Why do You Doubt? by Roger Rohde, August 13, 2017

Why Do You Doubt?

Matthew 14:22-33

Our faith is like a pendulum that swings back and forth between moments of spiritual triumph and moments of spiritual depression.  At one moment our faith is so great that nothing we experience in life can phase it, and the next moment our faith is so shaken by circumstances it seems as if we’re going to drown.  In today’s text God seeks to deal with our fluctuating faith as He directly asks us: “Why do you doubt?”

The first cause for our lack of faith in the Lord is that we overlook God’s purposes in our lives.

It is no accident that the disciples were in the boat at the time this storm suddenly arose.  Jesus had put them there.  Sometimes we bring troubles upon ourselves by not following God’s direction, such as Jonah did.  Jonah refused to follow God’s will and preach a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh.  As a result he found himself in a terrible storm and in the stomach of a large fish.  Sometimes we bring problems upon ourselves because of our disobedience to God’s will or our great desire to satisfy the desires of our sinful flesh.  But this is not true for the disciples in the historical account before us.

Our text begins by telling us: “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side.”  Jesus sent them off in the boat well aware that they would come upon this severe storm at sea.

Jesus had a purpose for having the disciples in that boat at that time.  What preceded our text was Jesus miraculously feeding over 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish.  Following that feeding the crowd desired that Jesus be their earthly king.  While Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords, His purpose is not to be an earthly king.  Jesus said before Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  The disciples were still too spiritually immature not to follow the incorrect desires of the crowd.  Hence, Jesus immediately sought to get them out of there.  His purpose in putting the disciples in the boat was to get them away from man’s misconceived notion about Jesus.

Jesus had a second purpose for putting them on the boat.  Jesus wanted them in the boat at the time of the storm to teach them about His true identity as the Son of God.  John in the conclusion of his Gospel wrote:  “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).  The purpose behind all the miracles that Jesus performed was that people would know that the Son of Man is also true God.  That was exactly what came out of this miracle as “the disciples worshiped Jesus saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

The Lord still works His purposes of strengthening and purifying our faith in Him through the storms of life He places us in today.  I can look at my own life and see how placed me in the midst of storms that my faith could grow in Him in ways it may not have grown had I been spared from those storms.  The Lord tells us that we “may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials so that our faith may be refined” (I Peter 1:7).  As we go through difficulties in our lives, we are not to doubt God’s wisdom in the way He is leading us, but we are to trust in His purposes of developing and strengthening our faith through the circumstances in life He would have us encounter.

The second cause for our lack of faith in the Lord is that we question His presence with us.  Years ago my family and I were driving on an interstate highway in the middle of the night when tornado warnings were issued.  It was too dark to see if any funnel clouds were forming, and there was absolutely no place to get off of the highway.  Jeri and I were becoming a bit uneasy when Joshua, our son, about three years-old at the time, told us that we didn’t have to be afraid because Jesus was with us.  Move forward in time to when Joshua was about seven years old.  We found ourselves in a similar situation and this time it was Joshua who became uneasy.  We told him that he did not have to worry because Jesus was with us.  Joshua’s childlike faith was now gone.  He looked toward the back of the van and on each side and sincerely reported to us: “I don’t see Him.”

The disciples did not acknowledge Jesus’ presence with them during the storm although He had promised to be with them always.  Even when Jesus physically appeared, the disciples thought Him to be a ghost and were terrified.  The disciples lived in fear and doubt, because they did not believe in Jesus’ presence with them.  Their fear was only stilled when Jesus said to them: “Take courage!  It is I.  Do not be afraid.”

Unfortunately, like the disciples of old and my son, Joshua, we don’t always maintain the childlike faith God wants us to possess.  When difficulties come we live in fear because we forget Jesus’ promises to be with us.  In Joshua 1:5-6, God promises: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and of good courage.”  In Isaiah 43, God leaves us with these words: “Feat not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” (1b-2a).  Shortly before Jesus’ ascension He assured us: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).  We are even assured of the Lord’s presence with us at the hour of our own death: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with Me” (Psalm 23:4).

To cast doubt from our lives and live by faith, it is critical that we constantly turn to God’s Word and hear His voice that assures us of His presence with us.  We may not always see His hand, but through His Word we can hear His voice and live in the blessed assurance that He is with us to work out all things for good to them that love God.

A third cause for our lack of faith in the Lord is that we fail to trust in His power.

Once the impulsive Peter recognized Jesus he wanted to get out of the boat and walk to Him.  “Come,” Jesus said.  This request of Peter spoke to his love for the Lord and his faith in Christ.  All went well for Peter as he exited the boat.  He walked on water until he took his focus off of Jesus and saw the wind and the waves.  Dwelling on the storm rather than on Jesus, Peter quickly sank.

Sink is what happens to us when we take our eyes off of Jesus and no longer trust in His unwavering power and love.  The cross upon which Jesus died for our sins and the empty tomb from which He rose from the dead assure us that we are more than conquerors through Him Who has loved us.  Resting our faith on Jesus allows us to face every situation and circumstance in life with the certainty that Christ will safely see us through all life’s storms and bring us to the shores of heavenly glory.

Faith in Christ does not mean we will be free from experiencing any pressures or difficulties in this life.  Faith in Christ assures us that God has a purpose for all the things we encounter and that He is present with us so that by His power we can make it through all the storms of life and be the better because of them.

Today Jesus reaches out to us as He reached out to Peter in our text.  He is drawing us to Himself and saying: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  By virtue of what the Lord has taught us today may we be strengthened in our faith to know that Jesus pilots our lives that we may be with Him in heaven.  Amen.

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