Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead!
James chapter 5 verse 26 from the Contemporary English Version
Yesterday was an important day in Alabama. Though, based on the turn-out, most didn’t think it was important. It was the Primary Runoff election. And I was a poll worker. The particular precinct I worked had 117 votes cast in the primary election. But yesterday the number was only 61. Nearly 50% did not think it was worth their time to engage in the single most important principle of this nation–the right to vote. OK, OK! So one party’s run-off had only one office in the run-off. But when it comes to this representative republic, isn’t one office worth the effort to vote? I would say so, and so would the sacrifices and blood of those who fought and died for it. But I’m not here today to write about politics and elections. This event is a microcosm of a far more serious and deadly malady infecting so many today.
It’s called Faith Without Works! So, back to today’s title: Do You Have Faith Or Fuzzy Feelings? When it comes to this Life In Grace, it appears that many–way too many–have opted out of Faith With Works and opted in for Fuzzy Feelings! If we should learn anything from Jesus, it should be that our Faith is made for action. Faith is an action verb–things happen. There’s a dynamic occuring. Fuzzy Feelings is a noun. It describes something but doesn’t do anything. “Now wait just a doggone minute, Preacherman! Doesn’t the Bible say we are saved by faith, not works?” (Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8 and 9)
Indeed it does. And James is not contradicting Paul. Faith produces our salvation, not our works! But. . .what happens after we’re saved? After the fact of salvation by Faith alone, Faith produces a lifetime of works–or if you prefer–a lifetime of action! If all one has after they “think” they have been saved is a lot of Fuzzy Feelings then they haven’t been saved. This is what James is writing about. Read his words one more time: Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead! Are you breathing? Are you saved? Then go and act in this world that urgently needs to see Jesus in ACTION!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure that all the glory goes to Him! And if you are still breathing–go do something that honors Him!
Today we’re going to talk about Leverage. But before we do, let’s look at our theme
passage again from Matthew 14:25-32, but this time I want to share it
with you from The Passion Translation:
four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the
waves! 26 When the disciples saw him
walking on top of the water, they were terrified and screamed, “A ghost!” 27 Then Jesus said, “Be brave
and don’t be afraid. I am here!”
shouted out, “Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!” 29 “Come and join me,” Jesus replied. So Peter stepped out onto the water and began
to walk toward Jesus. 30 But when he realized how high
the waves were, he became frightened and started to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he cried out.
immediately stretched out his hand and lifted him up and said, “What
little faith you have! Why would you let
doubt win?” 32 And
the very moment they both stepped into the boat, the raging wind ceased.
Before we dive into looking at the principle of Leverage, let’s back up and do a quick review from last week. We talked about that process of discovering and uncovering your giftedness for the Mission of The Kingdom. Here’s what the process looks like:
God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.
God’s Gift Requires Gritty Determination To Use It.God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.
Your Gift Will Far Exceed Your Abilities.
Surround Yourself With People Who Have Godly Wisdom.
Align Yourself With People Who Pray.
Start Using The Scientific Method of Trial And Error
OK, on to Leverage. I know I just heard some of you thinking, “What does Leverage have to do with being a Water-Walker?” Good for you thinking like this—I’m glad you asked because it’s the next step in overcoming fear and getting out on the water with Jesus.
Let’s start with a definition of Leverage. This word is used in a lot of different
contexts, but let’s go back to the scientific principle of Leverage and
move from here: “Leverage changes the
amount of force needed to move an object. It reduces the strength required to move a
much heavier object.” This principle
is applied in finance, business and politics.
But there is a spiritual application to the concept of leverage that
needs to be explored.
Like most things in The Kingdom Of God, spiritual applications and principles work in Backwards Logic. Here’s a few:
In Order To Live, You Must Die;
In Order To Find, You Must Lose;
In Order To Receive, You Must Give;
In Order To Rise Above The Crowd, You Must Serve The Crowd.
Now let’s apply the
Backwards Logic of The Kingdom to Leverage.Spiritual
Leverage Reduces The Influence Of The Stronger Object. Think about moving a rock that weighs 3 times
more than you. You take a lever, find
the right pivot point and even though you weigh 3 times less, you can move that
rock. Your weight and the weight of the
rock remains the same.
In Spiritual Leverage, the weaker you become, the weaker the object becomes, until you are stronger. What I’m trying to say is that whatever is in the way of you stepping out of the boat to become a Water-Walker, becomes weaker as you become weaker. Insane! Am I right? Does this really make Logical Sense to us?
And this leads me to The One Thing You Need To Remember From This Message, And It’s Not My Idea, But the Apostle Paul’s: God’s Power Works Best In Our Weaknesses.
In case you forgot, Paul had been pleading with God to
take away some unknown “thorn in the flesh”.
It didn’t happen—instead God revealed something more powerful that Paul
needed—and so do we. 2 Corinthians
12:9—“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” This was God’s
Most people love the hear stories about the powerful
God we serve. But herein lies the
problem: That information alone is not
enough to create courageous human beings.
I can receive tons of information designed to assure me that God’s power
is sufficient. But the information alone
does not transform my human heart.
In order for such a transformation to take place, we
need to learn how to apply Leverage—using one force to move what seems to be
an immovable object. If you want to
know if you are living outside the boat, then ask yourself this question, and
ask it often: What am I doing now
that I could not do apart from the power of God? It’s clear, the only way Peter could stay
afloat was if God took over.
When we risk using our Spiritual Giftedness, we
can know the joy of being used by God. But
we have to trust before we act. We see
this over and over again in scripture.
Moses had to trust that God would part the Red Sea. Gideon had to reduce his army from 32,000 to
300 before God would bring the victory. Naaman
had to wash 7 times in the water before he was cured of leprosy. The loaves and fish had to be relinquished
before they were multiplied. The seed
has to be planted in the soil and die before the harvest can happen.
Most of us have an area that might be called our “Spiritual
Comfort Zone,” which is the area we feel most comfortable trusting
God. When God calls us to go beyond our
spiritual comfort zone, we begin to feel nervous or uncomfortable. We would prefer not to go outside that zone
until we feel better about it.
You have to follow the Path of God, which requires us
to admit our weaknesses and inabilities.
Pay close attention to Peter’s Statement: “Lord,
if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!” It’s
those 5 words: “have me join you”—it’s the words of weakness and
inability. Most folks don’t have the
problem of being too weak—though that is what they say.
The problem is many are often Too Strong. What God told Paul is the same thing He wants us to hear: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Where do we need to Leverage our weaknesses so that God’s Power works the best? There are a lot of points and places, but think about these as a start in your life.
1. Leverage Our
Points Of Our Fear!
Step out of the boat at the point of your fears. Why?
Because He wants us to overcome them through His Power, and not
be intimidated and defeated by them.
For example, one of the most exciting adventures in
life is helping another person find God.
What keeps us from getting out of the boat evangelistically? Fear!
But on the other hand, look at the upside potential. We might actually be part of God’s redemptive
purpose on earth. But if I wait until I
feel like I’ll be 100% effective, I will never step out of the boat to help
someone surrender to Jesus.
What, exactly are you afraid of, spiritually? Bring those fears to God and God will provide His Power. But, if you never admit your weakness of fear, you will never know His Power. Secondly,
2. Leverage Our
Points Of Frustration!
Sometimes people in Scripture get motivated to trust
God in remarkable ways when they become frustrated with the brokenness of a
fallen world. We see it in David when he
couldn’t stand any longer the insults of Goliath. We see it in Elijah when he could stand the
idolatry of Ahab and Jezebel.
In the world today, it is at the point where we are
frustrated by the mess our culture is in and that sense of what God desires. To fix that gap between what is and what God
desires should motivate us to action for a cause that is greater than
ourselves. It may be your frustration
with political systems that abuse people.
It may be your sense of frustration that there are so many homeless
people. It may be your frustration with
the loneliness the elderly often feel when placed in a skilled nursing
facility. Whatever it is that makes you
feel frustrated, take your weaknesses to bring about change and allow Him to
fill you with His Power. Thirdly,
3. Leverage Our
Points Of Compassion!
Being A Water-Walker Means We Move Towards What Breaks
Our Heart. Compassion is expressed in our actions. Jesus certainly modeled this for us. Scripture says that many times when Jesus
looked at the crowds, seeing their deepest needs, He was filled with
When was the last time you took a serious compassion
risk? Jesus did it all the time. He touched lepers, ate with tax collectors,
associated with prostitutes; all these were a part of His calling—they were why
He came! For you it is working with Christian
Center of Concern, Delivering meals on the Third Saturday, or coming up with an
idea that Shows Compassion To Those Who Need It, Not Those We Think Deserve
4. Leverage Our
Points Of Prayer!
Real-life stories of Water-Walkers are always
stories about prayer. There is something
about getting out of the boat that turns people into Intense Pray-Ers. They live each moment of each day with the
conviction that they cannot accomplish things without God’s help.
Paul prayed—3 times—about his thorn in the flesh. And all 3 times, God’s answer was the same—“My strength works through your weaknesses.” Peter’s Prayer Request Was To Join Jesus On The Water. So tell me this: What’s Your Prayer Request For Yourself? Is it about yourself? Is it complaining about the shape of our culture? Is it wanting Jesus to come back now to get you out of this miserable culture?
Well, I’m down to your Next Step. For some of you, this Next Step may
well be the most painful moment of your life.
It’s a moment you’ve been putting off—or you’ve been living in
Tell God Your Weakness.
It could be pride that is keeping you from getting out of the boat and into a relationship with Jesus. You’ve been playing the church game, and you don’t want anyone else to know.
It may be fear that is holding you in the boat—fear of failure—or just maybe your fear is the fear of Truth—that if the truth of your life becomes public knowledge, you’re afraid that those closest to you will be ashamed of you and turn away from you.
It may be shame that’s keeping you in the boat. It may be a private shame of something you once did—or a public shame that everyone knows about. It may be a lifetime of shame—of doing the wrong thing—making the wrong choices.
It may be doubt that keeps you off of the water. You don’t want to admit it, but you seriously doubt you could ever be a Water-Walker because, well because Jesus couldn’t help you be that Water-Walker you’ve been hearing about.
Or it may be the worst weakness of all—You Have No Weaknesses. Arrogance is your weakness and you don’t even know it.
Here is what I’m asking you to do this morning. Leverage Your Weakness. If one of these, or any of an infinite number
of weaknesses is yours—take that weakness to the right place.
Bring it to The Father—tell Him all about it. Then listen…listen to what HE says about your
weaknesses—“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
I’ve asked you not to focus on Peter’s sinking—but think about it now. When Peter started sinking what did he do? He Leveraged His Weakness By Crying Out To Jesus. And Immediately—Immediately Jesus Saved Him! Leverage Your Weakness By Bringing It To God, And The Grace Of God Becomes Stronger Than That Thing That Is Keeping YOU In The Boat
25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)
Today we are in the 2nd week of our series
on being a Water-Walker. Last week we
discovered that the first step is to get out of the boat. And the way to do this is to recognize God’s
presence, live in extreme discipleship, and actually step out of the boat. Remember, your fears will tell you what you
This is a great story, but we’ve mistreated Peter’s
part, especially us preachers, me included.
We tend to focus on Peter’s sinking a bit too much sometimes. But it really hit me as I was preparing for
this series, that phrase In The Boat.
Those guys in the boat praised Jesus, for calming the
storm, Because They Missed The Point. The Theophany Wasn’t In The Calming Of The Storm; It
Was In The Walking On The Water! We criticize Peter for sinking, but don’t
forget that the rest of them were still In The Boat.
Water-Walkers sometimes sink. Occasionally we fall flat on our faces. Listen, I am convinced that our greatest
obstacle to Extreme Discipleship is found in our fear of failure.
If you never want to fail at anything, then do nothing at all.But even at
that, you’re still a failure because you’re not living up to the potential God
sees in your life.
As I said last week, Water-Walking is risky business,
and we had better make sure we enter this journey with both eyes open. Let’s look at the Attitude Of Water-Walkers. First of all:
1. Water-Walkers Expect Problems!
So, Peter goes to the side of the boat. The other disciples are watching closely, In
The Boat. They’ve seen Peter shoot
off at the mouth before. They wonder how
far he’ll take this thing. He puts 1
foot over the side. I imagine he’s
gripping the side of the boat with white knuckles. Then he slides the other foot over. Now what?
Something Spiritual. He Lets Go Of The
He completely gives himself up to the power of Jesus. For a moment, it seems like there’s no one
there but Peter and Jesus. Peter is
delighted! Jesus is thrilled with his
disciple: Like Master, Like Disciple. Then it
Peter saw the wind and the waves. Reality sets in, and Peter asks himself,
“What was I thinking?” He realized he
was on the water in the middle of the storm without a boat—it terrified
him! But nothing has really changed. The storm should have come as no
surprise. It’s been there all along.
What happened was, Peter’s focus shifted from the Savior to the Storm. But we all understand that, don’t we? We set out with high expectations, but them wham! The storm comes. Opposition, setbacks, obstacles—they should have been expected because face it, this world’s a pretty stormy place. When Peter started sinking, who did he call out to? The guys in the boat or Jesus? We Can Get Out On The Water Because We Know That If We Start Sinking, Jesus Is There To Help Us.
Some people will never get out of the boat because of
the storm. But if we know ahead of time
there will be a storm, we can brace ourselves for it. Prepare for it by keeping our focus on the
Savior and not the Storm! If you get out
of the boat, you will face the Storm. But
we have to remember: We Never
Face The Storm Alone!
There’s always another Water-Walker with us, the Original Water-Walker! Everything
worthwhile in life is risky! But if you
don’t take the risk, you slowly die of boredom and stagnation.
2. Water-Walkers Accept Challenges As The Price
Now we come to a part of the story you may not like
very much; I don’t care for it much myself.
The Choice To Follow Jesus—The Choice To Grow—Is The Choice For The
Constant Recurrence Of Challenges—Difficult Challenges. You’ve got to get out of the boat a little
every day. Let me explain.
The disciples get into the boat, face the storm, see
the Water-Walker, and are afraid. Jesus
said, “Don’t be afraid.” Peter braces
himself, asks permission to go overboard, sees the wind, and is afraid all over
again. Do you think that’s the last time
in Peter’s life that he will experience a challenge?
Here is a deep truth about Water-Walking: The Challenges Will Never Go Away. Why? Because Each
Time I Want To Grow, It Will Involve Going Into New Territory, Taking On New
Challenges.Each Time I Do That, I Am Going To Be Stretched, And
So Will You. The challenges will never go away as long as
we continue to grow. That’s great news,
You don’t have to worry about those challenges. Challenges and growth go together like
macaroni and cheese. It’s a package
deal. The Decision To Grow Always Involves A
Choice Between Risk Or Comfort. This means to be a follower of Jesus you have
to renounce comfort as the ultimate value in your life. It’s human nature to value comfort over
risk. Do you know the name of the bestselling
chair in America? La-Z-Boy!
Not Risk-E-Boy, not Work-R-Boy, but La-Z-Boy. We have a name for people who vegetate in
front of the TV: Couch Potatoes. The other
disciples could be called “Boat Potatoes.” They didn’t mind watching, but they didn’t
want to actually do anything.
And today, Millions Of People Could Be Called “Pew Potatoes.” They want the
comfort associated with a shallow spirituality, but they don’t want the risk
and challenge that go along with truly following Jesus. Jesus is still looking for people who will
get out of the boat.
Between Risk Or Comfort Grow Into A Habit. Every time you get out of the
boat, you become a little more likely to get out the next time. It’s not that the fear goes away. You realize that it does not have the power
to destroy you. And finally:
3. Water-Walkers Master Failure Management!
As a result of seeing the wind and giving in to fear,
Peter began to sink into the water. So
here is the question: Did Peter
Before you answer that question, allow me to share some insights I have
been discovering about failure, because we will be talking a lot about that in
the coming weeks.
Not An Event, But Rather A Judgment About An Event. Failure is NOT
something that happens to us, or a label we attach to things. It Is A Way We Think About Outcomes. Here’s good
example. Jonas Salk is credited with
discovering the polio vaccine. Are you
aware that it took him over 200 attempts before he successfully discovered the
polio vaccine? 200 attempts without
success, would you dare call Dr. Jonas Salk a failure? Would you say he failed 200 times? I think not.
There Were 11 Bigger Failures Sitting In The Boat. They Failed Quietly, Privately, Unnoticed,
Unobserved, And Uncriticized. Only Peter knew the shame of public
failure. But Peter knew two other
things, things the 11 did not experience:
One: Only Peter Knew The Glory Of Actually Walking
On The Water. Be it ever so brief a moment—but he knew what
it felt like to do something that was made possible only by the power of
God. Peter Knew He Didn’t Do; It Was A God Moment. It was a
defining moment that went with him for the rest of his life.
Number Two:Only Peter Knew
Glory Of Being Lifted Up By Jesus In A Moment Of Desperate Need. Peter knew in
a way that the others could never have known, that when he sank, Jesus would be
there and was completely adequate to save him.
Notice carefully in the story, Jesus spoke to Peter
BEFORE they go back into the boat. His
words to Peter were between just the 2 of them (and if that’s the way Jesus
handled it, who are we to criticize someone in front of others?). They couldn’t know that, because they never
got out of the boat! Failure Occurs
When We Choose To Stay In The Boat—To Choose Our Comfort Over The Risk!
Now, let’s tie all this together. It was Peter’s attitude to risk failure that helped
him to grow. When he was out of the boat, as long as he
looked at Jesus, he was a Water-Walker.
When he looked at the storm, he was a water-sinker.
But Peter learned an invaluable lesson—He
Understood His Dependence On Faith Much More Deeply Than He Would Have If He
Had Never Left The Boat. This is what those In The Boat missed.
Jesus is still looking for people who will get out of
the boat. Why risk it? Here’s why:
It Is The Only Way To Real Growth.
It Is The Way True Faith Develops.
It Is The Only Alternative To Boredom And Stagnation
That Causes People To Wither Up And Die.
The Water Is Where Jesus Is At!
may be dark, wet, and dangerous. But
Jesus is not in the boat. What about you? When was the last time you got out of your
boat? God uses real-world challenges to
develop our ability to trust in Him, not reading great books or listening to
We tend to seek a world of comfort where we can
maintain the illusion of control. But
then, God passes us by, and shakes up everything. The call to get out of the boat involves
crisis; at times failure; that call is made in the presence of fear; and
sometimes it leads to suffering—but that calling is always to a task too big for us. But there is
no other way to grow faith and to partner with God.
It’s risky getting out of the boat, and you can do it
with the right attitude. But to have
this right attitude, You Have To Take These Next Steps.
Pray Right Now, This Prayer: “Jesus, I Have Complete and Unconditional
Confidence In You And None In Me.” Pray this prayer right now. Don’t close your eyes. Look up and imagine you are looking God right
in His eyes as you pray it. Now make
this your attitude. If you fail, then
you’re not worried because you will count on Jesus, just like Peter. Jesus will always be in the water with you.
Do Something Spiritual—Get Out Of Your Boat And Help
Another Person See Jesus In You. This is the only way you will ever be known
like Peter—and like Jesus—A Water Walker.