[By the way, what is it about Jesus and storms? Why did he choose storms to teach his disciples? Maybe because life on Earth sometimes feels like a storm? It's such an easy metaphor. And Jesus knew it would end up in His Word where He would use it to teach His disciples on earth in the present day.]
Photos courtesy of our fave Mag Mag, who baby-sat and cleaned my downstairs today, all at the same time. :)
Back to the story ... as the disciples are battling the storm, Jesus comes walking on the sea. In the storm. He calls out to the disciples "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." (Matthew 14:27)
Peter wants to walk on the water with Jesus. He can see Jesus, and he answers Him. He says "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." (Matthew 14:28).
And Jesus says, "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?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." (Matthew 14:27-33)
There are moments where I feel fearless. Like Peter, it's as if I'm taking steps on the water in the storm. I fix my eyes on Him. I can see the miracles that He does in me and for me. I know I was meant to live for Him. I'm surrendered and ready to hand everything over to Him. Willing to do anything He calls me to.
But then I start looking around at the swelling waves and the rolling sea . At the what-ifs and the if-onlys. At what this person is doing over here. And what that person is doing over there.
And I look to this side and see this person who doesn't approve, and this person who thinks my priorities are skewed, and this person who says I'm doing this wrong, and, oh, I dropped the ball here.
Just like that, I'm not walking on the water anymore. I take my eyes off of Jesus and I start to sink. I get flustered, overwhelmed, and frantic. I start trying to put out all of the fires at once. Do this to make that person happy. Oh, wait, do a little of this to make this person happy. Oh . . . and one more thing to prevent this person from being upset from me.
But really. really. Is that what God wants for me? Is that what He calls me to? Does He say, "make sure that everyone is happy with you all of the time?" Does He say that He will give me His approval only when people around me are happy with me? NO! God's affections for me do.not.change. Because I am in Jesus, I have His righteousness. And this is what is true about God:
The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save;
he will take great delight in you;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
He gives me His approval. He rejoices over me. He delights in me. When people have me running to and fro trying to gain their approval, God's love actually quiets me. Isn't the One who treats me with such steadfast affection the only one who is deserving of all my approval-seeking?
He tells me to stop looking at everyone else and trying to figure out how to gain all of their approval. God is a jealous God and He wants all of me. Paul says it like this: For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10). Plain and simple, God wants my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2).
I just recently finished a book entitled Anything, written by Jennie Allen. Read.This.Book. Jennie says this:
"When I get still and hear the loudest thing in me, it is often that I am chasing everyone but God . . . Love is jealous . . . especially God's love. He wants me and I want everyone else. ...
Every time I sit by the banks of my sin and my other loves, right as I think He is about to wipe me out because my heart feels so out of control, He steps into the river and redirects it. "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will." (Prov. 21:1). It is only God who moves my heart. He chases me down and lures me back to him; while I am running after everyone else, he runs after me. God brings me back to the place where it fares well with me, reminding me he is my husband. There is no spinning, no fear, only perfect acceptance and peace.
I can let other people down. If God is for me ... the God of the universe for me ... who could be against me? Who else do I fear?"
If all of the Gospel is true. If Jesus died for me . . . if eternal life is real . . . if Jesus is the one who saved me from eternal judgment . . . then how can I limit Him to a little box of religion in my earthly life? How can I be grateful that He saved me from eternal death, and not let Him invade every corner of my life and my heart? How can I not put my desire for His approval above all else? How can I give Him lip service of praise with my mouth and not hand over every other part of me and the stuff around me?
I've been tied up for much of my life desiring people's approval. Everyone else has come before God. Because the only way I was at peace with myself was if it seemed like everyone else was okay with me. I wouldn't have said it with my words, but I didn't have to. My life said it for me. It gave me away. There was a time when I knew that God had called me to ministry as a career. But not everyone thought that was the best idea. So, I stuffed it. I set it on the shelf and never went back to it.
And, I have no one to blame but me. It wasn't anyone else's fault. I was the one who was choosing not to trust that God's approval was enough. And not to let Him have everything no matter what other people thought. In many ways, I had conformed to what seemed to be sensible, culturally acceptable, or the most practical and logical according to human thinking.
But God says, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8). God's Word says that our "spiritual worship" is "to present our bodies as a living sacrifice . . .." Our spiritual worship manifests itself in a physical way. Paul goes on to say "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind . . ." (Romans 12:2).
God's ways are higher than mine. His thoughts are different than mine. He wants me to follow Him. And in doing so, to offer my body . . . my life . . . my plans . . . my dreams . . . my expectations . . . all of who I am, everything I have, to Him as my act of worship. It means doing things in a way that is different from the way the world says to do them. Which means laying other people's approval down on the altar.
The other eleven disciples knew the reality of who Jesus really is as they watched Jesus walk on water, let Peter walk on water, and pick Peter up when He started to sink. They proclaimed Him to be the Son of God. I know I'm not going to walk perfectly with Jesus. As much as I desperately want to live for His approval, and His alone, I get distracted by a desire for others to approve of who I am and what I do.
But like Jennie Allen said, He lures me back. He changes the river of my heart. He transforms my mind. The more I study the Word, the more I know Him. Which causes me to trust Him. And, in turn, trust that His approval is enough. And as I try to fix my eyes on Jesus alone, and imperfectly walk with Him on the water in the storm, maybe others will see who Jesus really is, worship Him, and call Him the Son of God.