stability n. steadfastness, constancy of character & purpose
Have you ever played with a gyroscope? You pick it up, and it’s just a piece of metal. But start it spinning, and something extraordinary happens. There seems to be a force that keeps it in place, pointed true, that resists any other force or disturbance or chaos that comes against it. Because of this stability, a plane can fly true through the roughest storm guided by the stability of its gyroscope.
How does that happen? In simple terms, when the gyroscope is in motion it possesses kinetic energy. As all that energy is aligned, is focused along one axis the gyroscope remains stable. Energy + focus = stability.
The more I think about it, I need a gyroscope for my soul. I want my crazy, chaotic life full of all kinds of pressures tugging me this way and that to have the same “stay-bility” in the midst of any storm.
So how can I have that soul stability? The same way that the gyroscope gets it: energy + focus. As I focus all my energies toward one point, God, my soul will remain stable. If everything in my life revolves around God & His glory, I will remain unbuffeted by any storm. When my focus stays on Christ, my life will stay on course.
You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, for he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3
There are multiple stories in the Bible where someone got a little refresher course in God’s power by an encounter with the force of water (Exodus 14; Psalm 107:23-32; Jonah 1; Matthew 8:23-27; Acts 27). I thought about those stories when I stood a few feet from Abram’s Falls in Smoky Mountains National Park. You see, hear, & feel the force of the water, force that has been blasting for thousands of years by God’s design, to be a reflection of His power. It does one’s soul some good to just spend some time listening to God’s creation testify to its Creator(Psalm 19). For a few more pics of the waterfall and the trail to it just click here.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” ( Matthew 7:24-27)
The conclusion to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is one of those passages that you’ve read dozens of times, but if you’re willing to listen, really listen, to what He is saying and meditate and turn it over in your mind, the Spirit can still illuminate you further.
Why is the foolish man foolish?
That’s the question I asked myself tonight. That’s somewhat obvious, I know, but think about it. Jesus expected the crowd to immediately recognize the difference: why was the foolish man foolish? where did he go so obviously and tragically wrong? He did not realize the storm that could destroy all that he had built was coming. He either did not think the storm would come, or he felt he could beat the odds, or he felt that his house was strong enough. No one would build a house knowing it would fall; this man foolishly thought his house would stand against the storm, but he was tragically wrong.
The wise man knew the storm would come, he saw how destructive it would be, he realized that it would destroy everything that he had labored so long to build. He made sure that his labors were not in vain, that what he built would stand the storm.
And what was the spiritual application that Jesus drew? He said, “Look, now, I’ve told you how to live— how to love, how to trust, how to pray, how to give, how to live in the Kingdom. Every day of your life you are building your spiritual house. If you follow my words and do them you will build on me, on solid rock. If you live as the world lives, in your own way, the storm of living in a fallen world will one day destroy everything. The storm is coming! Will you live your life and build your house like you know the storm is coming?”
That’s what Jesus is still speaking, to you and to me. “You know my commandments, you know my ways. Don’t you see why I spoke them to you? I do not want to see your house destroyed. Heed my words, heed my warning. Build your life, today, on my words and my words alone.”
Am I? Do I really live like the storm will come? Or do I think I can beat the odds living a lukewarm Christian life? Or do I think half-hearted attempts at following Christ will really withstand the wind and the waves? Hard questions. What will my life answer, today?
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 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.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-33 ESV)
I have found it very helpful to study passages and ask the question, “Why?” It comes in very handy for God to be all-knowing and all-powerful—it means that He always has a good reason behind everything that happens. When you look at an event in Biblical history with the question “Why?” in mind, you can learn about the nature of God and the nature of His dealings with men. I have written about the “Why?” behind God’s actions with Joseph in a previous post Why Did God Let Joseph Go To Prison?
Today let’s look at a very famous passage through the same lens of “Why did God do that?” The disciples are at sea and Jesus and Peter end up walking on the water. Why? The short answer is that Jesus had some lessons for Peter and the rest of the disciples to learn. The long answer is as follows:
Lesson 1: The path can be hard where Jesus sends us. Jesus had instructed the disciples to go on ahead in the boat while He prayed. He could have arranged their voyage to be smooth, but it wasn’t. This is a lesson most of us hopefully have already learned, but it bears repeating: just because the way gets hard doesn’t mean that we’re out of God’s will.
Lesson 2: Jesus is Lord. Funny how difficulty makes us look to God’s power in a way that ease does not. This is the first time in Matthew that Peter addresses Jesus as “Lord,” and the only previous time the disciples addressed him as “Lord” was the other time they were in the boat and wanted something from Jesus (to calm the storm.) It’s actually a great word study to study the situations where people address Jesus as “Lord”— the overwhelming majority of the time it is when they want something out of Him. Jesus wanted the disciples to learn that He was indeed Lord, but He also wanted them (and us!) to progress to the point where we see and worship and cherish Him as Lord not for what He can do for us, but for who He is, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Lesson 3: We Don’t Have to Fear When Jesus is With Us. You would think that after all the miracles the disciples saw, fear would not be in their vocabulary. But Jesus knew that they were human; and so he reassures them with his encouraging words to not be afraid. When we are dealing with the unknown, fear always wants to be at our side, but we too need Christ’s encouraging words to our hearts.
Lesson 4: Jesus Wants Us to Ask. Jesus could have simply commanded, “Peter, come out here to me.” But instead He waited for Peter’s desire and faith to move him to ask the impossible of Jesus. This is a recurring theme in Christ’s ministry; many times He waits for someone to ask before He moves supernaturally in their life. So it is with us as well; Jesus is waiting for us to ask.
Lesson 5: Nothing is Impossible for God. You would think that the disciples would have already learned this by now, but apparently no one had but Peter. After all, there was no chorus of “Me, too, Lord!” after Peter’s bold request— the other disciples did not have the faith to do the impossible to get closer to Jesus. Do we?
Lesson 6: It is Jesus, and Jesus alone, who sustains us in the storm. Why did Jesus allow Peter to sink? Jesus could have allowed Peter to reach Him walking backwards and blindfolded— there was no magic in the mere direction Peter’s eyes were pointing. But Peter had to learn where the gaze of his soul needed to rest; that his trust needed to rest continually and only in Christ, regardless of the situation.
Lesson 7: Jesus will never let go of our hand. Jesus could have let Peter drown, or at least go under a few times. But the grip on Peter’s hand was the reassurance that his doubt did not undo Christ’s care. I am so thankful for that. If Christ’s care for me was in any way tied to my doubts I would be at the bottom of the sea. But God is eternally and unconditionally committed to His children, His elect, and nothing will stop His purposes from being fulfilled.