Faith

Without Me, You Can Do Nothing

A man went on a vacation to tour the Grand Canyon. While at the Grand Canyon, he found that there were many scenic overlooks that offered stunning views of the Canyon. He also discovered that there were many well marked trails that offered visitors the opportunity to get even a closer look at this magnificent scenery.

He decided to take a walk along one of these trails. The trail that he selected descended gently along the rim of the canyon. Unfortunately, as he walked, he paid too much attention to the scenery and too little attention to where he was going. His foot slipped over the edge, and he began to fall down a sheer vertical cliff. Luckily he managed to grab onto a root that was sticking out from the cliff wall. Hanging there, he looked down to the rocky floor thousands of feet below.

“Help” he hollered! “Help” – “Is anyone up there?” In response, the poor man heard only silence!

In fear and desperation, he cried aloud, “Oh God, please help me! Save me!”

Then, from out of the sky, he heard a voice that said, “I am the Lord God. I can save you if you but believe in Me and if you trust Me!”

“Oh yes Lord”, the man said, “I do believe! I do believe!

The Lord said, “I can save you, if you sincerely believe and trust in Me! Now – let go!”

“You want me to what?”

“If you truly trust Me, then just let go of that root you’re holding on to. Only then can I save you.”

The man paused for a moment, then looking up he shouted out, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Scripture tells us that our God is constantly in control, and that we can confidently put our trust in Him. But that is very hard to do when your world is falling apart.

There are those who say that if you have faith, life will be smooth sailing. There are people who say that if you have faith, God will cure all your ills and guard you from every danger. And I have heard people say that if you have faith and stay close to God, He will solve all your problems. But in the Gospel of Matthew (14:22-33), we find that this may not necessarily always be true.

This Gospel passage says that after Jesus dismissed the crowds, He then made His disciples get into a boat and precede Him to the other side of the lake.

The Gospel also says that when the disciples had gotten a few miles off shore, a strong wind came up and the seas got very rough; and it says that those strong winds and rough seas continued till the 4th watch of the night.

As I read that, I couldn’t help but wonder, what time of the day or night is the 4th watch. I learned that during the time of Jesus, the night was divided up into four watches. 6:00 to 9:00 pm, 9:00 pm to 12:00 midnight, 12:00 midnight till 3:00 am, and 3:00 am till 6:00 am. The fourth watch then was from 3:00 till 6:00 in the morning. The disciples were, therefore, being tossed about in those rough seas all night long.

Think about that for a minute. Why were the disciples out in the middle of those rough seas in the first place? They were there because Jesus made them get into the boat. He sent them there. Why? We’re simply told that He wanted them to go to the other side ahead of Him. They were doing exactly what Jesus told them to do. And by being obedient to Him, they found themselves being tossed about by rough seas.

So does faith and obedience always mean smooth sailing in life? Apparently not!

By that example, we can assume that sometimes, by following Jesus we may occasionally be led into a storm. If that is true, then the implications of this Gospel passage from Matthew isn’t very encouraging.

But the important message that is contained for us in the Gospel text is not the storm tossed seas, but rather is revealed to us by observing the events surrounding the actions of Peter.

Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water. He invited Peter to get out of the boat and join Him. Peter then got out of the boat and he, too, walked on the water. Everything was fine till Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and began to look around. He then became aware of his situation, he got scared, and he began to sink.

This scene reminds me of the cartoon character that was popular several years ago, Wile E. Coyote who was always chasing after the road runner. While chasing the road runner, he would run off of a cliff, then he would stay suspended in mid air for a few seconds, realize what he just did, and then down he would go.

Similarly, when Peter realized what he had done, he began to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me.” And immediately, Jesus stretched out His hand and saved Peter.

Jesus then asked Peter, “Why did you doubt? Where is your faith? Didn’t you believe Me?”

After Jesus and Peter got into the boat, Jesus calmed the seas and then all present said that Jesus “truly is the Son of God”.

Life is full of experiences; some of them good and some bad. But all of the events of life, good or bad, remind us, over and over again, that God alone is God. We must keep our eyes and attention focused on Jesus. If we focus on the things around us that are of this earth, we will sink like a stone, just like Peter did. We must remember that we are totally dependent upon the Lord. He alone is the author of life. He alone is the source of our strength and our hope.

Peter did what the Lord invited him to do, and he accomplished the impossible. It was only when he took his eyes off of Jesus, and focused on the storm raging around him, that he began to sink.

I am reminded of an event in my life when I flew on an airplane for the first time many years ago. It was just two weeks before Christmas when I boarded that plane in Detroit. The weather was dark and gloomy. A mixture of rain and snow had been falling all day long. The plane took off and as we ascended up and through the clouds, I was surprised at how bright and peaceful it was up there. Then, when we reached our destination, the ground beneath us was covered in a blanket of white. It was late evening, and you could see the lights from all of the Christmas decorations woven throughout the blanket of white snow. The sight was absolutely beautiful and breathtaking.

Similarly, when the storm clouds of life are accumulating over our head and all we see is darkness and gloom, we need to look up. It is bright and peaceful above those clouds. And when the storm passes, and we reach our destination, brightness and beauty await us.

Remember, Jesus told us, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) but “With God, all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27) So as we live the experiences of life, ultimately we discover that there isn’t anyone else up there. The only logical choice we have is to let go; and to let God be God, and allow Him to work His will in our lives. And as we walk along our path in life, we must remember that we are never truly alone. God is always with us. And He is asking us to simply trust Him. This passage from the Gospel of Matthew teaches us that we are not to focus on those storm tossed seas, but rather we are to keep our eyes and attention focused on Jesus. Then we, too, can rise above any storm.


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About the author

Deacon Donald Cox

REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

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