Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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PENTECOST 10 – August 13, 2017 – Matthew 14:22-33 “FAITH, THE WORD, OBSERVATIONS”

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the Gospel Lesson just read, from Matthew 14.  We begin with prayer. 

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • How we feel about our circumstances in life, how we evaluate our progress or success, whether we feel hopeful or hopeless, is always a matter of the criteria we use in the evaluating.
  • As Christians, we have grave difficulty with this. We are taught to evaluate on the basis of what is experienced, what is measurable, what is really happening – at least, as we are able to observe it.  Most of the time this is a really good thing to do – we all know the frustration of dealing with people who refuse to recognize and admit what is real! 
  • The last thing we would want to happen is to be one of those people who foolishly stand in the rain without coat or umbrella, while shouting about how bright the sun is. We work very hard to be knowledgeable and wise about what is actually going on around us.  And often this ability is quite consequential. 
  • So our tendency, our “auto-pilot,” is to use observation and common sense or reason to determine what is happening, and how we should feel about things. This is true even within the church – although we are frequently warned in Holy Scripture about the shortcomings of this way of “discerning” when it comes to spiritual matters. 
  • There is another reality that at times speaks contrary to what is “observed” or what appears to be “reasonable” to us – and this is God’s Word. Our response to that Word of God is supposed to be faith – even if that Word seems to be contrary to what is observed or reasonable.  So we have a dilemma:  if we continue to assert God’s Word, when all that is observable or reasonable seems contrary to God’s Word, we must suffer the same judgment held toward the man standing in the rain. 
  • The truth is – as Job found out in his humbling – that God stills knows quite a bit more than we are able to correctly observe or to adequately fathom through observation and human reason. This is the constant message of Holy Scripture.  But it is important that we do in fact have a specific “Word” from God for what we believe, think, and do, for:

I.  When God Gives Us A Word It Is All-Powerful And Empowering – Peter Actually Walked On Water


Text:  “Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.’  Jesus said, ‘Come.’  So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”


Statement:  This is something that we find very difficult to comprehend – especially when God gives a Word that is contrary to experience or human reason.  We tend to adjust God’s Word so that it conforms to our “auto-pilot,” that is, so that what God is saying is not remarkable but in conformity with what we think is real.  We do this to “help” God speak the truth, to be truthful, and to protect Him from the judgments of others.  But the truth – contrary to experience and reason – is that Peter got a Word from Jesus, and did what the Word expressed.  It was only when his reason and logic came in – so that he forgot that Jesus had commanded him to walk on water – that he got in trouble and began to sink.


Application:  But God is truthful.  Men are not always truthful, and men are fallible – capable of making colossal errors both in observation and reason.  We are not called to “defend” and “explain” God’s Word, but to believe it and to act on it.  This is the very nature of God’s Word – which brought forth all of nature, created it, and which also sustains it to this day.  For as we see in the Epistle Lesson:


II.  God’s Word Calls For Faith And Produces Faith


Epistle Lesson:  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”


Statement:  This is God’s purpose and intention when He speaks a Word.  God is all good, perfectly holy, and complete love.  Therefore every Word He speaks to us is good, holy, truthful, and absolutely filled with love for us.  He intends to bless us by having His Word create and produce faith in His Word in our hearts.  This is for our great good and blessedness – so that in certain matters, where our experience and reason are fallible, we might still be able to know and believe the truth.  And of course, our grasp of truth is usually quite consequential. 


Application:  But again, this is precisely where we have difficulties, even as Christians.  We are trained to highly value observation and reason – and this is the common cultural ground that we share with other people around us.  So what are we to do when Jesus tells us to “walk on water,” or whenever His Word conflicts with what the “group” we belong to thinks and believes?   And the fact of the matter is that:


III.  Our Observations And Reason Often Seem In Conflict With God’s Word and His Promises


A.  Like In The Incident Of Job, His Trials And Troubles


B.  Like In The Matter Of The Word Of Jesus Spoken To Peter – His Conclusion Was That He Couldn’t Do What He Observed Himself Doing; His Auto-Pilot Rejected The Word of Jesus


C.  Likewise Also Our Deep-Seated Belief That We Must Do Something In Order To Be Saved – In Spite Of God’s Word That Asserts His Grace, And That All We Need Is To Believe And Call Upon Him For Mercy – As Peter Did


Epistle Lesson:  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead,  you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says,’Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.’  . . .  For ‘everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.’”


Statement:  There are other things as well, where God’s Word states how things truly are, but the statements conflict with what we observe and with our common sense and reason.  This is the nature of the “infection” of sin in our hearts, our minds, and our souls – that we can’t help but believe ourselves and reject God’s Word when these sources are in conflict. 


Application:  But it didn’t do Job any good to rely upon his reason.  Nor did it do Peter any good.  Nor did it do the children of Israel any good – at numerous times in their history when they rejected God’s Word through His prophets.  It didn’t do the scribes and Pharisees any good in the days of Jesus earthly life.  It has never done any human being any good to reject God’s Word and to trust himself instead. 


Transition:  But thankfully God is merciful, and patient, and abundantly persistent – just as His Word describes Him as being.  And we can count on this, for:


IV.  In Spite Of Human Sin And Rebellion, God Still Desires To Have Mercy On Us All


Epistle:  “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him.”


Matthew 5:44,45  “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father Who is in heaven. For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”


1 Tim. 2:4  “God wills all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”


Statement:  Of this we can be sure, that even when we doubt God’s Word, even when we grotesquely insult Him by believing our own thoughts and tweaking His Word, He still wills to save us and to forgive us.  When Peter cried out “Lord, save me,” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and saved him.  Such is the very nature of God, His great love for us, His abundant mercy and forgiveness.


Application:  So we too – when called to repent of our self-chosen determinations and decisions – will receive our Father’s welcome and forgiveness, for “everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.”  And this is a life-long task – for the infection of sin remains deep and profound in every one of us. 


But it is also sure and certain that regardless of our observations to the contrary, or the logical arguments that others can marshal against the Word of God, God’s Word is truth, and inexorably prevails – just as it does in Creation and in the preservation of nature.


Conclusion:  I am often sorely tempted to doubt, and to look for “better” ways of thinking and doing – in the face of the difficulties and trials of this world.  We experience this in our personal affairs – when doing the right things the right way don’t seem to pay enough dividends, and also when doing the right thing even brings pain and privation. 


We also tend to look at things this way in the difficulties of the life of the church in these latter days – and to weaken in our trust in God’s Word and our commitments to Christ’s kingdom, and perhaps even to doubt God’s will to save all men.  But the church is essential – as the apostle reminds us in the Epistle Lesson:


“But how are they to call on Him in Whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in Him of Whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?”  


So you see, despite what observations and our reason might conclude, the church is essential to God’s good and gracious will – and is accomplishing everything He wills, in spite of what may appear mysterious and incomprehensible to us. 


It will always seem to unbelievers that we in the church are “singing in the rain” and praising the sunshine.  God grant that we be protected and encouraged in our faith and trust in His Word, that we never renounce His Word and His blessings.  Amen.


Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.