I Believe I Can Fly

(Isaiah 40:28-31; Matthew 14:22-33)

Our gospel reading this morning follows the miraculous feeding of the 5000 which occurred on the shore of the Sea of Galilee near Bethsaida. After teaching, Jesus sent his disciples across the lake in a boat. Several hours later they encountered a storm, and the disciples were struggling to row against the wind and current. Then soon Jesus came to them walking on the water.

As Jesus walks toward them the disciples are sacred out of their wits thinking they're seeing a ghost, and they cry out in terror. But Jesus is quick to speak up to comfort them. "Courage it's me," Jesus says, "Don't be afraid."

Peter then says, "Master if it's really you call me to come to you on the water." So Jesus says, "Ok, get out of the boat and come toward me."

Stepping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water out to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and began to sink.

He cried out, "Master save me!" Well Jesus didn't hesitate and reached down to grab hold of Peter. Then Jesus said, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Often times when reading this gospel account and reflecting on it we come to the conclusion that Peter lacked faith in Christ and had doubts that Jesus could sustain him on top of the water. But another way to consider this text is too look at it from a different perspective.

Who did Peter really have little faith in and who did he really doubt? Was it Jesus or was it himself.

Now Peter must have believed Jesus could make him walk on water, otherwise Peter wouldn't have asked him to do so. So Peter wasn't testing the divine power of Jesus, because he had already seen it many times, including earlier in the day when Jesus fed the 5000 plus people on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. So Peter had faith in Jesus and his miraculous power.

And Jesus clearly had faith in Peter otherwise he wouldn't have invited him out of the boat. Jesus already had performed many miracles; he didn't need another one to prove who he was. So Jesus used this opportunity for yet another teaching moment.

It seems to me Peter was being tested, not only tested in his faith toward Christ, but was also being tested as to whether he believed in himself to follow-through with Christ's invitation to step out of the boat and walk.

When you consider all of Biblical history we see a pattern of faith in those folks we see as heroes of the Bible, a pattern of God asking that humanity place their faith in him and a pattern of God placing his faith in us. And over and over again we read in the Bible that often times God has more faith in us and the abilities he has blessed us with, then we do.

Consider Moses, God had faith that he could lead his people out of captivity, but Moses didn't. God knew Jeremiah would make a great prophet, but Jeremiah had doubt in his abilities. Jesus knew Peter could walk on water if he stayed the course of faith, but Peter began to doubt in himself and he sunk.

When we exhibit "little faith," who is it we really have little faith in? Is it Jesus or is it in ourselves? I suggest many of us Christians have more trouble believing in ourselves than we do in Jesus. And why is this?

Perhaps we just don't see in us what God sees in us or for that matter the God-given gifts others see in us. Perhaps we don't want to see what God or others see in us because it makes us uncomfortable.

Through life we also have a tendency to allow too many people to influence us inappropriately by telling us who we are and what we're suppose to be. We look to others who have less than our best interest in mind, to direct our lives, rather than listening to God through his Holy Spirit, and by discerning our God given abilities and gifts, and how they can be used to bring glory to God. And when we're most vulnerable, perhaps when we're in pain, physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, we are more apt to listen to whoever offers us a glimmer of hope, whatever that hope or escape from reality might be, rather than seeking the true will of God.

When I consider the influence some folks have on peoples lives I'm reminded of a story about an eagle that became a chicken. It seems a farmer found a wounded eagle one day out in his field. Not knowing what to do he took it home, and nested it along side his chickens to keep it safe. He kept the eagle with the chickens; he fed it and took care of it for a long time, until the eagle began to heal.

Over time the eagle began to act like a chicken pecking at chicken feed, and it began to even walk and talk like a chicken. One day, some visitors came by his place, and saw the eagle. They asked the man what he was doing with an eagle in his chicken coup, but the farmer had forgotten the bird was an eagle. And the bird had stayed so long with the chickens; the bird had forgotten he was an eagle. The farmer simply replied that it wasn't an eagle, it was a chicken. The visitors encouraged the farmer to take the bird out, to see if it could fly. So the farmer did. And of course, the eagle was completely healed from his earlier life wounds, so it did begin to fly.

Everyone watched as the bird flew with the magnificence that only the most elite of all flying birds could accomplish. The bird soared through the air, flew higher and faster than any other bird they'd ever seen.

Now we're not chickens either, like the eagle is the elite bird of God's creation, we as human beings are the pinnacle of God's entire creation. And God believes in us to carry out his purpose for us with the special gifts he's blessed us with.

God wants us to believe in ourselves as well, not in an arrogant or prideful way, but in a confident humble way, acknowledging we've been gifted by God to serve God in a particular way. God doesn't want us to fall prey to those folks who want to hold us back from being all that we can be, or keep us from spreading our wings and soaring through life in a majestic way.

You know we're pretty good about telling our children and grandchildren, when they're young, that they can be anything they want if they put their mind to it and work hard. We encourage our children to be all they can be. But somehow between our childhood and adulthood we lose this motivation. Perhaps it's because the reality of life takes over, we take on more responsibilities and we're less apt to take risk or move beyond our comfort zone. So we begin to listen to those who say we can't do such and such, for whatever reason, and we come to believe we can't be more than what these folks tell us we are. We become content with who we are and what we're doing whether it's God's will for us or not.

Well none of this is true. We must believe in ourselves and believe that God has something special for us to do. If we can dream, if we can see a future of hope bathed in the light of Jesus Christ, we can believe we can fly.

Throughout our lives God is with us and will soar right beside us. God doesn't come and go, God is with us always. He's the creator of all we can see and imagine. He doesn't get tired; he doesn't pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything about us, inside and out. He energizes those of us who tire easily, and gives us strength when we stumble and fall.

And for those who have placed their faith in God, and believe themselves to be more than just chickens, they will spread their wings and soar like eagles. They will never tire and will never lag behind.

Leo Tolstoy said, "Life is life only when it's carrying our God's purpose. But by opposing God, people deprive themselves of life, and at the same time… delay the accomplishment of God's purpose."

So it's not too late. We each can fulfill God's purpose, and experience life the way God intended because of what Jesus did on the cross, and what God did in resurrecting Jesus.

Now our hair may get grayer, our eye sight might deteriorate, our joints might ache, and we may slowdown a bit as we physically age, but there is no such thing as spiritual old age. That's because "we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength." (Phil. 4:13) So believe, because "God will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand" (Hymn # 143) until we're called home.

Place your faith in God, believe in your self, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. You can spread your wings and soar like eagles and fly with Christ for all eternity. All you need to do is believe you can fly.

Listen to song "I believe I can Fly"

Read other messages by Pastor Wade