Not only is Jesus our Savior, He is also the "author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2, NIV). We should pause and contemplate that reality, that Christ is the "perfecter of our faith." In other words, the faith Christ inspired in us He now seeks to perfect.
The idea that Christ seeks to perfect our faith makes a fine doctrine, but in the practical outworking of our lives, many unconsciously resist the idea. We are uncomfortable because we know, at least subconsciously, that for our faith to be perfected it must inevitably be tested.
Now, when I speak of faith, I do not mean just amassing facts about the Bible. We do, indeed, need study and accurate knowledge of the Bible, but to amass biblical knowledge primarily takes time; to possess true saving faith, often requires overcoming events and difficulties in the context of our lives -- some of which take courage to companion our faith.
You see, Christ desires we obtain a trust in Him that can actually withstand and overcome the frequent storms of life -- faith that brings the reality of Heaven to earth. Faith, therefore, is more than head knowledge; it is our lock upon the goodness and power of God. The result is that no matter what we face outwardly, inwardly we stand secure. And no matter what the world looks like outwardly, it has the potential to be transformed by our faith, as Hebrews 11 makes clear.
Perfecter of Our Faith
Knowing that faith is much more than religious doctrines, I wonder: Do we truly know the Jesus of the Bible and what He seeks to give us? Too often, I think, we desire a Savior who, after assuring us of eternal life, leaves us alone until our next crisis. We want Him to comfort us but never confront us; we desire Him to heal us but not inhabit us. We want the Holy Spirit to help us obtain the "American dream," yet what about obtaining the dream of God: man living in the image of Christ (see Genesis 1:26).
This means that God's goal is not merely to save us but to conform us to Christ. He seeks to perfect us, not merely protect us. To perfect faith, He accommodates and redeems the conflicts that storm against our souls, turning them into a classroom for the perfection of our faith.
I know we picture Jesus as gently holding us, patting us on the back, saying, "There, there, it'll be all right," and sometimes that is precisely who He is. Yet more often, that is not the voice of Jesus we hear, it is the echo of your mother speaking. Thank God for mothers, but Jesus is seeking to get us to stop being babies. He wants us to grow up into His image.
Remember, I am talking about the real Jesus now, the one who said, "All things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23). If the Jesus you are following is not leading you into the realm of the impossible to make changes in your world, you are probably following the wrong one.
You see, we do a disservice to people when we tell them, "Give your life to the Lord, and He will keep you from trouble." That is not altogether true. We would be more honest to say, "Give your life to Christ, and He will empower you to overcome trouble and adversity." Yes, He will take care of you. But He will not place you in a world void of problems and challenges; rather, He will create in us the spiritual shelter of a transformed life of faith.
A Storm, a Ghost or Jesus?
Get used to the idea that Jesus is seeking to perfect your faith. Sooner or later, the real Jesus will require you to look the impossible straight in the eye and believe God for His power.
Consider the incident when the Lord sent His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee. Later that night, after a storm rises, Jesus crosses this same sea Himself walking on water (see Matthew 14:22 - 33). Contrary winds and waves rise up before He sets out. He could have waited for a calm day or simply arrived at the other side supernaturally without stopping alongside the boat in the middle of the sea. No, He comes to the disciples with something in mind: He comes to teach them a lesson on faith.
Please note that this is a violent storm. Jesus offers no preliminary instruction, no "Basic Water-Walking 101." He doesn't let them practice on puddles or wait until winter so they could walk on frozen water first. He waits for a storm to teach how to walk on water, which is by all accounts harder to do on rolling waves than on a placid sea. Then, on top of that, He does not come in daylight; He comes at night. So Jesus comes to the disciples in the middle of the sea, in the middle of a storm, in the middle of the night to teach them how to walk on water. He doesn't make it easy! But this is the real Jesus with His real disciples. And we can add to the degree of difficulty the probability that they are physically tired and more than a little fearful about the storm.
Scripture says that the sight of a figure walking on the water, coming out of the blowing wind and spray in the darkness of the night, turns the disciples' fear into terror. They cry out, "It is a ghost!" (Note: Some of the things we label as "ghostly" or demonic are really the Lord stirring life to set the stage for a lesson on faith.)
As Jesus approaches the roll of the boat, He calls out, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."
When Jesus says in the midst of your storm, "It is I," it is a call to faith. When He says, "Take courage," it is a call to action, for true faith is a verb, not a noun. True faith will always, at some point, require courage.
Peter says, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."
This is wonderful, really. Here is an insight not only into the real Jesus but also into Peter's relationship with Him. Ever since Peter has known the Jesus, the Lord has required him and the disciples to do impossible things: heal the sick, feed multitudes with a lunch pail of food, raise the dead. Over and over Peter has seen Jesus work miracles; over and over Jesus has empowered Peter to do what he saw Jesus just do.
That night on the stormy sea, Peter has this amazing discernment: "If it's really the Lord, He will tell me to do what He is doing: something impossible. If it's the Jesus I know, in a moment He will be telling me to walk on the water, too." And true to form, Jesus calls out to Peter: "Come!"
Now Peter is not about to walk on the water, not really. When he steps out, he is walking on the word Come. He knows that the power to accomplish the impossible resides in Christ's word, and it is this supernatural reality upon which he steps.
You see, faith is all about trusting the integrity of Jesus Christ's command. Do you think Peter feels power when he steps on the water? I don't think he feels anything besides the storm. No goose bumps. No "glory chills." Peter sits on the topside rail of the rocking boat and swings his legs over the churning water. Peering through the wind and rain, he looks at Jesus. Then he slips down and stands upright in the water!
Splash! One step. Splash! Then another and another until Peter walks right up to Jesus. This is no little walk. Admittedly, anyone can walk on water for the first step. It is the second step and beyond that is difficult. Peter walks until the waves grab his attention; then he begins to sink. Jesus saves him, of course, and when they get into the boat the wind stops.
Maybe we would expect the Lord to say, "Peter, you did it!" Maybe Peter was expecting praise for his short water-walking career, but no, Jesus rebukes him saying, "Why did you doubt?"
Christ sees the beginning of something great within Peter and He does not want it contaminated by pride or self-pity. Most of us want a medal every time we do something for God, but He is not about to let Peter or us build a monument to our accomplishments, especially when we are just beginning. If this miracle of Peter's were done by some of us here in America, in two weeks we would have tours, T-shirts and commemorative celebrations of the day we walked on water. But Jesus will allow none of that for His disciples. He sees greatness emerging in Peter, and He will not press any of His disciples toward anything other than full conformity to His image.
Remember: God's goal is that we become Christlike. Therefore, the real Jesus is going to call us to do the impossible. This means that we will be called to do what we have never done before. You will see Jesus ahead of you, probably in some kind of storm, but it will be the beginning of a miracle that will change you -- and the world around you.
Lord, forgive me for seeking a safe life instead of a supernatural life. I want more of You. Call me out of the boat of my familiar, predictable world. Master, for the sake of reaching the lost, increase my faith until I am standing with You on the water of divine potential. In Jesus' name, Amen.
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