Abundant Life is Found Out on the Water

Bread and water are the often joked about references to the food of the incarcerated.  But bread and water are two elements Jesus uses to show Peter the secret to a full and abundant life.

The story begins in Matthew 14.  The crowds have followed Jesus into a remote place.  The sun’s going down and everyone’s getting hungry.  The disciples want to send the crowds into town for dinner.  Jesus has another idea – “you give them something to eat.”  The reaction of the disciples is one that we would share if we were in their shoes, “We don’t have enough…”

  When faced with obvious need, “we don’t have enough…” is our usual response.  I’ve been guilty of that.  We don’t have enough time, money, people, money, time…you get the idea.  We’ve all been there and we’ve all uttered the same thing.  But I love what Jesus does in light of their scarcity.  Jesus says, “Bring them here to me.”  Bring me your resources.  Bring me what you do have.  Then Jesus does what only he can do.  He takes our limits and stretches them to meet the need.

This story is immediately followed by Peter walking on the water.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.

Peter and the other disciples are in a boat struggling against the storm and waves.  They’re trying to get the other side of the lake to meet Jesus, but they’re stuck.  So Jesus comes to them, walking on the water.  Peter sees Jesus and wants to be where he is – out on the water.  But Peter let his water walking certification lapse.  So he says, “Jesus, if that’s you tell me to come to you on the water.”  If I were Peter, I’d want Jesus to respond with something like, “No. Don’t worry about it. Stay in the boat and I’ll come to you.  No need to get your feet wet.”  But he doesn’t.  Jesus’ response to Peter’s longing is simply – “Come.”

Now Peter has never walked on water but here’s what he has done: he has stepped out of a boat before.  He was a fisherman, after all.  He knows how to lift a leg over the side, set it down, and walk.  So Peter does what he knows how to do.  He gives Jesus what he already knows how to do.  And Jesus does, in those moments, what only Jesus can do.

I’m convinced that this is a life truth.  We give Jesus what we know how to do and Jesus takes it and does what only he can do!

Following Jesus is about being stretched.  Left to ourselves, we usually see what we can’t accomplish.  And that always limits the abundant life Jesus promises.  Jesus stretches our faith when he says, “Give me what you do have” and I’ll take it and do an amazing thing.  Abundant life is found out on the water – when we give Jesus what we know how to do and let him do with it what only he can do.

Last night I attended an event hosted by The Asservo Project (theasservoproject.org).  The Asservo Project, based out of Pittsburgh, exists to combat global human trafficking.  They are a David facing a Goliath.  Human trafficking is currently one of the world’s most profitable criminal enterprises.  There are 40 million victims globally.  At $150 billion annually, this criminal enterprise makes more money than Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Netflix combined.  Since 2010, human trafficking has grown 850%.  Trafficking and sexual slavery is real.  Open your eyes and it becomes so obvious.

This reality is so staggering I couldn’t help but think, “Jesus, we don’t have enough…”  That’s all I could think about on the way home.  How do you even make a dent?  And I kept going back to this story.  Jesus says, give me what you have/what you know how to do and I’ll do what only I can do.

So that’s my current next step.  But what about you?  You may not be passionate about ending human trafficking (I hope you will be) but there is something that you are passionate about.  There is something that God is calling you to and you’re first response is “I don’t have enough…time, education, money, fill in the blank.”

But here’s the spiritual truth.  The only way disciples grow is when they are stretched.  When they say, “Jesus, I hear you, and I don’t know how I will accomplish this but I will give you what I know how to do and I’ll let you do what only you can do.”

Abundant life is found out on the water…so get out of the boat.

Serving

I still remember with fondness, my first missional experience.  I was in my first year of graduate school and was participating in World Gospel Mission’s campus group.  For weeks we planned and practiced our international mission to Irapauto, Mexico.  I had never been out of the U.S.  And while I was nervous, I was also excited about the possibilities of intersecting with the lives of the Mexican people.

We landed in Mexico City and made the long trip to Irapauto.  It didn’t take long before we began seeing the dilapidated houses and extreme poverty that lined the roads out of Mexico City.  Soon after, all we saw from the windows of the van were miles and miles of flat desert that reminded me of all the cowboy movies I grew up watching on tv.

When we reached Irapauto, it was hot.  But even more memorable than the heat was the greeting from the young Mexican church.  These Jesus people were meeting regularly in the missionary’s home to worship and celebrate the presence of God among them.  Our team worshiped with the Mexican church and our worship led us to serving.

By the end of our week in Mexico, we had shared the message of Jesus with adults and children.  We had experienced grace in the smiles of these people.  We had even quickly escaped from a bad side of town where the people were not very interested in hearing about Jesus.  My life was not going to be the same anymore.

Before this moment in my life I had never really served in a significant way.  Because my experience with Christianity and Jesus didn’t begin until I was sixteen years old, my mind wasn’t wired for serving.  I was wired for selfishness.  Sure I had done the occasional good thing for someone but mostly out of guilt or sympathy.  But in Mexico my heart and mind were changed.  I began to see what God’s people could do when they got out of God’s way.   I experienced the global church – the people of God who were committed to transforming the world for Jesus.  This time more than any other time forever shaped what I have come to believe about the potential of the church.  It caused to me rethink church as being a verb!

In one of Jesus’ defining moments he said, “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  In that moment, Jesus raised the bar.  If he served, his church will serve.  The culmination of his serving was Holy Week – from washing the feet of the disciples to his death, Jesus showed his people the extent of a servants heart.

If God’s people are to be like Jesus it will require a moment by moment adjustment of our priorities.  There is no time for selfishness.  Our days on earth are too short to only accumulate things.  Our life with Jesus is too important to be stuck on being comfortable in church?

Will we be slaves to church as a noun – a place we go to do ritual?  Will we miss the great things of God by writing checks instead of being the living, breathing Christ, getting our hands dirty in the lives of real people?

I think that Jesus’ way is even better.  It’s the way of laying down our wants, our priorities, our comfortableness, our patterns and saying “yes” to investing ourselves in another person’s life so that they can know Jesus, too.

In down to earth ways this means:

  • Staying connected with Jesus everyday by reading the Bible and praying
  • Asking Jesus to keep our eyes open to real, significant ways of serving practical needs
  • Letting Jesus put a burden on your heart for the people who live around you
  • Living out of your createdness and your spiritual gifts
  • Helping another Jesus Follower to start thinking about church as a missional community
  • Never be satisfied with the status quo of North American Christianity