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"Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Red Sea Rule #3: Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.
Let’s think about what Robert Morgan calls Red Sea Rule #3. He puts it this way: Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord. If I had written this book, I would have reworded this rule just a little. That is not a criticism of the book. After all, it’s not the precise wording of these rules that counts. It’s the principle behind them. So here is how I would put it: Face your problem, but fix your eyes on the Lord.
That is a principle of faith that we find not just in the experience of the Israelites as they wait on the shores of the Red Sea, we also find it all throughout God’s Word. The best example I know of comes from the life of Abraham.
Face Your Problem
What's the first thing that Abraham does as he exercises his faith? First, he faces his problem. “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb” (Romans 4:19). What does Abraham do? He faces the problems head on. Abraham takes a good hard look at the problems that he faces.
In Genesis chapter 17, God promises Abraham that he is going to be the father of many nations. He will be the revered ancestor of not just one little Middle Eastern tribe. No, he's going to be the father of many nations. God even goes so far as to change his name. He had been called Abram which means "exalted father," but now God calls him Abraham, "father of many." It is a more prestigious title. "You're not just Abram. Now you are Abraham!" This is a great promise from God.
The second one concerns Abraham's bride. Sarah is a mere ninety years old, but she has never borne any children. Add those two factors together. It's hard to believe that this couple is now going to start a family.
There's one other problem. God has been taking His own sweet time in fulfilling His promise to Abraham. It is in Genesis 17 that God promises Abraham that he will become the father of many nations, but it's in Genesis 15 that God first tells him that he will have a child. Between Genesis 15 and Genesis 17 fourteen years elapse. If God makes this promise of a child, why doesn't He do something to fulfill it? What's taking God so long?
When Hope Seemed Hopeless
All those things must have been running through Abraham's mind. Verse 18 begins with the words "In hope he believed against hope." The New English Bible translates it "when hope seemed hopeless." That's the idea. Humanly speaking there's no chance that Abraham and Sarah are going to have a child! So what does Abraham do in that situation? First, he honestly faces the facts. He recognizes the difficulty. He faces the problem.
That's the first part of Red Sea Rule #3. Acknowledge your enemy, or, as I prefer to put it, face your problem. Take a good hard look at it. Faith does not mean shutting your eyes to reality. It doesn't mean pretending that the problems aren't there or that they are just going to magically disappear somehow. That's not the kind of faith that God's Word is talking about. Faith means that you and I face the problem.
I want to emphasize that. Have you ever sensed that some Christian friend of yours is using the idea of faith as an excuse for not dealing with a problem? Maybe that friend confides in you about some kind of health problem. You know that he or she should go and see a doctor to find out what the problem is, but your friend says to you that he or she is going to just trust God with it. “I’m leaving this up to God. After all, God is greater than any human doctor!”
Is That Faith?
All the right words are there. So what do you say in response? Most of us would stumble over our words at that point. We don't want to give the impression that trusting God is wrong, do we? The thought goes through our brains that maybe this friend is more godly than we are. We would just rush off to the clinic. But we don't want to reveal our lack of spirituality. So we just smile and kind of nod in half-hearted agreement and don't say anything. But in the back of our minds there lingers that suspicion that something isn't quite right here.
That’s why I wrote earlier that this mistake is so devious. It disguises itself as faith. But it’s not! Faith must not be confused with denial.
Abraham doesn't try to deny the problem. Abraham faces the problem. No wild flights of fantasy here. Abraham takes a good hard look at what he's up against.
That’s what we need to do also. When we are faced with a problem, we take a good hard look at it. We study it. We evaluate how serious it is. Maybe it is something that can be handled fairly quickly. On the other hand, maybe this is a chronic problem that we are facing—an illness. Maybe it is a marriage problem, or perhaps you’ve gotten into some kind of serious, financial trouble. To solve it God is going to want you to take a lot of different steps. It will require a lot of hard work. We’d rather avoid all those steps and work and just say, “Oh, I’ll just trust God with it.” But that’s not what faith is. Faith is not a pious excuse for irresponsibility. Please don’t confuse faith with denial.
That’s the first part of Red Sea Rule #3. Acknowledge your enemy, or face your problem.
Fix Your Eyes on the Lord
Denial is a serious and devious mistake. But there is that more obvious mistake, and we do need to think about it too. It’s not denial; it’s distraction. The second half of Red Sea Rule #3 addresses it. Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord. Face your problem. Take responsibility for what you can do. But remember to fix your eyes on the Lord. Don’t get so wrapped up in what your responsibility is that you forget about God. And we are so prone to doing that, aren’t we?
Psalm 141:8 is our memory verse this week.
“But my eyes are toward You, O God, my Lord; in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!” Psalm 141:8
There’s the idea, “my eyes are toward You” fixed on God. Don’t let God out of your sight!
Look again at Abraham’s example. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham faces the problem, but he focuses on the promise that God had made to him. Once Abraham has come to grips with the problem, he doesn't stop and allow himself to sink into depression (as Peter sank into the sea). Abraham concentrates on the promises of God and views his problems in light of those promises.
When I compare Abraham’s example to the way that I so often live, I see how far short of genuine faith I fall. "No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God” (Romans 4:20). He did not waver. That standard of faith seems so far beyond my ability. In fact, Abraham’s example seems impossible to emulate. Does it seem that way to you too? I want to say, “Why even try? This is beyond my ability! I will never be able to trust God the way Abraham did!”
Think again about what we read in verses 20-21. Those verses describe the overall direction of Abraham’s life, not his moment-by-moment existence. If you take the time to go back to Genesis and read about Abraham there, you find that Abraham does waver. He does get distracted. Sometimes he does take his eyes off of the Lord. For example, Abraham has a hard time believing that he and Sarah will ever have a child. He doubts whether God can really pull that one off. So he tries to help God. He has a baby with Hagar, Sarah’s servant (Genesis 16:1-4a). Then he asks God and even pleads with God to accept Hagar’s son as the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to him (Genesis 17:18).
Aren’t We So Often Just Like Abraham?
So often, we have a hard time really trusting God, so we try to help Him. We try to find some shortcut to what God wants for us. Abraham makes a big mistake with Hagar. He does get distracted. But then he learns from that mistake. When the New Testament looks at the overall direction of his life, it says that “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Romans 4:20).
You and I may make a lot of mistakes like Abraham did, but just like Abraham we can come back to God. We may have been distracted for a while. We may have tried to take some shortcuts in order to help God, but there comes a time when we recognize our mistake.
What should we do then? We should do the same thing that Abraham does. Go back and remember the promises of God again. Fix your eyes once again on God and His promises to you as a believer in Christ.
“The same God who led you in will lead you out.” Don’t forget that! If you have been distracted for a while, God will let you start over. Come back to God and His promises.
Making a Fresh Start
How can we avoid that tendency of ours to get distracted? How do we make a fresh start?
Here's a few things we can do:
"But my eyes are toward You, O God, my Lord; in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!" Psalm 141:8
This week's discussion questions:
Can I challenge you to memorize Psalm 141:8 with me this week?
"But my eyes are toward You, O God, my Lord;
in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!" Psalm 141:8
portions of this post are quoted from www.efcbemidji.org
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