Peter stepped out of the boat even though he couldn’t see the way ahead or even start to understand exactly what Jesus was saying or asking him to do. In the book “My Utmost For His Highest” author Oswald Chambers puts it this way, “Just because I don’t understand what Jesus Christ says, I have no right to determine that He must be mistaken in what He says.” Countless times throughout our Christian life Christ will say, “Come.”, but the way will appear scary, the path ahead deeply shrouded, and the directive itself confusing…and our rational intellect will want to pause. But faith isn’t built and based on intellectual understanding – rather, faith is deliberate commitment and intentional obedience to trust God and His promises. Isaiah 7:9 warns us about wavering and indecisive faith when it says, “If you aren’t firm in faith, you’ll not be firm at all.” Or as another Translation puts it, “If you don’t stand firm in your faith, you’ll not stand at all.”
Jesus quoted this Scripture in Isaiah when He called the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law hypocrites. Paul exhorted the Church in Colossians 2:20-23 of the same thing. Human regulations, commands, and teachings were overtaking and overshadowing God’s Word, and that they had the “appearance” of wisdom but lacked any true value because they were all based on man’s understanding and not Scripture. This vain worship spoken of by Isaiah here was only empty, insincere words and rituals…that God considered unacceptable. For true worship of God has to be according to His Will revealed by Scripture…not some religious exercises designed by presumptuous humans beings.
Let’s cut to the chase…God didn’t promise you a life without pain, suffering, illness, and loss. He never said that once you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior that your life would suddenly become one of everything lovely, joyful, and easy. Quite the opposite! And I think that’s why we don’t like the word perseverance. Anytime we hear that word, all we can think of is suffering, effort, endurance, and discipline…all of which aren’t exactly fun to go through. But perseverance is necessary in developing our character, faith, and hope in God. Call it suffering well, hope under pressure, or patient endurance, we are to be like a runner, constantly moving forward in motion towards the goal set before us, despite any opposition that comes across our path…all the while fixing our eyes on our future reward…our promised eternal inheritance.
The center of this Scripture is about restoring relationships with God and each other. Colossians 3:13 tells us, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” And as we look at this verse in Colossians, we can see the same pattern of Christ’s redemptive work for us in forbearance, forgiveness, and love. We have been forgiven of a massive debt that we’ll never be able to repay, thus we need to forgive others as He forgave us. But anytime we confront someone about sin in their life, it must be done in love, in hopes of them turning back to God…a change of mind and a moral reorientation of the soul that acknowledges the error of their ways. And with repentance comes forgiveness on our part and the restoration of relationships…or as Ephesians 4:32 tells us, We are changed and being changed.
Jonah’s response to God’s call was to disobediently run in the opposite direction…as far as he could go from the place God wanted him. In his flight, Jonah attempted to escape the Will of God…thinking if he went far enough away, God would somehow “forget” him, or no longer seek to use him in Nineveh. But Jonah also realized he couldn’t hide from God. And nor can we. Psalm 139:7-12 gives a wonderful description of all the places we can’t flee from God’s presence…from the lofty heavens to the far side of the sea, God is there. And just like Jonah, when God says “Go.” He will patiently pursue us until we oblige.
Nothing has changed from the time that David wrote this Psalm to today. Our source of trouble, disaster, and harm continues to be both internally and eternally caused. Our personal sinfulness and the consequences of it constantly overwhelm us…with guilt and shame piling on like a burden too heavy to bear. (Psalm 65:3) On top of that, we live in a very broken world filled with every kind of evil bombarding us daily. But just like David, we must acknowledge our transgressions, turn from our sins, and put our hope in the Lord. This eternal hope is summed up in Psalm 73:26,28 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge.”
In this prayer, David freely acknowledges that all things come from the sovereign hand of God, and apart from His blessing, we are powerless and hopeless…unable to bring anything to God that He hasn’t already given us. And because of this great love, compassion, and care God has for us…we in turn should care for others. We must be willing to give freely of our time, talents, and self in the divine service and sacrifice of being the hands and feet of Jesus to this broken world…for in reality that’s really all we have to offer.
Comparing ourselves to someone else will never turn out well. We will either determine that we are better than them , which gives way to boastful pride…or that we are shamefully worse, wicked, and unworthy…which can only lead to discouragement and even covetousness. We are to examine ourselves as individuals before God, rather than drawing comparisons (good or bad) from other’s…in II Corinthians 13:5, that’s called testing ourselves…where we are approved on our own merit, faith, actions, and good works by God.
Another Scripture that goes along with this one is Proverbs 14:29, “A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly.” Between these two verses, we can see the contrast of patient, good judgment vs explosive flaring of uncontrolled emotions – on display for all to see as this Proverb points out. Which dove-tails perfectly to this last phrase in Ecclesiastes 6:9, “for anger resides in the lap of fools.” If something is in “the lap of” it means that it’s in charge or control of you…or to think of it in another way, if something is sitting in your lap, people can only see it – not you.
This verse may be short, but it packs a wallop if you consider not only what it says, but the order in which it’s said. First, we are to live in harmony with all people…not just our friends and family or others who treat us well. It tells us here that it’s our responsibility, as far as we’re able, to preserve the peace…wherever and whenever we’re called upon. Leading to the next part of this verse, that says while we are making this effort to live in peace with others, we are to remain holy. But sometimes that can a pretty big order…I not only have to live in harmony with that person, but bless them in the process! But just as Jesus never retaliated with insults or threats when He was persecuted…we shouldn’t either. That’s because, call it holiness or sanctification, it is a life-long journey of purity and building others up… with the end goal being eternal life and experiencing God’s Presence.