DO NOT BE AFRAID

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

As we have often noted, the miracles of Jesus were real but they each carried a sermon that penetrates the circumstances of our lives. This story contains one of the most well known miracles that Jesus performed. It happened the night after the feeding of the multitudes when the disciples were caught in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a storm. It seems that they were rapidly losing their courage thinking maybe this could be the end of the line for them when Jesus suddenly appeared walking on water. This was a miracle that would not be forgotten anytime soon, it carried significant applications in many parts of their lives. Here is how Ellicott describes the application of this miracle.

“Be of good cheer; it is I be not afraid.—The accuracy with which the words are given by St. John, as well as by St. Matthew and St. Mark, shows the impression which the incident made on the minds of the disciples. To hear the familiar tones and the cheering words was enough, even amid the howling of the winds and the dashing of the waves, to give them confidence and hope. We can scarcely doubt that in after years that moment came back to their recollection, invested for them, as it has since been for the Church at large, with something of a symbolic character. Often the sky became dark, and the waves of the troublesome world were rough, and the blasts of persecution beat on them, and the ark of Christ’s Church was tossed on the waters, and they were wearied and spent with rowing. They thought themselves abandoned, and then in the dim twilight they would see or feel once again the tokens of His presence. He was coming to them through the storm. “Be of good cheer” became the watchword of their lives.”

Maybe you find yourself today in the middle of a storm. What makes matters worse is it seems that the Lord is nowhere to be found. Take courage, don’t be afraid. I’ve heard that Jesus is often seen in the midst of a storm. Who knows, this storm may be the beginning of a season of miracles in your life. Just when you thought all hope was gone, there He is, walking on the waves, calling out your name.

YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT

Matt. 14:16 – “They don’t need to leave,” Jesus responded. “You can give them something to eat.”

Those were exactly the words the disciples didn’t want to hear, “You give them something to eat”. After all, they had been promised a break; you know, a mini-vacation, a four day week end, and now this inconvenient interruption. The timing couldn’t be worse. Jesus had to be kidding, but He wasn’t. He had seen what the disciples couldn’t see yet, Jesus was moved with compassion. What had gotten the Lord’s attention in the wilderness that day? While the disciples were distracted with thoughts about missed vacation days and where their next meal would come from Jesus had been distracted by something else. Maybe it was the single mom trying to herd in her brood, or possibly the leper sneaking around the edge of the crowd, or even the paralyzed guy who would not have the luxury of working another day. Actually it was all of them, Jesus saw hurting people and He was moved with compassion. Some day the disciples would see but right now they were still thinking about their own issues, how could they help others when they had their own fish to fry.

Does this story sound familiar? I thought so. This is my story and your story, this is our story called Feed the Multitudes. It seems like yesterday when the Lord told us to give the people something to eat. All I could think of was how terrible the timing was and we have our own problems to handle. The Lord was persistent so Feed the Multitudes it was. I had no idea that FTM would be where our miracle would begin. The Lord wanted us to be moved with compassion. He wanted us to see the single mom trying to survive. He wanted us to see the homeless veteran who had forgotten and forsaken written all over him. He wanted us to see the loneliness in the eyes of the elderly and the hopelessness in those that rolled up in a wheel chair, thinking “is this all there is left to my life”.

The Lord wanted to put His disciples in an uncomfortable position that would define the rest of their lives. He wanted them to look into the eyes of the hurting and also be moved with compassion. This is what Feed the Multitudes is all about. You may be uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone at first but when you see what Jesus saw you will be happy to just give them something to eat. After all, this is about more than just fish and bread.

LOOK UP INTO HEAVEN

Matt. 14:19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.

 

I love to read about Jesus. His life was a constant picture of a man dependent on God. If the Son of God lived His life “looking into heaven”, how much more should I. The trials we go through in life are just gentle reminders (well okay, sometimes not so gentle) that I need Him constantly and totally in my life. Our first Feed the Multitudes was just that, we were being taught to look into heaven because our resources were depleted. His resources are never depleted, all He is looking for is total dependency. Charles Spurgeon describes this in these thoughts.

 

“Now that all is in order, the divine Lord takes the slender provision into his blessed hands. By a simple sign he teaches the people whence to expect gracious supplies: ‘Looking up the heaven’. Not without a blessing does the al fresco meal begin: ‘He blessed’. God’s blessing must be sought even when Jesus did all in the provision of the feast: he blessed, he brake, he gave to his disciples. All is with him. The disciples come in to take their subordinate position, after he has displayed his divine creatorship. They are the waiters: they serve and distribute; they can do no more; they are glad to do that. In haste, but yet in order, they divide the food among the throng, much wondering and adoring as they do so. It was bread and a relish with it; good fare and agreeable; sufficient, but not luxurious. Some would give the poor only the barest necessaries bread only; our Lord adds fish. What a feast was this! Christ for Master of the feast: apostles for butlers; thousands for numbers and miracles for supplies! What a far more glorious feast is that which the gospel spreads for hungry souls! What a privilege to be fed by the Son of God!”

 

I love that; Christ for the Master of the feast, apostles for butlers, thousands for numbers, miracles for supplies. Sounds like “Feed the Multitudes ” to me! Most people want to wait to get “their stuff together” before they engage in ministry to the hurting. Let me give you a clue, YOU WILL NEVER GET YOUR STUFF TOGETHER. Your present difficult circumstances are God’s way of calling out to you, “look up into heaven”. As you do, you will discover the Father of lights, with Him their is no shadow of turning. There is a constant, resplendent, sufficient stream of His goodness flowing down upon all who look to Him for help. If you are lacking in any way, look into heaven. He is always at high noon, pouring out His goodness upon all who call upon Him.

WALK ON WATER

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

(Matt. 14:28–31)

All of us have stuff in our lives. We deal with drama at work, with our health, family and marriage issues; if we are honest, it never really stops. That’s why we all have to become water walkers. Peter’s storm that day is obviously a picture of our personal storms, as a matter of fact this event pictured storms to come in Peter’s life. On that first day of the church, the day the fire fell, Peter found himself pushed in front of thousands of staring faces. Many of these same people had been responsible for his Master’s death just days before. Peter was facing a mighty storm and had to cling to Christ, step out of the boat, and walk on water. This water walking was actually preaching for the first time under the anointing. Was he scared? Absolutely! Did the Lord show up? Undeniably! Here is how Adam Clarke describes Peter’s storm.

“When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid. It was by faith in the power of Christ he was upheld; when that faith failed, by which the laws of gravitation were suspended, no wonder that those laws returned to their wonted action, and that he began to sink. It was not the violence of the winds, nor the raging of the waves, which endangered his life, but his littleness of faith. Jesus stretched forth his hand. Every moment we stand in need of Christ: while we stand—we are upheld by his power only; and when we are falling, or have fallen, we can be saved only by his mercy. Let us always take care that we do not consider so much the danger to which we are exposed, as the power of Christ by which we are to be upheld; and then our mountain is likely to stand strong.”

Maybe you are staring into the face of some storm today. Don’t turn away in fear, don’t man up and face it yourself. Grab a hold of the hand of Jesus. You will be a water walker too.

WATER WALKER

MATT.14:28,29 – 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.

Too often we think of the miracles in the Bible like a legend or myth. You know, David killing Goliath, Jonah being swallowed by a fish, Peter walking on water; they are sort of like stories with a lesson that really didn’t happen. I actually believe they did. Young David really killed the champion Philistine with a sling, Jonah was spit up on a beach by a large fish, and Peter actually walked on water. You see if we dismiss the stories as legends with a lesson we just negate the possibility of the supernatural in our own lives.

This talk about myths and legends brings me back to the early days of Victory Fellowship. I had read countless historic accounts of revival and in a way (even though I said I believed in them) I was treating them as legends of days gone by. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I am just being brutally honest. I was still praying for revival, I was just not in a great place of expectancy. That’s when Jesus walked into the room. It was a Sunday morning in late August of 1994 when I heard this song going through my mind, “I’m gonna walk on the water with you, I’m gonna walk on the water with you”. It was time for me to step on the platform and step up to the microphone when those words became personal. I heard Jesus ask me if I would walk on the water with Him. When I whispered a silent “Yes”, suddenly I felt the wind of heaven blow into our church. Needless to say, that service was like no other we had ever experienced up until that point. The atmosphere was distinctly, unmistakeable different. There was a supernatural sense to everything that was happening in God’s house. That was twenty four years ago and things have never returned to the way they were. How could they? When Jesus walks into the room your world is distinctly and permanently changed.

So today, like every other day, we have a decision to make. Am I going to stay in the boat, the place where I am comfortable and in control, or will I join Peter and walk on the water with Jesus?

MIRACLES

Matt.14:13,14 – Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.

Miracles happen on purpose. The Lord is the miracle worker, our role is cooperation. The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle in the ministry of Jesus that is recorded in all four gospels. That tells us that it is supremely important and full of lessons for us. Let’s take another look and maybe we can even put ourselves in position for a miracle. The first thing that comes to mind is seen in today’s verse, these crowds were desperate, they shut down their normal day to day routine, and followed Jesus out into the wilderness. Miracles require more than openness, often times we have to stop everything and press in to the Lord. The next observation that I have was the importance of getting under the influence of the power of God. Matthew, Luke, and John all describe the miraculous healings that were taking place. There is an atmosphere where healings and miracles become contagious, getting around miracles is a great place to start seeking yours. Another key ingredient is found in Mark’s gospel. Mark said that Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the needs of all the people. The Lord’s response was to begin to teach the Word of God. There is healing power in God’s word, reading it and hearing it preached puts us in a great place for miracles in our own lives. The next ingredient is to do what you can do. Even though our resources are very limited, using them are critical. The little boy’s lunch in this story was the seed for the supernatural provision of God. Placing what we have in the Lord’s hand is often where our miracle begins. The next observation is seen in the the actions of Jesus Himself. He took the boy’s lunch and lifted it up to the Father, and then began to thank the Father for His provision. Wow, this is dependency at its highest. Now its time to act in faith. Before the miracle even began the Lord instructed the disciples to seat the crowd in certain groupings. What were they doing? Why they were sitting at the Lord’s table, waiting for Him to spread His feast. Finally, we have to keep coming back to Jesus. This miracle flowed from the hands of Christ as the disciples kept coming to Him. So get ready, I think you are just about ready for miracles to break out in your life.

NOT THE BELLY

Matthew 14:19-20. And brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.

 

 

There seems to never be enough to accomplish the things we sense the Lord leading us to do. That was the case in this story; the Lord said to feed thousands of people and all the resources the disciples had was 5 barley loaves and 2 small fish. It was actually a foolish endeavor without the help of God. Every ministry endeavor I have ever been involved in starts out looking foolish until someone launches out and God steps in.

We have been holding Feed the Multitudes, a free food festival, at our church since 1990. The way it started was quite strange. Our church was facing a financial crisis after a series of events including television evangelist drama, economic collapse in NOLA, and a poorly timed building project. We were facing default on our building when the Lord challenged us to put on a free food festival. The idea seemed ridiculous but we stepped out as a church and the Lord stepped in. Not only did the Lord provide the resources for FTM, He changed our hearts and the focus of our ministry. The miracle of fish and bread has always been about the heart, not the belly. Here are Spurgeon’s comments on today’s verses.

 

“This was that “blessing of the Lord” of which Solomon says that “it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” If you get this blessing on your five loaves and two fishes, you may feed five thousand men with them, besides the women and the children. Much more than they began with; for it is a law of the Heavenly Kingdom that he who gives to God shall be no loser; his five loaves and two fishes shall turn to twelve baskets full after thousands have eaten, and been satisfied. The more there is of complete consecration to Christ, and his blessed service, the more reward will there be in the world to come; and,

possibly, even here.”

So maybe you are stuck, focusing on your problems and your lack. Take what you have, just a little fish and bread, put it in the hands of Jesus. He will take care of the rest.

HE LIVES IN THE STORM 

And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
Matthew 14:25
What a day it had been for the disciples. They had seen some incredible miracles. Blind people, deaf-mutes, paralyzed, lepers and those tormented by demons… all had been healed. The crowds were immense. Jesus had fed over 5000 people with just a little boy’s lunch. What a day! But now, all those miracles seemed like a distant memory. The disciples were rowing their boat across the sea, and Jesus was off praying on some mountain. It was dark, incredibly dark. The wind was blowing and waves were crashing over the bow. Their lives seemed to be in danger. The miracles of the day had become a distant memory. That warm afternoon sun, the joyful singing and the incredible teaching all seemed so long ago. The waves and wind had swallowed the joy of the afternoon, and now they looked like they were about to swallow the disciples themselves. Suddenly, the disciples saw something coming toward them on the water. Was it a ghost or some sort of demonic manifestation? Surely their lives were over. But then Peter recognized Jesus. Jesus was coming to them, walking on the water. Jesus was coming, cloaked in the turmoil of the storm. The Lord loves to hide Himself in the storms of our lives. Just when all seems lost, there He is. He knows that when we are at the bottom, our hearts can begin to open to Him like never before. Maybe you are in a great storm today. All seems lost. What else could possibly go wrong? If you will look out into the darkness of your storm, you may see Jesus coming your way.

Job was a man also familiar with storms. Storms of one sort or another had stolen everything

that was precious to him. Adding insult to injury he could see another storm approaching on the horizon but this one proved to be quite different. Out of this storm Job heard the voice of the Lord, he heard the Lord say something like, “Get on your feet and face me like a man”. Job was about to have a God encounter. The other storms had stolen his family and his property, this one a was about to give everything back. What was the difference, the Lord was walking in the midst of this storm. Maybe you feel like you have lost so much you have nothing left to lose, sounds like you are ready for a divine visitation.

UPHELD BY THE POWER OF GOD

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Matt. 14:30,31 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

We know Jesus walked on the water but Peter walked on the water too. Sure, Peter started to sink, but he got out of the boat and made his way to Jesus. This story is in the Bible for a reason, maybe the Lord is calling all of us to a deeper life in the Spirit. Maybe there is some water walking in all of our future. Water walking is seldom planned, it comes out of nowhere. Suddenly a storm blows up and you have no other choice, stay in the sinking boat or walk on the water with Jesus. It could be the Macedonian call in the night, a voice out of a burning bush, or a vision interrupted by a knock on the door. What we decide to do in those moments is critical, do we stay in the boat or get out and walk with Jesus. Here are some thoughts from Adam Clarke on water walking.

“When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid. It was by faith in the power of Christ he was upheld; when that faith failed, by which the laws of gravitation were suspended, no wonder that those laws returned to their wonted action, and that he began to sink. It was not the violence of the winds, nor the raging of the waves, which endangered his life, but his littleness of faith. Jesus stretched forth his hand. Every moment we stand in need of Christ: while we stand—we are upheld by his power only; and when we are falling, or have fallen, we can be saved only by his mercy. Let us always take care that we do not consider so much the danger to which we are exposed, as the power of Christ by which we are to be upheld; and then our mountain is likely to stand strong.”

Maybe you are in one of those storms. Human ideas and resources will never be enough to deal with a storm, only the power of God will do. Peter knew what he had to do, so do you and I; doing it is what matters. Consider the power of God, forget about the wind and the waves, He is more than able to uphold you with His power.

WALK ON THE WATER WITH ME

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Matt. 14:28,29 ¶ 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.

Walk on the water?! Really?! That’s what I felt the Lord was asking me to do in 1994. To step out of the place of safety I had learned to operate in and step into the supernatural. Actually He was asking me to step out of the boat of ‘how to grow a church’ jargon, into a life in the River of God. I remember it like it was yesterday, I was getting ready to take the platform in that Sunday morning service like I had been doing for years. I knew this time was going to be different. I heard Him gently say as I walked up the stairs to the pulpit, “Will you walk on the water with Me?” I really had no choice but to say yes. I was so tired of the ‘same old same old’ that I was ready to take a risk and get out of the boat. As soon as I said yes, I felt the atmosphere change in our church. The glory of the Lord was filling the auditorium. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry about walking on the water with Jesus.

“The communion of true believers with Christ is represented by their being quickened with him, raised up with him, made to sit with him, and being crucified with him. Now, methinks, it is represented in this story by their walking with him on the water. Through the strength of Christ we are borne up above the world, enabled to trample upon it, kept from sinking into it, from being overwhelmed by it, obtain a victory over it, by faith in Christ’s victory, and with him are crucified to it. …Thus the sea of the world is become like a sea of glass, congealed so as to bear; and they that have gotten the victory, stand upon it and sing…”
So what does walking on the water mean to you? Maybe its coming to Christ for the very first time, maybe its yielding your talents and resources to Him. Maybe you are like me and it means being willing to step out of your comfort zone into the realm of the Spirit and His gifts. Whatever it means, GET OUT OF THE BOAT. Only then will you feel the touch of Jesus upon your life.