The fruit of the Spirit does not bloom overnight. It takes a lot longer than edible fruit. Unless we are farmers, we forget that the apple, grapes, or oranges we purchase at the store have needed time and a lot of attention to reach that stage. One of my favorite tropical fruits, pawpaw, takes five to seven years to bear fruit on the tree. Pears take four to six years to produce from seedling trees. Unlike faith, mature fruit is easy to envision—it’s pretty much the same for every tree. God designed physical fruit to be predictable, unlike the fruit people yield, which might differ in the various seasons of life. If you have a young child, your idea of who your child is and how he or she will contribute to society will change as he or she grows. If you continue to think of your son or daughter as an infant, your relationship will suffer, and you might grow apart. Christian faithfulness is like a child who changes, develops, and matures in ways that we may not have imagined. If we don’t renew and enlarge our ideas of what our faith in Christ can accomplish, we may get stuck in the past without seeing Jesus’s real power and provision for our lives with him.
Today we will focus on the well-known report from Matthew when Jesus came to the disciples on the sea in a storm after the feeding of the five thousand. At first, Peter and the other disciples were frightened by Jesus’s walking on water. But when Jesus identified himself, “Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:28-33). Perhaps Peter made a connection with something “he knew from Job 9:8, which says, ‘[God] alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.’ Again, when Jesus calms the disciples’ fear, using the words ‘It is I,’ what he utters is actually the personal name of God, Jehovah, which means ‘I am,’ the literal rendering of Matthew’s quotation.” (1) It should be the same for us as we remember God’s Word to grow in our faithfulness rather than getting stuck in a limited version of our immature faith. Christ, the Son of God, gives us faith in crises; he answers with power when we cry out to him. Should we not desire to know Christ more intimately, faithfully take more significant risks, cry out to him more quickly, and worship him biblically?
“I know when the instructions have come from God because of their quiet persistence. But when I begin to weigh the pros and cons, and doubt and debate enter into my mind, I am bringing in an element that is not of God. This will only result in my concluding that His instructions to me were not right. Many of us are faithful to our ideas about Jesus Christ, but how many of us are faithful to Jesus Himself? Faithfulness to Jesus means that I must step out even when and where I can’t see anything…faith is a deliberate commitment to the Person of Jesus Christ, even when I can’t see the way ahead.” (2) “These chapters record the disciples’ first feeble attempts to understand and trust Jesus…[Peter’s] faith faltered at this point. But it is important to recognize that Peter’s faith did not fail utterly. He had lost faith in Jesus’ ability to keep him above the water, but he still trusted Jesus at some level since he immediately called out to him for help. ‘Lord, save me,’ he said…The fact that he cried out is proof that he really did trust Jesus…When Jesus rebuked him, it was not for having no faith at all but for having little faith…If Peter had no true faith at all, his act of getting out of the boat would have been mere foolishness or bravado, and when he began to sink, he would have started to flail his arms about, desperately trying to get back into the boat. He would not have cried out to Jesus.” (3)
Like Peter, we should not be satisfied to stay at a comfortable level of faith, but rise to maturity even when we are overwhelmed. Peter was overcome with fear on the night of Jesus’s arrest, even denying his friendship with Christ three times. But he repented, and his faith continued to grow. On the day of Pentecost, he spoke powerfully and boldly to the Jerusalem crowd about the deity and messiahship of Jesus Christ. Peter fixed his eyes more clearly on Jesus that day than when his Lord stood right in front of him on the sea. “We will only grow strong in faith when we keep our eyes on Jesus, the source of our faith, and do not turn aside to fret over threatening circumstances.” (4) We may merely be fretting about our situation, but Peter was in danger of drowning in the sea. Jesus did two things to help Peter’s faith. “Christ bade Peter come, not only that he might walk upon the water, and so know his Lord’s power, but that he might know his own weakness. And the Lord often lets his servants have their choice, to humble and prove them, and to show the greatness of his power and grace…Could we but believe more, we should suffer less. The weakness of faith, and the prevailing of our doubts, displease our Lord Jesus, for there is no good reason why Christ’s disciples should be of a doubtful mind. Even in a stormy day he is to them a very present help.” (5) Jesus rescued Peter from his fears and reproved him for doubting His power to keep his head and his entire body above water. I wonder if James thought of the incident when he wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)
“The climax [of this story] is the disciples’ confession of faith in Jesus and their worship of Jesus in verse 33: ‘Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ This is the first time Jesus is called the Son of God by the disciples, and the words build on what they had said earlier.” (6) Their faith was growing, as was their understanding of God’s character and greatness. “In chapter 8 they had asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him’ (v. 27). Here they say, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ [While] they still have a long way to go…it was a step on the way. They were growing in their faith and understanding, knowing him now as the Son of God.” (6) Not only does Jesus Christ give us faith in our crises and answer our prayers with power, but he brings us to know him with greater understanding. As our faith in him increases, we are ready to take more risks and worship him more fully.
Oswald Chambers asks,“Are you faithful to Jesus, or faithful to your ideas about Him? Are you faithful to what He says, or are you trying to compromise His words with thoughts that never came from Him?” (7)How grows your fruit of faithfulness to the biblical Jesus of the gospel? Are you ready to take a new risk in faith with him? I pray that you may be “…according to the riches of [God’s] glory…strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)
Related Passages: Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 41:13; Matthew 8:23-27; 16:16-18; 17:6-8; Mark 6:45-52; Luke 24:37-43; John 1:49; 6:14; 11:27; 20:31; 21:4-7
- Boice, James, Boice Expositional Commentary Series, Matthew 14:22-30, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Chambers, Oswald, Find the entire devotion, “Isn’t There Some Misunderstanding?” at https://utmost.org/isn’t-there-some-misunderstanding/
- Boice, Ibid.
- Boice, Ibid.
- Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Matthew 14:22-34, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-14.html
- Boice, Ibid.
- Chambers, Ibid.
October 16, 2020