I’ve been listening to and studying God’s Word based on a podcast series Tony Evans Living Above the Circumstances. Today I want to share notes from Freedom From Fear and some of my observations with other Bible study I’m doing now from The Story. In yesterday’s post, Don’t Be Anxious About Anything, gaining victory over worry. When discussing the second way to gain victory, which is Praying with Thanksgiving, we touched on the miracle Jesus performed in feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children) with only 5 loaves and 2 small fish (Matthew 14:13-21). The text for today directly follows Matthew’s text of the miracle of Jesus feeding over 5,000, with what amounted to a young boy’s lunch.
The disciples had just witnessed Jesus thanking the Lord for providing the small lunch. The great crowd of people needed to eat and all the disciples could find was 5 small loaves of bread and 2 fish. “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” Jesus thanked the Lord for what He had, and the Lord provided what He needed. “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.” (v22) Jesus sent the disciples into a fearful situation to test their faith, immediately after they witnessed Him perform a miracle.
Our Lord God specializes in impossible situations, and even leads us to them so we can watch with our own eyes faith overcome fear. “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” (vv 23-24) But our Lord doesn’t leave us alone to navigate our rough waters. “Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” (vv 25-27)
Jesus knew where they were, what they were facing, and He knew they were afraid. But the disciples didn’t recognize Him because they weren’t looking for Him. Their eyes were focused on their circumstances and not the Lord. Peter saw Jesus walking on top of their problem (the rough water) and wanted to join Him. “’Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ He said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” (vv 28-29) Peter reacted to Jesus in faith, wanting to join Jesus in not being overcome by the circumstances, but standing on top of the circumstances — standing on top of his fear. He was able to walk on the water with Jesus because of his faith in Jesus and his focus on Jesus, not his circumstances.
But when Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and looked back at his circumstances, his fear became bigger than his faith in that moment. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (v 30) When we change our focus, we change our stability. When Peter focused on Jesus, he was walking on top of his problem (the rough water) with Jesus. When he focused back on the problem instead of Jesus, his problem overwhelmed him and he began to sink.
“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (v 31) Jesus said “little faith”, not no faith. Faith demands movement. Jesus recognized Peter used his faith to get started because he trusted Jesus, but not to keep going (he had doubt because of the circumstances). Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He wants us to finish in faith, not just get started.
And then Jesus fixed the problem. “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” (v 32). In Mark’s account of this incident, he points out that the disciples didn’t learn the lesson of the loaves and the fish. “Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” (Mark 6:51-52) The loaves and the fish was an impossible situation, but the Lord provided after they gave thanks for His provision.
Jesus shows up when we’re in a fearful situation. He knows where we are — He knows our situation — He’s coming to us and He will grow us through the situation if we focus on Him and not our circumstances. Then we will be able to see Him as we’ve never seen Him before so we can praise Him. “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:3-7)