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IF WE DON'T GIVE UP, THE WEAKNESS OF OUR FAITH WILL BECOME STRONG

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

19 JUNE 1994

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Matthew 6:13
Mark 4:1, 35-41
John 13:36-38
        14:12
        18:17, 25-27
1 John 4:18

When we first come to believe in Jesus Christ, and accept Him as Lord and Savior of our lives, we think that our faith is so strong that we can do almost anything.

The spiritual insight, which we have gained, can give us false confidence in overcoming many of life's situations.

You will probably remember that this happened to Peter, concerning his willingness to follow Jesus even to His death. (John 13:36-38)

36. Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, where are You going?" Jesus answered, "Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you shall follow later."

37. Peter said to Him, "Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You."

38. Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a cock shall not crow, until you deny Me three times.

Jesus knew the strength of Peter's faith better than Peter did, for as we are told in John 18:17, 25-27, this all came true in the court of the high priest after Jesus was arrested.

17. The slave-girl therefore who kept the door said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not."

25. Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him, "You are not also one of His disciples, are you?" He denied it, and said, "I am not."

26. One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, "Did I not see you in the garden with Him?"

27. Peter therefore denied it again; and immediately a cock crowed.

Peter thought his faith was much stronger than it really was, because he relied upon his own strength instead of the strength of the Lord.

Our faith is the acting out of our beliefs.

In essence, to take a step of faith is the testing of our belief; but unfortunately, in the beginning, we all too often try to take great leaps of faith, and if we fail, we have the tendency to give up on the faith we have already proven.

We must remember that we were not created as robots, but as living, breathing, thinking beings with a free will.

We also didn't just find ourselves here upon this earth by chance; but God placed us here and allows the life situations we encounter to occur, that we would learn from them and grow in faith.

Thus was the journey of the disciples with Jesus upon the lake one night some 2,000 years ago.

For as their spiritual immaturity caused them fear, so did their experience cause them to mature in their faith, which is a life example for us all.

When the Lord is with us, we have the power to overcome all situations and fears, even if we pass through death in the process.

This is something that Peter didn't fully understand until after Jesus' death.

This is not to say that our faith will be tested unto death every time; but we must remember that the Lord has allowed many believers to die in their faith, before their natural time of death.

But at the same time, we must remember that our faith will be continually tested until the time of our natural death.

True and mature faith can see beyond the time of our death in this world to our life eternal in the next world.

Let's take a closer look at this night boat trip of Jesus and His disciples, as they faced death, as recorded in Mark 4:35-41.

35. And on that day, when evening had come, He [Jesus] said to them, "Let us go over to the other side."

Jesus had been teaching from the boat so that the whole assembly could see and hear Him, for they were crowding around Him so much that He couldn't teach them from the shore (Mark 4:1).

1. And He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very great multitude gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

It is while He is still in the boat that Jesus tells them to go over to the other side.

As we look at the next verse, note the confidence of the disciples in obeying Jesus' request.

But at the same time, remember that many of these disciples were fishermen on this very body of water, and that they knew how to tell the signs of the pending weather, and what would be the conditions upon the water.

36. And leaving [or sending away] the multitude, they took Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat; and other boats were with Him.

They took Jesus with them. They took the responsibility to safely deliver Jesus to the other side.

They had the confidence in their ability as seamen to sail to the other side.

They had the faith, or so they thought, to take this trip even under pending unfavorable weather conditions, because the Lord had asked them to do so.

They were trusting in Him to see them safely through to the other side.

And other people, who would not accept the dismissal order from the disciples, followed Jesus in their own boats, most likely with many others aboard.

37. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.

Though we are not told about the effect of the conditions on the other boats, we could well assume that it was the same.

The waves were breaking over the sides of the boats, and they were filling up faster than they could bail out the water.

This is a real problem, and something to be concerned about.

What was Jesus doing during all of this?

38. And He Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"

Do you hear the rebuke of Jesus in their words?

In their fear, they are blaming Jesus for telling them to go over to the other side and for what they see as their pending death.

But Jesus was at peace through it all, so much so, that He was sleeping, and this bothered the disciples even more.

It wasn't His time to die. The cross still lay ahead.

And none of those aboard the boats would perish either. He knew it, but they didn't; thus they feared, and their fear overcame their faith of being able to deliver the Lord safely to the other side.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Lord taught us to pray, "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (Matthew 6:13)

We believe in our untested faith, that we can overcome any trial or temptation; yet when faced with a real problem, we all too often cave in under the pressures of the situation.

So what did Jesus do after they rebuked Him for sleeping and not caring about their fate?

39. And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.

40. And He said to them, "Why are you so timid? How is it that you have no faith?"

Jesus doesn't get angry with them, but He does rebuke them for their lack of faith.

First of all, for their lack of faith after seeing what He had done previously.

And secondly for their lack of faith in the present situation.

And perhaps thirdly, for not really believing fully in Him after what had just taken place. This thought is expressed in the next verse:

41. And they became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

Mark, in his gospel accounts, reveals a lot more of the human weaknesses of the disciples than we find in any of the other gospels.

Mark, through such accounts, is trying to show us that these disciples were just ordinary people, like you and me.

And yes, they failed the test of their faith upon the troubled waters, as we all do from time to time.

But as we go through life, we will encounter many more troubled times and waters, but hopefully we will have learned from our previous weaknesses and do better each successive time.

Mark didn't write this gospel for some thirty years after Jesus' death, and by that time the faith of the apostles was strong and proven.

Perhaps Mark wanted us to understand that we all have to begin somewhere in our walk of faith, just as they did; and that we, like them, are capable of doing great things. It's just as Jesus tells us in John 14:12.

12. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.

The great things are not necessarily the calming of the physical wind and weather, but the calming of the spiritual winds of fear.

If we read on in John we will see that he points us to the greater power being love, and as he tells us in his first epistle (1 John 4:18), "…perfect love casts out fear..."

Our marriages and our family life are journeys through time, a lot longer time than the time of the crossing of the waters with Jesus in the boat; but a time, nevertheless, filled with many more storms and problems than just the one they encountered.

And from statistics, we know that about 50% of all marriages end up in divorce.

50% of our marriages are sunk by the storm of discontent and fear, because they lack the maturing love of God to overcome the problems they face from time to time.

So, on this Father's Day, let us remember the importance of working out our faith over a longer period of time.

Let us remember that our family problems are usually only short-lived, that is, unless we help make a problem last a longer time.

There are many journeys in life, and we encounter many storms along the way.

All we have to do is look around the world and see how our human violence and destructive nature has destroyed much of our environment and caused immense suffering to our fellow human being and animals.

We can allow all this horror and all these problems to sink us, or we can learn, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to stand firm in love, not fearing the onslaughts against us and other.

There is a direct correlation between the way we face the troubles of the world and the way we face troubles in our families.

If we are part of the storm of violence and destruction in the world, we will very likely sink our family, too.

But if we learn to mature into the Lord's loving peacemakers, doing everything in our power to overcome the violent, destructive, and fearful forces of this world, we will also bring this peace and love to our families.

And together, with the Lord, we can all reach the other side and the glories of both this lifetime and that of our life eternal.

Let us pray!

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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