12th sunday of pentecost
The Christian answers doubt with faith. Doubt is the unfortunate companion of faith. Wherever faith clings to the promises of God, doubt is always right there lingering in the back of our mind, constantly asking the serpent’s Garden question, “Did God really say?” How striking to think that we must have faith in God before we can doubt him! Today’s lessons show us believers who had faith in God and his abilities to save them, but yet doubted when his plans or purpose failed to match theirs. In each case, it is adversity that fights against faith and allows its unfortunate companion to rear its ugly head. And in each case, the true answer to doubt is not found in the great miracle that removes adversity, but in the still small voice of our Savior God whispering in his Word. Today we hear our Savior God ask us, “Why did you doubt?”, and we see that the Christian answers doubt with faith.
sermon lesson: 1 Kings 19:9-18 & Matthew 14:22-33
1 KINGS 19:9-18 Elijah’s great victory of faith was followed closely by great adversity. From the heights of Mt. Carmel, Elijah fell into the depths of frustration. Even after such a great display of God’s glory, this evil queen issued her death threats. Even after such a powerful display of God’s might, a general spiritual renewal did not occur. Elijah had faith in God’s power, but he doubted when God’s plans and purpose did not match his own. Hadn’t the people broken the covenant? Why didn’t God come and make things right with earthquake, wind, and the fire of judgment? Elijah went to the site where the covenant had been made, to the mountain of God where God had come once before in fire and wind and earthquake. There Elijah brought his case against the people of Israel. God answered his prophet not with great acts of power, but rather with quiet words of promise. God displayed all of his power, so that his display of grace might be all the more astounding. He would not come in judgment, but in grace for his elect. The still small voice of his message would accomplish all that he desired. It would tear down kingdoms and establish dynasties. It would bring judgment on his enemies and reserve a people for himself. Elijah heard the Word of God and had to wonder, “Why did I doubt?”
MATTHEW 14:22-33 Doubt and faith rose and fell like the waves of the sea that dark night. The evangelist paints a picture of frantic effort against a storm with little progress. Then Jesus came—and note the way he came! He did not simply appear among them, as he could have. He did not fly or float. He walked on the water. The very thing they had been fighting, the water that threatened to take their life, Jesus walked on it like it was dry ground. What a Savior we have that walks on the waters of all our greatest fears! See the faith in the disciples grow! See Peter show it in his own miraculous walk. But, all too often, doubt is the unfortunate companion of faith. Though Jesus was standing on the water, Peter feared it. What pulls our eyes of faith away from Jesus? What are the waves and wind in our lives that make us doubt him? To Peter, Jesus asked, “Why did you doubt?” He gave no answer. What could he say? With Jesus there is never any need to doubt. How sad that we so often do! Rather, let us focus on the Savior and watch our faith swell as the disciples’ did when their doubts vanished, and they gave the greatest evidence of faith: they worshipped that man from Nazareth for what he truly was, the Son of God.
Artwork: Ian M. Welch. © 2014. All rights reserved. (paramentics.com)