Paul Tripp, a respected pastor, author and international speaker, spoke to the congregation of Mars Hill Church as a guest speaker, and explained the "huge difference" between amazement and faith based on a biblical incident recorded in the Gospel of Mark.
"If you are God's child, if you've been redeemed by His blood, if you have been forgiven by His grace, you haven't just been forgiven, you've been called to a band new way of living... to live by faith," said Tripp, the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization aimed at "connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life."
However, "faith isn't natural to us," he said, adding that worry, fear, doubt and jealousy are natural to us.
Tripp's message, part of the "Best Sermon Ever" series, was about "how God works to craft in us faith, to transform us into people who do really live by faith."
Tripp, who is also a professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas, underlined that there's a "huge, even significant, difference" between amazement and faith. You can be amazed by things that you don't actually put your faith into, he explained.
He read Mark 6: 45-48, "Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.' And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened."
The disciples had a moment of difficulty, not because they were disobedient, said Tripp. "The disciples were exactly where Jesus wanted them to be."
God will take you where you haven't chosen to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own, he told the congregation. "The Bible calls that grace... But it's not a cool drink; it's not a soft pillow... It's not a grace of relief, and it's not a grace of release."
What we really need, instead, is a theology of "uncomfortable grace" or "grace of personal transformation," Tripp stated. When you're in a difficult situation, you're not being abandoned or forsaken, you're being loved, he said.
Jesus' walk on the water tells us He is Lord, He is almighty. "[But] the minute Jesus takes the walk, you now know what He has in mind... what His intention is for this moment."
If Jesus was to just remove the difficulty, He could have spoken a word and the storm would have calmed down, Tripp reasoned. But He wanted to do something in the hearts and lives of the disciples. He was not for making the moment easier.
But the disciples were utterly unprepared for the moment, Tripp added. They thought they saw a ghost. "What about you... when you go through a difficulty?"
Then Jesus speaks to the disciples. "He speaks transformative words of grace, 'Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid,'" Tripp said. Jesus wanted to teach the disciples that being in their midst of the hopelessness, He was there with them; He wanted to transform them.
Jesus sent them to the storm because sometimes you need a storm to see the glory, Tripp stressed.
Finally, Jesus got into the boat to be with the disciples, and the storm ceased. And the disciples were utterly amazed. "Now that's not a compliment," Tripp said. They were amazed because their hearts were hardened.
There is a difference between being utterly amazed and having faith, he repeated.
"Amazement is when you are taken beyond the categories that you are carrying around to understand or explain something. Faith is when you accept God's declaration of His plan and then you turn and live on that basis. Faith is not something you just do with your brain. Faith is the way that you live your life," Tripp explained.