13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
28Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about a four-year-old who spilled his juice on the floor and wanted to clean up the mess himself. So his mother told him that the mop was just outside the back door. Quickly, he ran to the door but realized that it had become dark outside. Suddenly scared, he told his mother what the problem was. Assuring him, she told him that Jesus is everywhere, even in dark places, and that he’ll always protect him. This put a smile on his face. So, he opened the door just enough to poke his head outside and called out, “Jesus, if you’re out there, could you pass me the mop?”
I sometimes wonder if my own fears and doubts can ever cause me to not trust in God’s ability to provide and care for me. There have certainly been times during which I’ve questioned his presence in my life. I couldn’t sense either his encouragement or his warning so I felt He had abandoned me. But that wasn’t his fault for not being so apparent. No, it was my fault for not seeking him out further. It was my fault for not adapting my senses to better realize his presence. God was walking right there with me through those times but I just couldn’t or wouldn’t recognize him. How does that popular poem by Mary Stevenson go?
“I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that many times along the path of my life
there was only one set of footprints. I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and
saddest times in my life. This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it: ‘Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.’ The Lord replied: ‘My precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.’”
Be assured, God walks with us through every step of the way. In times we feel he isn’t there, we must simply reorient ourselves and seek a different perspective. God is there!
But it’s one thing to be aware of his presence through the thick and thin of life. It’s a whole nother thing to place our trust in him and have faith that He will save us from the sorrows of this life. God wants us to believe that He will provide for us and care for us will no one else will. All we have to do is call on him and He will provide. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, God provides…maybe not in the way we’d like him to provide but He provides nonetheless. Our God wants to provide for us. God wants to carry us through the trials of life. But God also wants us to grow in life. God wants to push us sometimes, to test us, as a way of getting us to grow. Life is pointless without growth. We must always be growing, pushing ourselves to learn and adapt and better ourselves. God’s not big on stagnant waters. There is a constant, steady flow to life. Better yet, there is a constant, steady flow towards him. We are all growing in and towards God. Even stagnant waters have growth just not the kind that affirms and supports life. Stagnant waters grow death and decay. Yes, there is a flow to life that sometimes demands faith and trust. None of us always knows what lies around the bend. There are forks in the river of life that demand we place our trust in God to help us through. God knows what lies beyond all bends and God knows how to navigate whatever life has in store for us.
As I mentioned earlier, I sometimes wonder if my own fears and doubts could one day cause me to lose my trust in God’s ability to provide and care for me. I suppose I’m no different than Jesus’ very disciples. Over and over, their trust in Jesus’ ability to provide and care for them was put to the test. And they more or less failed miserably! In our reading, we looked at two times in which their faiths were put to the test and both cases they failed miserably. In the first instance, the disciples were concerned with feeding a group of 5,000 people at the end of the day. Looking at what they had-5 loaves and 2 fish-the disciples were eager to send them away to find food elsewhere. They failed to consider Jesus’ ability to transform what they had into a feast for the masses. And what was more important was that the crowd stayed with Jesus and were fed by his presence. What was more important was that the love and fellowship the crowd shared was to be sustained. In the second instance of the disciples failing miserably was in the boat immediately following the miracle of the feeding of 5,000. The disciples saw Jesus walking towards them on the water and Peter initially trusted in Jesus to enable him to walk out to him on the water. But the storms of life distracted him and he lost his trust in Jesus and began to sink.
Who among us can’t relate with the poor disciples? We look at whatever meager resources we’ve been blessed with and doubt their ability to sustain us. We walk out into the unknowns of life and lose our focus on Jesus and begin to sink. We question whether our own fears and doubts will cause us to lose our trust! We are not without hope! Scripture encourages and supports us in our fear and doubt. Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (3:5-6) When we trust in God and not ourselves we are rewarded. David sings in his psalm, “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” (9:10) Jesus came to Peter’s aid and saved him from drowning. So, too, does he come to you and me if we but seek him out and call on him. The prophet Isaiah writes, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (41:10) God upholds us…God strengthens us in our times of fear and doubt! God wants more than us to simply feel his presence. God wants us to trust in him! Let us seek him out and trust that He will provide for us. He’ll carry us when we need carrying and grow us when we need growing. Our God is a good and gracious God! Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.