We will close our study of the three key truths that must be believed to experience the Higher Christian Life by looking at one final example of how to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping. This is truth number three. In essence, it is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours. We must learn, by faith, to trust Him to complete what He has begun in our lives by His power and not struggle in our own. And this is hard. Why? Because it requires faith and trust and dependence and all the things that war against the flesh and our pride and self-sufficiency. Jesus summed up our struggle when He said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Exactly. What do you and I doubt?
I always find it amusing when we, as believers in Christ, trust Him without reservation regarding the things “in the sweet by and by” but struggle in the realities of the “here and now.” We trust Him for our salvation, without wavering. We trust Him in His promise to receive us “to Himself” so that “where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3), no questions asked. But we waffle in our faith when it comes to His promise to “keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). Why is that? Why are we so strong in our faith in the things we cannot see, like heaven, the Second Coming, and eternal life, but are “tossed to and fro and carried about” (Eph. 4:14) in the things we can see, like fear, insecurity, the lack of money, failing health, fractured relationships, and all that keeps us up at night?
Remember, we can forge through this life doing the things we hope please God in our own strength and end up fatigued, weary, and frustrated in the end. Or, we can soar through this life on the “wings of eagles” (Isa. 40:31), allowing Christ to do through us the things that please God and end up exhilarated, overwhelmed with gratitude, and bearing so much spiritual fruit our branches literally touch the ground. The choice is always ours. And the end is always the same. It’s how we get to the end (doing the things that please God) that matters.
“O You of Little Faith, Why Did You Doubt?”
A perfect example of this principle is found in Matthew 14:22-33. Here we find Jesus, after feeding close to ten thousand hungry souls with a boy’s sack lunch,* sending His disciples away as He withdraws to a mountain to spend some alone time with His Father (Matt. 14:22-23). And what were the disciples commanded to do? Same thing they had done most of their lives. Jesus told them to “get into the boat and go before Him to the other side” (Matt. 14:22).
Traveling on the water in a boat was not something new to most of them. Peter and Andrew, as well as James and John, were fishermen. So were probably Thomas, Phillip, and Nathaniel. So this task of traveling by boat was second nature to the majority of the disciples. And they had all seen rough seas before. But on this night, they struggled.
But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed (basanízō – to torture, afflict with pain, vex, harass) by the waves, for the wind was contrary (enantíos – over against, hostile, adverse) – Matthew 14:24.
And their struggle had gone on for a long time.
Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night (3:00 am to 6:00 am), He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by – Mark 6:48.
Can you see what is happening here? The disciples are doing what they have always done, in the flesh, to follow the commands of Christ. He told them to get in the boat and go to the other side, and they did, only things got tough. So what did they do when things got difficult? They tried harder, worked harder, “strained at rowing” harder, all night long and into the early morning hours. They were exhausted, worn out, yet still had not made it to the other side. And all the while Jesus, casually walking on the water, is watching them while they struggled. Remember, this is the same water that was putting up such a fight against the disciples that Jesus effortlessly glided over. Both Jesus and the disciples faced the same circumstances, yet chose a different path to victory.
The difference is this: Jesus, the key to victory, the Lord of Creation, was outside of the boat, and the disciples were struggling to fulfill His command in their own effort. But once Jesus got into the boat with them, everything changed. The winds ceased. The seas became calm. And wonder fell upon the disciples.
Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled – Mark 6:51.
I bet. And we haven’t even mentioned Peter walking on water to Jesus (Matt. 14:28-31), which is another amazing topic for another time.
But the lesson to be learned is this, like the disciples, we can try to live the Higher Christian Life in the flesh, by our own efforts, straining at rowing, full of doubt and fear and failure, and still never make it to the other side. Or we can trust Jesus to fulfill His commands to us by His own efforts. We can invite Him into the boat, refuse to doubt, watch the seas become calm and our problems fade in the light of His glory, and realize He is well able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24).
As a closing note for today, did you notice what the next verse says? It simply states, “When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret” (Matt. 14:34). No mention of the troubling seas. No word about how tired they were. Nothing. Just a note to let us know that, with Jesus in the boat with them, they were able to obey His commands. And I believe the ride to the other side after Jesus entered the boat was far easier than their toil before He got into the boat. Don’t you?
So what will it be? Striving or resting? Trusting or doubting? The Higher Christian Life or the life you have always known? The choice, as always, is yours. So choose wisely.
One final thought, if you do the same things in the same way you have always done, don’t be surprised when you get the same results. So in this Higher Christian Life, try something different. Try trusting Him and not yourself. And let’s see if He truly can “do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).
Until He Comes,
* Matthew 14:21 states there were “about five thousand men, besides women and children.” So, assuming an average of two children plus a wife for each man, we are looking at much more than ten thousand people.