jesus was praying for His men. In Luke 22:31-32, listen to what Jesus said about Peter and what He was doing for Peter. We read "And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’" That should be a comfort to each of us. You see, God does not want our faith to fail, but He does want it to grow.

Also, as this storm paralyzed these men, as violent as this storm was, Jesus comes walking right over it as if it were nothing to Him, and to Him, it was nothing. All night long these men were straining against the wind, they worked hard all night and got nowhere. You see, and please understand this, what is overwhelming to us, Jesus walks right over! In Job 9:8-10 we are told, "He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea; He made the Bear, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south; He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number."

I don’t know the situations you are going through this morning, how intense they may be, how difficult the situation may be. Some of you may be even thinking of running away from life, from the situation, or even ending your life! Please, think this through. Don’t do anything foolish. God is still in control. Please understand that God’s perspective of this is He first is praying for you and secondly He can handle your problems. In fact, He can walk right over the biggest of them!

In Jeremiah 32:17, 27 we are told, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You."..."Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" You see, if God created the heavens and the earth, which He did do, then is our problem going to be too difficult for Him to handle? Is God going to say "Joe, you really got yourself in a jam this time! I am not going to be able to help you out. I have half my angles recovering from the last mess you got yourself into! I just can’t help you anymore!" Of course He is not going to say that!

We also need to understand that sometimes the storms will continue, but God will use them to draw us close to Him as we shall see in a few minutes. Just understand that Jesus is there with us, He is praying for us, He can handle the difficult situations we are in, and He is always reaching out to us to lift us up. It is as David said, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." Psalm 42:11. Get God’s perspective of the situation!

2. OUR PERSPECTIVE

If you are anything like me, you will tend to hit these situations head on. You know, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going!" mentality. That is what these guys did. A storm came up, it was intense, they worked hard to get to the other side, but in all their efforts, they went nowhere. And in the end they were exhausted, drained, hopeless, frustrated, maybe even mad that Jesus made them get into this boat in the first place.

I think I can safely say that is the way we feel many times as we go through tough times on our own, through the power of our own flesh. One example of this that comes to mind occurred years ago in Schaumburg, Illinois. I was setting up a swing set for the kids and I personally thought they had more parts than what was needed. But, anyway, I thought this was a piece of cake. How hard can it be to put up a swing set?

If you don’t follow the instructions, it can be very hard, very difficult, very frustrating, and very tiring! I had a majority of this together when I found out I had an extra piece, and that meant I was putting it together wrong. Not only that, but I had to take it apart to put this piece on! It was not a good time to be around me. What was the problem? I was doing it in my own power, my own will, my own might, and I blew it big time. And I was exhausted. The solution? Follow the instructions!

Now some of you may be thinking "But the disciples did not have any instructions except to get into the boat and travel to the other side!" Oh contraire! You see, in the boat with them were all the left overs from the feeding of the 15,000 to 20,000 people, 12 baskets full! So all they had to do was look and then pray, but Jesus never came to their minds except maybe in a negative way for getting them into this predicament. And isn’t that the way it goes many times. People are in a difficult situation and the first one they blame, the first one they curse, is God! Go figure?

Also, as these guys are exhausted, frustrated, rowing nowhere, but still trying in their own strength, here comes Jesus walking out into the middle of the Sea of Galilee to meet them. And what was the response of these big, strong men? "Ahhhhh!!!!!!!!!" They screamed like girls, terrified, because they thought they saw a ghost.

Why did they respond like that? Why weren’t they expecting Jesus? Why did He catch them by surprise? Because they were not praying, they were not seeking God in the midst of this storm. And the same is true in our own lives. We should be seeking Him at all times and especially during the storms of life we go through.

So we have seen in this section that they were not looking for Jesus, asking Him for help, but trying to do it on their own and it wasn’t working. Also, notice what Peter does. The Lord comes and calms their fears by telling them "Be of good cheer! I AM, do not be afraid."Now some of your Bibles have "It is I." But it literally says "I AM." The name of God, the all becoming One! Now if someone said, "It is me, Daffy Duck." Then I would not be comforted. But when God is there, there is great comfort. Now Peter answered the Lord by saying "...‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’" And the Lord says to Peter, "Come" and He does!

In this story we tend to miss the fact that Peter was walking on the water out to Jesus. But then, all of a sudden he began to sink. What happened? He took his eyes off of Jesus and placed them on the situation he was in, and he began to sink. Things became overwhelming to him, impossible, unbelievable! He couldn’t walk on water. And as the waves crashed around him, he focused on the situation instead of the Savior!

What about you this morning? Have things been going well, moving in the direction the Lord has called you, and then, all of a sudden, things got tough. The situation has changed. You shouldn’t be doing this, you can’t do this! And before long you have your eyes off of Jesus and placed on the situation or the circumstances you find yourself in, and you begin to sink. You are overwhelmed. And for Peter, at least he knew to cry out to the Lord, "Lord, save me!" That is good. And Jesus did save him.

Let me say this, if God has called you to do something, if He has placed you in a situation, do you really think He is going to let you sink? Of course not! Keep your eyes on Him no matter how high the waves may be, no matter how intense the storm is. You see, it is as Paul said in II Corinthians 3:5, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God." May we not forget that fact as we go through this life and the trials and tribulations that come before us.

3. WHAT IS GOD DOING?

Jesus said in John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." Difficult times will come upon our lives, but if we choose, we can have peace if we look to Jesus. You see, trials or storms of life do serve several purposes in our lives if we will let them.

They help us to stay on track. They help to keep us from worldliness. They help us to get refocused and look to Jesus to be the strength of our life, to trust in Him more and more. They help to strengthen our faith. They help purge out the garbage in our lives by showing us what is in our heart.

Charles Swindoll said "When I worked in a machine shop, we had a department that was called a heat treat department. Some of the metal was heated so hot it became white. And across the top of that white-hot liquid surface came portions of what is called slag or dross that needed to be wiped away by a worker in an asbestos suit. The purpose of removing the slag was to make the metal as nearly pure as possible. The heat of our trials brings to the surface the dross that binds us. Jesus is the One who wipes it clean."

Also, in Isaiah 43:1-2 we are told "But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.’" In other words, the storms of life should not get the better of us if we look to Jesus, to the one who will see us through these storms and bring us to the other side.

Think of it this way, because many of us and probably none of us like trials, like storms in our lives. You know, they are good for others but not for me. But, again, think of it this way, if you don’t play baseball, you will never strike out, but you also won’t know the joy of hitting a home run! If you don’t serve Jesus you may escape some trials, but you will never experience that abundant life that He alone can give. You see, these guys needed to look to Jesus as they were going through these storms, and the lesson for us is we must do the same, otherwise we will be rowing nowhere!

In this story, look how Peter’s faith was stretched. He got out of the boat, the other 11 guys stayed in. They were probably waiting for Peter to sink, getting ready to throw out the life preserver! But Peter took that step of faith, he trusted in the Lord’s command to "Come" even if it was an impossible task. And he may not have walked too far, but at least he walked, took those steps of faith. And even in his failure the Lord is trying to get Peter to see why he failed, that he took his eyes off the Lord and placed them on the situation.

The Lord wants to stretch our faith, He wants it to grow! You see, faith will dispel your fears but fear will dispel your faith. Who are you going to trust? Who are you going to run to? I hope it is the Lord!

Listen to this story of the Cords of Love. It goes like this:

Our Daily Bread once referred to naturalist S. L. Bastian who told of a certain kind of spider that builds its nest in the branch of a small tree or bush. In this delicate enclosure the baby spiders are hatched. If the nest is disturbed in any way, the little spiders will all rush out in fright. At once the mother goes to their side. She is alerted to their potential danger in a most unique manner. Each of the young ones has a thin silky strand attached to it, and all of these threads are joined to the body of the mother. When the babies are threatened by an enemy, they naturally scurry off, giving their lines a sharp tug. This is instantly felt by the adult spider. Within seconds she pulls them back to the nest where they are protected from harm.

That reminds me of something I once read about Mary Slessor, missionary hero to Calabar (Nigeria). She would often rescue babies who were in danger and dying, and often the infants filled her home by the dozens. How to care for them through the night became a problem, especially when one of them stirred and cried. Mary learned to tie a string to each little hammock, lay in bed at night, and pull the strings as each baby needed soothing.

The prophet Hosea says that we are linked to God with cords of love, cords that cannot be broken. The gentle cords of His eternal love bind all our hearts and hurts to Him.

- Robert J. Morgan, Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes, p. 356

Do you see how important the correct perspective is? Do you see how important it is to know what God is doing? You may not know the how’s and why’s, but you have placed your trust in Him and you are walking on water because your eyes are firmly planted on Jesus, who is not only the Author, the Starter of our faith, but also the Finisher! He will complete in us what He began. And thus, don’t give up. We need to learn lessons of faith in our lives. To look to Jesus to be the strength of our life! And notice the response of the disciples of Jesus after Jesus gets into the boat. "...‘Truly You are the Son of God.’" Matthew 14:33. That should be our response before trials come our way, during the trials and after these trials, these storms have passed! We need to worship the Lord at all times!

I find it very interesting, and maybe you too have seen this, that since the terrorist bombing on September 11, 2001, that destroyed the World Trade Center, and part of the Pentagon, and killing, or should I say the murder of almost 6,000 people, America is looking to God. We see the phrase "God bless America!" on signs all over the place. We see government officials who can’t work together, now standing side-by-side singing "God bless America!" Go figure? In Schools where prayer has been banned, it is back. In fact, in a school in the county, and I am sure others, they had a prayer time in the library during lunch time! And I have not heard the ACLU saying anything negative yet, and I doubt that they will for a time.

What is going on? I believe, that in the midst of this tragedy, people are not going to go looking for help at their local atheist headquarters or the ACLU. But they are turning to God, who alone can help. But unless you are saved, unless Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior, God is not under any obligation to answer your prayers. If you don’t know the Lord, now is the time to come to Him and ask Him to be Lord and Savior of your life, to forgive you of your sins. And if you do He will cast your sins as far as the east is from the west to be remembered no more!

Then, it is a life of faith, of stretching, as God is causing you to lean upon Him, to rest upon Him and not yourself or anything or anyone else. And in the end, He will bring all of us through to our final destination, heaven! He will not fail!

Let me leave you with these thoughts from our study this morning, the things we read about in Matthew chapter 14. "Jesus on the mountain represents Christ in His present ministry in heaven, interceding for His people. The disciples represent His servants, buffeted by the storms and trials of life. Soon the Savior will return to His own, deliver them from danger and distress and guide them safe to the heavenly shore."

It is as John tells us, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith." I John 5:4. Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might! Take those steps of faith, get out of the boat and grow in the Lord. And you, like Peter, will be able to walk on water as you keep your eyes on Jesus!

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