How big is God? Is He bigger than all the hundreds of ways I messed up today? Is He bigger than the problem staring me straight in my face that I have exhausted myself trying to find an answer to? Is He bigger than the black and white facts that say "this isn't going to work"? Is He bigger than the crater left in the wake of a failed, broken relationship? Is He bigger than my insecurities that hold me back and shackle me down with fear and doubt? Is He bigger than what I see looming large in front of me?
Here is a secret I feel like I am just really, truly, starting to "get": Whatever we stare at the longest, grows the largest. Whatever fills our vision determines our measure of hope, and peace.
Life is full of big things we have to deal with and big battles we have to fight. There is no use in minimizing or denying that fact. But so much hangs on this question we've got to ask ourselves when faced with something big: "Is God bigger?"
In the eighth chapter of the book of Matthew, there are two real-life stories that show us two very different reactions to situations that were bigger than the flesh and blood humans facing them. I'll start with the second story that begins in Matthew 8:23 because I am pretty sure I fall into this category more often than not:
Jesus' closest friends & followers were rowing him across a large lake while He slept (keep this fact in mind!) when "without warning a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat."
Isn't this the type of situation where our best self usually comes out? (insert sarcasm here). Those furious storms that come without warning and threaten to drown us with their merciless intensity? Yeah, I've had a few of those and I bet you have too. And my reactions many times are just like the disciples' that day. Panic. Confusion. Fear. Frustration. Doubt.
It's hard for me to blame them here - after all Jesus was sleeping and the danger was real. They woke Jesus up, begging Him to save them or else they would all drown. He asked them, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" (this is where I probably would have motioned wildly to the life threatening storm & shouted into the wind, "Can you not see this?!") Then He stilled the storm with a single rebuke and in an instant, everything was calm. And that got their attention. "The men were amazed and asked 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey him!'"
Here's the thing: these men, even after seeing Jesus perform miracles & hearing him teach the deep truths of Scripture, still weren't sure who exactly was in their boat with them. You can hear it in their panicked voices when they woke Him up and in their murmured question "What kind of man is this?" after He commanded the storm to stop.
Contrast this with the story that precedes this one in Matthew 8, starting in verse 5 - the story of a Roman centurion. He had someone he cared about who was paralyzed and in terrible suffering, so he found Jesus (just like the disciples did in the boat) and asked Him for help (also what the disciples did). The difference lies in this centurion's calm confidence in the authority and ability of Jesus. After Jesus said He would go with the man and heal his servant, the centurion said "Lord, I do not deserve to have you under my roof. But just say the word and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
This Roman soldier was familiar with authority, power and influence - it was part of his daily life and routine. He knew what it was like to have authority over others, and he was also able to recognize in Jesus an authority and power that far outranked anyone else he had ever met. He knew that Jesus could heal with just a word. Just like He can also calm a storm with just a word.
Jesus was astonished at this centurion's response. Turning to those around Him, He said "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."
A.W. Tozer said in Knowledge of the Holy: "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us... the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God."
What, in your "deep heart", do you conceive God to be like? Do you know who is in your boat with you? Are you convinced of His goodness, love, and omnipotence? Are you confident in His authority and ability? Do you believe He is bigger than anything you might be facing? Are you fixing your gaze on Him more than on the furious storms?
Because, remember, whatever we stare at the longest, grows the largest. Oh how I need to fill my sight every day with the goodness, the greatness and the power of Jesus so when the big waves come - which they inevitably will - I can turn to Him in peace and confidence, rather than fear and anxiety, knowing deep in my heart that my God is so big He overshadows anything that comes my way.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace. - Helen H. Lemmel, 1922
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