Since faith is very crucial for a Christian life, we would share another HUB teaching on ‘Faith: Trust and Obey God’s Commands.’ When we read about faith in the Bible, it is hard to overlook the relationship between God’s commands and man’s faith. They are interwoven and connected throughout the Scripture. It was out of faith that Noah obeyed God’s command and built an ark. It was out of faith, that Abraham obeyed at God’s command and left his homeland, trusting God to lead him (Hebrews 11:7-9.) By faith Moses obeyed the Lord and lifted his rod above the water and the sea parted (Exodus 14:16-21.)
Faith: Trust and Obedience to God’s Command
One outstanding lesson of faith that helps us understand the relationship between God’s commands and man’s faith is found in Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on the water. (Matthew 14:23-33). Although Mark and John also wrote about Jesus walking on the water, only Matthew’s account tells of Peter’s faith.
The Faith of Peter
At the end of a long day of ministry, which included Jesus miraculously feeding 5,000 men, Jesus dismissed the crowd, made the disciples begin their homeward journey in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and then went up on the mountain to pray. As the disciples rowed across the sea, the sea was rough and the wind blew from the opposite direction. By the fourth watch (between 3-6 AM,) they were still in the middle of the sea. Suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water. They cried out in terror thinking it was a ghost. But Jesus called to them “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Peter hearing Jesus’ voice answered, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” This one simple statement of Peter perfectly demonstrates and helps define our understanding of faith.
We can learn as much from what Peter did not say as we do from what little he did say. Peter did not declare, “I have faith,” jump out of the boat and walk on the water to Jesus. Instead, he called to Jesus and said, “COMMANDme to come to you on the water.” Peter’s statement shows that he understood what faith is and how faith comes. Peter completely trusted in Jesus’ authority and power over nature. He knew Jesus had authority over the winds, the storm, and the water. Peter wholly and fully trusted that whatever Jesus said would happen would.
Jesus gave the command, “Come.” Upon hearing that command, Peter immediately had faith to walk on the water. He had an inner assurance that Jesus would hold him up and not let him sink. After being ordered to come, Peter was fully convinced that he would be able to walk to Jesus on the sea, as Jesus had commanded him to do.
So, out of faith, Peter obeyed Jesus’ command, got out of the boat, and came to Jesus. He did not have to concentrate or do mental contortions saying to himself “I can walk on water. I can walk on water.” Hearing God’s command produces faith; that faith then demands obedience.
Question: What would have happened if the other disciples after seeing Peter walking on the water said to themselves “I can do that too” and then jumped out of the boat?
Answer: Jesus had not commanded the other disciples to come, nor promised they could walk on the water. If they believed they could and jumped out of the boat, they would have simply gone “Splash” into the water.
If after seeing Peter walk on the water, James, John, and Andrew, had decided to climb out of the boat, wholeheartedly believing they could walk on the water too, they would still sink. No matter how much they believed they could do what Peter was doing, they would not have been able to do it. No matter how strong their personal conviction, how unshakable their belief, or how little doubt in their abilities, they would have been wrong.
Nor could James, John or Andrew, claim Jesus’ command or promise to Peter for themselves, saying, “If it applies to Peter it applies to me too.” Even then, they would not have been able to walk on the water; Jesus had not commanded them to come, only Peter. If they wanted to come, they would need to ask Jesus to command them to come also. Then if Jesus commanded it, they too would have faith to walk on the sea like Peter.
Peter’s Faith was divided
Peter’s trust in Jesus’ power and authority was amazing. Because of that faith, he was able to get out of the boat immediately after Jesus commanded him to do so. He walked on the water and came to Jesus. But he then saw the wind, became afraid, and began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:30)
What happened to Peter’s faith? Simple, Peter did not keep his focus on Jesus; he allowed his attention to become divided. Jesus reached out, grabbed him by the hand, and rebuked him. “O You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The word doubt used here is ‘διστάζω’ - ‘distazdo.’ Distazdo is a compound word derived from two other Greek words, ‘di’ meaning ‘two,’ and ‘stazdo’ meaning to ‘stand.’ Therefore, ‘distazdo’ means to stand divided or doubled. Peter could not stand in faith on one side and stand in fear on another. Divided faith cannot stand and will eventually fall. Peter sank.
What did we learn from this?
Faith is trusting God that whatever He said will happen will actually happen.
If God commands us to do something, trust God and obey even if it seems impossible. He will accomplish it. Receiving the command generates the faith needed to carry out what God commands us to do. It gives us the assurance of hope, and the solid conviction of matters yet not seen. We know it will be done and can be achieved.
If God does not command us to do something or give us a promise, we cannot have faith for that situation.
We cannot conjure up faith within ourselves for something God did not say!
It is a misunderstanding of faith if we say to ourselves “If I believe strong enough it will happen.” Faith is not some magical power, which emanates from our will and belief in something happening.
It is not faith to misappropriate a command given by God to someone else. We cannot claim a command or commission given by God to someone else as being a commission or command to us, just as the other disciples in the boat with Peter could not claim Jesus’ command to Peter as being a command to them also.