We will be studying the beatitudes this school year and how Jesus calls his children to live and work in God’s kingdom. Today we are going to talk about the thing that allows you to be a part of God’s kingdom and that is faith. You can’t just show up at the door, ring the doorbell and say, I’m here, let me in. In order to be a part of God’s kingdom, which is something so much greater than you or I, there has to be a radical transformation and commitment of the heart, and that is called faith. But not only does faith get you through the door to God’s kingdom, you are also called to daily live by faith.
I want you to think about something. There is a difference between amazement and faith. You can be amazed at something but that doesn’t mean you put your faith into it. I remember seeing someone bungee jump for the first time. You know that great idea of strapping yourself to elastic bungees and jumping off high places, to bounce around dangling there, for fun. The first time I saw someone do that was at a fair. Extreme sports was just beginning and I had literally never seen anything like it. It was a huge crane where people would climb up this small ladder to the top platform. They would get strapped in and then step off plunging to the ground only to be jerked back up. Down and up. I was in utter amazement. I just stood there. Now there was no way that I was going to put my faith into that crane, into those bungees or into those workers hands.
In the gospel of Mark chapter 6 is a story of Jesus and His disciples. Jesus sends the crowd away, he makes his disciples get into a boat to sail across the lake and then Jesus goes up a mountain to pray. In the evening, a storm comes up. The disciples in the boat have been fighting this storm for about 8 hours. Can you imagine 8 hours of rowing in a wind-tossed sea? They are literally going nowhere. Jesus comes down from the mountain and walks on this stormy water. Let me stop right there. Jesus walks on water. There is now no doubt of who He is, this shows He is the Lord of all, Creator, and King because no one in the universe can do that except God. And how are we not blown away and stop and fall on our knees in worship? But we read that story and think, oh, that’s cool.
We have all been blessed to hear God’s Word read to us. In school. Most schools it is very different. In fact, October 4th is Bring your Bible to School day because most kids your age don’t bring their Bible to school because they are afraid to. They have been told not to. We should be in prayer for our fellow Christians who do not have the same access to God’s Word. You and I have been richly blessed to be in a school that has chapel. Bible class. Prayer. But my fear is that we begin to start looking at our Bible as if it’s just another textbook and just another literature story. Reading the Bible is a relationship with the God of the Bible. We are not meant to just read the Bible, but it is a way to meet the God of the Bible. A pastor Paul David Tripp says it this way,
“Your job is not to just master the Word but be mastered by the God of the Word.”
The passage in Mark reads,
“And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.”
If all Jesus wanted to do was to stop the storm, he could have just said “be still” while he was on the mountain. Instead, He takes a walk. In the storm. On the water. Why? He is not after the storm. It has nothing to do with blue skies and calm seas for sailing. He is after them. The disciples. Their hearts.
Here is what is interesting. Why are those disciples in a boat out in the middle of the stormy seas? Were they running away? Did they do something wrong? No, in verse 45 it says Jesus made His disciples get in the boat. Jesus put them in there. Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen. And put them in that boat, in that storm, because he was after something far greater than a little peace and quiet while he prayed. He was after their hearts.
Why are you all here at Annapolis this year? Are you here because your parents made you come here? Perhaps but at a much deeper level, you are here because Jesus put you here. I am here because Jesus called me here. The staff is here because Christ has called them here. He put us all in this boat together. Hope you brought a paddle. And perhaps a life jacket if you can’t swim yet.
More than just you and I being here. God is here. He is present in our songs. He is present in the Bible that we read. The verses we memorize. But here is the danger. You can be amazed by hearing what you hear in Bible class-the cool stories like Jesus walking on water, you can be amazed at singing songs of worship, amazed by learning new things, amazed by good friends, you can be amazed by all of these things here at Annapolis, but not be living by faith.
Faith is a commitment of your heart to a new truth that changes the way you live your life. Faith is more than your mind being blown. It is believing that the Jesus that I read about in my Bible, is king over all, including my life. And I will do what He tells me because I love Him so much. It will change my life. Every day, my life will be changed more and more to be more obedient to what the Bible says. It will be seen in how I obey my teachers. How diligently I do my school work. And how I honor others.
There is a profound difference between amazement and faith. The passage in Mark says the disciples did not understand about the loaves, because their heart was hardened. What? How was that possible? Jesus has just fed the 5,000 and then walked on water and calmed the sea. And their hearts were hardened? A hard heart means it won’t change. It is like a rock. I can’t mold it. It is resistant to change. A soft heart can be molded and changed. Here is the big question. Why did the disciples have a hard heart? They had a hard heart because they did not want change because they were satisfied with who they were.
Your biggest challenge this year, and mine, is not that we are dissatisfied with who we are but that we are all too satisfied. We don’t hunger for the change of the lessons that we are being taught again and again and again. We read God’s Word and think nothing of it. We hear our teachers tell us about God’s truth and we don’t think about what they are saying. We are corrected by our parents about the same things again and again. We disobey and face consequences but we do not want to change. If this is you, and if I am honest, this is me sometimes, the warning from this passage in Mark is beware of a hard heart. One that chooses not to change. One that is content with a little faith. The challenge is do not be satisfied. Allow God’s Word to soften your heart because in His word you find a loving Savior who wants nothing less than a heart that is full of faith and courageously advances the kingdom of God starting right here at Annapolis.
This school year there should be a hunger and thirst for righteousness. When we get to go to Bible class again, do we think, I can’t wait! What, are you giving me another verse to memorize, yes! When teachers point out the truths of God in science and books, do we think I cannot get enough of this? Are we in awe of the beauty of God in art and music? In awe of how fearfully and wonderfully our bodies are made when we are in PE? Is our faith in a God who is in control of all things strengthened when we see the order and harmony in math? Every day and in every subject, God’s Word and God’s truth is there so that your faith and my faith can grow.
We will not find that radical transformation of our heart that Jesus is calling us all to unless we deeply love the Bible, the wonderful words of life.