AND THE REST OF FAITH
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Children's message: Take a soccer ball, challenge the children to try to stand on it. If the ball is fairly hard, this is almost impossible. Then get them to stand on it while you are holding the ball steady. Children can quickly learn to stand on the ball. It is a lot easier. Sometimes our lives feel like everything is falling apart, the ground is shaky, like standing on a ball. It is important to remember who holds our lives in his hand, and ask him to steady it so that we can do our job of standing in faith.
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. 24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
People of God:
This morning I invite you to look at this story from the perspective of Work and Rest. As we do, ask yourself the question: "Where do we see characters in the story working and where do we see them resting?"
Jesus and the Disciples just spent a couple of days preaching the good news in different villages and towns.
They needed a short break, so they set sail for the other side of the lake, a little R&R before they continued their work on the other side. The disciples looked forward to this trip, after all, they were the fishermen, experts at sailing, ans so they manned the ship.
The first picture we is Jesus exhausted, after physical exertion and spiritual battle of ministry, he hits the sack in the stern of the boat while the disciples are enjoying their sail. All seem to be resting to one extent or another.
They continue to sail on the sea of Galilee toward the eastern shore, a sea which is 200 meters below the sea level. It has mountains on the one side. Mt. Hermon is on one side. It is over 1000 meters high with numerous deep valleys and gullies through which violent storms can descend from the mountain onto the lake bed. Such a storm happened.
The disciples were having a relaxing sail when suddenly the storm hits and the HARD WORK BEGAN! The picture we see is that they start fighting the wind, using the oars desperately trying to keep the boat headed into the waves! But this wind is more than just a squall, its more like a whirlwind. The water has turned to chaos, the waves build at amazing speed until with repeated crashed they are washing into the boat. The disciples hard work has just begun - buckets, pails, basins, pots, boots - anything that holds water comes out to empty the boat of water.
The disciples are working.
The storm became more violent. No longer are waves predictable. They start coming at the boat from all angles. There is no way of keeping the boat headed into the waves, at the verge of tipping, the boat began to fill faster and faster, and the disciples started to panic. Frantically they grabbed anything possible to get water out of the boat, but they realized that they were fighting a losing battle.
Then they remembered that Jesus was in the stern - sleeping!
"All hands on Deck!"
Get an extra hand to help bail out the boat, get an extra hand at the oars to keep the boat straight! In terror, they run to Jesus to get him to do some work too. They wanted Jesus to quit resting and do some work.
"Master, Master, we are
Jesus awoke to his terrified disciples. He arose. He saw the waves coming at the boat. They looked like a sea monster's mouth ready to devour the entire ship. Jesus looked at chaos and he rebuked it. According to Mark he said to the winds and the waves - "Peace, Be Still"
Jesus was resting while the disciples did all the dirty work - chaos ruled. Now, with a few words Jesus did the work of faith, and suddenly all was at rest. Then Jesus asked the question "Where is your faith?"
In their terror, in their fear, the disciples left their faith on shore, they forgot to pack it, their faith was at least so small that in their behaviour it could not be seen!
Jesus Christ Rested and the only work that he did was the work of faith.
The Disciples worked, worked desperately hard to save themselves, their boat and Jesus. When the going got tough, the tough got going! In conditions like that, the nitty gritty of life says you either sink or float, and if your possibly miles from shore in a terrible storm the best thing to do is float - at all costs. The disciples worked harder than they ever had but their work was not the work of faith, it was their own work against a much more powerful monster - the chaos of the wind and the waves. The disciples only got their rest after Jesus had done his work, a work of faith to still the storm. Then Jesus Asked them
"Where is your faith?"
Jesus pointed directly at the disciples and asked "Where is the work of your faith ?"
Now this sounds like a very strange and uncomforting question to ask, no empathy at all. These disciples had just been through a tramatic experience, they are suffering from post traumatic stress symptoms, they need to be debriefed, comforted. But Jesus confronts them, the great counselor challenges them: "Where is your faith?"
This morning, notice three themes that were not evident in the disciples faith.
This passage teaches us that faith includes at least these three qualities, being open to God, expecting God to act, and acting on that expectation.
First, notice the disciples' faith was not open to the deliverance from God.
In this story, the disciples did not go to Jesus with the intent that he might deliver them from the storm, they want him as an extra hand on deck. We know this by the fact that when Jesus does stop the storm in its tracks' the disciples marvel at what he did! This is something thy had not expected - even the wind and the sea obeys him. Because they were not open to the possibility that Jesus could and would deliver them from their situation, they spent a lot of time struggling and working.
BEING OPEN TO THE FACT THAT GOD CAN DELIVER IS THE FIRST PART OF THE WORK OF FAITH! Faith believes that God does miracles.
In the gospels, numerous people are commended for their faith. And characteristic of these people every time, was that these people were open to the miraculous work of God in their lives. The gentiles who came to Jesus, the very sick people, the Centurion, the woman who had sinned much, the blind beggar by Jericho, the foreign leper, all of them came to Jesus with an openness for what he could do for them. All of them believed that he had the power to heal, to restore, to bring freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. Faith at work is to be open to what God can do!
Contrast this with the Pharisees in the gospel of Luke who were not characterized by faith. When Jesus would heal somebody, they would take it as an offense against the law, they would not see it as a work of God, they figured it must be the work of Beelzebub, the prince of demons trying to decieve the people.
The deciples to were not such a faithful group either. In the gospel of Luke, they are rebuked by Jesus three times for their lack of faith. In this passage, their faith is not open to the fact that God is able to deliver them. In response Jesus asks "Where is your faith?"
A question the Lord asks us to!
"Where is your faith?"
We're not much different than the disciples. We experience the call to salvation, we turn, we realize that we belong to Christ, we confess our faith, we are his followers, his disciples, we are Christians. But so often, then our faith seems to shift into neutral. We have salvation, that is all that we need. When struggles come, we do everything that we can to manage them ourselves. When we face emotional turmoil and the chaos of the sea is the chaos of our minds, we so often insist on `working things out ourselves' because were ashamed of our brokenness, or no one else really understands our problems. or if they do, they can't do anything about them. We don't go to God, and we don't go to his people because we are closed to the possibility of God working in our lives.
When its financially hard to make ends meet, we work ourselves ragged, often destroying our bodies, our minds, our marriages and our families by our overwork. But pray, and be open to God to start providing as we walk in obedience - that's to impractical! God doesn't work that way anymore! We're not open to the work of God in our lives.
Maybe you're saying in your mind: "I'm open to the fact that God can still work miracles, that he can still heal, that he can still remove this burden of guilt from me, that he can still - on occasion deliver some people from their problems, but..."
WE'RE LIKE THE DISCIPLES. They were not only closed to the work of God, the disciples did not expect the deliverance of the Lord for them.
They had seen Jesus do all kinds of miracles. They knew that he had power that they yet could not comprehend. He could heal, he could control demonic forces. But even though he had all this power, they didn't expect this kind of power from God for them. So they worked, worked like crazy to keep the boat afloat.
Aren't we like the disiples! We might believe that God has the power to deliver people from many situations but somehow, that power just isn't so active as we would like it to be. WE DON'T EXPECT GOD TO WORK FOR US.
When the sea comes crashing in, when our world starts shaking underneath us, when my business starts breaking, my job becomes to miserable to live with, when my home situation becomes a terror and my marriage becomes an endless power struggle, we don't go to God because we don't expect him to work like that any more.
"When the goin gets tough, the tough get goin."
Get to work, double shifts if necessary, got to put on a happy face so that the world won't know the hopelessness in your heart! Even if I feel hopelessly weak, unable to bear the burdens that life puts on me, I've got to keep on going, performing, putting out, meeting expectations, keeping a handle on life and the work gets harder, the load tougher, the burden more unbearable. We live in a `do it yourself' world. A world which might be willing to admit that God is able to do anything, but just don't expect him to do it for you!
THE WORK OF FAITH IS TO BE OPEN TO WHAT GOD CAN AND WILL DO, AND EXPECT HIM TO DO IT.
We're like the disciples. We may have been saved by faith, but ever since then, our faith has been put in neutral, out of commission because salvation from sin is the limit of God's plan for us. So we end up like the disciples - with a faith that does not ACT! .
The disciples faced the storm, bit the bullet, pulled at the oars, scooped water as quick as they could, but their faith never got out of neutral. They ran to Jesus with the hope that he would help them in their work, but he didn't. Rather, Jesus stood up, and rebuked the storm, in an act prompted by faith. He stilled the storm, settled the waters. Then he turned to them and asked
"Where is your faith?"
The storm came, their world became chaos, but there was no act of faith, there was no work of faith. They could only depend on what they themselves could do. They did not act on the fact that the Lord Almighty was their refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. They had forgotten that "though the waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging - the LORD is with us - the God of Jacob is our fortress." Their faith was out of commission, put in neutral since the day Jesus had called them to follow. And so Jesus asked "Where is your faith?"
The truth is, faith is demonstrated by the work it does so Jesus showed them his faith by what he did. And with just three words, he stilled the water.
THE WORK OF FAITH IS TO BE OPEN
TO THE WORK OF GOD,
Faith expresses itself through these works and as James said: faith without these works is dead! Faith seizes the promises of God, and acts upon them, rebuking the sea, claiming God's provision, forgiveness, healing, deliverance and salvation.
Often we go through life, depending on our own expertise - but then when the storms of chaos come, we don't know what it means to be open, expecting and then act on faith. That's why problems overwhelm, wash us overboard. Our little faith sees only our own strength, and it doesn't see the incredible power that God has given to us who have been born into the kingdom by faith.
Faithlessness sees only
what we can do!
"Where is your faith?"
The challenge of the word of God this morning is to put your faith to work, whatever your challenge is, whatever chaos is threatening you with, put your faith to work, and your mind, and body and emotions to rest.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.