They were just like us
Have you ever read your Bible like a fiction novel? I don’t mean to imply that you should or that it is not completely true and non-fictional. It is conclusively the infallible word of God. I simply mean that sometimes, taking a step-back from the pre-determined and instructed form of studying it may grant us the perspective that is more potent and penetrating to our emotional souls than to our spiritual minds.
My favorite books of the Bible are more filled with characters and testimonies of the human struggle than with world history. For example, I prefer the gospels and Psalms over Numbers or Deuteronomy. I suspect that many may agree, but allow me to explain why.
Within the gospels is the story not only of our Savior, but of the men that followed. His disciples consisted of a collection of fishermen, tax-collectors, doctors, and writers. Normal. Average. Not particularly special for any other reason than the fact that they were called and responded.
That being said, I often find it encouraging to read the accounts of Jesus’ miracles (feeding the five thousand, healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, ascending into heaven, etc.) not merely because of the signs and wonders of our God, but because of the response of his followers.
Doubt is not something that is new to our generation or to our culture. It is not something that is unique to you or me. It is in fact something that Jesus’ disciples struggled with. It is something that they dealt with in the midst of his presence!
Example: Matthew chapter eight, beginning in verse 23, Jesus and His disciples are boarding a boat to sail to the other side of the sea. When a “great storm arose” (ESV) His disciples woke Him up saying “Save us Lord, we are perishing!” (ESV) Only slightly dramatic.
What I find unbelievable is their lack of belief. Only a few days earlier, they had witnessed Jesus heal dozens of lame, sick, and diseased. More specifically, Jesus had gone to Peter’s home and healed his ailing mother. So why the lack of perfect, unwavering, faith? They were human.
In His midst, at times His only witnesses, they still fought and failed to believe completely without any doubt who He was. They heard Him speak, they watched Him die, and they ate breakfast with on the shore after the resurrection, and still the struggled. What a beautiful picture of God’s grace and patience with those He loves. Never condemning nor condescending for the inability to be filled with full assurance of faith.
It was not just His disciples who fought their flesh; the list includes David, the man after God’s own heart and John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner. Let’s dive a little deeper.
The book of Psalms is one of my favorite books because of the display and of unashamed emotions, thoughts, and feelings felt by one man. Not only did he labor and toil in his faith walk with his God, but he was utterly honest and transparent about the state of his heart and soul. I think it is a beautiful mess; a lovely Pollock-type painting that reflects the magnificence and splendor of a God that can take anything we have and all that we are and shape it and make it into something that ultimately brings glory and honor to Him.
If He can take David, a lying, adulterous, murderer, and use Him to display His love, grace, and salvation to the nations, then I too am salvageable. And so are you.
John the Baptist, a giant in the faith was also human. In Matthew 11:11, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.” (NIV) No questions about it, he was a remarkable man. But he was hardly treated as one, and his faith faltered because of it.
In Luke 7, beginning in verse 19, John sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He is in fact who He says He is. Lying in wait in a prison cell, mere hours from his unexpected execution, he began to question. Theologians, who contribute to the online source BibleGateway.com, provided the following commentary about doubt:
Often doubt brings reflection and growth. Such is the case with John's inquiries about Jesus. Not only does the Baptist get an answer that calls for his reflection, but Jesus uses the inquiry to help others consider anew the roles John and he have in God's plan. The psychological adversity of doubt carries the seed of real growth, when the answer is sought from God's perspective.
Lastly, let’s look at Peter. Ah, Peter. Perhaps one of the more famous disciples for reasons that don’t include steadfast faith or rational judgment. It’s for the very reason that he is my favorite. Here’s a prime example why: Matthew 14:28-30.
Peter is with the rest of the disciples on the boat on the fourth watch of the night. Jesus, who had sent them ahead, decided to meet up with them… on the water. As He comes walking out onto the waves, the guys flip out and scream “It’s a ghost!” (ESV)
If I were Jesus (everyone breathe a sigh of relief that I am not) I’m pretty sure I would roll my eyes and think to myself, “I probably could have picked better followers.” But in His patience, He calls Peter to walk out onto the water and meet Him. At this point, Peter jumps into the water and begins walking toward Jesus.
You would think that this miraculous event would have confirmed to Peter that Jesus was in fact the Son of God, which should have done away with all doubt. But leave it to Peter to get spooked by… the wind. In verse 30 it says “When [Peter] saw the wind he was afraid and beginning to sink, he called cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”
Reading this story makes me want to laugh in Peter’s face and scoff at just how silly he was. But I can’t. None of us can. Because we have all done the same thing. We are all like Peter.
In case you haven’t made the connection yet, let me let you in on something that I have recently discovered. If you (myself included) feel as though you need only to witness a “miracle” or need to literally and audibly hear the voice of God speaking to you in order for all doubt to be gone… you’re mistaken.
Jesus’ disciples lived, breathed, and tasted three years of ministry along side Jesus and were still unable to stay convinced. Be encouraged in this as I am: The weaknesses in their faith did not hinder Gods love for them or His patience with them. Instead, He continued to lead them and use them for His glory. Bottom line: God’s notoriety is not as dependent upon us as we think. In fact, He doesn’t need at all. Instead, He grants us the honor and privilege of being used by Him to bring Him praise.
No matter how many times you begin to sink when you see then wind, He will continue to reach out His hand and pull you up. Over. And over. And Over…