The Touch that Rescues Me

Bible Book: Matthew  14 : 22-31
Subject: Touch of God; Problems
Series: He Touched Me
Introduction

Of all the branches of the military, the United States Coast Guard is probably the least recognized and appreciated. The 39,000 active service men and women of the Coast Guard may not get as much publicity as their counterparts in the other three branches, but they are just as important.

Established in 1915, the Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratus, which means “always ready.”[i] If you are ever caught in a storm, or stranded at sea, it will most likely be the United States Coast Guard that comes to your rescue.

The Coast Guard’s search and rescue division responds to anywhere from 30,000 to 100,000 calls each year, and is responsible for saving around 5,000 lives a year.[ii]

While the United States Coast Guard is always ready, there are times when they are unable to help those who find themselves at the mercy of the sea. In spite of their valiant efforts, thousands of lives are lost in the oceans each year.

When we come to Matthew chapter 14, we find the disciples caught in a violent storm. While there was no Coast Guard to come to their aid, they found that the Master never lets one of His children drown.

As we continue to look at some instances in which the Lord Jesus touched someone, we find the story in which Peter is at one moment walking on the water, and the next sinking in the storm.

Just before Peter went under, Matthew tells us that the Lord Jesus put out His hand and “caught” him. His touch rescued Peter from the storm.

We are reminded from this passage of Scripture that the Lord Jesus is always ready to rescue us when we are about to go under. His hand will catch us when we are sinking in the seas of life.

There are three truths that I want us to draw from this story. These truths serve to teach us about our Lord and His work when we find ourselves caught up in the storm. Notice these truths we me. As we look at this text, we see first of all:

I. CHRIST WILL REACH US WHEN WE ARE BATTLING

In verse 22 of our text, the Lord Jesus sent His disciples away on a boat trip. What should have been an uneventful journey turned into a perilous struggle for the disciples.

Look with me at verse 2It says, “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.”

In Mark’s account, he adds that the disciples were “toiling in rowing.” The idea was that these men were struggling and battling against the storm.

Matthew tells us that seeing their struggle, “Jesus went unto them…” He came to them when the storm would not permit them to come to Him.

Our journey through life is anything but uneventful. There are times when the wind is “contrary”, and though we row and row, we seemingly get nowhere.

From this passage we learn that when we are battling the storm, the Lord Jesus will come to our aid. He is a very present help in the time of trouble.

As we watch the Lord’s actions and movements in this text, we are reminded of a couple of things He does for us when we are battling against the storms of life. Notice first of all that:

A. He is praying in our storms

If you move too quickly into this story you will miss an important detail that Matthew gives us at the beginning. Look with me at verse 2Matthew tells us that, “…when [Jesus] had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”

As the disciples were facing this terrible storm, the Lord Jesus was praying. No doubt, His prayers turned to them and their struggles.

When we see the Lord on the mountain praying, and the disciples in the sea struggling, we are reminded of a wonderful truth.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Lord Jesus, our Great High Priest, “ever liveth to make intercession” for us.

As we face the billows and battles of life, we can rest assured that our Lord is praying for us. We are on His prayer list, and He interceded continually for us.

As I face the storm, He is facing the Father, and interceding on my behalf. What an assurance to know that Jesus Christ prays for us!

I remember reading about a little boy that was being disruptive and rowdy during the church service. His father had finally had enough, so he yanked the boy up, and began to quickly carry him out. Just as they were leaving, the little boy cried out, “Ya’ll pray for me now!”

When you are battling the troubles of life, you can be assured that when no one else is praying for you, the Lord Jesus is calling your name out to the Father.

Notice something else we learn about the Lord’s work for us when we are battling. Notice not only that He is praying in our storms, but notice also further that:

B. He is present in our storms

I love verse 2Notice it with me. It says, “And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.” In the darkness of their struggle, Jesus came to where they were.

Verse 26 indicates that the disciples did not immediately recognize Him. They thought at first that He was a ghost.

The truth we find here is that though we may not always be able to see Him, we can trust that He is always there.

As the songwriter said:

“Standing somewhere in the shadows,

You’ll find Jesus”

The darkness cannot hinder Him. The storm cannot hold Him. We can rest assured that in our battles, Christ is present with us.

One of my favorite writers is an old Scottish preacher named G.H. Morrison. I love something he said about this passage. He said, “…be sure that when our need is greatest, God is closest.”[iii]

You say, “Where is God? I am struggling, and I can’t find Him anywhere!” Friend, remember, just because you can’t see Him in the storm doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

When we are battling on the sea of life, Christ will come to us. He is present in our problems. He is close in our conflicts. He is near in the night!

Notice a second truth we find in this story. Notice not only that Christ will reach us when we are battling, but notice also further that:

II. CHRIST WILL REWARD US WHEN WE ARE BOLD

While Mark and John also record the story of the storm, and Christ walking on the water, only Matthew tells us of Peter’s foray into water walking.

Once the disciples were calmed by the realization that Jesus had come to them, Peter spoke up in verse 28, and said, “Lord, if it be thou (or since it is you), bid me come unto thee on the water.”

While some of the more practical minded might have criticized Peter for this impetuous request, the Lord answered him in verse 29, saying simply, “Come.”

There are many lessons to be learned from Peter’s step out of the boat and onto the water. Not the least of these lessons is that when we are bold in our faith, we can see and experience some amazing things.

I want you to notice a couple of things about Peter’s bold faith, and the reward it received. Notice first of all:

A. The passion Peter exhibited

Notice that none of the other disciples asked to join Peter on his little water walking excursion. No, they were just fine in the boat. The boat was solid. The boat was safe.

And yet there is always one fanatic, one lunatic in the bunch that always wants to push the boundaries, and break the comfort zone. In this case, as in many others, that was Peter.

Peter was passionate. Peter wanted more than just the status quo. Notice again his words in verse 2He said, “Lord…bid me come unto thee on the water.”

What I especially love about Peter’s passion in this text is that He wanted to be with Jesus. If that meant out of the boat, and on the water, then so be it.

It raises a good question. Where are you willing to go to be with Jesus? There are times when walking with Him is anything but the safe option. There are times when following Him means you will have to leave the confines of your safe, comfortable, little boat.

It takes passion to leave the boat and go to Jesus on the water. It takes passion to risk everything in order to follow the Lord. Do you have a risky passion?

William Borden was born into a world of privilege. He was heir to the Borden Dairy Estate, and was a millionaire the day he was born. For his sixteenth birthday, his parents gave him a cruise around the world. While on that trip, God gripped the heart of Borden, and he came home and announced that he was going to become a missionary. One of his friends said that William was “throwing himself away as a missionary.”

Contrary to everyone else’s advice, Borden sold all his possessions, studied, and left the States for the mission field.

Most people would have called Borden foolish. But in God’s eyes, Borden’s life was bold, and blessed. He risked it all for Jesus Christ. That kind of bold passion always gets heaven’s attention, even if it gets the world’s criticism.

1When I see Peter stepping out of the boat, I wonder if I have that kind of passionate boldness for Christ. Notice something else about Peter’s boldness. Notice not only the passion Peter exhibited, but notice also:

B. The privilege Peter experienced

Peter is often criticized for his action in this text. One commentator that I read said that Peter was selfish and wrong for asking to walk on the water.

While some may criticize Peter, his request was not without its reward. Notice verse 2It says, “And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water…”

I know what happened next. I know Peter began to sink. However, don’t miss that phrase in verse 2It says that Peter walked on the water.

James and John couldn’t say that. Andrew and Thomas had never walked on the water. No, only Peter, the one with the passion to step out was given the privilege of doing what only the Lord could do.

You’ve heard the old cliché, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Well, Peter might put it this way, “If you want to walk on water, you got to get out of the boat.”

If you never step out of your comfort zone, and risk something in order to go to Jesus, you will never know the joy of experiencing the miraculous!

I know Peter didn’t get very far. I know he soon began to sink. But for those few steps, Peter was doing the impossible! Peter was walking on the water!

Let us not be satisfied to live in the boat. We may fail, but I would rather fail trying, than to never know what it is like to wave-walk with Jesus!

God give us a bold, passionate faith, for that is the only kind of faith that ever experiences the miraculous power of God.

1There is a third truth that we find in this text. Notice not only that Christ will reach us when are battling, and Christ will reward us when we are bold, but notice also lastly that:

III. CHRIST WILL RESCUE US WHEN WE ARE BEATEN

As we read on in this story, we see that the initial rush of walking on the water was interrupted by the reality of the storm.

Look with me at verse 3It says, “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”

This is a verse we can relate to. Who has not found themselves overcome and overwhelmed by the storm? Who has not in desperation cried, “Lord, save me!”

Verse 31 says, “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…” We are reminded here that when we are sinking in the storms of life, Christ hand will catch us.

I want you to notice a couple of truths about this rescue. Notice first of all:

A. The fear that consumed Peter

Peter was doing alright. He was water-walking. But then, verse 30 says, “…when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid…”

Peter had gotten out of the boat with a strong faith, and his eyes fixed on Jesus. Now, the wind has hit him, he can feel the spray of the ocean on his face, and he loses sight of why he got out of the boat.

Peter began to sink because he lost his faith and his focus. He took his eyes off of Jesus, and he began to focus on the howling storm.

Is there not a truth here for us? We can do the miraculous. We can walk where no one else can, on one condition. We must keep our eyes on Jesus.

When we lose sight of Him, and begin to focus on the circumstances, and the danger, we are sure to sink. With faith we rise above the storm. With fear we sink into the storm.

One night during a bad thunderstorm, a little girl asked her mother, “Mommy, will you sleep with me tonight?” The mother answered, “I can’t , honey, I have to sleep in daddy’s room.” After a pause, the little girl said, “That big sissy.”

The truth is, when we take our eyes off of Jesus, and we begin to concentrate on the storm, we all become “big sissies”. The waves are too high, the water is too deep, the wind is too strong, and the night is too dark.

Peter became consumed with fear, and he reminds us all that unless we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, we too will become victims of our fears.

Notice something else we learn from this rescue. Notice not only the fear that consumed Peter, but notice also further:

B. The friend that caught Peter

As I mentioned earlier, in studying this text I found no shortage of people that wanted to criticize Peter for failing to look to the Lord.

As I studied the text, however, the truth that jumped out at me was not so much Peter’s failure, but rather Peter’s friend.

To me, the failure is not the story. Failure is common. We all fail. To me, the story is the rescue. To me the great lesson here is not that we can fail, but that when we fail there is a Lord that will rescue us.

When we lose sight of Him, which we often do, the great truth is that if we will cry out to Him, He will catch us before we go under.

There is no need for a child of God to drown in their circumstances. You may be sinking, but you don’t have to go under.

The Lord you were seeking when you got out of the boat is close enough to reach you when you call. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He will catch you.

As I studied this story, I thought about the old spiritual:

“Precious Lord, take may hand,

Lead me on, help me stand,

I am tired, I am weak, I am worn,

Through the dark, through the night,

Lead me on, to the light,

Take my hand, precious Lord,

And Lead me on.”

It could be that right now, like Peter, in the midst of your storm, you have lost sight of the Lord. The wind and the waves of your trial have distracted you.

If your sinking, take heart, if you will call on Him, he will touch you. He will catch you. His hand will lift you from the water, and guide you to safety.

He has the touch that can rescue you today.

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Coast_Guard; accessed 8/2/07

[ii] http://www.uscg.mil/History/SAR_Statistics_1964_2001.html; accessed 8/2/07

[iii] Morrison on Matthew; Morrison, G.H.; p. 61