This morning we are going to take a detour from Mark to the gospel of Matthew. We’re going back in time to an event we’ve already looked at in Mark and to examine some extra detail in Matthew’s account.
Turn to Matthew 14.
Last week we saw that Jesus has absolute mastery over the spiritual world. And faith is the door which opens our world to the power of Jesus.
I want to talk some more about faith today. In Mark 6 Jesus showed that he had mastery over the physical world by walking on water. In that event, Jesus drew from two themes of Jewish tradition. By walking on water and stating, “I am”, Jesus stepped into the role of the LORD of the Old Testament – the I AM who alone treads on the waves of the sea.
Today we will see in Matthew’s account the response of faith to the revelation of Jesus as Lord.
First I want you to see the word “me” in verse 28.
1. Faith says “why not me?”
Faith is a personal appropriation of the power of God. Peter sees Jesus walking on water and his response is, “If Jesus can do it, he can help me do it.”
Why not me?
Faith begins when a person considers the idea of God and says, “maybe that’s for me.” A person attends church, thinking, “maybe that’s for me.” A person hears the gospel and says, “that’s for me.”
Faith is the difference between observing a nice solid chair and walking over to the chair and saying, “this is for me” and sitting down.
Faith is the woman who hears a sermon about Jesus healing a woman and says, “why not my me?” and brings her Mom forward for prayer and watches Jesus perform a miracle.
Faith is the woman who hears a sermon about Jesus healing and says, “why not me?” and knocks on her neighbors door to pray for that neighbor’s cancer and watches as Jesus performs another miracle of healing.
Faith responds to Jesus with the impulse, “why not me?”
Do you see the word, “come” in verse 29? What a word!
Jesus could have ignored Peter. He could have rebuked him for his impudence. He could have said, “Peter, stay in your lane. This isn’t about you.”
But he said, “come.”
I imagine Jesus smiling as he said, “come.”
In the Scriptures I see a pleasure in God in response to faith. I see it in Hebrews 11:6.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
It is possible to please God. It is possible to be rewarded by God.
I want to tell you a story this morning. Over a hundred years ago, a young Christian named Evan Roberts was taught the story of God moving in power in his country in years past. He thought, “why not me?”
He prayed every day for 13 years that God would bring revival in his day. After 13 years of praying, Evan had an encounter with God which profoundly affected him. After 13 years of praying, a prayer meeting was electrified with the presence of God and word began to spread of the seed of revival.
Within two months 70,000 people converted to Christ. The flames of that revival spread to the UK where an estimated 1,000,000 came to Christ. The flames spread to the US and ignited a movement with incalculable influence.
Faith hears the wonders of God and says, “why not me?”
Why not us?
Why not now?
Now look at the word, “out” in verse 29.
2. Faith is active and risk-taking.
It was surely a shocking experience, to see Jesus standing out on the water. The disciples have been straining against the headwinds for hours and hours. It’s late into the night, almost morning. The night has been a study in human weakness and frailty.
Yet, when Peter sees Jesus his response is to get up and get out of the boat.
Faith gets up and gets out.
A famous preachers used to say, “faith is spelled R-I-S-K”.
Have you heard the phrase “paralysis of analysis”?
If you are like me, you know all to well what that is. I have a burning need to understand. I won’t take a step until I feel that I have seen every possible angle in a situation. It’s very hard for me to move until risk has been removed.
It’s good to be wise and calculating. It’s good to count costs and be prepared.
But there is a line where analysis becomes paralysis and freezes faith.
Sometimes we have to take a step without complete understanding. Sometimes we need to respond to the impulse of faith and risk a step out into an unknown future.
Faith is active and risk-taking.
In verse 30 we see Peter walking on water – extraordinary. Until he shifts his gaze from Jesus to the environment. He sees the wind and the waves and he falters. His body begins to sink. He cries out, “Lord save me.”
3. Faith is a resolution of the will to remain single minded.
Sight caused faith to fail.
There are two really interesting words in the Greek in verse 30.
First, Jesus says, “you of little faith.”
The Greek is one word. Oligopiste. It’s a compound word combing the words small and faith. You can think of it as small-faith. The word is used 6 times in the gospels.
In my understanding, Jesus used this word as a term of endearment.
A term of endearment is a word or phrase used to address or describe a person, animal or inanimate object for which the speaker feels love or affection.
In my house you might hear my wife refer to our daughter as “little chicken” or “chicken.” It’s an unusual name for a child. It comes from our daughters propensity to respond to the slightest problem as if the world were ending. Like Chicken Little who saw the sky falling. The term is at the same time a chastisement and an affectionate embrace.
I believe this is the connotation behind Jesus’ use of the word small-faith. I picture Jesus with an arm around Peter, smiling, “small-faith, why did you doubt?”
The second word is doubt. In the Greek it is distazo, a word combining the roots for two and stance. It means going two ways or shifting between two positions.
It is impossible to truly believe while wavering between positions – with one eye on Jesus and one eye on our circumstances.
Faith requires a single focus. A single stance.
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
How do we do that?
It is vital to remember that faith as taught in the Scriptures is not a feeling which we may or may not have. It is not the “burning of the bosom” of the Mormons who read from their book and wait for a feeling of faith to arise.
Faith is the result of careful thinking. Here is Martyn Lloyd-Jones on faith.
“Faith according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph (Matthew 6) is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. . . . We must spend more time in studying our Lord’s lessons in observation and deduction. The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds, think about them, and draw your deductions.
Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the field, consider them. . . . Faith, if you like, can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that, instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else [circumstances, for example], and, as we put it, he goes round and round in circles. That is the essence of worry. . . . That is not thought; that is the absence of thought, a failure to think.” -MLJ
The wavering of doubt is often an instinct of self-preservation in response to our circumstances. The remedy for doubt is thinking. It is meditation on the promises of God. It is careful study of the history of God’s works.
Faith comes from thinking and resolving to believe.
These two words are becoming my mantra for 2023.
I am resolved to resist wavering and to firmly plant myself in a position of faith this year.
The last word I want you to see is the word “hold” in verse 31.
4. When faith fails, Jesus does not.
The faith of Peter wavered. But the grip of Jesus did not.
This is a story about faith, but as always in the Scriptures, it is a story that exalts the faithfulness of Christ over human failure.
When Peter failed, Christ did not.
Peter learned faith through failure.
“When I doubted on the water, Jesus caught me.”
“When I was misguided and tried to turn Jesus off course, He wouldn’t budge.”
“When I denied him three times, he loved me and forgave me.”
Peter knew from much experience that, no matter how many times he failed, Jesus would never fail him.
Grace. Steadfast, faithful, unchanging grace.
This is the fuel of risk-taking faith.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown