…you gotta get out of the boat!”
Matthew 14.22-33 (James 1.19-25) (putting faith to work, serving others)
Where we are at how many of you have joined the gym with great enthusiasm, bought some suitable attire, got yourself an exercise plan, picked some useful information about changing your diet, even turned up a few times planning to be there two, three times a week. Good resolve huh? You should be allowed to lose weight just for all that effort don’t you think? But so often we go to expense and initial effort only to fall back into whatever indolent lifestyle we currently have that is piling on the kilos and causing the Doctor to make insulting remarks about your weight and your blood pressure.
We all see those people too at beach with their surfboards or the golf club with their fancy clubs, but we never see them in action – and those who attend concerts and criticise the performer as though they could play it much better themselves. There’s a slightly insulting term for that attitude: we call them poseurs – people who look right but never take the risk to try the real thing – who know all about theory but nothing about practice; it seems there is an integrity in action.
It amazes me that churches seem to have more than their fair share of religious poseurs as well. They look okay but their spiritual health is in a state of extreme threat and their spiritual development has seriously arrested (stunted growth and arrested development). It seems people can be here or places like here and never grow beyond a particular point in their spiritual development – but they’re standing to one side of the action, applauding or criticising as the mood takes them, but they’ve never once dived into the action.
What does God say through James, the Spirit of God challenges us to do what we’ve read or heard. The mirror is an interesting image for him to use – is he saying that the Word of God is a mirror that we can voluntarily hold up to our lives, to see them how God sees them. The Bible reveals to us the deeper reality that is behind behind, and suggests what we should do about it. What’s really going on in your relationships these days? How can you free yourself from that persistent habit? How can I ensure that my unchurched friend knows that I love him and that God loves him – and what should I do about it? I have found time and again that an obedient attitude to the Bible reveals more than I expected, often more than asked about. [James 1:22-25]
But as always with the Christian faith there is a relational dimension to this business of exercising our faith muscles. It took Peter a huge leap of faith to climb out of that boat and put his foot on the heaving sea and walk across to Jesus. It was clear it could be done, and it was also clear that Jesus invited him to do it, so why, to his great panic, did he sink into the sea? Because he took his eyes of the One who empowered him to do such an unbelievable thing he nearly perished in answering the imperative of his faith. [Matthew 14:22-33] The secret to continued growth and development is in a watchful and learning relationship with the Lord, doing what He does, speaking what He speaks. We sink, we become stressed in the task when we try to do it without reference to Him.
What should we do An important question: is Peter a failure because he sank into the waters? He had the courage to do what he saw our Master doing, he is only mistake was to take his eyes of Jesus – how often do we let the business of serving cause us to neglect the Ever-present…however, that fear should not prevent us from stepping out of the boat of the church into the storms of the world’s needs.
The next important question: where would Jesus be putting His effort if He were walking in your world today? What would attract His attention in your neighbourhood, in your suburb, in your city? What, out of your relationship with Him can you hear Him saying to your neighbours, workmates, wider family and friends? What needs and issues do you find yourself continually being concerned about (you know – “why doesn’t somebody do something about….?”). That’s your invitation to exercise, to put to work all that God has been doing in you.
You want a deeper relationship with God? Do something about what He has already shown you – join Him in a walk through the storms of human need that surrounds us on every side. We are loved that we might love, rescued that we might reach out – that’s James’ message.
If you do this you will discover the wonder of God’s life-changing power and we and those around us will see the power of God at work in the streets and homes of the North Shore.