Daily Reading & Meditation

 Sunday (August 10): "Take heart, it is I - have no fear"

Scripture: Matthew 14:22-33

22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." 28 And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

Meditation:  Does the Lord Jesus ever seem distant when trials or adversity come your way? It was at Jesus' initiative that the disciples sailed across the lake, only to find themselves in a life-threatening storm (Mark 6:45-52). Although they were experienced fishermen, they feared for their lives. The Lake of Galilee was known for its sudden storms whipped up by strong winds which swept down from the nearby mountains. The disciples must have cried out for help when they recognized that their boat was about to be capsized by the threatening waves.

Jesus always intercedes for us
Although Jesus was not physically with them in the boat, he nonetheless had been keeping vigilant watch for them in earnest prayer on the distant shore. When Jesus perceived their trouble he came to them walking on the sea and startled them with his sudden appearance. The disciples were terrified rather than joyful when they saw Jesus' presence on the water. They thought a ghost had appeared to seal their doom. At first, they could not believe it was really the Lord who was coming to help them until they heard his reassuring voice - "I am here for you and ready to help you - let your heart be filled with courage - and do not allow any fear or doubt to hold you back from trusting in me." Jesus calmed their fears, and he calmed the threatening waves and storm as well.

Facing fear and failure with faith in God's help
This dramatic incident on the sea of Galilee revealed Peter's character more fully than others. Here we see Peter's impulsive tendency to act or speak quickly without thinking through what he was about to do. Peter often failed and came to grief as a result of his impulsive response to challenging circumstances (such a cutting off the ear of a servant who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemani, or Peter promising Jesus that he would never deny him shortly before his betrayal at the high priest's courtyard). When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he took a leap of faith only to cave in out of fear and doubt. He failed to keep his eyes on Jesus and to rely on the strength which God readily hands to those who trust in him.

In Peter's moment of fear and failure, he fortunately did not give into despair or hopelessness. When his faith began to sink, Peter clutched at Jesus' hand and held firmly. Whatever weakness Peter had, he was not a quitter. Every time Peter fell, he rose again. His failures only made him draw closer to his Lord, and love him more humbly and deeply, and with greater gratitude and trust in his mercy and help.

Do you recognize the Lord's abiding presence with you?
The Lord Jesus keeps vigilant watch over each one of us at all times, and especially in our moments of temptation and difficulty. Do you recognize the Lord's presence when you meet adversity or trouble and do you cling to him as Peter did in his trial? The Lord Jesus assures us that we do not need to give into fear and despair when troubles threaten us. The Lord is always ready to strengthen our faith, to reassure our hope in his promises, and to fill us with his peace and love. When troubles and danger threaten to overwhelm you, how do you respond? With expectant faith and hope in the Lord's abiding presence, love, and care for you?

"Lord Jesus, help me to trust you always and in all circumstances and to never doubt your presence and power to help me. In my moments of doubt and weakness, may I cling to you as Peter did. Strengthen my faith that I may walk confidently in the path you have chosen for me."

Psalm 85:8-13

8 Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9.Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The wind was against them, by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

"Meanwhile the boat carrying the disciples - that is, the church - is rocking and shaking amid the storms of temptation, while the adverse wind rages on. That is to say, its enemy the devil strives to keep the wind from calming down. But greater is he who is persistent on our behalf, for amid the vicissitudes of our life he gives us confidence. He comes to us and strengthens us, so we are not jostled in the boat and tossed overboard. For although the boat is thrown into disorder, it is still a boat. It alone carries the disciples and receives Christ. It is in danger indeed on the water, but there would be certain death without it. Therefore stay inside the boat and call upon God. When all good advice fails and the rudder is useless and the spread of the sails presents more of a danger than an advantage, when all human help and strength have been abandoned, the only recourse left for the sailors is to cry out to God. Therefore will he who helps those who are sailing to reach port safely, abandon his church and prevent it from arriving in peace and tranquility?" (excerpt from SERMON 75.4)

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author Don Schwager © 2014 Servants of the Word

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers.

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