By Tim Sullivan


In 2 Peter 1:5-8, eight biblical precepts hold the key to a vital Christian walk. "If these things be in you, and abound," wrote Peter, "they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (v. 8). First on the list is our precious faith.

2 Peter 1:1:
Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

It is faith that defines Christians as believers. Faith is fundamental to the Christian experience. God has purified our hearts by faith (Acts 15:9). We are sanctified by faith (Acts 26:18), justified by faith (Rom. 3:28), and made righteous by faith (Rom. 3:22). We stand by faith (2 Cor. 1:24), walk by faith (2 Cor. 5:7), and live by faith (Heb. 10:38). We are all the children of God by faith (Gal. 3:26).

It is faith that makes each Christian experience unique. "God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" says Romans 12:3, but it is still required of each man to exercise that faith. God has constrained himself to intervene in the lives of his people only so much as their faith allows. In that way, God is limited by our faith.

Psalm 78:41–42:
Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.
42 They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.

No man will walk with God beyond the confines of his faith. These boundaries are self-imposed, conditioned by our assessment of God. Faith is personal. It is not governed by THE truth but rather by your truth. We exercise our faith in proportion to our acknowledgement and expectation of God.

Hebrews 11:6:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

In order to have faith, you must first believe that God is. Yes, the Bible says that "God is not a man, that he should lie" (Num. 23:19), but this truth does you no good unless you believe that God does not lie. Do you believe that God is indeed the great I AM, "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Eph. 3:20), and that "with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37)? Do you believe that God is truly "full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth" (Ps. 86:15)? When you believe in your heart that God is, then you are well on your way to having faith in him.

It is one thing to know that God is great; it is quite another to know he will exercise his greatness on your behalf. Equally important to your acknowledgment of God is your expectation of him, "that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Psalm 46:1 says that "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." But whether that truth is personally beneficial to you depends upon if you believe it in your day of trouble. Psalm 86 was written by a man who lived in acknowledgment and expectation of his heavenly Father. These verses demonstrate the kind of faith we all need.

Psalm 86:7–10:
In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.
8 Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.
9 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal in order to confront the unbelief among the people of God. "How long halt ye between two opinions?" he demanded (1 Kings 18:21). Many times we Christians seem divided by two opinions about our heavenly Father. It is as if we have two gods, one whom we worship on Sunday and the other whom we deal with the rest of the week. Our Sunday god is the God of the Scriptures, all-powerful and ever-present, full of love and mercy. Our Monday to Saturday god leaves us to resolve our own problems and manage our own affairs.

It is our opinion of God from Monday to Saturday that makes our Sunday worship either authentic or feigned. Songs of praise effervesce from deep within us when we witness in our spirit that God is and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Let the God we acknowledge be the same God we put our trust in.


Jesus devoted much time to teaching his disciples about faith. He led his disciples to enlarge the borders of their faith in God by placing them in situations that confounded their natural minds.

Luke 8:22–24a:
Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
23 But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.
24 And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish....

Four of the disciples were professional fisherman. Undoubtedly they had ridden out many storms at sea before, but this one was so terrible that they feared for their lives. Picture the lashing of the waves and the sheets of rain pelting their faces as the ship rose and fell like a piece of cork. Hear the howling of the wind and the crackling of the wood bending and breaking while the men frantically shouted instructions one to another. How long did they fight the storm before they decided to wake up Jesus?

v. 24b:
...Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.

In an instant, the wind and rain ceased. The dark clouds vanished and the boat rocked in gentle waves like a baby nestled in his mother’s arms. The disciples stared at each another in astonishment.

v. 25:
And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.

"Where is your faith?" Jesus asked his disciples. They had set sail in obedience to his command. The Lord was with them on the boat. Would God now abandon them to drown like rats aboard a sinking ship? Would he not be with them through any obstacles they might encounter along the way? Is this not what he has promised?

Deuteronomy 31:8:
And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

"Where is your faith?" this same Jesus asks his disciples today. At what point does your faith quit? At what point do the problems you see eclipse the God you cannot see? How big can your problems grow before they are bigger than your God?

2 Corinthians 4:18:
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The disciples were amazed when Jesus calmed the wind and sea with his word. But their instruction on faith was not complete. He again sent his disciples to sea but this time he remained ashore.

Mark 6:46–47:
And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.
47 And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land.

Another storm threatened their lives but this time Jesus was not on board to save them. Would this be their end? Imagine their amazement when Jesus walked out on water to help them!

vv. 48–51:
And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
49 But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
50 For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.
51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.

Jesus did not bother to disperse the storm; he walked right through it. He did not eliminate the obstacle; he triumphed over it, demonstrating that faith prevails in the face of tumultuous opposition.

Still the lesson was not over. Jesus pushed the boundaries of Peter’s faith even further by inviting him to walk out on the water to join him.

Matthew 14:28–30:
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

As far as I know, Peter is the only mortal man who ever walked on water. But did Jesus congratulate Peter for the few steps he took? No, he chastised him for losing his faith along the way!

vv. 31–32:
And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

"Little faith indeed!" one might be tempted to say! Who among us has ever taken one step on water? But the Master’s lesson to his disciple was plain. The waves did not sink Peter – it was his doubt! It is our doubt – not our circumstance – that sinks us. God never fails us, but our faith surely can. "I have prayed for thee," said Jesus to Peter, "that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:32).

When their ship was floundering in a raging sea, Jesus caused the storm to disperse immediately at his command. Later, his disciples watched in amazement as Jesus walked on water in the midst of strong winds. Finally, the Lord challenged Peter to leave the security of the ship and tear down the preconditioned boundaries of his faith by walking out to join him on the water. Jesus lifted his disciples to higher levels of faith as he set greater and greater challenges before them. So long as they did not quit, the disciples continued to grow.

In our dull-mindedness, we pray for a life so comfortable that we do not need faith. We think that the answer to our problems is for God to improve our circumstances. We don’t see that God is using our circumstances to improve us!

The muscles in our physical body develop as they encounter greater and greater resistance. Faith, too, needs resistance to grow. We will never see God’s power in us and that we are "more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Rom. 8:37) until we stand up to those things that need conquering!

For those who seek spiritual development, the trial of your faith is more precious than gold. Each challenge you complete, each "manifold temptation" you endure, lifts you to a higher level in your Christian walk.

1 Peter 1:6–7:
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

What is greater to you – your troubles or your God? Peter looked at the things that were seen, and "when he saw the wind boisterous," he lost his faith. For those who desire to stand and not fall, our faith must not be in the things we see but in the invisible God who is, and is a rewarder of all who diligently seek him. Where is your faith?



From the February 2010 issue of The Vine & Branches