Late at night, the boat was far out at sea; Jesus was still by himself on land. He could see his men struggling with the oars, the wind having come up against them. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea. He intended to go right by them. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and screamed, scared to death.
Jesus was quick to comfort them: “Courage! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” As soon as he climbed into the boat, the wind died down. They were stunned, shaking their heads, wondering what was going on. They didn’t understand what he had done at the supper. None of this had yet penetrated their hearts.
They beached the boat at Gennesaret and tied up at the landing. As soon as they got out of the boat, word got around fast. People ran this way and that, bringing their sick on stretchers to where they heard he was. Wherever he went, village or town or country crossroads, they brought their sick to the marketplace and begged him to let them touch the edge of his coat—that’s all. And whoever touched him became well.
“None of this had yet penetrated their hearts.”
Do you ever feel like you’re slow to learn spiritual things? I know that I am. One of my good friends talks about God often using a special, “Waller 2x4,” to get his attention. I am certain many of us feel the same way, I know I do.
As I grow older and my faith continues to mature, I am learning that Christ is beyond patient, beyond gracious, and beyond loving. I don’t have to rush through and instantly get something. No, Christ is at work through the Spirit in me and I will grow and change. The time it takes is out of my control.
We often look at the disciples and think that if we had been there, walking in their shoes, we would be so different than them. But the truth is our hearts are just as hard as theirs were. There is nothing new under the sun. It takes time to penetrate our hearts.
As I work with people to help them grow in their faith there are three things that I have to remember. I have to remember that for us to grow we need grace, truth, and time.
Creating an environment of grace allows people to fail and know that they are still loved and accepted. Grace is the soil that can receive truth. When we don’t have a gracious environment within which to grow we will become defensive, hurt, and bitter. Legalism always leads to spiritual death. Grace leads to life. The hard thing about creating a grace centered environment is that it demands risk on the part of the one who is creating it. Grace demands us to open ourselves to the other and it requires us to let them fail. That’s really hard to do. The thing is we know that this is the best way to grow because when we find ourselves there we grow. We need grace and so do others.
For our hearts to be penetrated we also need truth. Grace without truth is merely license. There is nothing gracious about a truthless relationship or environment. This means that we must lovingly give and receive what is true even though we may not want to hear or say it. If we are, at the same time, developing a grace centered environment then the truth can be heard and received. It’s not grace then truth. It is grace and truth. Both developed simultaneously.
As we look at the ministry of Jesus we see him doing this with the disciples. There is a constant development of grace and truth. The further they grow in their faith the more truth there is and the more grace there is. Have you ever noticed that the greatest failures of the disciples occur at the end of Jesus’ life? Why? Because they are stepping out further and further into a grace and truth. They can step out because the reality of who Christ is and how he has reconciled all things finally penetrates their hearts.
This brings us to the last bit, time. We do not mature physically over night. Nor do we mature emotionally over night. In the same way spiritual maturity doesn’t happen over night either. We must allow for time. A gracious and truth oriented environment that doesn’t allow for time is neither gracious nor true. Time is the box that those other values come packaged in. To allow for time in our lives and the lives of others we must grow in patience. This patience we see loud and clear in the life of Jesus. He is genuinely patient with his disciples as he gives grace and truth.
For our hearts to be penetrated we need grace, truth, and time. Stick with it. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” It is hard to follow Christ. But, there is grace, truth, and time.
Persevere! It is worth it.