Disciples Who Can Stay Afloat

22 “Immediately Jesus told his followers to get into the boat and go ahead of him across the lake. He stayed there to send the people home.23 After he had sent them away, he went by himself up into the hills to pray. It was late, and Jesus was there alone.24 By this time, the boat was already far away from land. It was being hit by waves, because the wind was blowing against it. 25 Between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the water.26 When his followers saw him walking on the water, they were afraid. They said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus quickly spoke to them, “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”28 Peter said, “Lord, if it is really you, then command me to come to you on the water.” 29 Jesus said, “Come.” And Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the wind and the waves, he became afraid and began to sink. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. Jesus said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?” 32 After they got into the boat, the wind became calm.33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, “Truly you are the Son of God!”

Matthew 14:22-33, New Century Version

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When I am in the storm, when the waves are breaking into my boat, my faith is shaky, and I feel abandoned, I turn to Matthew 14.

Jesus sees his disciples in mortal danger.  The overloaded boat has been caught in a ferocious storm.  It is 3 a.m., and the darkness just makes their situation that more desperate. The idea of imminent drowning has passed through their thoughts. They are terribly afraid.

Suddenly Jesus comes near, he is walking on the water!  Their fear turns to stark terror, they want to bolt but there is no place to go.  They are thinking that Jesus is a ghost, and that he is coming to escort them to the grave.  So Jesus calls out through the raging storm, “It is just me.  Do not fear!  Have courage.”

Brash Peter (bless him, Lord) yells to Jesus, “If it is you, really you, let me come to you, on the water!”  The word ‘if’ is very telling, and it explains much. Peter is soon on the edge of frantic hysteria when he begins to sink while walking to Jesus.

If it was me, I would have let Peter drown.  (What an object lesson to teach the 11 sitting in the boat.  “See what happens when you have weak faith, you drown!”)

But Jesus is not teaching here, He is loving.  He grabs Peter and pulls him out.  I find it interesting that the rock on whom Jesus is to build his Church upon sinks like a stone. Peter shows his faith for a brief shining moment, and when he falters and sinks, Jesus catches him.

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Spirit at Work

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“And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Romans 8:2, NLT

The old farm was falling apart. It was as if a twister had passed this way, and blew everything to smithereens. The house was diapilated; windows broken, and most of the paint peeling off the siding. An old shed was looked like it was about to collapse. Weeds grew tall and wild. It was a sad, and neglected place.

As I came through the undergrowth, I saw a man some distance away. I stopped, not sure if I was welcome on his property. I quietly watched him for a few minutes, but he never looked up. I walked a bit closer, but he just kept working– he really seemed absorbed in whatever he was doing.

“Excuse me sir, I hate to interrupt,” I called out. But the man continued his work. There seems something rhythmical about what he was doing. There was a definite cadence, that only he seemed to hear. He worked without ceasing.

I drew closer and saw the pump he seemed to be using. Water gushed out, and into an animal trough. Then I looked up and saw his face. Why, he wasn’t a person after all, but a mechanical man! Someone had painted a likeness of a farmer, and bolted it to the windmill. The figure was simply attached to the pumping apparatus. I had to laugh. It sure had me fooled.

As I saw this, I slowly realized that the man was not pumping the water. But the water was pumping the man! The man was just responding to the wind in order to pump out the clear, cold water. And so I began to think…

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In many ways, this is how we work spiritually. Something other than us ourselves powers us. It only appears that we are laboring, but a man in the Spirit functions quite differently than what we expect. We dare not think we can control the Spirit, rather it is we who need to be controlled. When we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, He will flow through us quite easily.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Roman 15:13, NLT

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A Cup of Cold Water in Jesus’ Name— by Jonathan Coe

Not everyone who is wounded is a wounded healer. Put another way, it’s possible to be wounded and suffer significant loss and not use that wound to minister healing to others. Much of this is related to how we go through the grieving process associated with our wound and loss. I learned this when I went through a divorce in 2008–2009. Not everyone agrees with how many stages of grief there are, but everyone agrees that it involves working through different phases of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance and often sorting through accompanying feelings of pain, guilt, loneliness, and hope.

I didn’t go through the grieving process associated with my divorce perfectly. There were missteps, stumbles, and things I wish I could do over. However, by the grace of God, I reached acceptance and hope and noticed that I was able to help other people who were working through broken relationships. Out of my wounds others were receiving healing and comfort.

In changing metaphors, rather than speaking in terms of wounds and healing, I’d like to talk in terms of water and refreshment: out of my experience I was able to, in an imperfect way, give thirsty people a cup of cold water. However, I’ve noticed that in both giving and receiving water over the years, how we go through the grieving process affects both the volume and quality of the water we give to others.

Before we drink it, water travels through rock and soil and can pick up large amounts of calcium and magnesium and becomes what we call “hard water.” If I grieve about a broken relationship and my forgiveness of the person who hurt me is incomplete, then I become hardened and end up giving hard water to those I share with about my experience. It may help a thirsty person, but God is calling me to buy a “water softener” and finish the forgiveness process so I can give better water to people I know and love.

If significant depression linked to my divorce still plagues me years after the dissolution of the marriage, that would definitely affect the volume of  water I can give to others. When I’m depressed, I can barely take care of me so how can I give you a cup of refreshing water for what you’re going through? The volume of water I can give is greatly reduced. I will need to revisit my grieving process and do some “emotional detective work,” perhaps with a therapist, to find out why I’m still depressed.

This is not a condemnation of those who have depression because of a chemical imbalance or some other issue. My heart goes out to you and I rejoice that there are medications that can help you find an emotional equilibrium and enable you to give others a cup of cold, clean water in the name of Jesus. Your fight with depression is a different fight than mine and I’m rooting for you as God upholds you through a difficult trial.

For many, the most dangerous stage in the grieving process is the one involving anger. We may be angry at someone who hurt us and how we feel they let us down. We may be angry at God because we thought life was going to be “X” and it turned out to be “Y.”

Anger, for a season, is a healthy response for someone who has been wounded and suffered loss. The Bible says, “Be angry and sin not” (Ephesians 4:26). But if the anger devolves into bitterness, then we have a major problem. The Bible also warns us against missing the grace of God and allowing a bitter root to grow up, cause trouble, and defile many (Hebrews 12:15). Sometimes water supplies get poisoned by arsenic, radon, or uranium. This is a grave matter because the water we have has been poisoned and will poison others.

In Exodus 15: 22–25, the Israelites had traveled three days without finding water. When they finally did find water at Marah, it was bitter. God told Moses to throw a particular piece of wood in the water. When he did this, the water became sweet. We have hope because in brokenness and in a radical dependence on Christ (the Piece of Wood), our waters too can be made sweet.

If you liked this post by Jonathan Coe, you might also like his new book, Letters from Fawn Creek, that is now available at this link:

https://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/book.php?w=9781628542035

Letters from Fawn Creek