I am preparing to teach this lesson to my preschool teachers at church, the ladies who work as our Kids’ Express teachers. I am so thrilled to be able to serve these teachers who are investing in the next generations of children. We have an awesome opportunity to impact the future of our country in a positive way. This is the Lord’s work and we want to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us. One of the best ways to do this is to invest in those who are doing the investing. Many times, this vital part is overlooked. The Biblical model is that we have a Paul who invests in us as we invest in a Timothy.
As we see in the title, our faith, like the disciples’ faith, is failing. That is who we are. We need a faithful friend who will give us a second chance and correct us when our faith fails. This faithful friend is Jesus Christ.
In the previous lesson, we looked at Matthew 4:1-20. This is the parable of the sower and the seed. There is a pattern in these 20 verses; the message of the Gospel —> Understanding —> Faith —> Spiritual Fruit. This idea is further developed throughout the rest of the chapter.
In verses 21-23, Jesus develops the idea of faith as He continues to teach His disciples and the crowds. The problem is, the crowds missed the understanding of the first 20 verses because they did not ask Him. Because of this mishap, the crowds do not understand the other teachings that Jesus offers. On the other hand, the disciples ask for understanding about the parable of the sower and the seed so, they understand the other teachings on faith. At the end of the chapter, they have a chance to apply what they had been learning all day long and, they fail miserably. Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the rest of the teachings in this chapter on faith.
- Faith is evident, according to Jesus’ teaching in verses 21-23. Faith is like light. It is not something that is to be kept as a private matter. Faith is evident the way that light is evident to all who are around it. If your faith is not evident, it is not faith. In the previous section of the chapter, Jesus taught that the Word, when understood, would produce faith and that faith would produce spiritual fruit. If there is no fruit, there is no faith. If there is no faith from hearing the Word then understanding must be lacking.
- Faith produces more faith. For those who hear the Word and seek understanding, it leads them to faith. Faith, when attained, produces more faith. In other words, the natural order of faith is to grow. It is exemplified by Christ in verses 26-29. A farmer may not know the scientific process of plant growth but, he does know that if he plants the seeds and care for the crop, it will grow. He plants to have growth and eventually a crop. God teaches us faith so that we will understand it, apply it, and see it grow.
- Faith starts off small and grows large. Jesus exemplifies faith with another farming illustration, something that the people were very familiar with during the time of Christ. They knew how small the mustard seed was and then what large tree it produced. In the beginning, faith is not gigantic. The smallest measure of it is enough. Once a person has faith, it will grow and can produce amazing results, over time and development.
- Understanding and Faith go hand in hand. Jesus ties up the teaching with the fact that He explains the meaning of His teachings to His disciples. They had understanding and there was one more thing that needed to take place. The disciples needed a chance to apply all that they had learned and understood. In education, theory is not enough. This is where many of our institutions of higher learning fall short. We preach theory without much practice. Jesus taught the theory and then immediately offers an opportunity to practice what they had learned.
II. Failing Faith
After teaching all day, Jesus proposes to travel to the other side of the body of water. The disciples agree and off they go accompanied by Jesus. While on the way, Jesus, being exhausted after teaching all day long, falls asleep in the boat on the journey. A storm blows up and the water gets really rough. The disciples are afraid for their lives. Fear is a natural response that we all face. The problem with fear is that it will take over and we will begin to act out of fear instead of walking by faith. Faith and fear cannot coexist in the same place. When fear is present, faith either overcomes fear or fear drives out faith. In the disciples’ case, their fear drove out their faith. This can happen to any one of us at any moment so please do not be too hard on the disciples. Now that the disciples have chosen fear over faith, they turn on their Teacher and begin to criticize and accuse Jesus of not caring about them. Jesus was so exhausted from teaching that He had fallen asleep and the storm did not even wake Him up. The disciples chose to ruin His rest and wake Him up with accusations and criticism. “Do You not care about us”? It is more of statement than a question. Of course Jesus cares about them. He has been teaching them all day about spiritual things that will impact their eternity, not just their temporary days on earth. Yet, because of fear, their faith quickly fled. Our faith does not depend on us because we, ultimately, are failures. Our faith depends on our Faithful Friend, Jesus Christ. The disciples need more teaching and understanding and Jesus is about to give them what they need.
III. Faithful Friend
Even though Jesus was tired from teaching all day and probably a little wounded by the fact that the disciples chose fear over faith, criticizing Him and accusing Him of not caring about them, He chose to get up, calm the storm and then teach the disciples another lesson about faith, understanding, and obedience to the Master. The disciples’ conclusion was that the wind and waves obeyed Jesus’ voice while they, the disciples, did not obey, even though they had knowledge and understanding that the wind and the waves did not have. Jesus gives the failing faith of the disciples yet another chance. This is God’s nature. He is merciful. He does not give us what we deserve. He is gracious by giving us what we do not deserve. We are forgiven when we make mistakes (mercy) and we are given something that we do not deserve, a second chance (grace). Jesus wants to teach us not to make mistakes but, when we eventually make them, He then uses our mistakes as a teaching opportunity. Don’t we do the same thing with our own children? Why do you think that we have this instinct in us? It is because we were created in the image of God. We may give a poor reflection of who God really is, but, those traits are built in to us.
How are you doing my dear friend with your battle between fear and faith? Having faith does not cancel out fear. Faith helps us overcome fear when it rears its ugly head in our daily lives. Do you search the Scriptures and ask for understanding so that you can have faith and experience that faith grow on a daily basis? When the practical assignment comes, are you ready to rely on faith instead of fear? May the Lord help us understand and apply all that we learn in this awesome chapter.
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