• Tony Birkhead

Are you Sure? Week - 4 (BROKEN CHAINS)




What’s Next?


INTRODUCTION

The three most common fears among adults are the fear of flying, the fear of public speaking, and the fear of heights. Of these three, which do you fear the most? If none, what is your greatest fear?

Where do you think fear comes from?

How is fear different in the life of a Christian than in a non-Christian?

The Bible points us to numerous reasons why God is worthy of this trust, but in the end, it is our response to God’s Word that will determine whether we live a life of faith or a life of fear. We can live a life free from fear not because of our own courage, but because we are convinced of the faithfulness of Jesus in any circumstance.

KEY SCRIPTURE

Matthew 14:28-33

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” 29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

What are some instances in the Bible in which God’s people are encouraged to not be fearful?

Why do you think the Bible so frequently urges the people of God to “fear not”?

Fear is a measure of our faith. When we are afraid, it is often because we fail to believe something God says about Himself. During those moments of fear, God is calling us to make an active choice of faith, just as Jesus did to Peter in the Book of Matthew.

READ MATTHEW 14:22-33.

Matthew’s walking on water account follows immediately after Jesus’ feeding the 5,000. After the leftovers were collected, Jesus gathered the disciples into a boat and sent them ahead of Him. The disciples found themselves struggling in a storm that night. But then, into the disciples’ moment of fear came a familiar, calming voice. Jesus shouted back at them, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (v. 27). Still unsure it was Jesus, Peter asked Him to prove His identity. Jesus didn’t have to prove anything to Peter, but He chose to do so. Peter wanted to walk on the water toward Jesus, so Jesus said, “Come!” Then Peter threw caution to the wind (literally), climbed out of the boat, and started walking across the water to Jesus.

What do you think about Peter in this story? Can you relate to him? How?

What do you think was the progression of Peter’s thoughts as he went from walking to sinking?

What caused Peter to lose his trust in Jesus?

Peter’s faithful walk didn’t last long. The second his focus shifted from Jesus to the reality of his circumstance, he lost trust and began to sink, so he cried out to Jesus to save him. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. Jesus reached out His hand and caught hold of Peter. Although Jesus did question Peter about his lack of faith, He still got him back into the boat. In that moment, the storm swirling around them calmed (along with the disciples’ anxiety): “Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, ‘Truly You are the Son of God!’ ” (Matthew 14:33).

Why is it important for us to realize that Jesus responded to Peter’s weak faith?

In what situations do you feel you have strong faith? Weak faith? Why?

How can we learn to trust Jesus more? What actions show that we trust Jesus in all circumstances?

Have you experienced a similar kind of walking-on-water abandon? Explain. What compelled you to act the way you did?

In your own words, how did the disciples respond to what happened? Why?

The disciples were learning. For the first time, they addressed Jesus as the Son of God. Apparently, Jesus’ ministry and teaching was getting through to these men.

How does walking on water and calming the storm prove Jesus is Lord?

Had you been in the boat that day, would you have reacted like Peter or like one of the disciples who stayed in the boat?

What “storms” in your life have felt threatening to you? Can you recall times during those storms when you were aware of Jesus’ calming presence and power? What was your reaction to Jesus’ work in your life?

MOVING FORWARD

  • What situation in your life right now is requiring an active choice of faith rather than fear?

  • How can you remind yourself this week of the character of God that inspires faith?

  • What is one way you can display that kind of faith rather than fear?

PRAY TOGETHER

Pray that God would remind your group this week of His unchanging character and that you would choose faith and trust rather than fear and anxiety.

COMMENTARY

Matthew 14:22-33

14:22-23. It was already evening when the people were fed. Jesus had not yet had His time of solitude for which He had come to this secluded spot. As soon as the miraculous feeding was completed (immediately), Jesus ordered His disciples back into the boat to precede Him to their next destination.

Few people went up on the hilly terrain overlooking the lake. Nothing grew there and the roads used lower-lying routes. So Jesus was assured of solitude up on a mountainside above the site of the feeding. He used this solitude for conversation with his Father. This was a frequent practice for Jesus, but, because He was so popular and so much in demand, privacy was rare for Him. Jesus must have had to work hard at protecting time to pray.

14:24. The disciples were having some difficulty making the five-mile journey that cut across the northern tip of the lake from Bethsaida toward Gennesaret. They were fighting contrary winds, which implies they were having to row. Not only were they having to row into the wind, but they were also being buffeted by high waves. Violent storms could descend on the Sea of Galilee without warning. Apparently the disciples did not fear for their lives this time. But the going was far from easy, and there was some degree of danger. By now they had rowed a considerable distance from land.

14:25-26. According to Jewish time, the day begins at sunset (about 6:00 p.m.). The Jews divided the twelve-hour night into three watches, but the Gospel writers used the Roman custom of four three-hour watches—6 to 9 p.m., 9 p.m. to midnight, midnight to 3 a.m., and 3 to 6 a.m. It was during this last period, in the dark hours before dawn—after the disciples had battled the waves and Jesus had prayed through the night—that Jesus decided it was time to catch up with His disciples by walking across the tossing sea.

The disciples had no reason to expect Him to come across the water. In fact, they had no reason to believe such a thing could be done (except to extrapolate from the power they saw in Jesus’ other miracles, an unlikely prospect given their immaturity). So, naturally they were terrified and gave voice to their fear in two ways. First, they gave each other the only explanation that made sense in light of their prior experience: It’s a ghost! They could not imagine anyone or anything with physical form walking across water. Second, they cried out in fear. They had been through a long, busy day and an even longer, torturous night on the stormy water. Fatigue, combined with superstition and lack of faith-filled insight, set them up for a response of pure terror when they saw Jesus.

14:27. Jesus, the compassionate and patient teacher, immediately spoke three statements of comfort and encouragement: (1) Take courage, (2) It is I, and (3) Don’t be afraid. This may not have been a rebuke but an effort to comfort the disciples. Jesus knew their faith was still in its infancy. Still, He would issue a rebuke to Peter in 14:31.

14:28-29. Peter’s statement to the Lord took the form of a first-class condition (a construction in the original language that assumes the truth of the condition). Peter was at least beginning to be convinced that the figure on the waves was indeed Jesus, and he was beginning to be convinced that he and the other disciples could do some incredible things in His power. Was Peter running a bit of an experiment here? Probably so, but the realities of the moment—wind, water, waves—still overwhelmed him. This seems consistent with his impulsive enthusiasm.

Peter is to be commended for his belief that Jesus could make him walk on water, but his confidence was that of a baby just learning to walk. Twice in Matthew, the hypocrites would ask for a sign to back up Jesus’ claims (12:38-45; 16:1-4). Both times Jesus denied them, because He knew they would not believe Him even if He provided the sign. He had not come to put on impressive shows in an attempt to create faith where none existed. However, faith did exist in Peter, although it was small. Jesus, like a patient parent teaching a baby to walk, allowed Peter this demonstration of His power to nurture Peter’s faith to the next level of maturity. He commanded Peter, Come. Both Peter and the water obeyed the Messiah-King, and Peter walked toward Jesus on the water.

14:30-31. What Peter could see with his physical eyes (the violent, stormy sea) became larger in his mind than what can be seen only through the “eyes” of a faith-filled heart. There is a healthy, respectful fear we need to have before the Lord (Prov. 1:7), but the fear we feel toward anything that seems bigger than the Lord is a sign of small faith. Peter’s underdeveloped faith feared the storm more than the Lord, so the Lord allowed him to sink into a dark, angry sea.

In that moment of terror, Peter called out with the most basic expression of faith possible: Lord, save me! The Messiah answered Peter’s cry immediately by reaching out and grabbing him. Then Jesus said, You of little faith … why did you doubt? The issue here was not the amount of Peter’s faith, but Peter’s culpability. The smallest faith in the right object is effective. Jesus was chiding Peter, not his faith. The problem was that his faith was supplanted by doubt. In all this time, even Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, had not learned to trust the king fully.

Jesus had also used the phrase you of little faith to address the disciples when He calmed the storm in 8:23-27 (also in 6:30; 16:8; Luke 12:28). Two important tests of faith for Jesus’ disciples have now happened on a stormy sea. Given the awe with which most cultures view the power of nature, Jesus knew that if they could see Him as greater than nature, they would be closer to mature faith.

14:32-33. God had evidently sent a storm primarily for this test, for the wind stopped as soon as Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat. This a sign of Jesus’ authority, and it indicated the lesson was over. Now they could proceed without difficulty to their destination.

This was one in a series of events in Matthew that brought the disciples to a greater understanding of Jesus than they had ever had before. Their response was to worship Jesus. This was more than the respect of a student for a teacher. The word implies awe and adoration. Truly you are the Son of God was their confession. In that moment, there was no doubt in their minds, although doubt would return to plague them several times before their faith was fully grown. This storm experience was great encouragement for the followers of a king who had been rejected by the leaders of Israel. Jesus was the king!

DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE

HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME

The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart: Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God: Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer): After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action: Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?

DAY 1

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

Revelation 1:17-18

King Jesus is alive and glowing with power, like the sun (Revelation 1:12-16). He is sovereign, which means possessing supreme or ultimate power. He is worthy of our adoration, our worship, and our lives. But before all of these, he’s also worthy of our hearts. Yesterday, we considered our response to King Jesus in light of the Apostle John’s reaction to him. He literally fell at Jesus’ feet “as though dead.” But what happened next?

King Jesus “laid his hand on me, saying, Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” Jesus displayed his heart toward his worshipper. The King’s heart is for us. It is not hardened by power, but compassionate. His work on the earth has brought salvation to us by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). And his reign extends that grace! He still reaches down to pull us up, still places his mighty hand upon our shoulders, in love.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 2

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?”

Matthew 14:30-31

Torrential rain is pounding the windshield of your dad’s sedan. The sound of rain overwhelmed only by the deep rolls of thunder. The darkness outside is periodically interrupted by quick, blinding flashes of lightning that streak across the night sky. Alas, you’ve only made it to the young age of three and a half. From your car seat, you know the end is drawing nigh. Terrified as the storm causes destruction across your city, all hope seems lost. Suddenly, there’s a light. Not the electric blue light caused by the lightning. No, this light is different, warm; and it’s growing increasingly bright with each passing second. It’s the garage! Although still a bit frightened, you know you’ve made it to the safety of your home. I guess you’ll live to see age four after all.

Recently, a pastor I know gave an anecdote much like this one on a Sunday morning. His toddler, though safe in the car, was terrified by a July thunderstorm. Looking out of the windows at powerful storms can certainly be intimidating, even as adults. So often, the cause of fear is due to our focus!

Like our young friend in the story, we tend to focus on the danger and not the shelter. We see the things that frighten us and they pull our focus away from that which protects us. We look at the storm that scares us, not the vehicle that protects us.

Peter did the same thing. Seeing Jesus, Peter steps out of the boat and walks across the water toward Jesus. Peter allows his focus to shift from Jesus to the storm; from refuge to wreckage. And how often do we do the same exact thing? We know we can take refuge in Jesus, as the Psalmist writes: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” And yet all too often, we are like that toddler. We become so focused on the storm, that we forget the shelter that keeps us safe! There’s so much, good and bad, that demands our focus every day. Today, remember that our charge is to keep our eyes on Jesus, no matter what comes our way. He is our shelter.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com

DAY 3

I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. 13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work. 17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”

Nehemiah 2:11-20

No matter what our position in life may be, we all at times encounter disappointment—and that can quickly lead to discouragement. Disappointment is simply an emotional response to a failed expectation or hope, whether because plans went awry or someone didn’t measure up. But discouragement is a state of mind in which we become faint-hearted and lose confidence in God, ourselves, or others.

When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, its inhabitants were discouraged—the city wall had been destroyed, leaving them vulnerable to their enemies, and there were significant hindrances to rebuilding. But he encouraged them to start, explaining that the Lord had shown him favor by moving the Persian king’s heart to approve the project. Nehemiah’s confidence in God replaced the people’s despair and lethargy with the hope of success and motivation to work diligently.

We have a choice: Either settle into disappointment and accept our discouragement or—like Nehemiah—focus on the Lord, who is greater than any problem facing us. Although obstacles and disappointments may remain, God’s Word shifts our hope to His promises, good purposes, proven faithfulness, and sufficiency (Rom. 15:4). With His strength, we can persevere.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 4

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:31-36

We all love the idea of being free to make our own choices about what to do and where to go, but Christ offers a much greater liberty than this. It’s spiritual freedom from the power of Satan and the condemnation of sin. Jesus said the only way to be set free is to know the truth and become His disciple by believing in Him and continuing in His Word.

Are you standing firm in Christ’s freedom, or have you let sinful thought patterns, emotions, attitudes, and habits enslave you once again? Although believers have been granted freedom from the dominion of sin, we must fight to overcome our unrighteous impulses. This is done by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and putting to death fleshly desires and passions.

The good news is that we are not in this fight alone. When Christ set us free, His omnipotent Holy Spirit came to indwell and empower us. We also have God’s precious Word to guide and protect us. By His grace, we have everything we need to keep ourselves beyond sin’s control (Phil. 4:19). If you haven’t yet experienced what it is to be “free indeed” (John 8:36), put your trust in Jesus, the greatest liberator.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org

DAY 5

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

Psalm 91:5-6

History tells of a courageous Christian who was standing before one of the Roman emperors who was persecuting the church. The emperor was demanding that Christians abandon their faith, deny the Lord, and declare Caesar as Lord. But this Christian refused. So the emperor threatened, "Give up Christ, or I will banish you." The Christian said, "You can’t banish me from Christ, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ " The emperor said, "I will confiscate all your property." The believer replied, "My treasures are laid up in Heaven. You can’t touch them." The emperor said, "I will kill you." The Christian said, "I have been dead to the world in Christ for forty years. My life is hid with Christ in God. You can’t touch it." The emperor then turned to the rest of his court and said, "What can you do with such a fanatic?"

That so-called fanatic knew something about God’s protection. And that is something we all should know about in these frightening times in which we are living. There are so many things we can be afraid of, from getting on a plane to becoming a victim of violent crime to being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

It is great to know that God promises, "A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you" (Psalm 91:7). It isn’t over until it’s over. Until that time, we can go out with boldness, knowing that God is in control of our lives.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org

MOVING FORWARD

One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.

Matthew 14:31a

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