Having experienced several bouts of severe facial pain in the last few days, I come to meet with the Lord this morning, in danger of being preoccupied by that.
“It is easy to trust Me when it is light, when all is well, when the path ahead is level, and when you have sufficient. However when the night descends or when obstacles arise in your path, you are brought to the point of putting your trust into action. When you reach that place where you are no longer in control, where you have no plan – then the test is – can you now place your trust in Me or do you give yourself over to confusion, anxiety and even panic? It is in that dark spot that My light shines at its brightest and I can bring you to focus on Me and My salvation. That is why I have said, “Consider it pure joy when you are faced with all kinds of trials” – the challenge is to trust and not to waver and start trusting in something else – “Then you will be like a wave of the sea tossed and blown by the wind”. This is my gift to you to benefit you and not to harm you.
My reading today is Mat 8:23-27. These few vv focus on the question Jesus asked the disciples when they were faced with a severe storm and He was sleeping in the boat, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” This is a stark reminder, almost a rebuke in the light of what I have written above. The question today though is, “Where does this faith arise? Can everyone have it?” This takes me back then to the “Sermon On The Mount” which we have been looking at the last few weeks.
Having spent some time describing the Kingdom of Heaven, what the members look like and how they are to live in the light of their citizenship, Jesus comes to a conclusion describing how this citizenship is obtained in this section. Matthew 8:13-27. (I.O.W. Entry into the Kingdom). The key for that section lies in 7:23, where Jesus places the stress on “Knowing Him“. In John 17:3 Jesus prays, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. If you tune yourself into it you will see that “Knowing Jesus and God” is a recurrent theme in John. But here in Matthew we just have this reference, so what does He say further to this to show us the “way”?
You see Jesus introduces this section on entry into the Kingdom with the words of 7:23,24. Stark words of warning, in our modern society where anything goes and there are, “Many ways to heaven”. Jesus says there are only two ways to live. The true and right way is narrow and difficult and only a few find it!. He follows this with a strong warning to be careful of the teachers you follow. There are many, some even wearing all the right garb that are actually ferocious wolves, leading people to destruction.
So there are many out there doing “religious acts” and other “highly commendable good things”, who are going to be shocked on judgement day when Jesus says those frightening words, “Depart from Me I never knew you”.
So what is the right and only way? Jesus proceeds with the word “therefore” in the next paragraph, to link it with this question .”Everyone who hears My words and puts them into practice.” Does this mean we are saved by our works? Well no, He has just said works won’t get you into heaven. What He is saying here is that the only way to heaven is to follow His way. The way and the route He has laid down. There is no option to do it your way that is acceptable. And note the words “hear” and “act”. You need to hear first, truly hear from the heart. Therefore it is important to listen. And then to understand that to just know is not enough, you must do what He says. You must follow His way from your heart.
But, “What about faith”, you say? This is where we need to understand the wonderful mystery and complexity of God’s word. One must always read and understand the bigger picture. Because “faith” is there. Yes? In the passage about the storm, which comes just after this section. God’s word is not carefully packaged so that you can read a little bit and know everything. His message is carefully woven into His story and all the facets are there. As you read and meditate on His word you start seeing the Kaleidoscope of His message which embodies a multitude of colours.
In Matthew Jesus said, “Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. In John 6:40, Jesus said, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
There are tens of 1000’s of people who flock to church, but are doing it their way. Many will say, “This is how I see Jesus”, “I can’t believe in a God who is angry, the God I believe in is all about love” etc We must reach out, we must pray for these people who are doing it in the words of Frank Sinatra, “My Way”. The fruit of the false teachers can be seen in the behaviour and actions of their followers. Just because someone has a degree or is ordained does not mean they are “Good Trees”, producing good fruit. It is not up to us to judge but to warn and pray and reach out with the wonderful message of Jesus’ gospel of judgement and mercy which meet at the cross.