Does Jesus Care?

Sept. 20, 2013 Paul David Tripp

Session Transcript

Paul David Tripp: I want to help you here. I want to help you not to be confused between me and the other speakers. (laughter) So I'm the one with the mustache. It's not really a mustache; it's a mutation. I have three of them on my back. (laughter) My mom had one right here. It was so sad.

The last time I was at a women's conference like this was in Northern Ireland. There were 3,500 women there. And I was feeling a bit of an alien. Then I had this thought: The tough thing at conferences like this are the bathrooms. I'm a man! I've got twelve bathrooms to myself. Isn't God good?

The first break, I headed to the bathroom. I was standing in front of the urinal just getting ready, and the door opened and a voice said, "There's not enough bathrooms for the women, we need this one, too." There went the one advantage that I had. (laughter)

It is a great privilege to be with you. Think with me—if you, right now, could ask God one question, what would it be? If you could just get His ear for one moment and ask Him one question that you would get an immediate answer to, what would that be?

For many people, if they could get away from their fear and get away from their formal theology for a moment, and be in a moment where they're really honest about themselves and honest about life and honest about their struggles as a believer, they would say to God, "Do You really care? Do You really care?"

Oh, I don't mean as an item of theology . . . do You care about my marriage that's gone places I never thought my marriage would go? God, where are You? Do you care about this child that I was so glad to receive that now wants nothing to do with You and nothing to do with me? God, where are You? Do You really care?

Do You care that I lost my job eighteen months ago, because a man a thousand miles away made some executive decision for the betterment of the company, and we haven't had work for eighteen months, and we're sinking down into this hole of financial need? And it seems like nothing will stop us. God, do You really care?

Do You care about the fact that my body has been taken over by a disease that makes me feel weak, that haunts me every moment of my day? God, are You there? Do You care? Do You care about that betrayal of a friendship that has ripped my heart apart? I thought I'd never face this with this person.

God, do You care? Do You care about the fact that I'm dealing with the weaknesses of old age, and I feel so alone and so vulnerable? Are You there? Do You care?

If your gospel can't sit with people in those situations with confidence and encouragement, you will help no one. They don't need you to say, "This too will pass. I'm there for you. I understand." Baloney! It doesn't help. It doesn't work.

Maybe the two most important questions we can ask between the "already" of our salvation and the "not yet" of our final resurrection are these two questions: First one—what in the world is God doing? If you're going to live a life of confident faith and if you're going to help others, you've got to be able to answer that question. You can't leave that question unanswered. What in the world is God doing?

The corollary question is this: And how in the world should I respond to it?

I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Mark 6. We're going to look at verses 45–52. I love the gospel of Mark. I love how fast-paced it is, and how straightforward it is, and hard-hitting. Mark sticks in your face that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and he gives you no room for neutrality. That's Mark. I love Mark.

Mark is not like Luke. Luke makes all kinds of editorial comments. Mark is just history, history, history, history—just Jesus-in-your-face. It's wonderful. That's where I need Jesus.

Along with that, there's this other theme that goes through Mark. Jesus has collected disciples around Him, and His purpose is not that these men would just be recipients of the work of His kingdom, but that they would be instruments of the work of that kingdom as well.

That's God's call to everyone. No one is meant to just be a recipient. Everyone is meant to be an instrument. Enough of consumeristic Christianity. Enough of ecclesiastical Macy's. This is a not a department store—this is a kingdom. But these men were not men of faith, and so Jesus was working to craft faith in them—faith that could root at the deepest moments of difficulty of everyday life, faith that was sturdy and strong and assured and bold and courageous. That's not who these people were. And so Jesus would introduce His disciples to some kind of difficulty, and then in that difficulty He would reveal His glory. That was meant to craft faith in them.

There's a bit of what I call a gospel equation that goes through Mark; it's divine power plus divine compassion equals everything you need. DP + DC = EYN, for you mathematicians in the room. Now we're ready for Mark 6:45–52:

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 [amazed or] astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened."

Now, here's the scene: the disciples find themselves in another moment of difficulty. They're trying to row their way across the Sea of Galilee; they're facing an impossible headwind, angry seas. If you look at the larger time clues in the passage, they've probably been rowing now for eight hours.

It's a situation that's exhausting and discouraging and potentially dangerous. Now, when you read the Bible, you should always have an interactive relationship with your Bible. You shouldn't read with a mental monotone. And you should ask yourself the question, How in the world did the disciples get themselves in this mess?

Maybe they were just full of themselves. Maybe they just assigned to themselves much more strength and wisdom than they actually had. Maybe they had been disobedient to the commands of Christ. Maybe they had just made another foolish choice.

Well, the answer to that is, "No, no, no, and no." If you look at verse 45, Scripture says, "Immediately he [Christ] commanded them to get into the boat." You will understand nothing about this passage and nothing about the way God works in our lives if you don't understand this mess was Jesus' mess. He's got the disciples in this moment exactly where He wants them to be.

Now you ought to say, "Why would a God of such grace, why would a God of such tender love, why would a God who proclaims again and again that He cares for us ever want His children to be in this kind of difficulty? Why? Why? Why?" Millions of Christians over the years have asked this question: "Why, God, why?"

Well, Jesus knows something about the boys in the boat. He knows how self-righteous they can be. He knows how full of a sense of their own strength and wisdom they can be. It's always amazing to me when you watch the disciples argue with Jesus. You want to say, "He's Jesus! Messiah."

It's amazing! He knows how much they're committed more to their little kingdoms than to His kingdom. There's an amazing moment in Mark 9 where Jesus has just laid out the fact that He's going to suffer and die in the most specific way He's laid it out so far.

Do you know what the next conversation is? It's not grief, it's not, "Oh, Jesus, they shouldn't do this to You!" They're walking toward Capernaum, and Jesus notices the disciples are arguing, and He asks them what they're arguing about. They're kind of embarrassed; they don't want to answer the question.

Finally, someone answers the question, and they're fighting about who's going to be greatest in the kingdom. Amazing! So Jesus knows the guys who are in the boat, and—watch this—so He will take them where they haven't chosen to go in order to produce in them what they could not achieve on their own.

God will take you where you haven't intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. God will take you . . . and you. . .and you. . . and you. . . and me where we have not intended to go in order to produce in us what we could not achieve on our own. Do you know what the Bible calls that? Grace!

I think for many of us—and I've been here many times in my life—there are moments where I'm crying out, "Where is the grace of God?" And I'm getting it. But it's not a cool drink. It's not a soft pillow. Oh, I want the grace of relief and the grace of release, and I get those in pieces, but largely those are to come.

What I actually need is the transforming grace of refinement. It's grace! Sisters, we'd better become committed to encouraging one another and teaching one another and preaching to one another (get this terminology) the theology of uncomfortable grace.

Because very often, this side of eternity, the grace of God comes to me in uncomfortable forms. It's grace! It's grace! It's grace! 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. That's glorious grace.

Back to your Bibles. The plot thickens. Verses 47–48: "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."

Now, this moment—you need to understand this—this moment where Jesus rises and begins to walk out on the sea toward the disciples is the linchpin, the epicenter, of this passage. If you don't understand what that action is about, you'll never understand the glory and grace that is meant to be communicated to you in the here and now, through this little story that has been retained for your example and your instruction.

There are two things that you need to observe here. Let me read again: "And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea." Walking on the sea. Walking on the sea. Walking on the sea. You are way too passive. (laughter) You ought to be saying, "Hallelujah!" at this point. Don't try this at home!

The minute Jesus steps His first foot on that water, you know this is Lord God Almighty, King of Creation. He can do anything He wants with His creation. This is the Lord! If what Mark wanted to do was demonstrate that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, case closed, argument won, deal done. The average person doesn't walk on water. This is the Lord!

But there's something else you must observe. The minute Jesus takes that walk, you are clued-in to what this whole event is about. The minute Jesus takes that walk, His intention for this moment is being revealed to you. Because—think with me—if all Jesus wanted to do was remove the difficulty, He wouldn't have had to take the walk.

All He would have had to do is say, "Peace be still." The wind would have died, the waves would have calmed, and the guys in the boat happily would have ridden the rest of the way across the Sea of Galilee to Bethsaida. The minute Jesus takes the walk, you know that He's not after the difficulty; He's after the people in the middle of the difficulty—that's what He's after.

Now when you're in difficulty, what do you want? A little more redemption? "Send a little more difficulty my way, Lord. I'm not redeemed enough yet." (laughter) You're sitting in a moment of a life, in the middle of a mess, singing, "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it. Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb." I don't think so.

There are moments where we're very tempted to attach our assent to the faithfulness of God to His willingness to remove the difficulty. That's the spiritual equation for us: "You remove the difficulty; I'll gladly praise You." So now the waves are still crashing, the wind is blowing, and Jesus is now walking out on the water toward the disciples.

When it says, "He meant to pass by them," it didn't mean He needed a GPS. It means that Jesus wanted to take a big enough arc so all of the disciples would be sure to see Him.

Now back to your Bibles, verse 49: "But when they saw him walking on the sea, they stood and sang the doxology." (laughter) Oh, that's not what the Bible says, actually.

"When they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out." They're not heartened at all. Amazing! This is one of the clearest physical demonstrations of the utter glory of Christ and the wonder of His grace in all of the New Testament, and these guys are freaked out. They're not feeling heartened at all.

And lest you and I be too hard on the people in the boat, what happens inside of you when you face unexpected trial? Do you wonder about God's goodness all over again? Do you wonder if prayer works all over again? Do you wonder if God is near all over again? Do you wonder about His faithfulness all over again? Are you tempted to bring God into the court of your judgment and question His faithfulness and love? Do you go through the same panic all over again? Be honest in this holy moment . . . do you?

The shocking thing about this moment is these people had seen His glory. They had just recently watched Him raise a little girl from the dead. She was dead. Dead dead! And she lived again.

They had actually watched Him calm another storm. They had watched Him feed a large multitude with the little boy's lunch. They had seen the stunning glory of the Messiah, yet here they are in the same old panic all over again as if they had never seen anything. What about you?

You've seen God's glory again and again and again. What happens to you when you're in the storm?

I hinted at this. But what happens next is the picture of stunning grace. Notice the scene now—Jesus now standing next to the boat. The storm is still going on; the waves are still crashing; the wind is still blowing; these guys are still in this situation, way beyond their strength, way beyond their ability, and way beyond their ability to solve. Nothing has changed in the moment, but now Jesus is in this moment with the disciples.

And although they don't recognize Him, although they're in the same panic, Jesus doesn't say this: "I've had it! I've taught you and taught you and taught you. I've revealed My glory over and over again. Get out of the boat. I'm getting new disciples!" (laughter)

That's what I would have done. "Out!" But not this One. Jesus speaks the most beautiful words that could ever be spoken. They are literally words that if understood and received will change everything about you and everything about your life. They're that amazing. I don't think the English translations do very well with this little statement, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."

I'm deeply persuaded that what Jesus is doing is taking one of the names of God. He's saying to the disciples, "Don't you understand? The I AM is here. The I AM is here. The I AM is here—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Lord King Creator, the Sovereign One who holds everything together by the word of His power. The One on whom all the covenant promises rest. The I AM is here! The I AM is here. The I AM is here." It's impossible for you to ever be in the storms of life by yourself, because your life has been invaded by the grace of the One who is the I AM. (applause)

The I AM is here. That moment is meant to transform the disciples. That moment is meant to give them a new sense of identity, a new sense of meaning and purpose, a sturdiness of faith that can keep them even when life is hard. The I AM is here. My hope is not in people, my hope is not in locations, my hope in not in situations. My hope is in one thing—the I AM has invaded my life. By His grace, I have hope.

Amen! Amen. When you're facing things in your marriage that you've tried your best to solve, and nothing seems to make a difference, you'd better say to yourself, I'm not in this marital moment alone, because my life has been invaded by the grace of the One who is the I AM.

When you're at the end of a very discouraging parenting day—when your children seem to have conspired together to be particularly rebellious—and there's another fight you can hear down the hallway and you're walking down the hallway feeling exhausted, and you don't want to take this walk, you'd better say to yourself, I'm not in this moment by myself. My life has been invaded by the One who is the I AM.

When you've lost that job, you're driving home wondering what the next weeks and months will be like, you'd better say in your car, I'm not alone in this moment, because my life has been invaded by the grace of the I AM. The I AM is here, the I AM is here, the I AM is here.

As you face that physical sickness, and it's created in you that very scary body awareness—where you're now more aware of your body than you've ever been—and you wonder if just every part of it's falling apart, you'd better say to yourself, I'm not alone in this moment, because my life has been invaded by the grace of the I AM.

Listen! Here's what ministry is about—it's bringing the I AM to people. That's what it's about. Hope is not in your wisdom, hope is not in being able to figure out how to solve all this stuff. Hope is found in one thing—hope is a Person, and His Name is I AM. That's what ministry is about. The I AM has come.

Now, let me ask you a question. In this passage, when did Jesus start caring for the disciples? When He took the walk? When He stood beside the boat? When He spoke those beautiful words? No, no, no, no, no, no, no. The beautiful, tender, transformative care of Jesus began when He put them in the boat and sent them across the sea.

You say, "Paul, why?" Hear what I'm about to say. If you're taking notes, write it down—because sometimes you need the storm in order to see the glory. That's why. Sometimes you need the storm in order to see the glory. Sometimes it's only the deep and dark storms of life that put the glory of the Messiah and the kind of relief where I can now see it and I can now get it and I can say, "I'm okay, because this One has drawn me into eternal relationship with Him."

Sometimes you need the storm to see the glory. Oh, the care is not just Jesus' presence in the storm. The care is the storm! That's care, just the kind of care that we need. He's zealous that we would see and understand that we would really have hearts of faith—sturdy, assured, confident, bold, ministering faith.

Look what it says next, "And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased [finally]. And they were utterly astounded [or amazed]." In case you hadn't figured it out, that's not a compliment. It's not a compliment. In fact, it's one of the few places where Mark makes an editorial comment. It says, "For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened."

Now can we talk? I don't know why I'm asking permission; I'm going to. (laughter) There is a huge, significant difference between amazement and faith—being an astounded person and being a person of faith. There's a huge difference. You can be amazed by things that you do not put your faith in.

I live in Philadelphia. It's been the habit of my family to go every summer down to the Jersey Shore for a family vacation. We call that "going down the shore." I don't know why we say it that way, but we do. And we would always go to Ocean City, New Jersey, because that's a very family-oriented community—it's a dry community (no alcohol sales there), and it's got a boardwalk the kids can just run free on, and we just love that.

But my children would always talk me into taking them down to the next community south called Wildwood, New Jersey—properly named. Wildwood has a big boardwalk, and off the boardwalk are these big, huge piers that have amusement parks on them. There's a ride there that—the first time I saw it—just amazed me.

There was a big, maybe fifty-foot tall, metal frame. From it were hanging elastic bands. At the bottom of those bands was a pouch. They would, for seven dollars, strap an otherwise-sane human being into that pouch and pull him or her back, and launch them back and forth over the Atlantic Ocean in the night.

Now that ride amazes me. The first time I saw it, I was like this . . . My family went off to ride rides. I was stuck. They came back and got me. Now that ride did amaze me. I can tell you for sure, though, you will not strap Paul Tripp into that pouch and launch him over the Atlantic Ocean at night. (laughter)

There's a huge difference between amazement and faith. You can be amazed by the grand sweep of the redemptive story in Scripture and not be living by faith. You can be amazed at the labyrinthian logic of the Word of God and its theology and not be living by faith.

You can be amazed by the wonderful worship music that we get to participate in and not be living by faith. You can be amazed by the wonderful teaching and preaching you hear and not be living by faith. You can be amazed by the love of your small group and not be living by faith. There's a huge and significant difference between amazement and faith.

God is not willing to leave you in divine amazement; He wants you to become a person of sturdy, assured, hopeful faith. So He will take you where you haven't intended to go to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own. The passage explains to us why this is a moment of astonishment and not faith.

It says, "For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened." "They did not understand about the loaves" meant the disciples hadn't learned their lessons. It's talking about the feeding of the 5,000. You see, every miracle of Christ was intended to preach something about the gospel of Christ. That's what the miracles are about—the miracles preach the gospel.

So they hadn't learned their lessons, and it says that they hadn't learned their lessons because their hearts were hardened. It's a physical word picture. Look up here; it's the picture of a stony heart. If I had a stone in my hand right now and I was pushing that stone with all of my might, what you expect would happen?

Well, look at the size of my arms. It's not hard to answer. The answer is nothing, because that stone is resistant to change. That's what hard-heartedness is; it's resistance to change. Why are we resistant to change? Because we're all too satisfied with where we are; we're all too satisfied with what we've received. We're not needy and hungry. The guys in the boat were all too satisfied. They weren't learning their lessons.

Luella, my dear wife, and I gave birth to a son—well, actually she gave birth. This kid just didn't understand the concept of gifts. We would buy him a toy—birthday or Christmas. He'd tear open the box, discard the toy, and play with the box. It drove me crazy, made me nuts.

So one Christmas, I decided that I was going to experience parental victory and find a toy that he would actually play with. I grabbed my wife, Luella—poor thing—and took her on this quest. We were out there way longer than it made any sense to be. I was not going to lose.

I finally found a toy that seemed like it was made for my son. I knew he couldn't resist this one. And so, at Christmas when it came time for him to open that gift, we were surely more excited than he would have ever been. He tore open the box like a little boy would, not thinking about recycling, and actually began to play with the toy. I had such feelings of victory.

I went into the kitchen to talk to another one of my relatives, was in there for a few minutes, got something to drink, and went back into the living room where the tree was—where he was—and he was sitting in the box. (laughter)

Now you may say, "Why is this man sharing with us this cute family story at the end of this message?" Here it is—you have been given the most awesome gift that could ever be given. It's a gift that's gorgeous from every perspective. It's the one gift you could never earn, you could never achieve, you could never deserve. It's the essential gift of gifts that every human being who's ever taken a breath desperately needs.

It's the only gift that has the power to change you and everything about you. It's the gift of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. But I am deeply persuaded that in the face of being given that gift, many of us are content to play with the box. We're content with a little bit of biblical literacy. We're content with a little bit of theological knowledge. We're content with a Sunday-morning Christianity, but a life that's really driven and shaped by other values.

We're content with a little-bit-better marriage, a little-bit-better parenting, but we're not holding onto that gift of grace with both hands and saying, "I can't believe that I've been chosen to receive this gift. I'm not letting go of this gift 'til it's done everything that it was meant to do for me. I want to read about this gift, I want to study this gift. I want to be around people who know about this gift. I want to fellowship with them around this gift. I love the gift of grace. It's not just a part of my theology; it's life to me." (applause)

You see, there really is a profound difference between amazement and faith. What is God doing right now? With zealous, unrelenting, terrifyingly committed zeal, He will turn us into people of faith. You do not have the power to resist that.

He will turn you into a person of faith; He will complete that work. And He will not say to you, "Get out of the boat; you don't get it." He will say to you once again, "The I AM is here. You'll never again be the same." And so He will take you where you haven't intended to go to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.

Sisters, when you're going through difficulty, that's the gospel you need to preach to you. Sisters, when you're standing next to someone who's going through difficulty, that's the gospel you need to preach. This moment of difficulty is not a sign of His unfaithfulness and inattention. It's not a sign of the failure of His promises. It's not a sign of divine forgetfulness. These difficulties are a sure sign of the zeal of His transforming love.

Sometimes you need the storm in order to see the glory. So storms will come so glory can be known, so hearts can be transformed, so faith will grow, so you will be usable in the hands of the I AM. What a gorgeous plan! Let's pray.

Lord, all I can think of saying in this moment is, "Who is a god like our God? Who has mercy rich and free like this, like our God?" Oh, forgive us for being too quickly and too easily satisfied. Forgive us for esteeming ease of life more than we esteem redemption.

And we thank You for Your unstoppable zeal to form in us that faith, which is only ever Your gift of grace. Thank You. Thank You. We thank You. In Jesus' name, amen.