YEAR 2, WEEK 3, Day 4, Thursday, 19 January 2023

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 19 January 2023:

2 Chronicles 17:3 — The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel.

Jehoshaphat did not compromise like everyone else did. Therefore, God honored Him. The Israelites worshiped God, but not wholeheartedly. Many in churches today try to serve God and also substitutes for God. Will you be like Jehoshaphat?

2 Chronicles 17:6 — His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord.

It takes courage to follow the ways of God, mostly moral courage to stand out against popular opinion and social morality.

2 Chronicles 17:7, 9 — In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nathaniel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah…. And they taught in Judah, having the Book of the Law of the Lord with them. They went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.

Jehoshaphat had a plan to make disciples of all the people. Jehoshaphat’s national security strategy was to ensure the entire nation was educated in the Book of the Law.

  1. 2 Chronicles 17:10 – And the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.

Because of Jehoshaphat’s faithfulness, God made his enemies live at peace with them.

  1. 2 Chronicles 17:11 — Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents.

The Bible says, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.“ Jehoshaphat trust God at His word, and God proved Himself faithful.

Here is a short video overview of Matthew 14-28:

Matthew 14:3, 4 – For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

John the Baptist lost his life ultimately because he challenged the adultery of a political leader. He called out sin. How boldly to Christians challenge sin today? In the face of a moral revolution (or revulsion), the church seems pretty quiet.

Matthew 14:6-12 – John the Baptist was called the greatest man who had lived by Jesus, yet John the Baptist died a very inglorious death by the hands of terrible sinners. How do you define life success? Do you need to do something “big,” important, or famed to feel successful? Many Christian who say, “What does God want me to do?” are really just not satisfied with what God has called them to do. What does God want you to do? Be faithful to Him today, right where He as placed you, regardless of what happens to you in the process. Perhaps no one will give you any credit – great! Your reward is in Heaven.

  1. Matthew 14:7-9 – …so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given.

Rash promises bring sorrow.

Matthew 14:9 – Being sorry and repenting are two different things.

Matthew 14:16 — “But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’.”

Jesus tasked the disciples to do what was clearly impossible for them. Yet, the disciples obeyed Jesus’s instructions and, as a result, experienced the power of God in a way they had never seen before. As Christians, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the realm of ‘impossible’ – this is the faith zone where we learn to rely on God rather than ourselves. This is where we see the power of God in our lives, where we grow in our relationship with God, and where God is glorified. God allows us to participate in His impossible tasks because He is always doing two things at once: strengthening our relationship with Him while glorifying Himself to the world – He does this by leaving no doubt that it was He at work.

God is not trying to show the world what a bunch of really talented and committed Christians can do; He is showing the world His power through ordinary people like us. We say, “God would never ask me to do something I can’t do.” However, God is always asking us to do something we can’t do but for His mighty working. Look throughout the Bible and see how often God reveals Himself to the world through humble, obedient servants who are willing to step into the impossible, and God intentionally refuses to clear the path before His servant’s step. Noah had an impossible task; Abram had an impossible task; Moses had an impossible task; Jesus left the Apostles with an impossible task: disciple all nations.

Those who refuse to step out into the impossible are like the tens of thousands of Gideon’s army who walked away from the 300 who were willing to step out in faith on an impossible mission and who personally witnessed God’s Mighty Hand at work. We are called to be witnesses. Witnesses report first-hand experience, not hearsay. If we refuse to operate in the faith zone, we miss out on what God is doing, we hinder our personal relationship with God, and we fail to fulfill our purpose in life. We have little of which to bear witness. What did Mordechai say to Esther? “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) You were born for “such a time as this.” Even today, you will face seemingly small decisions that, for you, are like the Nile River, the Jordon River, a fiery furnace, a lion’s den, a mighty giant, an unstoppable army. Will you trust God to step into the impossible?

“Jesus asked His disciples to do something that clearly was impossible. There were five thousand men, along with their families, and they were famished. There were only five loaves of bread and two small fish–obviously not enough to feed a multitude. The cost of food for even a portion of the crowd would have far exceeded the disciples’ small budget. It may have seemed absurd to the disciples that Jesus should ask them to distribute the paltry amount of food to the massive crowd. Yet that is exactly what Jesus asked them to do. Because Jesus had given the command, the disciples obeyed and witnessed an incredible miracle.

Christ will lead you into many situations that will seem impossible, but don’t try to avoid them. Stay in the middle of them, for that is where you will experience God. The key difference between what appears to be impossible to us and what is actually possible is a word from our Master! Faith accepts His divine command and steps out in a direction that only God can complete. If you only attempt things that you know are possible with the visible resources you possess, those around you will not see God at work. You will be the one who receives the credit for a job well done, but God will have no part in it.

Take inventory of your life and the decisions you are presently facing. Have you received a word from the Master that awaits your next step of faith? If you will proceed with what He has told you, no matter how incredible it might seem, you will experience the joy of seeing your Lord perform a miracle, and so will those around you.” (Henry T. Blackaby)

Matthew 14:27 – But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

What does it mean when the Son of God calls you friend and loves you perfectly, unconditionally, and completely (John 15:15)? What does it mean to you that Jesus, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Good Shepherd, the Light, the Word the instrument of creation, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who sits at the right hand of the Father commands peace and rest in your life? What does it mean to you that Jesus promises that he will be “with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20)?” Today we read where Peter, with a greater understanding that Jesus is “Truly… the Son of God (Matthew 28:32),” had the courage to step out among the waves and “walk” toward Jesus. Remember, this is not Peter’s first encounter with Jesus on the water (review Matthew 8). Peter didn’t have “blind faith” but rather faith based on experience and confidence in the person of Jesus. It is one thing to claim to have faith in God; it is quite another to be willing to get out of the boat.

This reminds me of the story of the French tight rope walker, Charles Blondin, who asked his audience if they believed he could push a man in a wheel barrel across his tightrope over Niagara Falls. Because of his notoriety and proven abilities they would all cheer, “Yes.” But then he would challenge someone to get in – no one ever did. As we continue to read through the Bible this year. Observe how many times God requires his followers to step out in faith based not on guarantees for the future but rather based on the Truth of God. How many times have we already seen examples of this with people such as Abraham and Noah? How many times has God proven faithful and true in my life? How many times have I missed great opportunities to glorify God because I was too scared to get out of the boat (or get into the wheel barrel)?

Peter walked on water, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me (Matthew 28:30)!” When Peter’s focus was on Jesus, miraculous things happened. When he began to focus on his own lack of “personal power” (the title of a very famous self-help book) he started sinking and lost the faith he once had. Jesus said, “You of little faith… why did you doubt?” Doubt in what, Peter’s abilities? No. Jesus is asking, “Why did you doubt in me, the Son of God who loves you and is with you?” Of course Peter cannot walk on water, but the power of God can enable Peter to walk on water. Once Peter started relying on himself rather than God, having stepped out with Jesus, problems arose. It would be like a skilled pilot stepping out of his airplane in flight confidently proclaiming, “I know how to fly.” On mission to glorify God, will God ever ask you to do something you cannot do? Yes! God will always ask you to do what you cannot do because, again, He is not trying to reveal your talents to the world; He is revealing Himself to the world through your life. When people see the power of God in your life, rather than your power, God is glorified (made large or weighty). It takes faith to do what God wants us to do because, in our own abilities, it is impossible — “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).”

I must give Peter great credit; he had more faith than I likely would have had, though his faith was limited and critiqued by Jesus. But how do you think Peter’s faith grew after this experience with Jesus? Jesus is doing two things here: he is revealing more about himself to the crowd (and to all who will read God’s Word), but he is also building a very real and personal relationship with Peter. I believe this is true in every Christian’s life: God uses our lives to glorify Himself before a watching world while simultaneously developing us in a one-on-one, personal, love relationship that is special and unique. As the preacher says, “If you were the only person who lived on earth, God would have sent is Son to suffer the Cross to save you.”

  • John 15:5 — I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Matthew 14:28-31 – “And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

There are so many great lessons in today’s readings, but I will comment only on one – Peter’s faith:

We should all be able to relate to Peter’s faith and lack thereof, but don’t miss Jesus’ response to Peter. Peter starts off strong by boldly proclaiming if it is the Lord’s will, God will give him the power to accomplish something impossible for Peter to do by his own strength and abilities. Faith is not just trusting in what we can do, faith is trusting God in what we can’t do. God will regularly call us out to do what is impossible for us alone because He is not trying to show the world our talents, skills and abilities but rather He intends to show the world Himself through His power and abilities clearly revealed in our lives. It is foolish for us to attempt to do the impossible when God never told us to do it, but it is to God’s glory to step boldly into the impossible when He does call us out.

Peter was doing great until He began to focus on the apparent danger around him rather than Jesus. When He took His eyes off Jesus, He started to sink. When we take our eyes off Jesus we will sink too.

But Peter knew what to do when He started to lose faith, He cried out to Jesus. Is that what you do? Note that Jesus did not let Peter sink. Jesus immediately reached out His hand, took hold of Peter, kept Peter afloat, and guided Peter to the boat. After that rescue, do you think Peter trusted Jesus more or less? I believe Peter left this experience with a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ power, love, and protectiveness.

Jesus says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” This was not a negative rebuke; this was positive coaching, as if to say, ‘You almost did it Peter…. Keep working on your faith in me.’ Jesus understood that, like us, Peter was not perfected in faith and had much growing to do. He was working with Peter much like a loving father teaching his child how to ride a bike – “Trust me, look straight ahead, and pedal; I’ve got you. When you fall, and you will fall, dust yourself off, get up, and try again. I won’t let you get too hurt.”

The thing about Peter is he was willing to get out of the boat in the first place. No one else was. And notice that Peter didn’t spend too much time thinking about it, weighing the pros/cons, doing the math, considering his back-up plan, etc. Had he not gotten out of the boat, he wouldn’t have had this amazing experience with Jesus at all, the great success, the failure, and the miraculous rescue. Peter’s life was forever changed as was His relationship with Jesus; the others merely watched in wonder. What about you? Are you willing to get out of the boat? Or, are you satisfied with watching God do amazing things in the lives of others or merely hearing amazing testimonies from others who were willing to succeed and fail forward with Jesus?

Finally, we must not lose sight that this was not Peter’s biggest faith rollercoaster. Before long, we will see Peter boldly wield a sword while severely outnumbered in order to fight for Jesus (though Jesus never asked him to), and then turn around and deny Jesus three times before a small group, just as Jesus said he would. Did Jesus abandon Peter or give up on Peter at the point of Peter’s biggest faith failure? Absolutely not! Even before Peter’s big faith failure, Jesus said to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Knowing Peter would fail (temporarily not permanently), Jesus expected Peter to learn from his mistakes (not wallow in them) and then use his experience to strengthen his brothers who would also fail at times. After Peter denied Jesus and returned to fishing (apparently giving up on his calling), Jesus came to him, called him out, and lovingly guided him to new, incredible heights of faith, using him mightily to spread the Gospel and glorify God (see John 21). Similarly, God knows you will fail too, and He reminds you, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) You see, God will use even your failures for positive outcomes – trust Him with that. God wants you to grow through your failures (fail forward), strengthen those around you who are also falling down like toddlers learning to walk in faith, and share your faith boldly (not perfectly) with people who need to know Jesus. God is using your failures to help you become more like Jesus every day, which is His purpose for you – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29)

Again, are you willing to get out of the boat? Do you have the faith to do what God tells you to do even though you know it is impossible for you to do in your abilities? Will you trust Jesus through the storms of life? What will you do when you fail (and you will) in your faith? Will you cry out to Jesus and trust Him to lovingly guide you through your failure?

  • 2 Corinthians 1:5 — For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Matthew 14:34-36 — “And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”

Don’t miss this: Why did “the men of that place recognize Him”? Review Matthew 8:28-34. The first time Jesus had gone to the region, He healed a demon possessed man, and the people, in great fear, asked Him to leave. The demon possessed man begged to go with Jesus, but Jesus instructed him, “‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:39) By the time Jesus returned to the region, large crowds were ready to receive him. The formerly demon-possessed man apparently was a tremendous witness, preparing the way for the return of Jesus. Like the demon possessed man, you might prefer to just enjoy Jesus one-on-one, but also like the former demoniac, Jesus has commissioned you for more, to “declare how much God has done for you.” When Jesus returns, how many will be eagerly awaiting Him because of your testimony?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 January 2023: Pray that God will increase the boldness of your faith, and trust God with your failures of faith. Get out of the boat, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus through the storms and cry out to Him whenever you feel like you are starting to sink – He will grab hold of you and guide you through the experience; and then, what a testimony you will have!

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