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 Peter's Panic Attack

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Statesman63
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PostSubject: Peter's Panic Attack   Sun Jan 06, 2013 9:36 am

Peter’s Panic Attack

The bible records someone having a panic attack. Yes, Peter. When Peter stood on the water after Jesus empowered him to stand, he looked at the storm, had a panic attack and began to sink. There are a lot of good points we can draw out from these passages. Let’s dissect them together. The story is recorded for us in 3 different places: Matthew 14:22-36, Mark 6:45-56, and John 6:16-24. All 3 immediately follow Jesus feeding 5,000 men. Matthew and Mark record the disciples landing the boat on the other side at Gennesaret. Only Matthew mentions Peter. The only quirk gelling the three passages is Mark 6:45 says that Jesus told them to go to Bethsaida, and John 6:17 says that their destination was Capernaum (though it does not say Jesus told them to go there). Like most apparent contradictions of the bible, this one can easily be resolved by saying that they were going to both places. Both were on the same coastline. Regardless of their destination, they landed in Gennesaret according to the Matthew and Mark, but John says that sometime later, the crowds also crossed over and found Jesus in Capernaum (John 6:24-25). That’s the setting. But this setting includes a terrible storm.

Since Matthew is the only mention of Peter, that will be our focus, but we will be referring to the others. Matthew 14:22 might be the most important verse of the passage. It says that Jesus told them to go to the other side of the lake. Because Jesus said it, they should have been assured that they would get to the other side alive no matter what happens. Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side,” so they should know that they will not end up a corpse when they get there. Let us not forget that in God’s commands are His empowering and enabling. God never just tells you do something; He always empowers you to do it. Note what Jesus did not say: He did not say that there will be a storm on the way there. Just because God commands us to do something, doesn’t mean that it will be all roses along the way. When God tells us to do something, but allows a storm to crop up along the way, there is always a lesson involved that He wants us to learn from the storm. The lesson Jesus wanted His disciples to learn was “If I command you to go to the other side, you can trust me no matter what storms come up along the way. You just witnessed me feed 5,000 men, not the counting women and children who were there (about 15,000-25,000 in all), with just 5 crackers and sardines. You should have learned from that that I am your Provider and Helper, and not be afraid when future storms arise.” Mark 6:51-52 says they didn’t understand because their hearts were hardened. By the way, you cannot understand Scripture with a hardened heart. God blinds people of His truth whose hearts are hardened.

Matthew 14:23-24 says that Jesus went up to a mountainside to pray. Jesus prayed the same time the disciples entered their storm. Isn’t it great to know that Jesus is praying for you to the Father behind the scenes? We know that He is praying for us because Hebrews 7:25-26 says that Jesus forever lives to intercede for us and such a high priest meets our need. In the minds of the disciples, they don’t know Jesus knows they are getting to the other side safely; and, they don’t know that Jesus is praying for them while they are undergoing their storm. I hope that we keep that in mind and not let our storms take our focus off the fact that Jesus forever lives to intercede for us.

Verse 25 reads, “During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” The 4th watch of the night is somewhere between 3-6 a.m. It was the a.m. hours and Mark lets us know it was dark. They were in a storm, and Jesus is walking on the water towards them. So naturally they would think they are seeing a ghost, which is what they cried out in verse 26, “When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.” We will be talking about Peter’s panic attack, but we see here that all the disciples in the boat had a panic attack. They were scared of Jesus himself. They were scared because they didn’t recognize him, and because Jesus showed up with a miracle they were not expecting at a time they were not expecting. They were too focused on their storm that they forgot that the storm Maker could show up at any time. Jesus can show up with a miracle at any time during our storm. We must recognize His presence in the storm. Don’t let the waves and darkness of our storm blind us to seeing Jesus. I like that Jesus shows up in the storm with us. The preincarnate Jesus showed up with the 3 Hebrew boys in the book of Daniel. He was in the furnace with them. He didn’t spare them from the furnace, instead He showed up in the furnace, in their storm with them. He is with us in our storm.

We find an interesting note in Mark 6:48. It reads, “He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them…” Say what? Jesus, you saw them straining at the oar in the storm you told them to go into, and you were just going to keep walking to the other side of the lake? Don’t you care? Doesn’t it feel like God often passes us by and just lets us struggle at the oars of our storms? Jesus was about to pass by them without helping or talking to them because He already gave the command for them to cross to the other side. The word that He spoke in the past protects them in their current storm. Jesus was going to pass by because He knew they were really safe even though it looked to them like they were in danger for their lives. Jesus would have passed by if the disciples didn’t cry out to Him. God will stop and give us the comfort we need in our storm when we cry out to Him in prayer. It says Jesus immediately spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”

Let’s work with that: Jesus said, “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” Those words should be enough to give the disciples peace even though they don’t know or understand what is going on, and they are still in the storm. They should have taken courage that Jesus said, “Let us go to the other side,” but they didn’t pay attention to that. They should have thrown a party in the storm, knowing that Jesus gave the word that they would be going to the other side. Jesus’ word empowered and protected them the first time (they didn’t realize it) and now Jesus gives added power and comfort by saying “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus is not just speaking these words to His disciples. He is also talking to us who are in our personal storms. Take courage. Jesus is here with us in our storm. Do not be afraid. Can we take comfort in the empowering words from the mouth of God? Or are we too focused on the storm that we don’t pay attention to the power He has spoken to us?

You have to like Peter. His interjecting, whimsical personality distinguishes him from the rest. He says in verse 28 of Matthew 14, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” First of all, Peter called Him Lord. That’s important. For Jesus to help you, He must be Lord of your life. He must sit at the top without any competition. For Him to be Lord, He must be Lord full-time and not part-time. Peter says, “If it is you….” In other words, he is saying, “Jesus, I know what you can do. I’ve seen what you did for me yesterday. So I know that you can enable me to stand on this storm today.” Peter was speaking from a history of a relationship with Jesus. If you are not in a storm today, it is best to establish a relationship with Jesus now so that when the storm does show up, and it will, you will be equipped for it. He says “tell me to come to you on the water.” Peter doesn’t have to do this. He could just stand on the sidelines in the boat and continue to watch Jesus walk on the water all by Himself. Faith in action produces greater faith. Peter knows that Jesus is bigger than his storm. Peter knows that because Jesus is there, he is able to take advantage of His presence and make a mockery of the storm. Had Peter never gotten out of the boat his faith would have never grown from this experience. Storms are given to make us stronger in the end, but we must be willing to get out the boat in order for the growth to take place. And Peter understood that Jesus just needed to speak the Word for it to be so. He says “tell me to come to you on the water…and then I will know that I am able to do it.” Let us trust that God’s Word will empower us to walk on our storm because the Kingdom is not about merely words, but of power (1 Cor. 4:20). Get out of your boat! Step out of your safe-zone, and trust that God will empower you to take a stand on your storm!

Jesus only had to say one word. In verse 29 He says, “Come.” It is not difficult at all for God to solve all of our problems. All He has to do is speak the Word. Problems that baffled us for decades can be resolved when God simply speaks a word or two. There is a lot in that word come. That word change the natural makeup of the water into a form that allowed Peter to walk on it. Or it changed Peter’s feet into a state that allowed him to walk on water. In that word is empowerment. All of God’s Word is empowerment. God’s word can instantly change our scenario, even overruling what is natural.

Verse 29 continues, “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came to Jesus.” God wants you to come. He does not want you to test the water with your toes to see if it will hold you up. He doesn’t want you to figure out how the water will hold you up. God’s miracles are not supposed to be figured out. Do not say I’ll figure it out first and then I’ll come. He wants you to fully trust Him to be your sufficient supply of all that you need. Jesus said “Come,” but Jesus was standing in the storm. To come to Jesus includes coming into the storm. It doesn’t look safe. It doesn’t appear to be safe. It seemed he was safer staying in the boat. Peter’s focus was on Jesus and not on his storm. For a moment, Peter forgot his storm. Notice it says that he came to Jesus. When you are in a storm, go to Jesus. During and after Jesus empowers you in your storm, still keep going to Jesus. Faith has to do with our focus on Jesus. As long as Peter’s focus was on Jesus, he was able to stand on the water. He could have danced on the water because God’s grace completely empowers us over our storms. God’s grace is completely sufficient! We are not told the distance Peter traveled on the water, but for a while he stood victorious over his storm.

What Peter did was he agreed with what Jesus said. If we are to overcome anxiety, we must agree with what God’s word says. He agreed with the feet not just with the mind or mouth. He didn’t stay in the boat and say, “Okay, I believe you Jesus. I have faith in you, but I’m just going to stay in the boat while believing that you are able.” Peace comes when what God says becomes agreeable to our souls and we take action. Without the action, we would never experience the peace or the fulfillment of the command. When our souls and actions match His Spirit then we have peace. It is called faith.

Unfortunately, Peter took his eyes off the storm, and this is where we see his panic attack. Verse 30 reads, “But when he saw the wind (that means he wasn’t looking at Jesus), he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Peter has a panic attack just after his spiritual victory of walking on the water. Don’t live life based on laurels. God is a right-now, “I am” forever-present God. Yesterday’s success does nothing for today. We need today’s faith for today’s storms. Panic attacks sink us, as that is what waters are designed to do. But they are caused by taking our eyes off of the victory that God already spoke to us from His word, and focusing our attention on the apparent storms in our minds. God has already blessed you with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). We already have the victory because Jesus gave us His victory at the cross. God gives us His grace by faith. That is how He operates in our lives. Faith is keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus regardless of the distractions that surround you. Jesus’ word in verse 29 was still sufficient for Peter here with the winds picking up. Even if Peter saw a tidal wave coming his way, because Jesus spoke his safety into being he should just ignore the tidal wave. Ignore the tsunami because God is bigger than even that. He is bigger than all the waves that batter your life because He is in ultimate control. Peter’s lack of faith enabled the waters (or his feet) to start changing back into its natural state and began to sink him. This is because God only operates through faith in our lives. Faith in Jesus is our only access to His grace. Faith is trusting that Jesus supersedes your situation.

Satan is not mentioned, but he always wants us to focus on our storms and to take our minds off of Jesus. Satan is definitely an active character in the plot of our storms. He wants Jesus to be an afterthought, and the storm to take front place in our minds. And we cannot focus on Jesus and the storm. To do both is to say Jesus is not fully sufficient for the current situation. To do both is to cancel Jesus’ grace on your behalf. Just like to believe a partial lie is to cancel truth. We must focus on Jesus in our storm and ignore the activity of the storm. That is not to say deny that the storm exists. To do that would be lying. Watch this simple mathematics: you plus Jesus is greater than any storm. Well, let’s redo our equation: Jesus alone is greater than any storm. Can you keep yourself standing on waters of your storm? Then stop trying to fight your storm without Him. Peter had nothing to do with Peter standing on the water. It was only Jesus who kept him there. But Peter had to keep looking to Jesus to access the power that came from Jesus alone. Apart from Him you can do nothing, but with Him, you can do all things through Him who strengthens you.

Verse 31: “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” The thing to note here is that Jesus is still standing on the water. Jesus didn’t get into the boat and then catch Peter from sinking from there and haul him into the boat. Jesus reached out His hand and pulled Peter back up onto the water to continue standing on it. Then they got into the boat. The storm did not die down yet. It is still roaring tumultuously. It didn’t die down until after they got into the boat. Jesus didn’t take Peter out of the storm. He made Peter stand back on top of the storm. We often pray, “Lord, take me out of this storm.” But before God does that, He wants to know if you can trust Him enough to be victorious in the storm. Even when we lack faith and begin to sink, Jesus will lift out His hand to us and lift us back up and put us right back on the same storm that made us sink when we took our eyes off of Him. When Jesus reaches out His hand He causes us to put our focus back on Him. So when Peter lacked the faith to continue standing on the water, Jesus supplies the grace to lift him back up again because even when we are faithless, God is still faithful. God will not let you sink under your storm.

The verse continues, “’You of little faith.’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” In Peter’s defense, he could argue that he went further than all the other disciples who stayed in the boat. Jesus doesn’t want us to just go beyond our peers. He wants us to come all the way to Him. Jesus equates “little faith” with “doubting.” Anxiety comes when we doubt Jesus. We doubt Jesus because our eyes are telling us something contrary to what Jesus said. We trust our eyes more than Jesus. In John 20:27, Jesus says, “Stop doubting and believe.” Doubting keeps us from our peace. Please note that Peter was given the victory. He just doubted it. We have already been given victory over our storms. The only thing that keeps us from experiencing our victory is doubting and taking our eyes off Jesus and fixating on our storms. You have already been covered with victory by grace. Look at what 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” His grace covers all times for all you need for every good work you do to make you abound.

Verse 32 reads, “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” Not only did the wind die down, but they went from the middle of the lake (where Mark said they were) to immediately reaching the land, miraculously. John 6:21 says “immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” The storm went away when its purpose was served. Every storm we endure has a purpose. Maybe some of us have our storms continuing because we haven’t yet learned the lesson that God gave us the storm to teach us. Soon as Peter’s lesson from the storm was done, the storm was over. And the other reason for the storm is found in Matthew 14:33, which reads, “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” God gives us storms for His greater glory; so that He will be worshiped when we see His power firsthand. Praise God in the storm and after the storm. Praise God in the storm because God gave the storm for a reason: to build us up, not to tear us down. He also gives us storms to break down our hardened hearts (cf. Mark 6:51-52). It’s called trials. Trials are not meant to tear us down, but rather to break us. We break a stallion to ride it and make it obey us. We do not break a stallion to tear it down. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” We would have less anxiety if we are praising God and considering it pure joy during the storm rather than focusing on the storm. Paul and Silas celebrated in prison with praying and singing hymns while awaiting a death sentence. Daniel focused on prayer and ignored his trial of an edict of a death sentence by a lion’s den. We are able to have joy because we serve the Maker of the storm and He is in control regardless of what our eyes and experiences tell us.
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