Sermon: Getting out of the boat

Romans 10:5-15 Matthew 14:22-33

For Moses and the Old Testament people, the life of righteousness was attained by keeping the law – “A man who does these things will live by them.”

Since Jesus came, we have a new way of righteousness – a righteousness which comes by faith. And it is a faith that takes its strength and comfort from the coming of Jesus, from His life lived on the earth, from the life given to atone for our sin, from His resurrection and from His promise to be with us always.

It is believing that God is God and that He has everything totally under control and desires only the best for those He loves. To love Him in return is to simply believe that.

But we struggle to come to terms with that. We always want to put in our own insurance – just in case, God can’t manage. We plan our own stop gaps and safety harnesses.

But then, ask yourself, who are you trusting? Is it not yourself?

What have you done recently that challenged your faith? Probably not much, because we don’t like actually to be challenged.

A STORY

A man was being chased by a lion. He ran as hard as he could until he was at the edge of a cliff with the lion in hot pursuit. The man looked over the edge of the cliff and saw a branch growing out of the side of the cliff a few feet down. He jumped down and grabbed the branch just as the lion reached the cliff. The lion growled viciously as the man sighed a great sigh of relief.

Just then a mouse came out from a crevice and began to chew on the branch. The man looked down to what was a drop of a 500 metres and sure death and looked to the heavens and yelled out, “Dear God, if you are there, please help. I will do anything you ask but please help.”

Suddenly a voice came booming down from heaven, “You will do anything I ask?” it questioned.

The man shocked to hear a reply to his plea yelled back, “I will gladly do anything you ask, but please save me.”

The voice from heaven then replied, “There is one way to save you but it will take courage and faith.”

The branch began to weaken from the mouse and the lion was still growling a few feet above the man, “Please, Lord, tell me what I must do and I will do it. Your will is my will.”

The voice from heaven then said, “All right then, let go of the branch.”

The man looked down to a fall of a thousand feet and certain death. He looked up at the hungry lion a few feet away and he looked at the mouse still chewing on the branch. Then he looked up at the heavens and yelled, “Is there anyone else up there?”

 

The challenging of our faith comes in many forms.

-We are challenged when we take a step to publicly confess Jesus as Lord and to live for Him.

-We are challenged when we decide to have a daily quiet time.

-We are challenged when we decide to tithe 1/10 of our income.

-We are challenged when we decide to share our faith with other people.

In fact, unless our lives are totally boring, we are challenged every moment of our life to trust in the loving God of creation.

In our reading from Matthew 14 getting out of that boat was a challenge to Peter’s faith.

Today I want to encourage you to stretch your faith like that. It might be trusting God in the Ride for Life program. With your farm program, with your health, with your future plans.

There are two questions before us.

  1. Why would we be reluctant to get out of the boat?
  2. Why should we get out of the boat?

1. Why would we be reluctant to get out of the boat?

First because the boat represents a comfort zone. All of us have comfort zones. All of us have places and situations where we feel secure and we are reluctant leave those situations.

But unless we leave our comfort zone we will never grow. Its like a baby learning to walk – unless it is prepared to take the risk it will never learn to walk. And how excited we get when baby takes the first steps.

Until we leave our comfort zone we will not depend on Jesus.

Second, we are reluctant to get out of the boat because of fear. We fear what others might say. We fear failure. And in Peter’s case, he might have feared drowning.

The other day someone sent me an e-mail entitled “How to stay safe in the world.“

1. Avoid riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20% of all fatal accidents.

2. Do not stay home because 17% of all accidents occur in the home.

3. Avoid walking on streets or sidewalks because 14% of all accidents occur to pedestrians.

4. Avoid traveling by air, rail, or water because 16% of all accidents involve these forms of transportation.

5. Of the remaining 33%, 32% of all deaths occur in hospitals. So…above all else, avoid hospitals.

BUT…you will be pleased to learn that only 0.001% of all deaths occur in worship services and these are usually related to previous physical disorders. Therefore, logic tells us that the safest place for you to be at any given point in time is at church!

Fear is the logic and natural response to the unknown. It keeps us safe but it also keeps us from new possibilities. We need to risk our faith against our fear.

Third, we are reluctant to get out of the boat because of doubt. Peter must have been thinking: “Did Jesus really call me?” “Is it really possible to walk on water?” After Peter had tried and failed Jesus said to him that the cause of his failure was, in fact, his doubt.

Our comfort zones, our fear and our doubt keep us paralysed in the boat. We are by nature frozen in place, unable to stretch our faith – to take the risk to trust that God might just be able to handle it.

 

The second question is however much more important than the first. The first question focuses on the negative – why we are reluctant to get out of the boat. The second focuses on the positive.

2. Why should we get out of the boat?

The first reason is very simple – risk leads to rewards. The person who risks nothing gains nothing. If we want to grow spiritually we have to take the risk of faith.

In my lifetime I have begun several new adventures: I studied economics first, and then packed it all up to do an MBA. I went back to the job market as a currency specialist. Then I started my own business managing currency risk. Then the ministry, and perhaps biggest of all, emigrating to Australia. In starting each of those adventures I was nervous. Each new adventure represented a risk. It represented a challenge I had never faced. I took the risk and in each situation I have felt rewarded because I took the risk.

Some wise person has said:

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental

To reach out for another is to risk involvement

To expose feelings is to risk exposing, your true self

To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss

To love is to risk not being loved in return

To live is to risk dying

To hope is to risk despair

To try is to risk failure

But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing

They may avoid suffering and sorrow but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love or live

Charmed by their attitudes they are a slave, they have forfeited their freedom

Only a person who risks is free

A second reason to get out of the boat is that your faith will grow. Faith is similar to a muscle. A muscle will not stretch and grow until it is exercised. A muscle will not reach full strength until it is exercised.The New Testament instructs us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18)

And then the third reason to get out of the boat is because Jesus is not in the boat but out there on the water. Jesus is not some mild mannered person who lived as a prisoner to his fears and within set comfort zones. He was an adventurer. He was always pressing the limits of His humanity.

When you allow yourself to be challenged in your faith you will meet Jesus in a way in which you have never before imagined.

Britain’s Derek Redmond had dreamed all his life of winning a gold medal in the 400-meter race, and his dream was in sight as the gun sounded in the semi-finals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He was running the race of his life and could see the finish line as he rounded the turn into the backstretch. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain go up the back of his leg. He fell face first onto the track with a torn right hamstring.

Sports Illustrated recorded the dramatic events: As the medical attendants were approaching, Redmond fought to his feet. “It was animal instinct,” he would say later. He set out hopping, in a crazed attempt to finish the race. Then a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, hurled aside a security guard and ran to Redmond, embracing him. It was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father. “You don’t have to do this,” he told his son.

“Yes, I do,” said Derek.

“Well, then,” said Jim, “we’re going to finish this together.”

And they did. Fighting off security men, the son’s head sometimes buried in his father’s shoulder, they stayed in Derek’s lane all the way to the end, as the crowd gaped, then rose and applauded.

Derek didn’t walk away with the gold medal, but he walked away with an incredible memory of a father who, when he saw his son in pain, left his seat in the stands to help him finish the race.

That’s what God does for us when we place our trust in Him. When we are experiencing pain and we’re struggling to finish the race, we can be confident that we have a loving Father who won’t let us do it alone. He left His place in heaven to come alongside us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. “I am with you always,” says Jesus to His followers, “to the very end of the age.”

Jesus is out there and He is gracious. Jesus will allow you to be stretched. You might fail. You might sink. So what? When you fail, Jesus is there with outstretched hand waiting to pick you up. Do not be afraid! Do not hold back! The challenge you face today may be the greatest thing you ever face.

 

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