Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“You meet with him (and her) who joyfully works righteousness, uprightness and justice, earnestly remembering You in Your ways.”
Isaiah 64: 5
“They say Thou art a Myth –
That every prayer is vain:
Yet still I seek Thee with
My pleas, again, again.
‘There is no Christ –nay, none!’
The lips of men have said:
But see, Thou fabled One,
I kiss the Hands that bled!”
Mahlon Leonard Fisher
Today’s Study Text:
“And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.’”
Matthew 14: 28
“Heaven’s Solution to Earthly Fear” Part 5
“Doubt is not always a sign that a man (or woman) is wrong; it may be a sign that he (or she) is thinking.”
What do I think Peter meant when he said to Jesus, “If it be Thou?”
At what points in my life have I questioned whether or not God was leading and calling me?
“Every step towards Christ kills a doubt.”
Theodore Ledyard Cuyler
“Let me, O my God, stifle forever in my heart, every thought that would tempt me to doubt thy goodness.”
Francois Fenelon and
Jeanne Guyon 17th Century
With their teeth chattering and their voices quivering, Jesus’ disciples had thought they had come face-to-face with a ghost in the middle of a dark, stormy night on the Sea of Galilee.
However, at first what appeared to be a frightful being, started by speaking in a voice that had a familiar ring to it. I can only imagine the disciples whispering among themselves, “That sounds like a voice I’ve heard before. Doesn’t that sound like Jesus?”
With the thought that what they had mistaken for a spooky apparition might instead be their dear friend and leader, Jesus Christ, it seemed obvious that someone among the group would call out, “Is that You?” And sure enough, the brash and bold Peter was the first to speak up.
You have to hand it to Peter. The storm was still raging. Hearts were still pounding. And his arms were still rowing. But in spite of all that was going on around him, Peter wanted to see for himself who it was that was coming toward their boat in such an unusual fashion. And so this disciple and follower of Jesus blurted out, “If it is Thou?” At first when I read this, as some Biblical scholars note, Peter’s response sounds a great deal like Jesus’ encounter with the devil in the wilderness, recorded by Dr. Luke in Luke 4. At three different times the devil uttered a similar phrase which began with, “If Thou be.” “Are You really who You say You are?” was the devilish question. Now, as some commentators observe, we find Peter with the same question, “If Thou?” But I would like to extend this courtesy to Simon Peter, for it is the same kindness we find Jesus offering to His friend. If we carefully read Matthew 14: 28, we’ll find Peter saying, “Lord, if it be Thou?” Do you know why I will offer Peter the gift of understanding in a moment when he appears to be doubting? It is because I hear myself in Peter’s cry. I hear my voice crying out over the storms of life, “Is it really You, Lord? Are You out there? Is it Your voice I hear? Are You really walking toward me on top of this wave-filled mess?”
How about you? Have you, like Peter, found yourself just wanting to check out that voice you think you hear off in the distance? Have you ever wanted to just make certain that it is the hand of Jesus that is guiding you? What’s more, I believe Jesus recognized Peter’s longing, just as He recognizes the fact that at times, you and I need His reassuring voice and loving touch to encourage us in the middle of chaos. Sometimes we indeed need to know Jesus is on the water…on the way…on our side! As John Drummond astutely observed in Jesus’ behavior, “Christ never failed to distinguish between doubt and unbelief. Doubt is can’t believe, unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty, unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light, unbelief is content with darkness.”
This distinction between doubt and unbelief helps me understand my own response to those times when the path before me is not clear…where the noise of the storm muffles my Father’s voice…and when the time of waiting stretches my patience beyond anything I think is possible. It is at such times when the last thing we need is to be made to feel as though our faith is wobbly and that we aren’t as strong as some who are quick to point out the lack of trust we may be displaying.
Not long ago, after months of challenging events, someone off-handedly said to me as I expressed some frustrating emotions regarding the weight of events that were overwhelming me, “Well, it sounds like you need to read some of the devotionals you’ve been sending out!” It sounded funny, but for all of us it isn’t just a quick slogan or a favorite Bible text that may become an easy-fix to the concerns that plague our minds. Even the strongest among us find ourselves, at one time or another, calling out across the murky depth of life’s stormy sea, “Are You out there, Lord? Is it You?”
It is at this very point where we hear two voices connecting -- Jesus’ voice of comfort and Peter’s voice of concern. As I thought about this conversation, one of the most beautiful passages in the New Testament came to my mind. It was penned by the beloved disciple John. These words of Jesus, found in John 10: 3-5, took on new meaning to me as I began studying in preparation for a special Christmas series I want to explore during the month of December on Psalm 23. (I can hardly wait!) But what I learned about sheep and voices came first to me from Jesus own words:
“The watchman opens the door for this man, and the sheep listen to his voice and heed it; and he calls his own sheep by name and brings (leads) them out. When he has brought his own sheep outside, he walks on before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will never on any account follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers or recognize their call.”
John 10: 3-5
Even in a flock of sheep, mixed together with other sheep from other flocks, the distinctive voice of each flock’s shepherd is recognized. And so it was when Jesus knew His dearest friends on earth were so afraid, alone without Him on a stormy sea, His first response was to speak. That voice, immediately well-known, was what Peter yearned to hear again. He was acquainted with the sound – he just wanted to make certain he wasn’t hearing only what he wanted to hear – Jesus voice. Verification that the closeness he felt was with the person he trusted most, Peter cried out, “If it is Thou, please let me know!”
I deeply appreciate the words penned by Helen Keller, someone who was genuinely aware of the challenges we face in the dark. She was an individual who intimately understood the need to hear an affirming voice above the roar of life’s turmoil. Here’s how she describes the way we each can weather the winds of doubt: “It need not discourage us if we are full of doubts. Healthy questions keep faith dynamic. Unless we start with doubts we cannot have a deep-rooted faith. One who believes lightly and unthinkingly has not much of a belief. (She) who has a faith which is not to be shaken has won it through blood and tears – has worked (her) way from doubt to truth as one who reaches a clearing through a thicket of brambles and thorns.”
“If we are sensible we will not doubt God, we will doubt our world and we will doubt ourselves.”
“Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.”
The Disciplines of Life
Victor Raymond Edman
“Being perplexed, I say
“Lord, make it right!
Night is as day to Thee,
Darkness is light.
I am afraid to touch
Things that involve so much:
My trembling hand may shake –
My skillful hand may break:
Thine can make no mistake.”
Being in doubt, I say.
“Lord, make it plain!
Which is the true, safe way?
Which would be vain?
I am not wise to know,
Not sure of foot to go;
My blind eyes cannot see
What is so clear to Thee.
Lord, make it clear to me.
V. Raymond Edman
In Quietness and Confidence
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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