Since it is has been mostly a steamy summer, we could meet down at Lake Michigan where it is a little cooler for worship. And while we are there, we can test everyone’s faiths by seeing who can walk on water.
How many steps could you take on the water? Or we could go to Tony’s Supermarket down the street and buy a loaf of bread. How many more loaves of bread could you get from that one loaf to feed the hungry?
Or we could go to Swedish Hospital and heal the sick. Or the funeral home up here on the corner and raise the dead.
As I was presenting to you the possibilities of ways to exercise our faiths, were you thinking, “Pastor, faith does not work that way?”
And maybe you are right. I could challenge you with this question, “Do you believe in miracles?”
In these modern times, it seems that God does not usually work through dramatic miracles.
I say “usually” and “dramatic” because God could have us walk on water if there was a purpose for us to walk on water.
I know for myself, especially in my college days when I was “poor,” I saw the little bit of money that I had stretched out, so I did have something to eat when it was looking like I was down to nothing.
I am not sure if I would call it a miracle or not, but I was able to have enough corn flakes and milk until the next paycheck from a part-time job in those penny-pinching years.
When one of my worn tires went flat, somehow money appeared, so I could get a better worn used tire to replace it.
Talking about faith and how it works in life is for the most part mysterious. We have some clues about faith, but we do not get it all.
We do not always see, feel, and understand all that is happening in our lives, but by faith, we know all is working out for the good.
In order for faith to be faith, it has to have some gaps, and it’s in those gaps that we put in the things of faith-trust and hope.
As humans, we have a lot of answers, and we keep pursuing more answers as we should.
God has made for us an awesome planet, and we should learn as much as we can about it, but we will never know everything, and this realization that we do not and will not know everything keeps us humble.
In our humility, we put our faith in an almighty and loving God who has all things held in His gracious hands. This knowledge of a loving and caring God gives us comfort.
Looking at Peter’s attempt to walk on water illustrates a lot about how we can go about our lives in faith.
To set the situation, Peter and the other eleven disciples are on a boat, and a storm is brewing up. They see someone walking out to them, and they try to explain the image by saying it is a ghost.
Then, they see this image come closer and can see that it is Jesus walking on water.
Peter is known for his boldness that we might say that it is moving towards the side of audacity. He makes a surprising move to want to walk on water as Jesus was doing.
I wonder what was going through the head of Peter when he asked Jesus if he could go out to him.
And I wonder what the other eleven disciples were thinking about Peter’s wanting to walk on water. Was he acting brassy, or was he just the first to go walking on water? Were the other disciples wanting to follow Peter? Would walking on water be a common thing for followers of Jesus to do?
I want to think that Peter was starting to really believe that Jesus is the Lord of sea and sky.
If Peter’s faith is building up, I can see how it is okay that he acted with some boldness, and if you do not mind me saying, “At least, he had some spunk that came from his growing faith triggering him to act out what he was seeing.”
I mean-Peter just did not sit there- he did something. And that something was wanting to go towards his Lord. We can never go wrong wanting to walk towards Jesus, even it is walking through stormy seas.
We have to give Peter some credit, for he did literally step out on faith. We can speculate all day long if Peter was an impetuous fool or a strong believer, but we do have to admit-Peter did walk on water.
Well, at least for a few steps. Peter had his eyes on Jesus, but he could not help but look around. In his looking around, he saw and felt the wind and waves. For a moment, and just a moment is all it takes at times, he took his eyes off of Jesus, and he began to sink.
Take a look at your life right now. You may be seeing troubles of all kinds. Most definitely if we take a look at the world around us, we see all kinds of the problems-the list can begin with violence, conflict, illness, poverty, injustices, and sadly, we can go on and on with listing the problems of the world.
Listing out our problems may cause us to sink in despair, but let us see them for what they are. As Peter looked around, he did get scared, but he also did the best thing that he could do-Peter shouted out to the Lord for help.
People of faith can get into some difficult situations. Here are some examples:
Noah floating out in an ark with no land in sight; Joseph was thrown into a pit by his own loved ones; Moses in front of mighty Pharaoh with nothing but a staff asking to let his people go; David in front of a fierce giant with nothing but a slingshot and some stones; Daniel in a lion’s den with nothing but faith.
We can add one more illustration: Jesus in front of Pilate who will sentence Jesus to die on a cross although he is completely innocent.
As we talked about how in these modern times we have no need to walk on water, Jesus also said that if we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, which is one of the smallest of all seeds, we can move mountains.
Mountains are fine just where they are, and we are not floating out in the middle of an ocean; we are not in front of an evil dictator or a furious giant; we are not in a pit or carrying an actual cross.
We are not literally doing these things like the people in Scripture had to do, but we can say that figuratively, these things do describe our world and often, too often, our lives.
And I know this does not give any comfort, but hard times have their way of coming into our lives.
What can give us comfort is believing that Jesus is bigger and stronger than all the troubles of the world.
Getting back to Peter, when he saw that he was sinking, he shouted to the Lord for help.
When looking out at the world that is such a mess, it is at this point that we can shout to the Lord.
Whenever we feel in a situation that is overwhelming us, or if we have doubts that are causing us to fear, we can shout to the Lord for help. We shout to our Lord because it is our Lord, and only our Lord, who can give us help.
Peter was out of reach for the other disciples who are in the boat to throw him a line, he was too scared to walk back to the boat, and the waves and wind were beyond his strength, so all that Peter could do was to shout to the Lord.
Again speaking figuratively, is it possible that God brings us to the “end of our rope” that all we can do is shout to Him for help?
At the clinging to the end of a rope of a desperate time like not having enough money to pay the bills, facing the wind of a stormy time of conflict, drowning in a sea of trouble, facing a giant of a problem, or carrying our cross as a disciple of Christ, and we can go on and on with the metaphors, they all can cause fear.
God takes us to these places to test our faiths, but He always gives us the time to shout to Him, and shouting to Him for help is want He wants us to do because He is our only help.
Jesus shouted to his Father in heaven seven times when he was on the cross. So, we, too, shout to God for every need, especially the need for our sins to be forgiven.
When we shout to God, “Help me, for I am a sinner.” God is sure to come by His grace and mercy in Christ and forgive every sin.
In that forgiveness, we have everything that we need to get through this life, for there is power in the blood that was shed by Jesus on the cross.
Look at some logic that faith gives us here-if we have strength in Christ over sin, eternal death, and Satan, doesn’t it make sense that we can face anything else that comes our way?
So, like Peter, we cry to Jesus for help, and we get help for whatever we need.
And by the way, God is so close that we do not need to really shout too loud-even whispering small prayers throughout our days will help us see that God is there at our side in Christ with all the blessings of heaven and earth.
Are there miracles in these modern times? If something awesome happens, and we exclaim, “It’s a miracle,” are we speaking literally or figuratively?”
I am not sure of the answer. All we know is that God is working all the time for us and is near to us.
When we do step out in faith, we can be sure that all do work for the good.
Are you surprised that such goodness can be in such a chaotic world or in our lives that seem to have one problem after another?
Call it a miracle or not-this goodness is here, and by faith, we can always be stepping into all of God’s goodness that is in Christ.
And if you ever are in doubt, just shout!