sermon 8/10/14 Rory Smith "Faith Through The Trouble"

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Faith Through The Trouble                                                         


May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.  In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.


Have you ever been at home at night and experienced a power outage and your lights go out?  At first, it’s pitch black and it’s silent.  You know that trouble could be ahead because bad things can happen in the dark.  You cannot see what is right around you or what trouble might be coming at you.  Then you begin to hear noises and you try to imagine and classify each noise to discern if it is a normal noise or a warning of something unexpected and threatening.  


We all experience times of darkness in our lives.  It could be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the break-up of a relationship, a family matter, or something else that troubles you.  When we are in those periods of darkness, those times of trouble, it feels like it will never get better, like there is no hope.


In our Gospel today, Matthew in tells us of a time when the Disciples are faced with a period of darkness and a time of trouble.  Before nightfall, they must have felt a sense of peace and safety with Jesus.  Jesus was growing in popularity.  The Disciples were at Jesus’s side as people were coming to see Him and to hear Him speak.  Jesus had just finished performing the miracle of feeding thousands of people with the five loaves of bread and fish. 


The Disciples’ stomachs were full, they were impressed and amazed by the miracle of the bread and the fish and they obeyed the instructions from Jesus to take the boat to the other side of the lake while Jesus dismisses the crowd.  So instead of having the Disciples stay to help with dismiss a crowd of possibly 15,000 men, women and children, Jesus has something else in mind for the Disciples.  Although it may not have made sense to the Disciples not to help Jesus with the crowd, the Disciples obey without question and they get in the boat to take it across the lake.


At first when they are in the boat, all is well.  Jesus sends the crowd home and He goes into the mountain to pray by himself.  This passage in the Gospel is sometimes used to remind us that there are times when we need to find a place where we can be alone when we pray to God.  And it makes sense that the best way to have a relationship, is to give that relationship some one-on-one time.  I will never forget what my mother said to me the night before she died.  We had gathered in her room at the hospital and I was trying to give her encouragement and I told her the God loved her and the He was there with her.  She smiled at me, nodded and so gracefully said “God knows me.”  It was immediately comforting to me to know how strong her faith was but it occurs to me with today’s gospel that she knew that God knew her because she had made time, alone throughout her life to pray to God one-on-one.  She was not worried, she was at peace.  She had a close personal relationship with God and she recognized, that God knew her and loved her.  So my brothers and sisters, I urge you to be sure that you are also making time for alone, an uninterrupted time to pray to God one-on-one.


So now what happens to the Disciples? When evening came, Jesus “was there alone, but by this time the boat was battered by the waves and was far from land.” The Disciples are in the boat, it’s getting dark and their boat is being tossed around.  They cannot get the boat across because the wind is against them.  It’s dark and scary but they continue risking their lives to try to get that boat across the lake against the battering wind and waves.  The next sentence in the text reads:  “And early in the morning He came walking towards them on the lake.”  Well that is amazing and wonderful that Jesus is walking on the water towards them, but what have the Disciples just been through?  They have been trying to get across the lake all night in the storm. 


Can you image what that night must have been like?  Wind and waves battering the boat, their lives are at risk all night long.  It must have seemed like forever.  All night long they have been in a time of trouble.  In the dark, you can’t see when the next wave that’s going to hit you but you know it’s coming and you fear that the next wave will be the one the causes the boat to sink.  And with the fear, they worry about the worst that could happen. So for the disciples all night long, they are afraid that they will lose their lives while fighting the wind and waves.  Even worse, all the while they did not seem to be getting anywhere.  And then the doubt: “Why did Jesus send us here? Why did He leave us?  And where is He when we need Him?”  They feel alone and abandoned. 



There are times in all of our lives that we feel all alone and we are frightened.  We are trying our hardest but we are not getting anywhere and then instead of making progress we are hit by a problem, we are battered by trouble.  And we may ask ourselves, where is Jesus when all this trouble is upon us? 


Our world today seems full of trouble.  We have people being gunned down in Chicago; we have people dying from bombings in Gaza and in Israel; we have hundreds of Nigerian girls kidnapped; we have thousands of people dying from Ebola in West Africa; and we have people being killed and oppressed because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation or the religion they believe in.  Where is God when we need Him? 


Well my brothers and sisters, I am here to tell you that whatever storm, darkness or trouble you are going through, God is right there with you.  Why did the Disciples have go through that storm?  Why did Jesus wait to the next morning save them?  There was something that Jesus wanted the Disciples to learn from this time of trouble and there is something we are to learn from the Disciples’ time in the storm.  This was an opportunity for the Disciples to trust in their faith.  To keep from giving up they had to trust in their faith that God would see them through the trouble.


When we experience a time of trouble, we also have to trust in our faith.  If your plan for your life is not working out, remember that God may have a different plan in mind for you, a better plan.  Be in prayer with God and the Holy Spirit will prompt you to do what you need to do, at the right time.  If you find that a door has closed for you, know that God has another door that God is opening for you.  Be in prayer and ask God to show you the new way to go. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to that next step. And pray in the name of Jesus.  Praying in the name of Jesus is the most powerful way to pray. 


If you are wondering where God is in your life seek him out by reading His Word in the Holy Bible.  The Holy Spirit will help you in your understanding of the Bible verses.  Join in one of our bible studies, find a reading plan or just read a chapter or two of the Bible every day and you will learn more and more.  You will find yourself quoting passages that give you hope and inspiration in times of need.  Reading the Bible will give you a firmer foundation upon which to build your faith increase and you will find strength to make it through and overcome the storms and trouble in your life. 


Think of the Disciples.  They were on a faith journey and they did not know where it would lead them.  They wanted to learn from Jesus but then suddenly and unexpectedly they felt left alone all night in the stormy waters.  They felt abandoned in their time of trouble.  And where was Jesus?  The Disciples wanted Jesus to deliver them from the storm, but Jesus had something else in mind, Jesus wanted to give them a miracle. 


The Disciples were still in the midst of the storm that next morning, when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and thought he was a ghost.  They were terrified and screamed out loud in fear.  But Jesus said “Take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.”   It was the miracle of salvation from the storm and it was also a demonstration of the power of God in the person of His Son our Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus knew what the Disciples wanted but He also knew what else they needed.


Jesus knew that they were still learning about Him, God and their faith.  Jesus did not merely want to calm the storm.  Jesus did not merely want them to see the miracle of Him walking on water.  Jesus wanted them to know the power of their faith. 


Peter has two brilliant flashes of faith.  Jesus is not surprised when that Peter said, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.' Peter had faith that Jesus could make him walk on water.  Jesus responded with one simple word, 'Come.'  This one-on-on conversation with God opens up the door for a lesson about faith.   


The Gospel reads: So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?'


What Jesus has shown us by this miracle is that we are upheld by our faith.  When Peter’s focus is on Jesus, he is able to walk on water.  When Peter remembers his troubles and focuses on the storm, he begins to sink and become swallowed up by his problem.  Then Peter has his second flash of faith, and although the storm is still present, Peter’s focus returns to Jesus as his savior.  Peter cries out “Lord save me” and Jesus pulls Peter to safety.  Jesus consistently tells us that it is by our faith that we are saved. 


We also see the personal miracle, that God is present in our lives, even when we have doubt.  So know this, that God’s hand remains on our lives -even when our faith falters.  Make sure you have taken time to pray to God one-on-one so that you can say confidently and gracefully that God knows you. It is in these times of trouble that our faith can be found anew and made stronger.  It is in these times of trouble that our faith will see us through.


So I want you to know today that if you are going through a period of darkness, a time of trouble, God is with you.  Get your Bible and grow closer to God by reading His word.  Jesus said Come.  Trust in Him and He will see you through the trouble and you will be lifted up.  Remember in good time and in times of trouble to thank God for all the blessings you have received in your life and praise Him for his glory and greatness.  Give this trouble up to God and let Him lead you in the right direction.  


I was moved this week by the words of Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the two Americans who contracted Ebola in Africa and he is being treated in an Atlanta hospital. Dr. Brantly said: 


…I thank God for His mercy as I have wrestled with this terrible disease.  One thing I have learned is that following God often leads us to unexpected places. When Ebola spread into Liberia, my usual hospital work turned more and more toward treating the increasing number of Ebola patients. I held the hands of countless individuals as this terrible disease took their lives away from them. I witnessed the horror first-hand, and I can still remember every face and name.

When I started feeling ill on that Wednesday morning, I immediately isolated myself until the test confirmed my diagnosis three days later. When the result was positive, I remember a deep sense of peace that was beyond all understanding. God was reminding me of what He had taught me years ago, that He will give me everything I need to be faithful to Him.”


In closing, remember to keep your focus on God.  Move forward in the knowledge of God and his son our Savior Jesus Christ and receive His peace which passes all understanding.  Trust Him.  

Find your quiet place to pray that one-on-one prayer to God.  Read the Bible.

Let the Holy Spirit guide you and let your faith remind you that with God all things are possible and that joy will be yours in the morning.

In Jesus' name I pray.  Amen.

                                                                                                                                                Rory Dean Smith


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