Friday, July 4, 2014

Devotional 7-4-14

Faith AND Fear

Please read Matthew 14:22-33

Matthew 14:22-33 contains the story of Peter walking on water.  He steps out of the boat, willing to follow Jesus, even to do this thing which is impossible, because Jesus calls him to do it.  In his fear and doubt, he sinks.  Jesus rescues him and then rebukes him.  I identify so much with Peter that sometimes I feel the sting of that rebuke and count it as failure.

We are so much like Peter.  We are not without faith, but with our faith lives our fear.  Barbara Brown Taylor talks about this in a sermon in the book The Seeds of Heaven.  Read this quote from Taylor's sermon:
Why do we doubt?  Because we are afraid, because the sea is so vast and we are so small, because the storm is so powerful and we are so easily sunk, because life is so beyond our control and we are so helpless in its grip.  Why do we doubt? Because we are afraid, even when we do have faith.
It isn't a lack of faith that causes Peter to sink; it's the presence of fear.

Paul, in the second letter to the Corinthians, spoke of his desire for a "thorn in his flesh" to be removed.  He writes that God said to him, "'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.' So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Corinthians 9)

It's a hard verse to understand for me, but it came  to mind as I read the Taylor sermon.  If Peter had walked across the water in confidence, with no fear, then Christ would not have had to pull him out of the water.  In his fear, he needed Christ.  In our fear, we come to realize the necessity of salvation.  In our strength, we do not always see it.  God is always powerful, but in our weakness, we rely on his power instead of our own.

That doesn't mean that Christ caused Peter to sink so that Peter would come to realize the necessity of Christ, and it doesn't mean that God causes fearful things to happen to us so that our faith will be strengthened.  Really, we have enough fear on our own with God needing in any way to add to it.  It does mean that when we sink, God is there, and we come to understand that.  God offers grace - the hand that lifts Peter out of the water.  God offers accountability - the rebuke Christ spoke to him.  And God offers salvation - Christ returns Peter to the boat.  In none of that does God offer rejection.

And what do the disciples do?  They worship Christ in the boat.  As should we.

Kim Matthews

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