“What Happens In A Life God Wants To Use And Improve?”

If You Want to Walk on Water..

By John Ortberg

 

READ Matthew 14:25-32.

“There is a consistent pattern in Scripture of what happens in a life that God wants to use and improve:

  • There is always a call….
  • There is always fear….
  • There is always reassurance….
  • There is always a decision….
  • There is always a changed life….

Those who say now are changed to.   They become a little harder, a little more resistant to his calling, a little more likely to say no to the next time.  Whatever the decision, it always changes a life–and it changes the world that that little life touches” (pp. 9, 10).

On Water-Walking

  • Water-walkers recognize God’s presence.  “In each case God had to get people’s attention….In each situation the person that God called felt afraid” (p. 15).
  • Water-walkers distinguish between faith and foolishness.  “This is not a story about risk-taking; it is primarily a story about obedience….This is not a story about extreme sports.  It’s about extreme discipleship” (p. 16).
  • Water-walkers get out of the boat.  “Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself.  Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy.  Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves.   Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship.  Want to know what your boat is?  Your fear will tell you.  Just ask yourself this:  What is it that most produces fear in me — especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?” (p. 17).
  • Water-walkers expect problems.  [We abandon ourselves to the power of Jesus.  Then it happens.  We experience the wind and we become afraid again] (p. 19).
  • Water-walkers accept fear as the price of growth.  “The choice to follow Jesus–the choice to grow–is the choice for the constant recurrence of fear.  You’ve got to get out of the boat a little every day….fear and growth go together like macaroni and cheese….Karl Barth said that comfort is one of the great siren calls of our age” (p. 21).  “Each time you get out of the boat, you become a little more likely to get out the next time.  It’s not that the fear goes away, but that you get used to living with fear.  You realize that it does not have the power to destroy you.  On the other hand, every time you resist that voice, every time you choose to stay in the boat rather than heed its call, the voice gets a little quieter in you.  Then at last you don’t hear its call at all” (p. 22).t
  • Water-walkers master failure management.  “Failure is not an event, but rather a judgement about an event.  Failure is not something that happens to us or a label we attach to things.  It is a way we think about outcomes” (p. 22).   “The worst failure is never to get out of the boat” (p. 23).
  • Water-walkers see failure as an opportunity to grow.   “Here’s the principle: Failure does not shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you” (p. 24).
  • Water-walkers learn to wait on the Lord.  “We have to wait on the Lord to receive power to walk on the water.  We have to wait for the Lord to make the storm disappear” (p. 25).
  • Water-walking brings a deeper connection with God.  “I believe that God’s general method for growing a deep, adventuresome faith in us is by asking us to get out of the boat.  More than hearing a great talk, or reading a great book, God uses real-world challenges to develop our ability to trust him” (p. 27).  “The call out of the boat involves crisis, opportunity, often failure, generally fear, sometimes suffering, always the calling to a task that is too big for us.  But there is no other way to grow faith and to partner with God” (p. 27).

On Gifts and Growth

There is not tragedy like the tragedy of the unopened gift” (p. 32).

“There are few things that attract us more than growth.  We were made to grow, and we love to be around growth” (p. 33).

“Consider the sense of fulfillment in the leaders of a company that is expanding, achieving its mission, giving vocational opportunities to men and women who yesterday didn’t have any.  They are watching the miracle of growth….On the other hand, there are few things sadder than stagnation” (p. 34).

“At the end of the day, God will not ask you why you didn’t lead someone else’s life or invest in someone else’s gifts. He will not ask, What did you do with what you didn’t have?  Though, he will ask, What did you do with what you had?

“Fear makes people disobedient to the call of the master” (p. 44).

“It is only in the process of accepting and solving problems that our ability to think creatively is enhanced, our persistence is strengthened, and our self-confidence is deepened.  If someone gives me the answers, I may get a good score on a test, but I will not have grown” (p. 47).

“Growth happens when you seek to exert control where you are able to rather than giving up in difficult circumstances.  It happens when you decide to be wholly faithful in a situation that you do not like and cannot understand.  It happens when you keep walking even though you see the wind.  Then you discover that you are not alone” (p. 104).

“Sin, to paraphrase what psychologist Carl Jung once said about neurosis, is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.  It is an attempt to obtain the pleasure that does not rightfully belong to me or evade the pain that does….Sooner or later, you have to turn and face the pain that makes temptation so attractive.  Sooner or later, you have to run to God” (p. 106).

“As Scott Peck puts it, ‘It is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that we grow mentally and spiritually….It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems'” (p. 111).

“The single command in Scripture that occurs more often than any other — God’s most frequently repeated instruction — is formulated in two words: Fear not…. I think God says ‘fear not’ so often because fear is the number one reason human beings are tempted to avoid doing what God asks them to do.  Fear is the number one reason human being are tempted to avoid getting out of the boat” (pp. 117, 118).

“All research suggests that self-esteem largely boils down to one issue: When you face a difficult situation, do you approach it, take action, and face it head on, or do you avoid it, wimp out, and run and hide?  If you take action, you get a surge of delight, even if things do not turn our perfectly.  I did a hard thing.  I took on a challenge.  You grow.  When you avoid facing up to a threatening situation, even if things end up turning out alright, inside you say, But the truth is, I wimped out.  I didn’t do the hard thing.  I took the easy way out.”  Avoidance kills an inner sense of confidence and esteem (pp. 124, 125).

“[The cave named Failure] is where you find yourself when you thought you were going to do great things, have a great family, or boldly go where no one had gone before, and it becomes clear that things will not work out as you dreamed.  Perhaps you are in the cave because of foolish choices.  Perhaps it is the result of circumstances you could not even control.  Most likely it is a combination of the two….There is only one other thing you need to know. The cave is where God does some of his best work in molding and shaping human lives.  Sometimes, when all the props and crutches in your life get stripped away and you find you have only one God, you discover that God is enough…that God wants his power to flow through your weaknesses” (pp. 138, 139).

On Working

“God is particularly active in working with people” (p. 57).

“You are a piece of work by God!… And because you were made in God’s image, you were also created to do work” (p. 58).

“You have a purpose–a design that is central to God’s dream for the human race….As a crucial part of your calling, you were given certain gifts, talents, longings, and desires” (p. 58).

“A calling is something you discover, not something you choose.  The word vocation comes from the Latin work for voice.  Discovering it involves very careful listening” (p. 60).

“As a rule, the people whom we read about in Scripture who were called by God felt quite inadequate….The first response to a God-sized calling is generally fear (p. 70).

“[People] will experience God’s power–but they will have to take the first step.  This not only involves acknowledgement of God’s power, but requires them to take a step of action based on the assumption that God is trustworthy as well” (p. 79).

Two Laws

  • Law of Cognition: “You are what you think” (p. 161ff).
  • Law of Exposure: “Your mind will think most about what it is most exposed to” (p. 162ff).