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Strong from Start to Finish

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
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December 27, 2022 9:00 am

Strong from Start to Finish

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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December 27, 2022 9:00 am

As Pastor J.D. kicks off a new series called, Staying Faith, we’re learning how to persevere to the end in the race of faith.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. My foot slipped. Your love was steadfast.

It never moved. My faith is not in my foot because my foot's always slipping. My faith is in your steadfast love because when I go under the water, you stay on top of it. Our God is a God who will always be there to catch us, always be there to pick us back up, always be there to lift us back on top of the waves. So when you waver, put your eyes back on Him. Welcome back to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian, J.D.

Greer. I'm your host, Molly Vitovich, and we are so thankful to be jumping into God's Word with you again today. You know, we've all had the experience of starting a new diet or a workout routine.

And in fact, many of us are waiting for that magical day called January 1st to do just that. We're super excited at the beginning and we're doing a ton of research and bringing it up in conversation, posting about it all over social media. But then as it becomes a bit more routine, it usually gets a lot harder to stay motivated and it gets more monotonous to keep it up. Well, today pastor J.D. warns us about a similar effect that can happen in our spiritual lives. We're learning how to build perseverance as we kick off a new teaching series today called Staying Faith.

Pastor J.D. titled this message Strong from Start to Finish. We all have the experience of starting things with enthusiasm and then petering out along the way.

Isn't that correct? Don't we all have that experience? When the life of faith, we have the experience, I'm sure you will agree, of starting some things but not finishing them also. So what I want to talk about is staying faith, the kind of faith that not only makes the commitment but the kind of faith that sees it through. You see, Jesus told a story, this is not there in the Gospel of Matthew that I'm going to show you, but he told a story about two brothers. Their dad asked them to go work in his field and one of the brothers said he would but then he didn't go and the other brother said he wouldn't but then he did go. Then Jesus said, which of these two is the father pleased with? The answer is the one who said he wouldn't go but did end up going and doing it. It is not the decision that pleases God, it is following through with the decision that pleases God.

In fact, maybe you should write that down. It's not just making the decision that counts with God, it's seeing it through. Matthew 14, we're going to begin around verse 22. In Matthew 14, we've got a rather infamous story of a man who faltered in his faith and that man's name was Peter. Everybody seems to love Peter because I think if you get to know Peter you end up seeing a lot of yourself in him. Peter is a man that is big on promises but often short on execution. Peter is a man whose aspirations are often loftier than his accomplishments. Peter, by the way, was not his real name. That was a nickname that Jesus gave him. Simon was his real name. Peter meant rock but it's a little ironic because it didn't apply to his brain or his head.

It wasn't like, you know, rock head. It applied to just Peter's courage. It's a little ironic because it seems like half the time Peter acts like anything but a rock. Sometimes he's Peter, sometimes he's Simon. You ought to think of him as two different people trapped in the same body. For example, right before the crucifixion, Peter, of all the disciples, Peter looks at Jesus and says, even if all these other guys leave you, I will never leave you.

I'll die with you. That's Peter, the rock. Yet that same night he's the only one to deny Jesus verbally three times in the space of a couple hours. That's Simon. Peter is the one who stands up in Acts chapter 2 and is the first one to declare that God has included the Gentiles in the hope of the gospel.

That's Peter, the rock. Yet just a few years later he's refusing to even eat with Gentiles because he's afraid that the Jews are going to, you know, say that he's eaten with unclean people. Right? And Paul has to call him out publicly in the book of Galatians and embarrass him by saying, you're not being consistent. That's Simon.

Right? In this story you're going to see a time in which Peter says, Jesus, if that's you on the waves, I'll walk to you. He's the only disciple to do that. All the other little cowards stayed in the boat. He's the only one to get out of the boat. Yet after a few steps he's going to begin, he's going to lose his faith, and he's going to start to sink. And you have the reappearance of Simon. You see, Peter's got a faith side to him and Peter's got a fear side to him.

All right? So that's Peter. Verse 22, Jesus had just fed the 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, an astounding miracle. And immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

And when evening came, he was there all alone. But the boat by this time was a long way from the land beaten by the waves because the wind was against them. Stop real quick. You realize he sent the disciples into a storm he knew was coming. Have you ever heard the line, the safest place to be is in the will of God? Ever heard that line? Is that entirely true here?

Oh, I mean, in one sense it is. But sometimes people confuse that line to mean that wherever God sends you will be safe, it will be easy, and it'll be like a walk through a rose garden, it'll be a stroll through the fields of prosperity. Here they obeyed the direct command that Jesus gave them and ended up in a storm as a result. And I feel like you need to understand that so that when storms hit you, you won't assume that you're out of the will of God. Because certain storms are part of the will of God for you. Because you see, God is not just doing something for you, God is doing something in you. And part of that process is to send you through these kinds of storms. Paul, for example, in Acts chapter 20 said, the Holy Spirit has told me that I'm supposed to go to Jerusalem. And the only thing he's told me about it is that there are prisons and hardships and torture that awaits me there. Paul saw those things as part of the will of God for him. So when you make a decision of faith and it gets difficult, you shouldn't be surprised.

Why? Because you've had an enemy that is now arrayed against you. He wasn't really that concerned with you when you were sitting around doing nothing. But when you stood up and you began to walk and you began to run, that's when he put that target on you. So of course it gets difficult, right? The other reason that it gets difficult is because God is trying to test your resolve and he's trying to deepen your faith. The biggest thing that God is doing in your life is teaching you to trust him. That's an important thing for you to learn. You want to know what God's doing for you.

He's teaching you to trust him. So faith usually leads you through difficulty, not around it. So Isaiah would say, when I pass through the waters, you will be with me. When I go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm me. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned and the flame will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel. I am your Savior. Now see, what I want to say with that is, Savior, mighty Savior, why don't you tell me how to get around that water?

Why don't you tell me where the bridge is to go over top of that river? Why don't you just keep me away from the flames altogether? But he says, no, because I want you to understand that I'm deeper than the waters. I want you to understand I'm stronger than the rivers. I want you to understand that my presence is more mighty than the fire.

And I want you to be able to trust me in any situation. And the way that you're going to learn that is by going through the fires, through the waters, and through the rivers. Faith leads you through difficulty, not around it, because what God is doing in you is even more important than what he's doing for you. Verse 25. And in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them. It's about 4 a.m., by the way, which means they've been battling this storm for six hours by themselves, right? So what that means is that they've been battling it for six hours, and Jesus let them battle it for six hours, seemingly all alone.

That's important. Then he comes to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples see him walking on the sea, they're terrified, and they said, it's a ghost. They cried out in fear.

But immediately, Jesus spoke to them, saying, take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.

Let's talk about this for just a minute. He doesn't come immediately. And when he does come, he comes walking close enough. It's a big old sea, right? Sea of Galilee. Big old sea. He chooses a path that is going to be close enough that they can see him and hear him, which, in the midst of basically a hurricane type of storm, had to be really close. But as he'd just come up, hop in the boat, and he's like, hey, fellas, Daddy's here. Don't worry about it.

You know, I came to take care of you guys. It's not at all. He comes close enough. But if you read the parallel accounts of this, Mark 6 48 is one of the parallel accounts of this in another Gospel. It actually uses this phrase. He meant to pass by them.

I want you to think about this for a minute. He sends them out into the storm. He chooses a path that's going to walk like four feet from their boat, and he means to pass them by.

To see he's walking by like a sea of fellas on the other side. Jot this down. Never overlook human initiative in gaining the help of God as you struggle. The sovereign God places himself within ears' reach, but what this story is trying to show you is it doesn't automatically come. You've got to call out to God.

You've got to ask him. You've got to entreat the sovereign God for his help. I say that because there are some of you in here that have gotten a dose of bad theology, and you start going through the midst of a storm, and you say, well, it just must be the will of God that I just be face first in the midst of the storm all the time. God is there to help you, but God will not come to you unless you call to him. The sovereign God walks close enough for you to call his name out so he can hear you, but he will only get in that boat if you call on his name. He's the one that said, call on me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you. I will deliver you, and you're going to glorify me.

So never overlook human initiative in gaining the help. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer and a message titled Strong from Start to Finish.

Find more resources right now by visiting You know, this ministry's purpose has never been to reach a larger audience every year or gain a bigger following. It exists primarily to help equip you to multiply in your faith. Every broadcast, podcast, blog post, and devotional is produced with the goal of fanning the flame of the gospel message. Because of your support, whether financial donations, prayers, or simply engaging with the content that we share, we have been able to expand this ministry and share the hope of the gospel to more people in new places and in new ways. As I'm sure you know, this time of year is really critical for us financially. So would you join us today and give a generous year-end gift so we can press forward into the new year and touch even more lives with the gospel? Give us a call today at 866-335-5220 or visit us online at

That's Verse 28, so Peter answered him, Lord, if it's you, command me to come to you in the water. And he said, It's I, come. Notice that Jesus did not fix the disciples' problems by making the storms go away. He gave Peter another command.

Come. Are you in difficulty? Are you in difficulty right now? Maybe you ought to stop asking God to fix the situation and you ought to start asking God what his command is. You see, there's nothing wrong with asking God to fix the situation. In fact, he's going to do that in a minute. But I'm just saying first, before you ask him to fix the situation, maybe you ought to first ask him what his command is.

Maybe you ought to stop demanding and start listening. And then you can ask him to fix the situation. So Peter got out of the boat. He walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me.

But Jesus immediately reached out his hand. See how close he is? He took hold of him and he said, Oh, you have little faith. Why did you doubt?

Now, here's my question. Why is this story in there? This story is not in there to inspire you to actually attempt to walk on water.

I mean, tell you how I know that. And Paul in the book of Acts is going to go get in a shipwreck. The boat's going to sink and he's going to be floating. And not once does he ever like, I know, Matthew 14, I'll just hop up on the water and walk the shore. The story is in there to show us how to continue what we start in faith. Because Jesus knows, listen, that's going to be one of the biggest problems that Christians have, is that we're going to start a number of things in faith, and we're not going to be able to finish them.

So here's the lesson. Initial faith is not enough. We need staying faith. Initial faith is not enough. We need staying faith. When Jesus said to Peter at the end of this little story, Oh, you have little faith. Why did you doubt? He's not talking about the intensity of Peter's faith as being little.

He's talking about the duration. Initial faith is not enough. We need staying faith.

Let her be here. We find staying faith at the same place we found initial faith. We find staying faith at the exact same place we found initial faith. Where did Peter's initial faith come from? Where did it come from?

I see at least two places. Number one, a vision of Jesus, a vision of Jesus. Verse 27, when Jesus said, watch this, when Jesus said, take heart, it is I, do not be afraid. For those of you that have your Greek New Testament open right now, you'll notice that the little phrase, it is I, is in Greek, ego ami.

Ego ami, say what's significant about that. The way you translate that literally is I am, which is the name of God. So Jesus literally said, take heart, I am. Peter saw that the great I am was walking on top of everything that terrified him. So he saw that. He was mightier than the waves. Secondly, he saw a vision of Jesus. Second thing, Jesus' command. He saw Jesus, he heard Jesus, and Peter figured that it was more important to obey Jesus' command than it was to focus on the circumstances. The great I am was on top of those waves, and what he said was larger and more powerful than the storms that were coming against him.

So Peter chose to focus not on what he had to walk through, but on whom he was walking to. Peter is not so much walking on water as he is walking on the promises of God. He's not so much standing on the waves as he is standing on the character of Jesus. It is when he took his eyes off of those two things that he started to sink, his eyes and his ears. So verse 30 says specifically, when he saw the wind, when he heard the howl of the wind, that's when he began to sink. You see, you focus on the word and you'll walk on water. You focus on the waves, you'll wallow in weakness.

That's all the W's I can think of. Let me give you a little secret to this passage. It's very important. The point of this passage is not to demonstrate the greatness or weakness of Peter's faith. The point of this passage is to demonstrate the greatness of God's grace.

Let me tell you one of the ways we know that. I mentioned the parallel accounts earlier of this story in other gospels. In Mark's gospel, Mark chapter six, the same story is there, but there's no account of Peter getting out of the boat and sinking.

You say, well, what's significant about that? Mark, Christian history scholars tell us, Mark was Peter's traveling companion, which means that the gospel of Mark is essentially a collection of Peter's favorite sermons. That means Peter, when he chose to tell the story, left out the part about him sinking. Now, when he first discovered that, the thought was, oh, well, I see what Peter's doing. He doesn't want to be embarrassed.

So he just leaves out the part about him because it's an embarrassing story. But yeah, I think there's probably actually a better explanation, is that Peter doesn't really want the focus on him in this story at all. Because he knows, listen, this story is not about the strength or the weakness of Peter's faith. This story is about Jesus's faithfulness. Because we're not putting faith in faith, we're putting faith in the God that is on top of the waves. Psalm 94 18, when my foot slipped, your steadfast love, oh, Lord, held me up. My foot slipped, your love was steadfast, it never moved. My faith is not in my foot because my foot's always slipping. My faith is in your steadfast love because when I go under the water, you stay on top of it. Our God is a God who will always be there to catch us, always be there to pick us back up, always be there to lift us back on top of the waves.

So when you waver, put your eyes back on him. This story doesn't give you an example to emulate, it gives you a savior to trust in. On this side of the cross, we see that Jesus not only came not only to us when we were in the storm, he took the storm of God's wrath into himself so that we could be saved. He not only walked on top of the water, he soared over death and sin, and he resurrected himself so that we could be with him. He not only lifted us up on top of the waves, he filled us with the power of resurrection life. And I know that if he reached all the way down into hell to save me, I know that he'll reach down to help me when I stumble and fall. If he reached out to save me when I was his enemy, I certainly know that he'll help me when I am his son. Ultimately, God's purpose in the Christian life, you want to know the game plan behind everything he's doing, he's trying to teach you to trust him. So that's probably why Peter, in his first letter to the church, 1 Peter, says it this way, 1 Peter 1 6, in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you've been grieved by various trials.

Or you could read that, storms. So that the tested genuineness of your faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. What's God doing? He's trying to give you a faith where you will say Jesus is deeper than the waves, he's stronger than the fire, he's more mighty than the overwhelming waters.

There is not hell itself that I could pass through that his presence would not go with me and protect me. And so let come what may, let whatever storm the enemy wants to throw at me, bring it on because I got a God that is mightier than the storm and greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world. So initial faith is not enough, you need staying faith and staying faith comes from the same place as initial faith. So where does that leave us?

Where does that leave you? You're in the midst of difficulties and the decisions of faith that you have made, you started out well, but now you're faltering. You need to put your eyes and your ears back on the things you were looking at and listening to when you first made that decision. You believe that Jesus was trustworthy and you took it there on him. You obeyed his command. But now things have gotten difficult. That does not mean that Jesus has left you and it does not mean that you made a wrong decision. It simply means he's testing your resolve and he's trying to deepen your trust in him.

You need to re-embrace his character. You need to rehear the command and you need to take the next step. The expression of faith is not a dream you dream, the expression of faith is the next step.

People always confuse that. They think like faith is this big dream that you dream. You dream one time and make one big decision.

Nope. Faith's best expression is the small step, not the grand dream. Getting to the end of your life and feeling like you walked on water is the result of a lifetime of small, faithful, daily steps. Isn't that what you want from your life?

Isn't that what you want from your life to get to the end of it and look back on it and say, I walked on water. I did it in my family. I did it in my marriage. I did it in my ministry.

I did it with the people I worked with. Isn't that what you want to say? If that's what you want to say, it doesn't come from a dream you dream in one service. It comes from a small, daily step of faith that you take.

It's never the dreams you dream. It's the little decisions you make. So you need to take that next step of faith. I don't know what it is. You know what it is.

I don't know what it is. Maybe it's forgiving that person. Maybe that's the small step of faith you got to take that will lead you into a life where you're going to walk on water, but it's going to come from you giving forgiveness to that person. Maybe it's reclaiming God's forgiveness, re-embracing the gift righteousness of Christ, and getting back up to struggle against that sin another day.

Because yes, you fall into it again. But like I've often told you, it's one of my favorite verses in Proverbs 24 16. The righteous man falls seven times and gets back up again every time. The righteous man falls seven times and gets back up again every time because his righteousness is not demonstrated by the fact that he never falls. His righteousness is demonstrated by what he does when he falls. Because he knows, listen to this, he knows his righteousness is a gift of God. He knows his righteousness is not based on how well he walked, but how well Jesus walked and died in his place and gave it to him as a gift. So when he is on his face, he says, thank God that my position before God is secure because I have the gift righteousness of Christ. He embraces the resurrection power of God that is given to him as a gift, and he gets back up. Because while his foot may waver, God's steadfast love never falters. When my foot slipped, oh Lord, your steadfast love held me up. So a righteous man falls seven times, gets back up again. Maybe the expression of faith for you, maybe it's to put up with scorn one more day as you try to be a faithful witness to Jesus in that group that he's told you to be a faithful witness to, and they just keep throwing it back in your face.

You started well. You just said, I'm going to do this, and then they threw it back in your face, and you just got to go back in there again and say, God sent me here and I'm not leaving. Maybe it's trusting God again with your finances so that you can be generous. Maybe it's embracing sacrifice another day.

Maybe it's being willing to press on without a boyfriend as you wait for the one that's a choice, that's a gift from God. The expression of faith is the step, so take the next step. Maybe the next step for you is the first step. See, either way, it's the same act of faith. If you want to walk on water, John Ortberg says, you got to get out of the boat. It's just the first step.

I read a book recently in which the guy, the author, made this point. There's only one line in life that you can control. It's never the finish line. The one line you can control is the starting line. Every big finish begins with a very small start.

Maybe that's it for you. Just take that next step with your family or whatever it is God's told you to do, because he's close and he's compassionate. He doesn't come to criticize. You start to walk in faith and he will help you. Strong from start to finish. That's the goal as well as the title of our teaching today from J.D. Greer on Summit Life. It's the first message in our new series called Staying Faith. If you happen to join us late, you can listen again free of charge at

The free online teaching archive and these daily radio broadcasts are made possible by listeners like you. When you give, you're helping people across the country dive deeper into the transformative power of the gospel. And at this time of year, your gift is so important as we plan the next year of ministry here at Summit Life. Will you partner with us today? When you do, we'll say thanks by sending you an exclusive resource. It's the 2023 Summit Life Day Planner.

You want to stay focused on the gospel in the new year? Give us a call right now. This planner will help you stay organized, and it also includes Bible verses, quotes, and a Bible reading plan to remind you to keep God at the center of every day. Ask for a copy of the 2023 Summit Life Day Planner when you donate today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or request the planner when you give online or when you make your first gift as a monthly gospel partner at

If it's easier, you can always mail in your donation and request for the planner. Write to J.D. Greer Ministries, P.O.

Box 122-93, Durham, North Carolina, 277-09. I'm Molly Vitovich. So glad that you joined us today. Be sure to listen again Wednesday as we continue our new teaching series called Staying Faith. That's tomorrow on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-27 10:48:49 / 2022-12-27 10:59:58 / 11

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