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August 9, 2020   What God can do with a little faith

Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ   

Mille Lacs lake in central MN is 14 mi wide & 18 mi long.  The Sea of Galilee is a little smaller:  8 miles wide by 13 miles long.   When Jesus told his disciples to sail/row to the other side,  it was a long way;  esp with the wind against them.   In the 4th watch, (that’s between 3am & 6am)  Jesus walks out to them on the water.    But, *which is the greater miracle? –for Jesus to walk on water maybe 3 or 4  miles,  or for Peter to take 3 or 4 steps?   As God in human form,  Jesus could walk wherever He wanted.  So, maybe the bigger miracle is that with the word ‘come’,  Jesus could make the non-god  -Peter-  walk on water.

I wonder:  *which of these two miracles would YOU like to see today?  *Would you like to see Jesus walk on water,  so that you’d know that He’s powerful & His promises are true?  Or,  *would you like Him to call YOU to go & take a few steps on the water yourself?    It takes a lot of faith to believe that Jesus is really God = without ever seeing any proof.  It takes a lot of faith to trust God’s promises  just walking thru this life,  without ever trying to walk on water.   It takes a lot of faith;   and most of the time,  we don’t think we have enough faith.

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Sometimes we hear it said  (or implied) that if we just believe harder, & act without doubt,  miracles will happen;   that’s like being told that miracles are not really up to God,  they depend upon US!   That’s backwards!   *Aren’t we already trying to believe as hard as we can?

When Jesus called Peter  “you of little faith,”   He’s not mad or scolding;  He’s just noting the reality.  Peter was the only one willing to step out of the boat;   and even HE is  “you of little faith.”  Jesus doesn’t tell him  he has to believe harder;  He does ask him  ‘what reason did he have to doubt the Son of God’.   Jesus has shown Peter what God is able to do with a little faith.  That’s  a good lesson which applies to you & me.   Not that we’re looking to ‘do miracles’,  but that God can work good things  with our ‘little faith.’

What CAN God do with our  “little faith”?  He guards, grows, & saves.  God guards our faith  so it doesn’t die;  and God strengthens our little faith  to better receive all His blessings =  including eternal life.  That’s really what God expects of His faithful people.  Not walking on the water,  but humbly & gratefully receiving His blessings,  and obeying His Word.

This faith is for our good,  & for our neighbor’s benefit.   A little working visible faith each day  is far better for us,  & for our neighbor,  than for us to do something grand,  like: walk on water.   And most importantly,  that humble,  visible faith  -of any size-  has One grand person & event  to point to.  True faith is directed toward the Lord Jesus Christ & His cross.  That little faith is enough to receive God’s forgiveness,  & to live new lives in Christ,  & to bring us to everlasting life in heaven.

This is why God points us to our baptismal faith,  to faith like that of a child,  & as small as a mustard seed.  Because what matters  is that God gives us that gift of faith;  He applies it to us by His Word & Spirit.   The miracle of actually believing in Christ  is the greatest miracle;   making a dead soul  alive-to-God  is God’s best miracle.   Of course,  with the Lord,  you never know.  At times,  He will also do some other amazing & wonderful things.

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So,  *what does God do with our little faith?  He guards and protects it.   In Matt.14,   Jesus guards the faith of the disciples  by taking them away from an adoring crowd.  At this time,  large crowds were following Jesus,  mostly for the wrong reasons.  Jesus had just miraculously fed more than 5000 people,  and John says that now the crowd wanted to take Jesus & force him to be their king.  Jesus’ disciples would’ve gone from being fishermen  to instant celebrities.  Reality TV shows & lotteries  teach us  that never goes very well.

Earthly fame with Jesus  may have been good for their egos,  but not good for their faith.    Their faith needed to be strong enough  so they wouldn’t be swayed by the flattery of the crowds,  & they still had ‘little faith.’  Isaiah 42 says,  “A smoldering wick  he will not snuff out.”   So Jesus protects their vulnerable faith,  and removed them from temptation.   v. 22 says,   “Immediately he made (or ‘compelled’)  the disciples get into the boat,  and go before him to the other side,  while he dismissed the crowds.”

Jesus knows the things that are damaging to your faith;  as our Good Shepherd,  He directs our lives  to shield us  when our little faith could be snuffed out.   We may wonder why God doesn’t lead us to situations that make us  more successful, more healthy, or more important  in this life.   Altho some things are good for our egos & our bank accounts,  they may not be good for our faith.   So -sometimes- our Lord may send us out & away,  against life’s wind & waves.     What can God do with our little faith?   He guards and protects it.

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THE SECOND THING God does with our little faith  is to cause it to grow and strengthen.

  1. 24 says, “The boat by this time was a long way from the land,  beaten by the waves,  for the wind was against them.”   The disciples must’ve wondered why Jesus had abruptly sent them on a long journey,  & in the dark.   So here they were,  obeying His order,  & getting beat up by the rough sea.   Earlier,  Jesus had calmed a storm to protect them;  but this time, Jesus wasn’t in the boat with them.  So,  *how does a disciple function when Jesus isn’t in plain sight?

That’s a good Q for US,  because we never see Jesus physically.  As 2Cor.5 says,   “For we walk by faith,  not by sight.”

The disciples weren’t doing so well;  they were afraid.  And when Jesus came walking up to them,  they were terrified,  thinking that the shape coming toward them thru the waves  was a phantom & a threat.  So Jesus spoke familiar words to calm them:  “Take heart;  it is I.    Do not be afraid.”    And altho it’s a strange request,  Peter wanted to be sure.  “Lord,  if it is you,  command me to come to you on the water.”

So the Lord is willing to test Peter;  and tells him to come out on the water.  With his eyes on Jesus,  Peter actually walks on water.  *Have you ever thought that it’s because of a weak faith that you’ve never done some great thing?   A preacher once said,  “If we’ve never walked on water,  it might be because we never dared step out of the boat.”   I don’t know about that.

Mostly we’re just glad to faithfully make it thru the day,  doing regular things.  But I do think our Lord Jesus likes to challenge us & test our faith;  the purpose would be to strengthen us to use it more;  to serve Him more,  & with confidence.  The more we live to God,  the sturdier our faith should be;   so that  when we look back at our life,  we will be amazed with the things God has done with our little faith.

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Now,  there’s nothing in this event  that tells us we should ever expect to ‘walk on water.’  It never occurs again in Scripture,  & none of the other disciples expect it.   All of the miracles are this way.  Since miracles are not up to us,  we should never expect them.  We should simply trust  that our gracious & powerful Triune God  will do whatever is right & good for us.

So,  if you want to go out to the lake,  & try walking on water,  wear your swim suit,  ‘cause you’re going to get wet.  God doesn’t use miracles to entertain us.  We can expect that for all our lives  we will walk by faith,  not by sight.

So,  we have no goals involving miracles.  When our Lord says ‘come’,  He challenges us in more ordinary ways.  Each week,  & every day,  our Lord calls to us  /to worship,  /to pray,  /to give,  /to serve,  /& to be holy in what we say & do.   Peter knows that those things actually count more  than one stroll on the water.

In this Christian faith,  little things are important.  +How about not forgetting to include a daily prayer & devotion-time.   +How about making a priority of Sunday worship in thanks to our God & Savior.   +How about getting rid of those sins-of-habit we have,  or our excuses for neglecting those opportunities to be kind & helpful to others.   +How about if we stop dreaming about ‘walking on water’,  and focus on daily walking by Christian morals & values,  and not be afraid of being different than the culture around us.

Let’s not worry about the big things  until we can handle the littler things.   The Christian faith is already like ‘sailing against the wind & waves.’  Jesus challenges us  so our little faith becomes stronger;  a more focused & more confident trust in Him.  Peter realized what Hebrews 12 says:  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,  the author and perfecter of our faith.”

As a disciple of Christ,  when you are challenged in serving Him,  it’s best not to look at the things that stand against you.  Look at your Lord Jesus.  When He puts something in front of you to do,  He will help you do it.  If you start to sink,  He’ll help you up again.   What can God do with our little faith?    He increases and strengthens it.

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Lastly,  *what’s the BEST THING  God can do with our little faith?  He forgive & save us.    When Peter started to sink,  he couldn’t save himself;   but he had the right faith =like a trusting child=  to know WHO could save him:  He called out to Jesus.   Faith is sometimes described as ‘the hand that receives God’s salvation.’    In this case,  Peter called out,  “Lord,  save me!”,   and Jesus reached for him,  pulled him back up,  & saved him.   That’s always what true faith does for us;   whether little or large,  in the end = it’s faith IN Jesus Christ alone.   Faith receives the salvation He has won for us.

This is the best thing;  true faith begins,  lives,  & finishes in God’s One Savior.  You may sometimes hear in the media,  or in mixed groups of people,  that a ‘generic faith’ is enough;

that just believing in ‘God’  or in ‘a supreme being’  will make everything turn out okay.

Or you might hear it said  that all religions are just different paths to the same place;   or  that God doesn’t care which church you go to,  or whether you even go = just be spiritual in some way,  and try to be a good person.   That’s ‘generic’ faith.

But God himself defines true saving faith  very narrowly, & very simply:  it is faith in Jesus Christ,  the Son of God,  and in his work on the cross.    +Faith  is a trust in Jesus’ rescue from drowning in our sins;   +it’s a trust that He’ll be with us every day,  in health and in sickness,  in joys and in sorrows;   +faith is that trust when we face death,  that we will go to be with our Risen Lord Jesus.   True Faith  must always address God’s Law,  our sin,  repentance & forgiveness,  and the only salvation plan there is = in Jesus alone.   Faith in Jesus is always that he’s God’s Son,  in the flesh,  who came to rescue us from sin & et.death by His cross,  and has restored us to life with God.  Jesus is God’s hand reaching out to us.  There is no other name under heaven,  given among men,  by which we will be saved.

What can Jesus do with our little faith?  He saves us  & gives us the greatest gift:  eternal life.

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Because of this event that night on the Sea of Galilee,  along with the other lessons from Jesus,  God was able to use Peter’s little faith  to write some pretty big things for us to know.  Listen to how Peter begins his first letter:         [read chpt. 1  verses 3~9]

*What can God do with our faith?   God guards, grows, & saves.   With this faith,  you & I will be amazed at where God makes us walk;   even thru the valley of the shadow of death =

but we will fear no evil or harm;   for Jesus our rescuer is with us.

Amen