Trust in the Lord will all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
In the New Testament, we read two stories that involve water, a boat, and a man called Peter.
The first of these is in Luke’s gospel. A fisherman was coming to shore after a night of fruitless toil. The fish just hadn’t been in the mood for being caught and Peter, no doubt, wasn’t in the mood for staying out of bed much longer than he had to either. However, a man called Jesus walked up to him and said:
“Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.” (Luke 5:4)
Imagine what could have been going through Peter’s mind. This man, Jesus, was a rabbi, not a fisherman. It was broad day light, the time when fish dive deep below the surface away from sunlight. If the fish can’t be caught at night, they certainly aren’t going to be caught during the day. However, in spite of seeming impossible circumstances, Peter sets out again to fish rather than go to bed and he subsequently witnesses an outstanding demonstration of the miracle working power of Jesus.
Some time later we come across Peter again in a boat on the same lake battling a fierce storm along with his friends.
“About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.” Matthew 14:25-29.
Once again, a miracle takes place that Peter is never likely to forget for the rest of his days.
As well as water, a boat and Peter being common to both these accounts, another element is present that demonstrates something of great significance. Quite simply, it’s ‘trust’.
In both these accounts, in order for Jesus to display his miraculous powers, a man had to trust Him in circumstances that seemed impossible. Peter demonstrated his trust on each occasion with an action. He did what Jesus had said.
There are many times in the life of a Christian where God allows seemingly impossible situations to cross our paths; some are outward, others affect us inwardly. He wants to display His power and His person to us, but often we miss this revelation because we choose to follow our own will rather than His.
What will be your decision, the next time Christ faces you with an opportunity to trust?
‘To trust God in the light is nothing, to trust Him in the dark... that is faith.
C H Spurgeon
But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (Luke 5:16)
Have you ever noticed how often we read in the gospels that Jesus was surrounded by crowds?
We find crowds round Jesus in many locations; in private homes, on mountainsides, in villages, in the Temple and by the lakeside. Yet, despite the constant pressure from the crowds, healing power flowed from Him as the deaf received their hearing, the lame walked, the blind saw, demons were cast out and multitudes were fed.
With a life surrounded by the needs of the multitudes, how did Jesus maintain His relationship with His Father? The answer is simple: He made time for prayer. It is clear that for Jesus, prayer came first and last.
Jesus began his public ministry in prayer.
Now when all the people were baptised, Jesus was also baptised, and while he was praying, heaven was opened. (Luke 3:21)
After a time of ministering to the crowds, Jesus went aside to pray
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. (Matthew 14:23)
When He had important decisions to make, Jesus prayed
He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles. (Luke 6:12,13)
Before starting the day, Jesus prayed
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. (Mark 1:35-39)
When facing the powers of darkness, Jesus prayed
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray...” (Matthew 26:36)
The NLT Study Bible footnote on Luke 5:16, our title verse, is worth noting. It says: 'The Greek verb tense indicates that Jesus habitually withdrew for prayer.’
The greatest argument for the priority of prayer is the fact that Jesus was a man of prayer. If it was Jesus’ priority, let us also ‘habitually’ make it ours.
“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten men to preach.”
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of Lords, the great God, mighty and awesome. (Deuteronomy 10:17)
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from Heaven above
With wisdom, power and love
Our God is an awesome God
(Michael W. Smith)
.When we think of ‘awesome’ it conjures up images of a majestic sunset, a spectacular mountaintop view or the roaring of the mighty Niagara Falls. It could be a crystal clear night where, even if you stayed up ‘till dawn, you could not count the number of stars shining above in the heavens. All these sights are ‘awesome’.
However, God’s ‘awesome’ power and love can be seen in other ways. We see it displayed in the lives of men and women of God, a great example which is the Apostle Paul who first encountered Jesus on the Damascus Rd. God revealed to Ananias, a disciple who first prayed with Paul, “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” (Acts of the Apostles 9:16)
This suffering came in a multitude of ways over the years. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul lists some of these. He tells us that he was:
More persecutions followed until Paul was eventually martyred at the hands of Emperor Nero.
We often talk of Paul as being a great man of God with an indomitable spirit. He is spoken of in almost reverent terms. He truly was a wonderful man of God. However, while I in no wise want to detract from his great faithfulness and loyalty to God, there is a danger that we miss something of the truth behind Paul’s ‘awesome’ life. It can be summed up in one verse.
'I can do all this through him who gives me strength.'
(1 Philippians 4:13)
Paul sets the record straight. It’s all about God! It’s God who is awesome, not Paul. In Paul, we don’t just see the faithfulness of a man, but we see the faithfulness of God. We see how God strengthens and empowers a man over decades to carry out His work. God poured His power and strength into, and through, a human vessel. As we look past Paul, we get a glimpse of our ‘awesome’ God.
Friends, the next time you face your own trial or difficulty, and doubt if you will come through this, be encouraged by the power of God that is revealed through Paul’s life. Surely, we have an awesome God!
Tell the people of Israel to go forward. (Exodus 14:15)
We read of many tragedies in The Bible. The first, and perhaps the most tragic is the fall of man. Adam and Eve, whose lives were meant to be lived in the light of the glory of God, found themselves plunged into a world of spiritual darkness that they could never have imagined before the fall.
The story of Noah is also a tragedy. The human race had wandered so far from its Creator, that God saw it necessary to ‘start again’ with one chosen family. The human race, with the exception of eight people, was wiped out.
We also read a whole book of the Bible which relates a tragedy. The children of Israel wandered needlessly around a relatively small area of wilderness for almost forty years. A journey from Egypt to Canaan, which should only have taken eleven days, lasted 40 years. ‘The Israelites didn’t wander in the dessert for forty years because they were lost, but because of their faithlessness and rebellion’. *
What wasted years! What tragedy! The generation who was meant to be a people who fought and conquered nations, fought no battles except with their own natures.....and it looks like they lost those battles too!!
We only have one life to live. Let’s make sure we don’t make the same mistake as many of our predecessors. Instead, let us be like the apostle Paul who boldly said:
‘Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:12,13)
Let us too, adopt Paul’s attitude, pressing onward and upward.
'Marching onward, upward,
Marching steadily, onward,
Jesus leads the way,
Marching onward, upward,
Onward unto glory,
To the perfect day.’
Eliza E. Hewitt
* NLT Study Bible. Introduction to Numbers
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. (Isaiah 40:3-5)
What does this mean for our lives? This verse speaks of transformation. It speaks of clearing away everything that stands in the way of allowing the King to have free access to our lives, day and night. In reality, it speaks of living a holy life.
The Hebrew word for ‘straight’, ‘Yashar’, is worth looking at closely. It’s a word that can mean a number of things, all connected but with different nuances, but all showing us how we need to live in order to allow the King this free access. Here are some of its meanings;
There is an account in 1 Kings 22:1-38 of the actions of a man that demonstrates these qualities. His name was Micaiah.
We read that Israel’s King Ahab is about to go into battle and summons his 400 puppet prophets to prophesy victory for him. They were men pleasers rather than God fearers. Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, who is with him, is suspicious of these prophets and asks if there is a prophet of the Lord. Enter Micaiah. Right from the start, Micaiah is upright and honours God. He has ‘made straight in the dessert a highway for our God’. Boldly facing kings and prophets he states:
“As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me”. (1Kings 22:14)
Micaiah fearlessly prophesies King Ahab’s death, followed by Israel being scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd.
As a result of his loyalty to the living God and living a holy life, King Ahab had Micaiah put in prison until he returned from battle. However, as prophesied by Micaiah, Ahab never returned from battle, and we are never told what happened to God’s willing servant and prophet. Was he released from prison? We just don’t know. But one thing that is clear is that Micaiah was a shining light in a dark period of Israel’s history. He chose to please God rather than men. He stood alone, apart, fearing God more than he feared men. He was a man of intense loyalty and integrity, a man who was straight, upright and just. Micaiah is a good example of a man who put ‘Yashar’ into practice. He had cleared the rough ground of anything unlawful or unjust and his life became a ‘highway for our God’.
God is looking for the same in each one of us. He longs for deep communion and fellowship with us, but we need to be ‘straight’, ‘upright’ and ‘just’ in our innermost being. That is how we make a ‘highway for our God’.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:7)
The mercy of God is an ocean divine,
A boundless and fathomless flood;
Launch out in the deep, cut away the shoreline,
And be lost in the fullness of God.*
In 1978, as a non-Christian, I was invited along to a church where many in the congregation had deeply committed their lives to Jesus Christ. They had ‘cut away the shoreline’. They didn’t sit for hours watching TV as I did. They didn’t drink alcohol, as I did. They didn’t spend evenings ‘out on the town’, as I did! In-fact, they hardly did anything that I did! They had ‘cut away the shoreline’ and were following Jesus.
I felt my own life being challenged but it wasn’t a challenge I wanted to accept at first. I wanted to be a Christian, just not one that was ‘lost in the fulness of God’. I pictured myself on a beach, the ocean stretching out in front of me to the distant horizon. These Christians were swimming, way far out. I intended to venture in as far as my knees; that was as far as I would go. I thank God that He had other plans for me!
Like many others, my life for those few months could have been summed up in these words;
‘But many, alas! only stand on the shore,
And gaze on the ocean so wide;
They never have ventured its depths to explore,
Or to launch on the fathomless tide.’*
Maybe some reading this can identify with these feelings. Maybe you too are reluctant to ‘launch out, into the deep’ and ‘let the shoreline go’. Let me encourage you to think again and reconsider your life’s call.
Jeanne Guyon writes, ‘Be courageous. It is hard work to launch a large ship from her moorings, but when she is out in the open waters how easily she sails! When the self-nature has been conquered through perseverance, you will know great joy. You shall find yourself in the abundant waters of grace!
Friend, can I entice you to venture beyond the depth of your current experience with the Lord Jesus Christ? If you do, I can assure you, you won’t be disappointed.
‘Oh, let us launch out on this ocean so broad,
Where floods of salvation o’erflow;
Oh, let us be lost in the mercy of God,
Till the depths of His fullness we know.’*
*Launch Out- A B Simpson
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
What does it actually mean to take up your cross? What was Jesus referring to here?
Some people think that it means that you just have to put up with some situation or some person in life that you don’t like or that brings pain. However, as you are ‘putting up’, you are often full of self pity, sometimes angry, other times resentful. No, carrying your cross, definitely is not about ‘putting up’ but much more about ‘giving up’….and doing so willingly. It’s a call to absolute surrender. It’s about dying to self.
Let’s look at this more closely at this.
In Gethsemane, the shadow of the cross fell upon Jesus as he faced his situation in prayer. The horror of what he was about to suffer physically, mentally and spiritually broke upon Him. His Father was asking for full surrender. It was not enough that Jesus would ‘put up’ with what His Father was asking of Him; He had to willingly choose the opposite of what Adam and Eve chose in Eden. He said
...yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)
Jesus cut right across what fallen human nature would have dictated and chose God’s way, not man’s.
Madam Guyon describes the cross as “the affliction that God allows for us”. These circumstances cause pain and suffering, but these reveal to us our self pity, resentment, fear, stubbornness, pride, selfishness and wanting our own way. These situations give us an opportunity to die to self. It’s all about giving up our perceived ‘rights’ and submitting to His will. It also cuts right across our human nature.
But the story most certainly doesn’t end there. We read in Hebrews 12:2, ‘because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross.’ We must always remember that the cross was for a purpose. It was not meaningless suffering. After the cross came the resurrection!! Through the cross Jesus brought ‘many souls to glory’ (Hebrews 2:10). Through the cross, you and I have been set free from the penalty of sin and can experience something of eternal life here, while we are on earth.
Was it worth it for Jesus? Of course it was!!! And so it will be for those of you who follow Christ’s example; for those who not only ‘take up’ the cross, but embrace it knowing that it is actually the chariot upon which you will ride into freedom and into a deeper intimacy with Christ.
Is it worth it? Of course it is… a million times over.
“I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self and live wholly to Him” C H Spurgeon.
The Lord your God is in your midst... He will create calm with His love. (Zephaniah 3:17)
In August 1979 I was admitted to hospital for what should have been a routine operation. Immediately after the operation, complications set in, some of which resulted in agonising pain. I had never known pain to that degree before, and thankfully never since. It was almost unbearable. On top of this, there was a danger I was developing pneumonia. The doctors had a plan to help prevent this it. It was called ‘physiotherapy’!! Well, how bad could that be? VERY BAD, I can assure you.
To add to my already excruciating pain, the physiotherapist, came to my bedside on a regular basis and inflicted more pain on top of what I was already experiencing. I dreaded her entrance. Every time she approached me, I wished her anywhere else in the world except at my bedside. I didn’t want her to pound my back. I certainly didn’t want to ‘cough’. I understand now that she wanted me to get well. She had my best interests at heart. The pain would bring healing. I just needed to trust her.
In Teen Challenge, men come to us who not only want freedom from addiction, but they want healing from other conditions that have plagued them, sometimes for decades. For some, there is deep seated emotional pain caused by traumatic childhood experiences. For others, there have been years of anxiety, stress and unhappiness caused by a multitude of circumstances.
Some of the healing can take place quite quickly and painlessly, but there are times where the healing involves a process which seems as painful as the condition itself. The men want healed, but they don’t like facing the pain that is sometimes necessary to bring healing.
It’s at times like this that they have to trust these words;
Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:25)
My physiotherapist didn’t want to hurt me, she wanted to heal me. In all His dealings with us, God wants to do a work in us that will bring healing and bring us closer to Himself. When this is painful, more painful than we think we can bear, we must hold on to that wonderful verse, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3. Thank God for a love that loves us to this degree.
Young children are often spontaneous in their reactions. They don’t sit around and carefully consider how they want others to view them. If they are upset about something, they will dissolve into floods of tears. If they are angry they will say what they are thinking; sometimes even lash out physically. Controlling emotions is something that children learn as they grow older. With it, we tend to lose something of the sense of spontaneity also.
However, spontaneity can be very revealing. We see a person’s true self. They have no time to think things out and modify their reactions. What you see is what they are.
The Apostle Peter retained a larger degree of spontaneity in his character than many people. As a result of this, we see Peter’s love for, and devotion to Christ shining clearly. These ‘signs of love’ are scattered throughout the gospels.
In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 16:21-23), Jesus told his disciples for the first time that he would “suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Peter’s spontaneous reaction was, “Never, Lord!... This shall never happen to you!”. Although Peter was viewing the situation from man’s perspective rather than God’s and spoke unwisely, it revealed that Peter’s immediate instinct was to protect Jesus from this. He loved his Master.
Some time later, as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, tensions were rising among the chief priests and Jewish rulers. They did not share Peter’s love for Jesus; they wanted him dead. We read in John’s gospel that an armed delegation was sent to arrest Jesus. This, to Peter, was unthinkable. He would protect Jesus. “Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear." (John 18:10-11).
Peter’s spontaneous action was another ‘sign of love’. Then, after His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself at various times and places to his disciples. One of these is in John’s gospel where, after having caught no fish, Jesus appears to Peter and some other disciples.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. (John 21:7)
Peter wasn’t content to be in the boat while his beloved Master stood on the shore. Here we have yet another ‘sign of love’. Doesn’t it warm our hearts when we see these ‘signs of love’ from this Galilean fisherman? How much more was Christ’s heart warmed?
Spurgeon once said:
Let me revel in this one thought: before God made the heavens and the earth, He set His love upon me.
Shall we each endeavour to live in such a way to set our love upon Him and let ‘signs of love’ flow from our lives to Him even as they did from Peter?
Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)
Mercy, most certainly, is one of the most beautiful words in the English language. It speaks of a forgiveness unmerited but, none the less granted to an individual. In the Bible we see the mercy of God displayed in the life of Jesus.
Tax collectors were notoriously greedy and merciless individuals. They extorted larger amounts of money than was their due and made a very comfortable living at the expense of their fellow countrymen. One day, God’s mercy was extended to a tax collector called Matthew…..and the rest, as they say, is history.
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 4, we read about a Samaritan woman who had had five previous husbands and was now living with a man who was not her husband. Not a likely candidate for mercy, but the love of God reached out to such as this woman and opened up the way of salvation to her.
In the Old Testament, we read of Joseph, the young man who was cruelly sold into slavery by his brothers, extending mercy towards the very men who plotted his ruin. Mercy triumphed over judgement.
There are many other beautiful examples of mercy in the Bible. In the New Testament, one of these is in Matthew 1:18-19.
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a just man, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Judgement is what was called for in this case, yet Joseph did not choose that path. Have you ever wondered why he chose another way? In Isaiah 42:1-3, Joseph would have read of a law that was higher than justice….it was mercy.
‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.’
In his book 'Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, Kenneth E.Bailey, has written; “ Joseph looked beyond the penalties of the law in order to reach out with tenderness to a young woman who was no doubt bruised and exhausted. Perhaps he saw Mary as a ‘dimly burning wick’. This definition of justice required a compassionate concern for the weak, the downtrodden and the outcasts in their need.’ Joseph chose mercy over judgement thus saving the life of Mary and the unborn child she bore.
When Christ came to earth, his mission could have been one of judgement and exacting payment from a sinful people. Instead, he reached out with mercy to the ‘bruised reed’ and the ‘smouldering wick’
Thank God for mercy.
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