Description – The fourth in a six-part series ‘Get Your Feet Wet.’
(Slide 1) You can probably tell by my sermon title how I am going to start this sermon this morning, right?
Here we go!
(Select one person to be the contestant they will answer 5 questions. They can ask the congregation for help, two times.)
Question number 1: A writing tool that you can erase with when you make a mistake or correction: a. Pen b. Pencil c. Desk Jet Ink Cartridge d. Quill Pen (correct answer is ‘b’ pencil)
Question number 2: The disciple who got out of the boat when Jesus said, ‘Come on was’: a. John b. Mark c. Luke d. Peter (correct answer is ‘d’ Peter)
Question number 3: November 11, 1918 is the day when this occurred: a. Pastor Jim was born b. World War 1 officially ended c. The Spanish American war began d. The New York Yankees won their first World Series (correct answer is ‘b’ World War 1 officially ended)
Question number 4: This early American leader is famous for his kite and key experiment: a. Benjamin Franklin b. Franklin D Roosevelt c. John Hancock d. Jerry Springer (correct answer is ‘a’ Benjamin Franklin)
Question number 5: The state that is to the west of Indiana, the south of Wisconsin, the northwest of Kentucky and the northeast of Missouri is: a. Iowa b. Tennessee c. Illinois d. Michigan (correct answer is ‘c’ Illinois)
Thank you for playing!
We are half-way through our fall series, ‘Get Your Feet Wet’ and we continue this morning with our study of Matthew 14:22-33: “Immediately after this, Jesus made his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while he sent the people home. Afterward he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.
About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him, they screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “It’s all right,” he said. “I am here! Don’t be afraid.”
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.”
“All right, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” And when they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.” (NLT)
The main point of this sermon series is to face and deal with, with God’s help, our fears that hold us back from taking the next steps with the Lord.
(Slide 7) For this morning, I call our attention to verses 28 and 29: Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.”
“All right, come,” Jesus said.
(Slide 8) So far, we have learned that:
- Jesus calls us to get out of the boat, that is our place of security and comfort, in order to grow in our faith
- Fear is a big wall that we must over come, by faith and trust in Christ
- That God, if we wait and intently look for Him, comes to us in the midst of our life storms; our life fears
Today, let us think about this:
(Slide 8a) Saying yes to God is risky business. But, saying yes to God is also not a misguided calculation that creates unnecessary anxiety but a confident trust in God’s ability to help us get out of our own boats and onto the water and move forward.
John Ortberg tells the story of going to a dude ranch in Arizona at the instance of his wife who felt the vacation was not complete without “the exhilaration of a truly challenging horseback ride.” (His exact words.)
The first time he went out at the ranch, he did so with no trouble and thought that he had tamed the art of riding a horse. However, the next day he and five of the trail hands took a herd of horses on a three-mile trip out to pasture.
As he went to the stable to get his horse, he thought about the name of his horse. Would it be ‘Stout’ or ‘King’ or ‘Knight?’ No, oh no. The name of his horse was ‘Reverse.’ It was called ‘Reverse’ because he had the habit of going in reverse when you pulled on his reins.
The trip out to the pasture was uneventful. The trip back to ranch and stable was not. One of the hands decided to start a race back to the stable.
Here, in Ortberg’s own words is the rest of the story: “His [one of the five ranch hands] horse took off at full gallop and the other four immediately started racing to catch up with him. Reverse started to make his move. Instinctively, I pulled on the reins as hard as I could. Reverse rose up on his hind legs and took a few steps backward-just as Silver used to do under the Lone Ranger-and then took off like a bat out of… a cannon.
For the better part of a mile, Reverse ran a dead heat (the word dead sticks in my mind). We were not sauntering or trotting-this was an all out sprinting as in a scene from a movie… Reverse and I passed four of them. I say “Reverse and I, “ but the truth is, he was doing most of the work. I was waiting to die… Exodus 15:1 came to mind, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”
(Source: John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk On Water, You Have Got To Get Out of the Boat. © 2001, Zondervan)
Ortberg goes on to say that he begins to realize that he is probably going to survive this high-speed romp through the Arizona desert and he then begins to enjoy the ride and safely finishes the race back to the ranch.
For a couple of years back in the 90’s (remember the 90’s?) this time of year featured a trip to a state park between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan (the name escapes me) and horseback riding. I remember the first time I went riding, it was in Michigan though Susan and I had lived in central Kentucky (a major area in this country for all things horse) for two years during seminary.
I remember that I was given a stick to hold in my hand in a way that the horse could turn its head and see that I meant business while on the trail. I don’t remember the horse’s name (it was not Reverse) but I kept that stick where it would be seen and we got along fine.
Ortberg goes on to reflect on his wild and exhilarating ride, and makes this observation: ‘My only choice had been to say yes or no to the ride. I had to decide whether I had enough faith to ride the horse. When I mounted that horse, I did not have a clue as was to what was going to happen to me… Once I took a single step, once I got into the saddle, a whole world of experience was set in motion. Everything else was up to the horse. I could not control it. But I could have missed it.’
John Ortberg’s decision to mount the horse and ride was ‘his final answer.’
Likewise, Peter had a decision to make once Jesus said to him, ‘All right, come.’
In both cases fear was either going to be listened to and obeyed or stared down and trampled on.
Therefore, when it comes to making a ‘getting out of the boat’ decision, our final answer is our choice of believing, trusting, and then acting on that belief and trust, or not.
Moments come when we have to decide whether God is to be trusted or not and act accordingly. For Peter, it was after Jesus said ‘All right, come.’
Faith requires trust and action. Faith requires us to have moments when our feet are going to get wet.
Speaking of getting your feet wet, let’s go for a moment to Joshua 3:14-17 where the Israelites cross the Jordan River and into the Promised Land:
When the people set out to cross the Jordan, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. Now it was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water began piling up at a town upstream called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the city of Jericho. Meanwhile, the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by them. They waited there until everyone had crossed the Jordan on dry ground. (NLT)
The oldest members of this group had waited for this moment for over 40 years! They were about to take possession of some new property promised to them for a long, long time…
But, wait, the river is overflowing! How are the kids going to get across? How are we going to stay together as a family as we get over there? My sandals are going to get wet! Will we find the rest of our group once we get over there? I can’t swim very well, I might… drown!
Fear, worry, and anxiety pops up at the slight bump in the road, doesn’t it?
The fear of the unknown is sometimes like a big huge wave ready to sweep us under and we are just not sure that we are going to ride it out. We often want ‘dry ground,’ that ‘rock bottom’ assurance, before we take the first step in the direction that God wants us to go that this is going to work out perfectly.
That is not what happened here. Someone’s feet got wet first before God acted!
Now it was the harvest season, and the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river’s edge, the water began piling up at a town upstream… And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the city of Jericho. …the priests who were carrying the Ark of the Lord’s covenant stood on dry ground in the middle of the riverbed as the people passed by them. They waited there until everyone had crossed the Jordan on dry ground.
We don’t like to get wet, do we? It is inconvenient and it is a nuisance.
But to possess what God has for us to possess, we have to get out of the boat and get our feet wet sometimes because it is the only way to move forward with the Lord.
Faith requires action. It is not a passive thing. The Israelites had to believe that God would help them possess the Promised Land by taking the first step and as they believed and they trusted that God would help them get across the dry ground appeared.
There comes a point (many points) when we have to make a final decision; a final answer – go or no go.
There comes a point (many points) when we have to make a final decision; a final answer – believe or disbelieve.
It was that way with the Israelites and it was that way with Peter!
So, Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.
There was success for the Israelites! They made it safely across!
But, not for Peter…
“But when he looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and grabbed him. “You don’t have much faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”
We will have more to say about this segment next week but I present it here to acknowledge that sometimes, legitimate steps of faith don’t always go right, and it is not necessarily the end of the world. (Though it may seem that way!)
(Slide 9) So what does this mean for us today where we are at in our lives and our history?
Where are you feeling the pinch and pressure of ‘your final answer’ at work? At school? At home? With finances? With a relationship? With a calling that God has been making for you to do something new and different?
I suggest that our final answer will cause us to:
… either get out of what Ortberg calls our ‘spiritual comfort zone’ and experience the exhilaration of an often wild ride with Christ that moves us forward
… we will stay in it (our boat) and not experience the power and the wonder of walking on the water with the Lord that will move us forward.
The final answer is our choice.
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about this today? Are you having to give a ‘final answer’ to God in some area of your life and you want to give the right answer that will allow you to move forward with Him?
Or, are you still clinging tightly to the side of the boat or hanging on for dear life to the reigns of a horse called ‘Uncertainty’ and you are simply afraid to let go and let God have His way?
Let God have His way today. Get out of the boat! Enjoy the ride! Tell God your final answer is: Yes, Lord I will!