Tony Evans - The Risk Of Faith
It's easy to miss the supernatural happening right in front of your eyes because you have a perspective that is limited. But you will never see the supernatural unless you believe first. We define faith as acting like God is telling the truth, acting like it is so even when it's not so in order that it might be so, simply because God said so. And faith is measured by feet, not by feelings. By movement, not by what you say out of your mouth. Faith must be exercised in order to be real. That's why the Bible calls it walking by faith. Here is our situation. We have these disciples, who are in a difficult scenario. A scenario in which Peter is going to take a risk. A risk is where you take a chance without being assured of how things are going to work out.
Now, you and I are used to taking risk in life. We take risk all the time. If you're invested in the stock market, you're taking a risk, a risk that things are going to go up ultimately, and not ultimately go down. A risk taking is a major part of life. But it's interesting how many people will take a risk in life who won't bet on God. They will risk things that people tell them, but who won't gamble on God in the sense of a risk where you are not absolutely certain how it's going to wind up. In the Bible, many people had to take risks. They had to bet on God while being uncertain about where things were going to wind up. For example, Esther went before the king and said, "I'm going to go and I'm going to stand before him. And if I perish, I perish. I'm not sure where this is going to wind up, but I'm going to place my bet, if you will".
The three Hebrew boys, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego took their stand before Nebuchadnezzar and said, "Our God is able to deliver us, but if he doesn't". They took a risk, not being certain how this thing was going to wind up. The children of Israel walked when the Red Sea opened up on dry ground with a mountain of water on both sides, taking a risk that it wouldn't collapse while they were walking through. They took a chance. And the Bible calls it faith because it's talking about betting on God. We're talking about do you place a bet on him? Do you bet on God? The disciples are in a stormy situation while in the will of God. Jesus has told them to get in the boat and cross over to the other side. They get in the boat to cross over the other side, so they are perfectly in God's will. They are obeying him. They are doing exactly what he told them to do.
So, this sermon today is particularly for those who are seeking to please God. You are intentionally obeying God. You are doing exactly what God has told you to do to the best of your ability. You're not living in sin, you're not living in unconfessed sin, you're not in rebellion, you're not walking away from God. And yet, you're in a storm. So, the first thing you need to know is you can be in the will of God and in a storm at the same time. Says, "The wind was contrary". In other words, they trying to go this way, and the wind is blowing that way.
You ever been in a situation where you're trying to please God, you're in a storm, and the harder you work to go where God want you to go, the more resistance you're getting to arrive there? It says the wind was contrary. In other words, it was blowing against the direction they were trying to go in. So, they rowing to go this way, and the wind is blowing that way, so they're not making any progress. And they're in the will of God, and it's a storm. We also just read it was the fourth watch. The fourth watch is 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., so it's dark. It's dark. Okay, wait a minute. I'm doing what God told me to do. I'm obeying God. I'm in a storm. Stuff is blowing me back from the way I'm supposed to go, and I can't see straight. It's dark.
Well, first of all, Jesus speaks, verse 27: "But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take courage, it is I. Do not be afraid.'" Okay, so wait a minute. They're in a storm and they get a sermon, okay? They see this figure coming to them. There's enough moonlight for them to see something walking on the water. So, we got 12 grown men streaming. They're scurred. Got 12 grown men screaming, and Jesus says, "Don't be afraid, it is I". They get a sermon. Now, Peter speaks, my boy Pete. Peter said to him, verse 28: "'Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. And he, Jesus, said, 'Come,' and Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and came toward Jesus".
Okay, watch this now. Jesus gives a sermon to all 12. He says, "Don't be discouraged, it is I. Be not afraid. Don't be discouraged, it is I. Be not afraid. Don't be discouraged, it is I. Be not afraid". They got a sermon. And everybody, all 12, heard the same sermon. Peter says, "I can't speak for the other 11, but bid me to come. Based on your general word, it is you, I need a personal word directed to Peter that will allow me to experience the miraculous even in a stormy situation". When you hear a general word, don't stop there. Don't be satisfied with a sermon. And don't be satisfied that at least I was in the boat, I showed up. No, you need a personal word, where God speaks to you and tells you, "Peter or Patrice, come". Where you hear his voice directed to your unique situation.
Now, remember now, all 12 are in God's will 'cause all 12 are doing what God said. But Peter says, "I want something more. I want to experience the miraculous 'cause I want to walk on water". Now, you just can't walk on water. That's a supernatural request. He makes a specific request. This is not general Lord, bless me today. I want to walk on water. Now, watch this now, watch this. He wants to walk on water 'cause Jesus is walking on water. They're not expecting Jesus in the storm. Let me explain something. One of the reasons Jesus allows you to be in the storm is for you to see what he looks like in a stormy situation. One of the reasons he allows you in his will to go through a storm is he wants you to see him as you've never seen him before.
See, it's easy and nice and sweet to see him in church. But when you see him walking on the storm, watch this, and the storm is the problem. So, God allows storms so you can see how he uses your problems as a staircase for his presence. He actually uses the storm to walk on it. So, he's walking on the problem 'cause the problem is a storm. Peter says, "I want to walk on the problem too. You walking on the problem, I want to walk on the problem. I want to know what it feels like to walk on my problem rather than my problem walking on me". And he's in the will of God.
Now, watch this. Only Peter makes the request. None of the other 11 do. But wait a minute, just before this happens, the story that precedes this is Jesus feeding the 5.000, and all 12 saw it. So, they were exposed to the same miracles. They had been exposed to the same teaching of Jesus for the time they had been with him. And they had all heard him say, "Be encouraged, don't be afraid, it is I". So, it's not that Jesus had favorites 'cause they were all exposed to the same thing. It's just that Peter exercised faith. The others were satisfied with the sermon, with the Word. So, the 11 don't get to experience the supernatural, only Peter does.
One of the things we discover so far is that obedience can lead to rough sailing. You can obey God and be in a rough situation. So, he gets out of the boat and guess what? Peter is walking on water. Ooh, no you didn't. Peter is walking on the water. The water is the problem, it's a storm. So, what is Peter doing? He's walking on his problem 'cause he's walking on a stormy situation. But something goes wrong. Verse 30: "But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and began to sink. He cried out, 'Lord, save me.' Immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and took hold of him, and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?'"
Peter's walking on water, but seeing the wind... you can't see wind. Wind is invisible. So, what he was seeing was the effect of the wind on the water. He was seeing the storm, the wind whip up the water. Seeing the wind. Well, wait a minute. He saw the wind before he got out the boat 'cause we were already told there was a storm. So, this is not new sight, it was a shift in focus. He is now focusing on the wind. And when he focuses on the bigness of the problem, he begins to go under. He begins to sink. The shift in focus from the Jesus who called him to the circumstances he's in changed him from being a victor into a victim. His circumstances replaced his Savior. And when his circumstances replaced his Savior, his circumstances took over and began to suck him under. He became subject to the circumstances once his eyes left the Savior.
When his eyes were on the Savior, his circumstance did not change. He was still in a storm, but the difference was he was on top of it, and it wasn't on top of him. The way you know your focus is right is whether... it's not whether the circumstance changes. It's whether you're on top of it, or it's on top of you. Of whether you're walking on it, or it's sucking you under. Jesus says to him, "Oh ye of little faith". He didn't say to him, "Oh, you of no faith". He said, "Oh, you of little faith". So, he went from big faith, 'cause he got out the boat, to little faith in the matter of seconds.
How do you go from big faith that gets you started to little faith that's about to drown you? Focus will determine faith, and faith or faithlessness will determine fear. He lost his faith because of the growth of fear. But fear only grew because faith diminished. And faith only diminished because focus was shifted. Let me say it another way. When your focus shifts, your faith diminishes. When your faith diminishes, your fear grows. It is the focus that is the key. When he shifted his focus to his circumstance, fear grew, faith diminished. He went from great faith to little faith because he let the circumstance trump the Savior.
When you see great people in the Bible do great things and bet on God, take a risk, take a chance on God, not knowing how this thing's going to work out fully, it's 'cause of their focus. When David was facing a storm called Goliath, everybody was afraid, it says. 1 Samuel 17, everybody was scared. Everybody was terrified of this 9'6 giant. But while everybody else was looking up here at how tall he was, David was looking between his legs and saying, "He ain't been circumcised". Say, "He ain't been cut. Big boy ain't been to the doctor". That's what he said, he says, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine"? In 1 Samuel 17, verse 26 and 36, "Who is this guy who does he think he is and he hasn't even been to the doctor"?
'Cause circumcision was a sign of the covenant. The covenant was God's covering. He was saying, "That man ain't covered by God. He big, but he ain't that big. He bad, but he ain't that bad 'cause he doesn't have any divine covering over him. So, give me my slingshot, give me my stone". Because his focus was different than everybody else's focus. He was looking at the circumcision, they were looking at the size. And if you look at the size, you going to run. If you look at the circumcision, you going to take your stand. It all depends on what you're looking at. It is a matter of focus, which is why praise is so important, 'cause praise shifts your focus. That's why there are all these distractions that are coming in in the middle of your circumstance to suck you under, and to drown you, and to keep you from walking on it rather than it sucking on you.
You want the miraculous? You want to walk on water? 'Cause some of us, our miracle is not something changing. Our miracle is not drowning in it. 'Cause it's just sucking you under. I want to invite you to a Savior who, I love this, he cries out, "Lord, save me". Okay, so why would God let me drown? God will let your circumstances pull you under 'cause he knows that's the only way he's going to get you to refocus. So, he'll let you go under a little bit not 'cause he's trying to kill you. He's trying to get you to do what Peter did. Peter looked at the waves, he looked at the wind, he looked at all this bad stuff, he began to go under. He knew he couldn't swim and save himself, so he knew he only had one other option, and that was to go back to the one who told him leave the boat in the first place.
So he says, "Lord, save me". And Jesus said, "That's what I was waiting for". Woom. God wants you to focus on him because of what he plans to do. And how does this conclude? Jesus stretches out his hand, he says, "Why do you have little faith"? You got a little bit, but you're sinking with a little. When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son". You know why God does the miraculous? So you can see who he really is. So you can see this ain't no ordinary person you dealing with here. Jesus is not just a regular guy, he's not just a superhero, he's not just a great religious figure.
If you want to walk on water, you got to get out the boat, or you'll be like the other 11. You'll be in the boat, listening to a message, and never be able to testify. You know, all they could do was piggyback off of Peter's testimony. They couldn't talk about the day I walked on water. They could only talk about the day I saw my brother walk on water. And after awhile, you should be tired of hearing other folk testimony 'cause you want a testimony that is your own, where you can say, "Yes, yes, I heard the sermon, but I stepped out the boat. I heard the message, but I went to walking and stepping, and I saw what God could do". Or else all you'll be able to do is report on somebody else's report card because you don't have a report card of your own, where you've stepped out.
A boy one day was in a plane, and the plane was in turbulence. You know, a big storm, and everybody screaming and hollering. And the boy is playing in his seat, and he's playing in his seat. The lady beside him is getting all frustrated. "Boy, how can you be playing at a time like this? How can you be playing at a time like this"? Said, "Well, my father is in the cockpit". See, when you know who's under the controls, you can handle the turbulence a lot differently than when you don't know who's in the cockpit. And I love the way this story ends.
By the way, Hebrews 12:2 says, "Jesus is the author and finisher of your faith". The originator and the completer. Okay, he gets you out of the boat, and he leads you on the water to back in the boat. In other words, he doesn't get you started with something he doesn't intend on finishing. Jesus, Hebrews 12:2 says, is the author and finisher of your faith. So, if you stick focused on him, he will get you started and bring you to completion. And I like how this story ends. The story doesn't end here. This story is found in this passage, Mark chapter 6. It's found in John chapter 6. Let me tell you about John 6:21. Let me tell you about John 6:21. In John 6:21, which tells you this same story, it says, "Immediately when Jesus got in the boat, they were at dry land".
Now, you don't see it here, but you see it in John. Okay, I don't know if you got that. They are stuck in the middle of the sea, the Galilean sea. They are stuck there. Remember, the wind is contrary, so they're not making any progress. They're not going anywhere. Jesus is walking on water, Peter goes out to meet him, he and Peter walk back to the boat. They get in the boat, John 6:21 says, "And immediately when they got in the boat, they were at dry land".
Let me tell you something about Jesus. When Jesus finishes doing what he's trying to do in your life, it don't take that long. It says immediately, God covered the distance that they were in lack, unable to cover. Whenever you get this thing right with God, he can turn it on a dime. He can tweak it overnight. He can flip it, tweak it, flop it. He can do something with it that'll blow your mind, and all you'll be able to say is, "Where in the world did that come from? I don't know how that just happened", 'cause the God I'm talking about can turn it on a dime.
So, I'm asking you to place your bet. Oh, by the way, I don't know if you know it, but a turtle can only make progress when it sticks its head out. See, if it keeps his head in, it ain't going nowhere. In order for it to go somewhere, it got to stick his head out. So, I'm inviting you to stick your head out and take a risk on Jesus Christ, and believe that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Bless the name of the Lord, who's worth placing a bet on for the miraculous in the midst of a storm.
I know faith can be risky business 'cause we're asked to believe God and trust God in sometimes the weirdest of circumstances. I will admit for myself, and I know you've been there, too, when things are tumultuous, when there's no answer in sight, and Jesus wants us to keep our eyes focused on him and believe when it looks like it's unbelievable, to take a step out on God when we're not sure whether we can stay up. Yeah, faith is a risk. And what makes it the big risk is we're believing in a God we don't see, a Savior who's in heaven and not physically with us, and a circumstance we don't understand. Boy, you put all that together and it even sounds riskier.
The question that we have to answer, since God is God, is he worthy of the risk? You see, we take risks all the time in our lives, don't we? We risk on the plane getting to its destination. We take a risk on the stock market continuing going up over time. We take a risk when we do things that are for the first time and we're nervous about it. So, risk taking is not unusual to us. If we are willing to take a risk on things that are in the natural realm, then we ought to be willing to take a risk on the things that are in the supernatural realm since God is overseeing that realm, and he is worthy of risk taking. If you're going to bet, bet on God because that is a bet worth making.