God Calls You Out in 2019
I was asked to type up what I shared from my journal at our recent church prayer meeting last week. This is what God’s put on my heart for us for 2019.
It comes from Jesus walking on the water, particularly Mark 6:45-51 and Matthew 14:22-33.
- God dignifies believers by giving us difficult tasks. Don’t assume because something is difficult it’s not of God. Jesus made the disciples row, at night, after a long day, into difficult conditions which blew up into a storm (Mark 6:45). Being a Christian can be hard at times. Building a church can be challenging. We can feel like the wind is against us, alone, out on the water, buffeted by the storms of life, grief, exhaustion, sadness, depression, straining at the oar, the roles we’re called to perform. What have you been finding hard?
- You may feel alone, like these disciples, but you are not. God saw them straining (Mark 6:48). Jesus sees and comes down from on high (where he’d been praying) to help (God’s m.o. btw). Jesus had a super busy day, feeding the 5,000, He hasn’t slept yet, it’s the last watch of the night, but He sees them straining and goes to help. Our God is the God who sees. That’s one of His names – El Roi. He saw Hagar and helped her in her time of need (Genesis 16:13-14). Jesus saw Nathaniel under the fig tree, discouraged and disillusioned (by my reading), before He met and called him (John 1:43-51). Here, the disciples are in the middle of the lake (an important detail present in the original Greek) which by my calculations is 3-6 miles away. And let’s not forget it’s dark (and there’s no electricity). This is a precious clue about Jesus’ true identity. He is God and He sees all. Whatever you’re struggling with and straining at, parenting tough kids, serving a difficult boss, fighting a challenging illness, grieving a loved one, sharing your faith, God sees you! You are not alone. You are not forgotten. Nothing escapes His attention.
- Then we read, Mark 6:48, He was about “to pass by them”. What?! That doesn’t make sense, why would He go to all that effort to walk on by? The only way this makes sense is when we read it through the lens of Jesus being a true and better Moses. The case for this will mount as we go forward but for now look at Exodus 34. Moses had asked God to show him His glory, and God obliges. Hidden in the cleft of a rock, God parades His name, His character, His glory to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…” Jesus knew that what the disciples needed more than practical help was powerful faith, ignited by a clearer vision of Him, walking on the water.
- Jesus says, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” The biggest challenge I believe we face in 2019 is our own fears and doubts. What are yours? The meat of this statement, the fuel for faith, is “it is I”. A more accurate and literal interpretation of the Greek here is “I am”. That’s significant, given what’s already been said. This appears in all three first century biographies of Jesus reporting this event, including John’s, who makes reference to 7 complete or perfect “I am” statements. “I am” is the name God revealed himself with to Moses in Exodus 3 at the burning bush. The self-existent, uncreated One. Jesus is saying, it’s me, remember, the one who fed 5,000, raised Jairus’ daughter, delivered people from demons and calmed storms; and I AM God, the Creator, the backstop and source of all reality.
- Peter’s prayer. Switching to Matthew’s account, 14:28, Peter says “Lord, if it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.” ‘Please call me’ he’s saying, ‘to be where you are and do what you do.’ ‘More Lord!’ he’s saying. It was a bold prayer to do what is humanly impossible. God is challenging us to pray this way, to ask God to call you out of the boat of fear, comfort, familiarity and sensibility to live a supernatural life. Are you praying this way? Can you hear Him calling you? Because…
- Jesus quickly says “Come!” He is willing. We have every indication in this passage (and throughout the Scriptures) that He will positively answer such prayers, prayed in His will. For your information Jesus also says: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these…” (John 14:12).
- And as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we won’t necessary escape troubles, but we will rise above them. That’s why this is a constant reframe of Scripture. Fix your eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), behold the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18) and so on. Seeing Jesus clearly as our compassionate, almighty God will more than see us through, it will give us courage to breakthrough, to get out of the boat and do the impossible with Him.
- But we can be distracted and look away (Matthew 14:30). Our senses get assaulted by all sorts of things causing distraction, doubt and fear. The noise of the world, enemy lies, the storm of sin outside and inside, in our own flesh, tempts and causes us to look away, which is when we begin to sink. We get drawn into what we’re looking at and listening to. Which is why we must turn our eyes upon Jesus / look full in His wonderful face / and the things of earth will grow strangely dim / in the light of His glory and grace.
- But as much as we try, there will be occasions when we will fail, fall and sink. It’s important to know that there’s grace for you in such times. The moment Peter starts to sink, “immediately” – “immediately”! – Jesus reaches out to rescue him. He doesn’t scold him for his failure (after all, Peter is the only one of the disciples who had the courage to get out of the boat). Jesus lovingly challenges Peter to learn and grow, to fail forward. God asks him tenderly, “why did you doubt?” God’s questions are always invitations for self-examination (think: “where are you?” Genesis 3:9, fyi: God knows exactly where Adam is geographically and spiritually). Are you learning the lessons God’s been trying to teach you? Do you believe there’s grace for your failures? God is the God of endless second chances. Peter is a case in point. Later, he gets rebuked by Jesus (Matthew 16:23). He denies Jesus three times, and still he’s recommissioned and used mightily by God (John 21:15-25).
- The key lesson is fix your eyes on Jesus in 2019! He is the God who sees. He is the water walking God of glory: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. He is the great ‘I Am’. If you need another confirmation, look what happens the moment He steps into the boat. Jesus is the true and better Moses, who doesn’t just walk through the Red Sea, the waters of judgement which once “flooded the earth” (Genesis 7:24), He walks ON them. Through the cross and resurrection Jesus has triumphed over judgement, and by faith He rescues us from the storm of sin that would eternally destroy us all. What a God! What a saviour!
So what about you? How is your vision of Jesus? Are you ready to get out of the boat in 2019 and enter in to more of the good God has planned for you?