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Believing God: It Is Not Always Easy

Introduction:

      We often like to divide people into groups. As one person once said, there are two kinds of people. Those who divide everybody into two kinds of people, and those who donít. We might be tempted to divide people into two groups: those who believe in God and those who donít. But just making this statement can be misleading. For instance, we could subdivide these groups even more to become more accurate. There are those who are confident no God exists. We call them atheists. There are those who believe God may exist, but they are not convinced. We call them agnostics or skeptics. Then on the side of those who believe in God, we could subdivide further. For instance there are those who believe in God but donít believe God. And there are those who both believe in God and believe God. ďWhat is the difference?Ē you may ask. A great deal. One accepts Godís existence. The other also unquestionably accepts Godís way as truth. Most of us sit between these two extremes, daily growing in our commitment and faith. II Peter 1:5, 8 demonstrate faith is a growing aspect of our lives. The point of growing faith is our trust in God and in following His way increases. As we surrender more and more of lives and actions to His will. Our goal is to follow the advice of the Proverbialist in Proverbs 3:5, ďTrust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.Ē We strive to reach the point that we unquestionably follow Godís will in all areas of life. Yet, as we grow, there are still times of doubt. Consider Peterís situation when he walked on water as an example of this faith in flux (Matthew 14:22-33).

Discussion:

I.         Peter heard, saw and believed Jesus.

A.      We have no doubt Peter believed in Jesus. It was Peter who, in John 6:68, said Jesus had the words of life. It was Peter who, in Matthew 16:16, said Jesus was the Christ, Godís Son.

B.     Additionally, Peter believed the person standing on the water was none other than Jesus. It was none other than the Jesus who had calmed storms, fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish, cast out demons, and healed the sick. Peter responded, ďLord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the waterĒ (Matthew 14:28). The issue was not one of proof. Just saying ďCome,Ē did not prove it was Jesus. Peter already believed or he would never have gotten out of the boat.

C.     When Peter sank, Jesusí response was, ďWhy did you doubt?Ē (Matthew 14:31). Did Peter doubt it was really Jesus on the water? I donít believe so. After all, when he began to sink he cried out, ďLord, save me!Ē (Matthew 14:30). Peter believed in Jesus. Peter believed it was Jesus. But Peter still had a struggle with faith. He needed to grow in faith, not growing belief in Jesus, but grow in believing Jesus.

II.       Peter committed to doing what Jesus commanded.

A.      Peter went beyond just mental assent. He committed himself. The boat was being battered by waves, not the easiest water to swim in. He would not be easily pulled out if he couldnít walk. But he committed himself to following the Lordís command.

B.     We learn that mature faith is not just an initial decision to obey. Mature faith is not attained because we take the first step onto the water. Or can I say, that first step into the water, speaking of baptism. That is the beginning, but making that step does not equal mature faith.

III.      Peter started his walk with Christ, but looking around, he began to sink.

A.      Peterís doubt was not about who was on the water. Peterís doubt was not about wanting to obey. Peterís doubt was about whether or not Jesusí way was best. Jesus said, ďCome.Ē Peter got out on the water, but then began to look around. Seeing the wind, Peter became afraid. He suddenly doubted the wisdom of walking to Jesus. This is where we get to the heart of the matter. I think this happens to us at times. Look at several areas where we allow doubt to get in the way of our walk with God.

B.     Consider how doubt reeks havoc over us personally in our emotional lives. We have faith that God exists. We believe serving God will bring numerous blessings of peace and contentment. However, doubt often surfaces. Sometimes we may not even realize we are expressing doubt, but when concerns arise, instead of letting our requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6), instead of casting our cares upon Him (I Peter 5:7), we try to handle problems on our own. Have you ever noticed the context of Peterís statement? He immediately talked about the devil seeking to devour us. When we try to overcome our anxieties on our own, Satan will devour us. Trust God. Turn your anxieties over to Him; Heíll care for you.

C.     Consider how doubt reeks havoc in the family. We believe marriage is Godís pattern for relational fulfillment. It was designed to provide personal happiness because men and women alone and separate are incomplete (Genesis 2:18). So we get married. But then turbulence arises. Perhaps we think we moved too quickly. Perhaps we discover the person we dated and the person we married are two different people. Perhaps we discover we want more time for independence. Perhaps we had kids too quickly. Who knows? But we look around us at the wind of married life and suddenly, we are not so sure Godís pattern for the family is best. We never express it that way. Instead, we just donít follow Godís plan. Perhaps the husband moves into isolation pursuing his own goals instead of being the sacrificial, servant-leader. Perhaps the wife rebels and refuses to be in submission. Perhaps parents will not train children. Perhaps one or both spouses decide they would be happier with someone else and they pursue affairs or divorce. Our society, with its broken homes and ensuing problems, is a result of doubting Godís word. God has a pattern. Grow your faith, donít just believe in God, believe God about your family.

D.     Consider the havoc doubt has caused regarding salvation. We know God will save us by grace through faith based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We understand we must believe, confess our belief (Romans 10:9-10), repent of our sins, be baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38) and grow in Christ (II Peter 1:5-8). However, doubt creeps in, rearing its ugly head in two ways. First, some begin to doubt the aspect of Godís grace, constantly plagued about whether or not some sin they committed is going to condemn them to hell. They do not recognize their fear and regret demonstrates their own repentance, which leads to salvation. Far too often, these will convince themselves they can never be saved, so why bother. The other aspect of the doubt is facing the wind and waves of controversy that surrounds the Bible doctrine of salvation. Some take this step and then, when they come in contact with those who are adamantly opposed to water baptism as part of salvation, they begin to back track. They have doubt and start to equivocate, eventually abandoning the truth all together. Godís plan for salvation is clear. It consists of grace and faithful surrender. We have no need to fear those who oppose. Nor do we need to fear that God will forget His promise of grace. Grow your faith and follow Godís pattern unashamedly.

E.     Consider the trouble caused by doubt with the church and its worship and work. We recognize Jesus established His church for a purpose: to bring glory to Him (Ephesians 3:20-21) and to uphold His truth (I Timothy 3:15), which sets men free (John 8:32). Since our job is to glorify God His way and help people be set free from sin by Godís truth, we refuse to get distracted with other works. When we worship we do simply what we see God authorize in the New Testament. For example, we refuse to sing with instrumental accompaniment because we find no authority for it. Also, we have refused to become involved in patterns of church work for which we cannot find authority. Our work is not feeding the homeless, helping cure cancer, educating the poor. Those are all good things, they are just not the churchís job. However, as we walk on this water, we sometimes see the wind of opposition. We are attacked with slanderous statements, false accusations, and names. Additionally, we see some churches getting involved in these things and they seem to have some success. We begin to wonder, ďIs the way we find authorized in scripture the best way?Ē Doubt sets in. Perhaps a little change here and a little change there, but then the church has abandoned Godís mission. Grow your faith. Godís pattern for the church is what is best. Follow it without shame.

F.      Given time, we could think of other areas where doubts arise. But these four demonstrate we can believe in God, but not believe Him. Whether it be these or other issues, we must recognize Godís way is best. There is no need to doubt based on any wind or waves we face while walking on the water with Jesus.

IV.    When doubt overcame Peter, he turned back to Jesus.

A.      Having demonstrated that doubt causes problems, we need also consider how to deal with doubt. First, recognize that having doubted is not going to condemn us to hell in and of itself.

B.     Peter did not drown as a result of his doubt, even though he began to sink. Why not? Because, when Peter recognized he was sinking, he turned back to Jesus. He doubted, but knew where to turn (Matthew 14:30). Sadly, too often we turn to other sources: our own intelligence, the wisdom of the world, personal experience. Instead, we need to go headlong into Jesus, turning our efforts toward getting to know Him.

C.     If we turn back to Jesus, we may sink for a while, but we will not drown. The trouble is, with Peter; it was evident he was sinking. For us, it is not always so clear. Thus, we must be on the alert (I Peter 5:8). Only by diligence, rightly dividing the word (II Timothy 2:15), can we be aware of sinking from the Christís standard. When we have parted from Christís path on the water, cry out to Him. Lean on His hand and do what He says. Peter did not grab hold of the boat when he began to sink. He cried out to Jesus. Jesus lifted him and together they walked on the water back to the boat. That is what we must do.

Conclusion:

      There are those, of course, whose doubts keep them from even stepping out on the water. They donít think serving God will bring happiness. They donít think it is for them right now. God created us. He wrote the manual for our lives. He knows what we need to do right now. He knows what will provide us with peace. You believe in God, why not believe God, accepting what He says about all things, no matter who disagrees with Him?

 


Glory to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Franklin Church of Christ