Christmas Begins With Christ By Nathele Graham We’ve made it through another year, and we…
By Nathele Graham
When we give our lives to Jesus, we sometimes expect everything to be easy. God never promised us smooth sailing, but be assured that we can count on Jesus for help when Satan attacks. The disciples followed Jesus and learned from Him, but they also had some very trying times that stretched their faith. They had to learn to trust Jesus by taking baby steps. One day early in His ministry, Jesus had been teaching a multitude of people, and His body needed rest. He told the disciples that He wanted to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. What should have been an easy trip because Peter, Andrew, James, and John were experienced fishermen and knew how to handle a ship, suddenly turned dangerous.
“And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.” – Mark 4:37.
I can understand why the disciples would be concerned. The ship was sinking. They didn’t have enough experience to know that they could trust Jesus to get them through the storm, and this was a step in building their faith. All they could see was the danger, and not the hope found in Jesus. Where was Jesus?
“And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?” – Mark 4:38.
Although they had spent some time with Jesus and were learning from Him, they categorized their faith. There were some things that faith in Jesus would help, but other things, like a major storm, that they felt was up to them to deal with. Their faith was new and they had to learn to truly trust Him, even in storms. Do you ever find yourself in a situation like that? All you can see is the danger, and fear rules your reasoning instead of faith. Maybe the storm is a financial one, or a health problem These things can bring fear into your mind. I think of stories I’ve heard of wealthy people committing suicide during the financial collapse that led to the Great Depression. People had to decide about their priorities. Did they love their money so much that it was their god, or did they have faith in Jesus to see them through the storm? It wasn’t an easy time in history, but those who placed their faith in Jesus were far better off than those whose god was earthly treasure. The disciples could only see the storm. They were in the baby steps of their faith and had to learn. It was Jesus’ will to cross the sea, and that should have assured them they would make it safely.
“And he arose, and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” – Mark 4:39.
The disciples were in awe as Jesus calmed the storm.
“And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” – Mark 4:40.
Jesus asked them about their lack of faith, and we need to have an answer to that question when we face the storms in our life with fear instead of faith.
“And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” – Mark 4:41.
What manner of man, indeed! He was God incarnate, and He had stepped into His creation as a man. Only He can calm the storms in life.
The above event happened early in Jesus’ ministry, and the disciples were just beginning to grow in their faith. We have the same problems as we stumble through this life. When we first meet Jesus, we have to take baby steps in faith and learn to trust Him. We all face uncertain times in life, and we feel our faith being tested. “I trusted Jesus, but now I face this great crisis. Is He sleeping while my ship sinks?” No, Jesus never sleeps and He is always there. So many of the troubles we face in life are caused by our own choices and actions, but we blame Jesus for not saving us from the consequences of those choices. Possibly you’ve chosen to smoke cigarettes, and now you face lung disease. Maybe you’ve chosen to live a deviant sexual lifestyle, and now you’ve contracted a deadly disease. Jesus isn’t to blame. Are you facing prison because you were driving recklessly and had an accident where someone died? It was your choice to be irresponsible. The thing we must remember is that no matter what mistakes or bad choices we make, Jesus never turns away from those who repent and truly accept His free gift of salvation. He will see you through the storms in life. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to keep making the same mistakes. Repent means to change your mind and turn away from sin. Whatever happens in this life, faith in Jesus will bring eternal salvation.
Of all the great men in Scripture, most people can relate to Peter. He meant well, but he made many blunders. With one breath he declared Jesus as the “Christ, the Son of the Living God”, but in the next breath he was pridefully telling Jesus what to do. Jesus very plainly told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem and He would be killed there. Prophecy would be fulfilled there, but sometimes prophecy being fulfilled can cause confusion and anxiety. Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. Jesus knew what had to happen, and no man could hinder the events that had to take place.
“But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” – Mark 8:33.
Peter had followed Jesus, but didn’t really know Him. Many Christians have the same problem. They say “I’m a Christian”, but when their faith is tested, they turn to human solutions. Instead of studying Scripture in order to know Jesus better, some try to mold Him into what they want in order to justify their sins. We also see frightening world events happening and forget about studying prophecy. If we study Scripture, we can see that prophecy is being fulfilled exactly as God told us in His word. Sometimes we feel that Christ came to make life easier for us. He came to open eternal life for us.
Peter kept taking those baby steps and growing in faith. There was another storm and we see that Peter had learned some lessons about faith. Once again Jesus had been teaching a multitude of people.
“And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.” – Matthew 14:22.
They didn’t question Him as to why they were to set sail without Him, but they obeyed. When the multitude was gone, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. He was able to see His disciples as they struggled to cross over.
“But the ship was now in the midst of the sea tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them walking on the sea.” – Matthew 14:24-25.
The fourth watch was around 3 AM, and that’s when the disciples saw a marvelous sight. They were frightened as they saw Jesus coming towards them walking on the water. His disciples thought He was a spirit, and He told them not to be afraid. Peter was excited, and true to his character, he spoke up “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” – Matthew 14:28.
This is a good lesson for all of us. Rather than just jumping into the water, Peter first asked Jesus for permission. Peter was learning, and the baby steps were becoming more confident.
“And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.” – Matthew 14:29.
Can you imagine the thrill! Peter stepped out in faith, but then made a mistake “But when he saw the wind boisterous he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying Lord, save me.” Matthew 14:30.
Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, and saw the storm. His human “logic” told him that it was impossible to walk on water. Nothing is impossible with God. As always, Jesus answered his plea.
“And immediately, Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” – Matthew 14:31.
Peter took a big step of faith by getting out of the boat, but his fear caused him to sink. Had he kept his eyes fixed upon Jesus, he would have kept walking. Peter was learning to trust Jesus, and in the years to come, those baby steps would be confident steps of faith.
Brothers and sisters, we are headed into a storm. Are you still taking baby steps in your faith? If so, you need to get into God’s word and study. Prophecy is being fulfilled, but too many Christians feel fear as they hear of all the major things that are happening in the world. Israel is at war with the Muslim nations around them, and many prophecies are on the verge of being fulfilled. The Jewish people are wand to build their temple, but the evil that surrounds them won’t allow it. It will be built in spite of the storms trying to stop them If you study prophecy, you’ll know that the temple is an important part of end-times prophecy. It must be built before the halfway point of the Tribulation. That’s where the Antichrist will set up the abomination. All of the necessary items to fill the temple are ready, but there has to be ashes from a red heifer in order to purify the Temple and the priests, “This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke.” Numbers 19:2.
It’s very rare for a cow to have no white hairs. Today, there are 5 red heifers in Israel and, so far, they seem to qualify. The sacrifice will be made and the only thing missing is permission to build the temple. It will happen when God says it will happen.
As bold as Peter was, he really had many fears. When Jesus was arrested, Peter hid and denied knowing Christ. Even though a few hours before that awful arrest, Peter had declared that he would lay his life down for Jesus. Sadly, he couldn’t live up to his proclamation. Aren’t we like that? We walk up to an altar and profess faith, but at the first sign of trouble we go back to our sin. Maybe your friends mock your faith, or the temptation of living a life of sin is strong, and you return to your old ways. Remember that Jesus didn’t come to ruin your life, nor does He look for every chance to condemn you.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John 3:16-18.
After the crucifixion, all of the disciples felt as if they had put their faith in the wrong man. His death, to them, was a tragedy, but in reality, it was the ultimate victory. He conquered death for all who truly believe in Him. The Roman tyranny would end one day, but everlasting life is forever. One day soon, true Christian believers will be taken to Heaven in the Rapture, but those left on earth will face unimaginable horrors. We need to share the Gospel with everyone we can. Time is getting short. Stop taking baby steps in your faith, and start walking strong in Christ.
The disciples continued to be together, which is what Christians should do. If we continue to hold onto old friends, it’s easy to fall back into old ways. One day they were together at the sea of Tiberias. Even though Peter had denied knowing Jesus, he was still a part of the group. He was probably pretty down on himself for his failure. Like Peter, we often we get tired of waiting for Jesus to give us direction in life, and that’s when we return to old ways. For Peter, it was fishing. That’s not a sin, but it wasn’t what Jesus had planned for Peter. The whole group went fishing together, but they caught no fish until Jesus appeared and they followed His directions. They caught more fish than their boat could handle. That’s another lesson we learn through Peter. Our own efforts are all for naught, but when we follow Jesus’ directions we are blessed abundantly. Peter had been stumbling around taking baby steps in faith, and failing. It was now time for Jesus to restore Peter and to give him his purpose in life. Jesus asked him three times “Do you love me?” In English we miss the full meaning of the question. Jesus asked if Peter loved Him with a godly love. Peter could only say that he had a friendly love for Him. Jesus understood, but He gave Peter a purpose. Peter was to feed the flock, both sheep and lambs. The baby steps were over, and it was time for Peter to start walking like a man of God. Jesus told him to feed the flock…both sheep and lambs. There wasn’t a flock to feed at the time, but when the day of Pentecost came, it was Peter who stood up and boldly gave a sermon that convicted about 3.000 men, and they gave their lives to Jesus.
Peter had to take baby steps and experience some failures in order to become the leader of Christians in Jerusalem. That took courage. He wrote letters that are filled with prophecy and encouragement. It was the storms he faced that made his faith grow stronger, and his failures helped him to learn to trust Jesus more. When storms come into your life, instead of hiding out of fear and denying Christ, grow bolder in your faith. You have a testimony that can help other people to come to know Jesus. Share it with others. It’s not always easy, but it is always important. Step out in faith and don’t take your eyes off of Jesus. If you do, you’ll sink.
Take those baby steps of faith, and grow. Peter did.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.
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