I was born in the month of September, so I have a built-in affection for the fall season. I love the cool sunny days. I love the glorious colors of autumn leaves as the deciduous trees prepare for winter sleep. I love the time of harvest and back to school. I welcome life slowing down from the buzz of summer, hot instead of iced tea, savory soups, and my patio plants coming indoors to spend the cold months under grow lights.
How would you describe this year? Bizarre? Exceptional? Scary? Unique in memory? Beyond explanation? Overwhelming? All of the above? Have you asked yourself, “What is God up to during these tumultuous times that show no sign of slowing down?”
Might there be a lesson for us from a narrative we reviewed this past week, in Session two of our 40 Days in the Word study? In Matthew 14:22-33, the apostle describes Jesus coming to some of His disciples during the fourth watch of the night, walking on the water. The men were in a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee and having a rough time battling bad weather – darkness, strong winds, high waves – and to make matters worse, they see what they think is an apparition and freak out. Put yourself in their shoes – how would you respond to seeing a ghostly presence walking calmly on water during a storm? Jesus understands their fear and identifies Himself, encouraging them to “Take heart” and “Do not be afraid.”
Peter wants to know if it is really Jesus and asks Him to command him to “come to you on the water.” Jesus complies and commands Peter to “Come.” Peter gets out of the boat, seemingly oblivious to the storm and his perilous situation, walks on water and comes to Jesus. Think about the courage and faith it took to make that decision. We all know what happens next – Peter takes his eyes off Jesus, focuses instead on the stormy conditions, and in his fear begins to sink beneath the waves. He cries out to Jesus to be rescued and Jesus does exactly that – grabbing him by the hand and pulling him from a watery grave. However, Jesus also admonishes him for his lack of faith – asking him “why did you doubt?” When both men were back in the boat, the wind ceased, and the stormy weather vanished.
What is the application for us?
Jesus called Peter out of the comfort, safety, and security of the boat into the middle of the storm. Sound familiar? Might God be calling us out of complacency, comfort, old habits, and life “as usual’? Hebrews 12:26-27 tells us God is shaking up “not only the earth but also the heavens” to “remove the things that have been made – in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.” God wants us to depend on Him, not the things of this world. He remains unshakeable, constant, and reliable, while the things of this world are unreliable, inconsistent, and ever changing.
When we keep our focus on Jesus – who He is, what He has done, what He has promised – we can “walk on water” and supernaturally weather the storms of life. When we focus on our overwhelming problem, impossible situation, or challenging circumstance, we sink into fear, anxiety, doubt, disbelief, discouragement, and depression. It takes faith in the One who is faithful to step out of the boat boldly and confidently into the storm. Jesus stayed with Peter during the storm just as He stays with us during our stormy conditions. We are never alone or left on our own. We can rely on Christ’s strength and the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Peter did, to keep us on the surface of the stormy sea. Even when Peter doubted and began to sink, Christ did not desert him. God rescues us not because of our performance, but because of His compassion and care. To stay on top of the storms in our lives, we need to remain focused on and have consistent faith in Jesus.
The chorus of that wonderful song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” comes to mind:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.”
Some final thoughts from the book of Colossians: Colossians 3:2 reminds us of the importance of focus – “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Despite what is going on regionally, nationally or globally with the economy, governments, politics, the media, the COVID-19 pandemic, the weather – or personally with your family, job, church, health or finances – God is sovereign. Take comfort that He is always at work fulfilling His purpose and accomplishing His plans. He remains in charge and in control.
Colossians 1:15-18 reminds us God the Father has given Jesus Christ all authority.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”