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If climbing Mount Everest was easy, anyone would be able to do it. Only Joshua and Caleb were able to survive the ‘generation of disbelief’ to be present for the entry into the Promised Land. For the rest of that generation, it was enough and easier for them to settle for the desert because what lay ahead was too difficult.

Paul was not the first of the disciples to whom Jesus said, “Take courage!”[1] for He said to the twelve, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”[2] The twelve, as we now know, had not listened to Jesus and instead of going immediately to Bethsaida,[3] had set out for Capernaum after waiting until evening[4] and then found themselves in the middle of the lake at the fourth watch of the night going nowhere.[5]

Here is a thought for all of you, since Jesus said “Bethsaida,” and they then decided to go to Capernaum, how did they think Jesus was going to know where they had gone? For it is not written any of them informed Jesus where they were going. When they attempted to go to Capernaum, were they in fact running away from Him and trying to hide from Him? Now John recorded for us: After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him King by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.[6]

Presumably, the twelve also saw the sign. Did they then want to make Him King as well? Now look at their behaviour. If they did want to make Him King, why didn’t they wait for Him, or if they were going to disobey Him, why didn’t they accompany Him up the mountain to dismiss the crowd with Him? Why did they wait until evening and then go to Capernaum without informing Him? Mark’s gospel gives us the clue. Then He climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.[7]

What didn’t they understand about the loaves that Mark’s gospel should speak of their hearts in the same words as that used for Pharaoh of Egypt whose heart was also hardened? Note here now, it does not say that their hearts were hard, but were hardened as if someone hardened them. Is it possible that the Father had hardened their hearts so that they would not understand the loaves and go onto the lake to Capernaum in order to begin to prepare them for the command that was coming for them to listen to Jesus?

Certainly the lake experience of the twelve was a good lesson on the consequences of not listening to Jesus, and that even that bravado disguised as faith in Peter cannot distract away from the truth, that it takes courage; courage to obey, courage to repent, courage to believe what Jesus tells us to do; and is the only way to go, and failure to believe that leaves us in dire consequences.

In Leviticus 26:14,[8] the Father said that if the Jews did not obey His voice and listen carefully but disobey His commands, He would send them a sudden terror. When the twelve failed to listen to Jesus, they got into a situation of trouble with danger of being sunk from the wind.

When Jesus came along, it says: When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.[9] Peter then called out after the Lord said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid,” and wanted to walk out on the water. At the superficial level, it would appear Peter had the faith and the bravado to step out of the boat to walk to Jesus in order to show that he had faith and even courage that he was brave enough to dare leave the boat. Indeed that is what it seems to us and so it seemed to me when I was younger in the Lord. However, read on and listen carefully, Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”[10]

It isn’t that the water couldn’t support him that Peter sank but that he saw the wind. To the juveniles, I have taught that Peter took his eyes off Jesus, and that is true. Now, to you seniors, I say to you, worse than taking his eyes off Jesus, Peter saw the wind and the sight of the wind proved his courage, the wind that had been opposing them all this time. It wasn’t that the wind wasn’t there before Jesus arrived, no, the wind was there already. They were struggling at the oars and rowing against the wind, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.[11] They were fighting valiantly to get ahead like so many people of faith do. They had set their goal and their vision on Capernaum. They had come in agreement and they set to work in what seemed good to them, but they had not understood what the loaves should have taught them.

Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”[12] And so they brought something from a little boy: “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”[13] They never realised that they did not obey the Lord, for the Lord had said, “You give them something to eat.” He did not say, “Take up an offering and see what they bring.” They did not understand that the loaves showed up a hardness in their hearts, that they were prepared to use someone else’s bread instead of theirs and some of them would even present it as their own, for the way it is rendered in Matthew 14:17 – “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered – makes it sound as if the bread and fish came from them. Thank God, Andrew set the record straight.

Failing to see that hardness that was there allowed their hearts to be hardened, and blinded them to the real foe and the real friend. Through all their struggles, they thought the waves were their enemy as they felt the buffeting of the waves but did not see the wind. When Jesus came to their rescue, they thought He was a ghost and a frightening one at that, but Peter failed to see the real enemy, and when he did, he sank.

When you do not see the real enemy you can over-estimate your courage. Whenever the hardness of our hearts causes us to compromise on the words of Jesus, it allows our hearts to be hardened, and any heart that is hardened cannot hold much blood or expel much blood. Likewise, a person whose heart is spiritually hardened cannot hold much courage or give out much encouragement. They may talk the talk and even appear to walk the walk like Peter, but let them see the real enemy and they will sink. You and I all hold little areas of hardness in our hearts, from the least to the greatest, that we ignore. Such hardness is revealed when we are prepared to compromise on the details of God’s commands. Listen… the devil is not in the details, God is. The disciples compromised and treated the little boy’s loaves and bread as theirs. They missed the objective of Jesus’ words, “You give them something to eat.” The moment they went astray from that first command and compromised the truth, there was no way they would be in Bethsaida that night. The whole scenario that was then played out until they arrived at Gennesaret is a lesson for all of us.

Hardness of our hearts is revealed when we dismiss the little compromises we make to the Lord’s command, although the detail may be small, the consequences are high. God has shown that to us. Instead of Bethsaida, they ended up in Gennesaret. Any display of faith or bravado dressed up as courage is quickly dispelled whenever God lets us see our enemy.

Since it is impossible for us not to compromise on the details of the Lord’s command, then the willingness to see our compromises and repent for the compromise, then acknowledge we have compromised even as we are attempting to obey His word is what allows the grace of God to always be making these little minute adjustments, so that even though we have not obeyed to the letter, the Spirit still carries us through. If the Lord says to us, “You give them something to eat,” and we took up an offering instead of using our own bread, we need to be truthful and say, “We don’t have anything ourselves, but here are five loaves and two fish from a little boy,” or a harder truth to say, “We don’t want to give up our bread and fish, but here is a little boy’s bread and fish, will that do?” Learn to be constantly acknowledging your areas of compromise to the letter, for then the Spirit is still able to move with you for He is the Spirit of Truth.

If we make a compromise, we make a compromise, and we acknowledge it. If we are not certain, we are not certain. If I doubt, I doubt. If I fear, I fear. If I don’t want to use my money to finance my ministry, but prefer to use yours, I’d say so. If I am not satisfied by the size of the phylactery and fame that my money can buy me, I’d say so. If we’ve lost the power and have substituted entertainment programs and rituals to replace it, we should say so. Otherwise, when we disguise the compromise, and even pretend to see the problem, as Andrew did, “…but how far will they go among so many?” without acknowledging the truth, we have compromised. You might find that the Lord will let us run our race only to have us sink when we face our enemy. That is why Jesus said, “Be always on the watch and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man,”[14] and not sink and fall on your face as Joshua did. Jesus said, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole Earth.”[15] Since we intend to be alive on the face of the Earth until Jesus arrives, this warning applies to us and our hearts.

Joshua won a mighty victory at Jericho, we all know, and suffered a defeat at Ai. The story of Jericho and Ai represents the purpose of illustrating to you the problem of compromising the word of God, which is this teach. Achan was but one Israelite in the whole camp and what he took was inconsequential to the total loot.[16] It would have probably been inconsequential at Ai had Joshua sent up the whole army again and marched around it seven days as they did at Jericho instead of compromising on God’s only battle orders to him, and sent up only 3000 men instead.

Achan represents the hardness of heart that is present even in the most obedient of God’s servants, for no one is perfect as God is perfect. 500,000 soldiers obeyed and 1 didn’t. That is the truth about the best of us, no matter how obedient you are to the Lord, there is an area of hardness that you would hide and may not know about, just as Joshua did not know of Achan’s sin. Achan sinned, yes, but Joshua compromised on the Lord’s word. Because of that compromise, the sin of Achan was made manifest in the defeat at Ai with 36 men killed. Joshua could no longer stand himself, because it was too late… he had compromised the word of God, but Joshua did the one thing Peter did not do: Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell face down to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening.

Joshua repented, and when the Lord appeared, the Lord appeared as a friend. “Stand up! What are you doing on your face? Israel has sinned…” Had Joshua stuck to the battle plan given him at Jericho and replayed it at Ai, for he was given no other instructions, then perhaps, and this is my thought, as the walls of Ai came down and Israel rushed in as they did at Jericho, Achan would have been the only casualty and then they would discover the hidden loot. Or after Ai surrendered, and who wouldn’t if a city of 12,000 men and women saw 500,000 men ranged against them, they would surrender, and after the battle, God could then deal with Achan? What is the Lord showing you today?

Hardness of heart is always within us, no matter how close you are to the Lord there is always an enemy you cannot fully love or a fellow disciple you cannot bring yourself to love as Jesus has commanded. He knows it, and it is time you acknowledged it. Acknowledging that you fail the letter of the words of Jesus allows the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of Truth, to be the Spirit of Grace and change the hardness to softness, the area of weakness to His strength, the area of your disgrace to His glory, and that which could have brought dishonour is removed with honour.

The proof of good courage is not a boisterous heart and a confidence of one’s faith, calling or strength, but a willingness to obey the letter of His word, with a humble and contrite heart to acknowledge that you would and even have compromised on it already. Otherwise, He will let you carry on your plans and allow you to struggle against enemies you do not know, then terrify you with His coming and sink you by showing you the face of the enemy.

In the days that are here, many of us and those who claim to have Christ’s life in them, will be found wanting and cry out in fear and lose our footing because the Lord will show us our enemy, the wind that we have been facing. Repentance remains the key to the grace that we need to find the mercy we must have to survive.

It is no coincidence that loving your enemies can make you perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect,[17] but also merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful.[18] But with that perfection comes the need to obey not just the Spirit of the Word, but the letter of the word, and the greater need, the need to acknowledge that we can and have compromised on the letter of the word and not deny it, brush over it or try to distract the Lord by our antics.

You see, the wind that raised the waves that buffeted the twelve was the Holy Spirit when He saw Peter try to distract the Lord by saying, “Lord if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water,” without a word of repentance unlike Joshua. The Holy Spirit sank Peter by letting him see the Wind, but to Joshua who sank himself to the ground, He was able to say, “Stand up!”

Good courage is the ingredient that turns faith into mustard seed faith that can move a mountain, and the faith that works by love, agape love, has courage. For Jesus demonstrated the courage of God to love us even to the extent of sacrificing Jesus for us. That courage is proven when we are prepared to acknowledge that we can, we do, and we have always sought to compromise the letter of His word.

As elect of the Holy Spirit, you are servants of the Spirit, not of the Word; though He chose you out of those given to the Word. The Spirit of the elect will move with you when you have the courage to acknowledge your compromises on the letter of the W/word in repentance. Then the Spirit will lift you up and be your glory, the wind will blow behind you and not against you. Your power and ability to accomplish that which the Spirit of God has in mind for the arrival of Jesus does not rest in your perfect observation of the letter of the word, nor the pointing out of how the other’s have failed, but rather, on your constant truthful acknowledgement of your ability to fall short of the glory of God, which is His Word. Leave the former things to those who profess to have the life of Christ in them, but as the elect, move with the Spirit of Life, acknowledging your sins, where you have failed to love your enemies and one another as Christ loved you, then, He, the Spirit Himself, will be to you a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate[19] …a spirit (Spirit) of courage.

Through His elect, the Holy Spirit will testify concerning the courage of Jesus and God, His Father. Courage to love as They love and to be humbly righteous as They are humbly righteous. Amen.


 

[1] Acts 23:11

[2] Mark 6:51; Matthew 14:27

[3] Mark 6:45

[4] John 6:16

[5] Mark 6:48

[6] John 6:14-15

[7] Mark 6:51-52

[8] “But if you will not listen to Me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject My decrees and abhor My laws and fail to carry out all My commands and so violate My covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror”

[9] Matthew 14:26

[10] Matthew 14:29-30

[11] Matthew 14:24

[12] Matthew 14:16

[13] John 6:9

[14] Luke 21:36

[15] Luke 21:34-35

[16] Joshua 7

[17] Matthew 5:48

[18] Luke 6:36

[19] Isaiah 26:6

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