Saturday, August 06, 2011

Refreshment and daring to get out of the boat!

Romans 10: 5-15 & Matthew 14: 22-33 (7.8.11)

‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.’

These are the words of invitation in Revelation 22 v17 (repeat), and they’re by no means the only words in the Bible calling us to come to our God to receive all that he has prepared for us!

We reflected last Sunday on that same invitation spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.”

(Is 55:1).

Matthew as he writes his gospel account quotes Jesus saying: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11: 28)

Our faith is a matter of invitation and response – the invitation of God to anyone and everyone to come and walk with him, the invitation of God to be reunited with him, the invitation of God to be refreshed by him, the invitation of God to be forgiven by him, the invitation of God to have life (eternally) with him, the invitation of God to know his love beyond all measure.

“Come!” says God and receive all these things that are freely given, that are there waiting, but that aren’t forced upon us against our will but need to be received with thanksgiving and praise!

David, the great king of Israel, and writer of so many of the Psalms, knew what it was to hear God’s word of invitation and to respond. In perhaps the best loved of the Psalms (Ps 23) he expresses the blessing of response, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want; he makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.” He had come to know what it meant to hear that call of “Come” and to follow (and he could declare these beautiful words even though he was often being pursued by enemies and with his life under threat!).

But how often, even having first taken the step of faith and response to God’s invitation, at some places along the way; do we forget or do we stop listening?

“Come!”

“Whoever is thirsty, let him come.”

“Come to the waters.”

“Come you who are weary and burdened.”

Hear God’s invitation to you afresh today because it’s spoken out of God’s great love for humanity, and for you.

It’s brought right into our human situation by God taking up the human situation, the human ‘being’ of those he created (in the person of Christ) and showing them, and enabling them, to come back to the Father and know life in all its fullness.

You may look back to long ago when you first heard God’s invitation to come to him, and you gave him your response, or you may be hearing it for the first time today and you need to respond. Generally when we receive an invitation we expect to give a response… If you’re invited to a wedding you generally send a reply saying “thank you, I’ll be there” or “sorry I’m not able to come and celebrate with you”. And God’s invitation requires a response too. There’s that first life (and eternity) changing response that brings us into his kingdom, where we turn from darkness to light, where we receive his salvation – that invitation required a response. But there are also those further invitations to those who are saved, who are in the light: to come and be refreshed, to come and be restored, to come and be re-energised, to come and be encouraged, to come and stand under the living waters of the Holy Spirit and be re-filled!

Do you ever find yourself struggling on with the pressures of life, of work, of family, of finance, of your particular circumstances? Do they have the loudest voice? Do they cloud out God’s repeated invitation to you to come to him? Do you take your eyes off the Lord and fix them instead on the storms?

It can be a natural response – it was Peter’s response in the boat on that occasion that Matthew describes for us in the gospel.

Peter that day was being his usual, impetuous, self – but he was also the one who in faith was ready to leap out of the boat!

Jesus had miraculously fed the 5,000 plus people who had been with him, he’d sent the disciples off in the boat to cross the sea of Galilee, and he’d gone up the mountain to pray. So then Jesus is coming to join them, but by this time the disciples are far from land, being battered about by the waves. So Jesus walks to them on the water! Though they’d witnessed and accepted the miraculous provision of food that had happened just before, when they see Jesus walking to them on the lake they’re terrified and think he’s a ghost! But let’s consider closely what happened next…

Jesus spoke to them and reassured them that it was him.

And then Peter speaks out above the rest: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” This is faith – realising that not only can Jesus himself overcome the natural order of things – but that he can transform them for us as well, that he can enable us as well.

And then we again meet invitation and response: Jesus simply says, “Come” and THEN Peter gets out of the boat. It’s really important that we don’t skip past this brief conversation.

Peter does not just receive the assurance that it’s Jesus on the lake and then leaps out of the boat! That would have been presumption and not faith! The reason Peter can have assurance of his ability to do the impossible and unlikely is because he asked, and Jesus has said “Come”. This account doesn’t tell us that if we were ever to be in a boat and leap out of it that we would automatically be able to walk on water because it happened here! If that was the case I’m sure St. Paul would have done so all the times he was shipwrecked and his life was in danger. What it tells us is that faith is about having the belief that Jesus can call us out of the boat and keep us from sinking… whatever that “boat” may be.

This depth of faith was echoed by Paul when he wrote these words to the Christians at Ephesus: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph 3: 20,21).

The point is that, like Peter, we trust in the one who CAN do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. But on that day Peter did imagine and ask in faith!

When Peter started to sink, it wasn’t because Jesus wasn’t able to do what Peter asked, it was because Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and instead looked at the circumstances (the waves) surrounding him. And how easy that is to do!

I’ve never asked God to literally help me get out of a boat and walk on water but I have had to trust him for the seemingly impossible. It also occurred to me that some of those big “trust him” times have been because he’s calling me out of the boat – that is out of the safe, comfortable place to the daring and scary place – but the amazing place of faith! Like the first time I had to stand up and give a short address in a church – for me that was like getting out of the boat when Jesus said “Come.”

Is God calling you to do something that seems impossible or at least beyond what seems possible for you at the moment? Is God calling you to serve him in some particular way, or calling you into a particular ministry or role in his church that seems as challenging as getting out of the boat and walking on water? The thing is that he doesn’t drag us out of the boat against our will, he says “Come!” And when he says “Come” we can do so with faith and assurance that it will be ok. Our task is to hear the invitation and to make the response.

Now you may be thinking, “but Peter started to sink!” Yes he did! And even when we keep responding to Jesus’ invitation to come to him we might have times when we feel we’re sinking.

I know that as I faced the challenges of doing things for God that were well beyond my natural comfort zone there were times when I felt I was sinking, and there still are at times.

Peter only started to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the waves – on the challenges, on the situation – and not on God. And that’s usually the reason that we start to sink, to become discouraged, to feel ill-equipped – because we take our eyes off Jesus and look at the challenges instead of the Lord.

But what did Peter do, even then? He called out “Lord, save me” and Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.

God again and again extends his invitation to his people…

“Come!”

“Whoever is thirsty, let him come.”

“Come to the waters.”

“Come you who are weary and burdened.”

“Come, get out of the boat!”

These are the words of God’s invitation to you today, how will you respond?

I’d like to end with some words from a song of worship that echo God’s invitation to you:

All who are thirsty

All who are weak

Come to the fountain

Dip your heart in the stream of life

Let the pain and the sorrow

Be washed away

In the waves of his mercy

As deep cries out to deep

We sing…

Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Come Lord Jesus, Come!


Brenton Brown
copyright Vineyard Songs 1998


AFTERTHOUGHT.... JUST THOUGHT I'D MENTION THAT THE COLOURS AND FORMAT WENT ALL PECULIAR AS I HAD TO E-MAIL THIS TO MYSELF AND THEN COPY HERE. HOWEVER MANY EFFORTS AT RE-FORMATTING I TRIED THEY ALL IGNORED ME SO THIS IS WHAT WE END UP WITH!

1 Comments:

At August 07, 2011 1:18 am, Blogger Diane said...

great! I'm finding it hard to read lately because of the little "box" that blogger gives me.

but thanks for posting!

 

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