If we decide to follow the leadership of Jesus, and we trust Him to complete the task that He has set out before us, we need to focus on Jesus to get the job done.
We have to go to the Book of Matthew 14:22-32 to learn about this issue of distractions that can deplete our faith and trust in Jesus.
Let’s read the story before we get into the message.
Matthew 14:22 –“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23-After he had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone; 24-but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."
Do you suppose that Jesus did anything without there being a lesson in it for us?
Jesus sent His apostles to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and told them He would meet them there.
If they were taking the boats, and that was the direct route - and the only mode of transportation, would you think they might have asked themselves, “If we have the boats, how is Jesus going to meet us there?” I’m sure they figured out that He would find a way.
25-During the fourth watch of the night (just before dawn) Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.”
Jesus could have transported Himself to the other side of the lake in any fashion He desired, but He chose to walk on the water because He was about to demonstrate a principle to His apostles…and subsequently to us.
26-When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.”
Think about the scene. The men are out in the boats….and they saw a figure of a man coming up from behind them. They were terrified at first. They thought, “This has to be a ghost because how can a human walk on water?”
27-But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."
It is those words – “TAKE COURAGE BECAUSE IT IS ME…THEREFORE, YOU DO NOT EVER HAVE TO BE AFRAID” that I want to focus on. This is the truth of the ages since the resurrection.
Things will be put in front of us to distract us from our focus on Christ. Satan is clever. His first line of attack to separate you from Christ is to try to entice you away with flashy “baubles”.
Satan can never separate born-again believers eternally from Jesus, but his desire is to at least neutralize us for then we become ineffective tools to get the job of winning souls done for the Lord.
The second line of distraction seems to be when Satan can’t woo us with enticements; he then attacks us through fear.
If we are serving the Lord, and doing most of what His plan and purpose is for our lives, I can guarantee that Satan will entice…or use FEAR against us. Those are the tools of choice that Satan uses. Remember Goliath? Imagine the fear that Goliath placed into the minds of all of Israel....big men and small. All but a little 17-year old shepherd boy named David. David trusted God. He trusted his very life with God.
I have learned, first-hand, that Satan uses both tools (among others) as his way to get us to become ineffective witnesses - enticements and FEAR
Of course, Satan won’t bother those who are already sitting on the sidelines, so if you want to avoid discovering what your potential is with God, by all means sit in the bleachers and watch the world go by.
If you dare to discover your true potential, it will cost you something. I can tell you this from personal experience.
You will be put through what I call “God’s Boot Camp”, and when God and you agree that you will be a candidate, you will be tested to see if you have the “stuff” to truly serve the Lord.
My test started in January of 2008. The time of my testing lasted about sixteen months. I won’t bother going through all of the testing with you, because all of it is being written into my newest book – Satan’s Games. What I can tell you is that I am so thankful that God decided to answer my prayer of December 2007.
The uniqueness of that book is that the reader and I go through things AS THEY HAPPEN, and we get to see how God handles the Boot Camp expericnce. I learned there are three phases of becoming a Boot Camp graduate: Phase one is REMOVAL of things in our lives that cause distractions. God wants our undivided attention for Boot camp.
The second phase is RESTORATION of that which God takes away initially.
The third phase is the BLESSING phase...that's the one that I am now beginning to experience. Part of the blessing of going through God's Boot Camp is that I get to share it with others. When others read or see what happens in God's Boot Camp, they can save time by gaining the knowlede from someone who has "been there...did that".
In December of 2007, I said to God, “I am tired of doing things my way, Lord…and I want to know what YOUR WAY ….YOUR PLAN…YOUR PURPOSE for me is. I want to know and see and experience YOUR WAY.”
Immediately - in January of 2008, my time of testing came!
Some go through a trial about finances…others health…some go through family issues….yet others may go through pride issues…others need patience. God allowed every one of those to hit me…all at the same time!
I can sense what you are saying to yourself. “Why would I want to go through times of testing - things are going just fine with me?”
You are right….when I was doing things on my own, life was good. God gave me tons of money to play with (I mean millions), and houses…I owned three Mercedes-Benz cars in the same year…. but, like the Hollywood folk, I was unfulfilled – even miserable....and I was a Christian! I was a sunday school teacher of adults! I was a deacon in my church!
James had it right when he penned these words in James 1:2-4 –“Consider it pure joy, my brothers (or sisters), whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3-because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4-Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I can truly say that I now lack nothing. I’m a “God’s Boot Camp graduate”.
I don’t have the millions I once had….but God takes care of my daily bread needs…therefore, I have learned how to be content. I have learned to trust God 100%, whereas I might have trusted Him 50-80% before thee time of testing. This brings us back to the scene on the Sea of Galilee….
I KNOW - beyond any doubt, that God has shaped me for whatever his plan is for me, and I cannot wait to see how it unfolds. That will be the last chapter of my fifth book!
Matthew 14:28 –“Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
This almost mirrors my prayer of December 2007. “Lord, if it is really you, and you have a plan for my life….show me…lead me to you….put out your hands toward me so that I might see that you are there welcoming me to come.”
Verse 29 – Jesus said, “come.”
Jesus will always tell those of us who want to see what His plan and purpose are for our lives to “come”.
29…”Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus."
Peter, like us, trusted Jesus initially. We trusted that Jesus could save us from an eternity in hell. We trusted that He is preparing a magnificent home for us to spend eternity in. We believed and trusted all that He said in His Word…. so, what happened? Why is it that we lose some of that trust as time unfolds? It is because of distractions. It is because we lose our focus on the object of our faith.
30 –“But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Did you notice what just happened?
Peter (like us) took his eyes off Jesus and began thinking about his surroundings….his bills…his job….his health or the health of his family….whatever distraction we turn our attention to.
Satan instilled FEAR in Peter.
“Peter became afraid”….and immediately began to sink in the water….yet Jesus was right there for him.
Had Peter shunned the FEAR that Satan put upon him, he could have refocused on Jesus again, and he would have made it all the way. He would have completed his goal…which was really to do the same miracle that Jesus was already doing. Later, Peter and the other apostles would, in fact, do all the miracles that Jesus did. That was the plan that Jesus had for them. This lesson on the Sea of Galilee was - no pun intended...the first step.
“We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”
31 -Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
Jesus says the same thing to us when we decide to turn our attention and focus toward other things.
Jesus has His hands out …stretching toward us saying, “come”.
When we take our focus off Him, through distractions caused by Satan, we diminish our faith in Jesus and we doubt (lack complete trust) that Jesus can and will do all that He says He will do - found in His Word.
Jesus gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit who can, if we ask, give us the POWER we need to do God’s will.
If we focus on winning souls, which is the will of God, then God will EMPOWER us to do exactly that.
He will give us all of the resources we need to get His job done. If we need MONEY to get the job done, God will supply ALL OUR NEEDS.
If we need a special TALENT to get God's will done...He will give us that gift. Whatever resource God needs...He will put it into YOUR hands and mine to accomplish His goal. He simply wants us to develop a close relationship with Him first...then He will train us to accomplish His plan.
He simply wants to use us to do His will, but He needs to have our undivided attention. He needs to know that He can trust us with His plan for winning souls. Jesus told us in Matthew that He will not allow us to handle a lot...until we prove to Him that we can handle a little. This is why I was invited to go to God's Boot Camp"! I did ask to go.
In Romans 8:28, we discover another truth, and that is that God SHALL work everything out for our good…even if it seems like it’s bad at the time. “And we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
We are all called according to God’s plan and purpose. If we just KNOW that fact, then we have to TRUST HIM, and let Him complete His plan and purpose for our lives. It is the BEST PLAN that we could ever hope for on this side of heaven. I did NOT want to miss out seeing what that divine plan for me is.
Imagine, if you will, living out a plan that God has put together!
God…the one who made the universe! What a perfect situation for us to want to be involved in…God’s plan. What a great thing it is to know that God chooses to trust us enough to train us.
How will we ever know what it is unless and until we ask Him to work His plan out in our lives? Do you dare?
Romans 8:38 -“If God is for us, who can be against us? Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39--neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Who, then, on the earth or in heaven or under the earth can ever separate us from the love of God? Nobody.
So, we have no reason to FEAR anything that Satan throws in front of us…and believe me, for a while, he will toss everything he can at you to get your attention off Christ.
Philipians 4:13 -I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
We can do ALL THINGS through Christ. There is nothing we cannot do when Jesus is operating His plan using us. Nobody can stop His plan, therefore, nobody…including Satan, can thwart that plan.
We are tools of Christ, and with confidence we go boldly about doing His work. We should be honored that we are “called according to His purpose”.
Yet, apart from Christ and His Holy Spirit POWER, we can do absolutely NOTHING. In John 15:5, we read, - “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for WITHOUT ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING.”
Like Peter, Jesus beckons us to “come”. When we decide to “come to Him”, we must not lose faith or lose our focus. There is a job to do, and Jesus wants to empower YOU and me to do that job.
Once we step out of the safety of our boat, we need to keep focused on the one who will complete His plan.
Although distractions will come, I have learned to go back to the source of my strength when they do. Fear will come, and has - but, I go back to the source of my strength, and I always receive the strength necessary to defeat Satan and push on towards accomplishing all that God wants me to do.
Nothing frightens me anymore. My trust is in Jesus, and not in anything else.
How can we go wrong? Who can pull us away from Jesus?
I’d invite you to step out of the safety of YOUR BOAT and ask God to run you through His Boot Camp.
When you graduate, you will be so thankful for the experience and for the lessons that God will teach you about having faith, confidence and trust in Him.
Be sure to join us at www.ChristianDailyBread.com where all of the articles are. Some in writing - others in the form of audio messages. They are there if you would rather listen than read. And, you can have 60-page free samples of my books there. You can enjoy some Christian gospel music while your are there as well. There is a devotional study that takes only a few minutes to read if you are doing daily devotionals.
John Tyler, Author
Read more articles by John Tyler or search for articles on the same topic or others.