9 There Elijah went into a cave and stayed all night.
Then the Lord spoke his word to him: “Elijah! Why are you here?”
10 Elijah answered, “Lord, God of heaven’s armies, I have always served you the best I could. But the people of Israel have broken their agreement with you. They have destroyed your altars. They have killed your prophets with swords. I am the only prophet left. And now they are trying to kill me, too!”
11 Then the Lord said to Elijah, “Go. Stand in front of me on the mountain. I will pass by you.” Then a very strong wind blew. It caused the mountains to break apart. It broke apart large rocks in front of the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a quiet, gentle voice. 13 When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat. He went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “Elijah! Why are you here?”
14 Elijah answered, “Lord, God of heaven’s armies, I have always served you the best I could. But the people of Israel have broken their agreement with you. They have destroyed your altars. They have killed your prophets with swords. I am the only prophet left. And now they are trying to kill me, too.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go back on the road that leads to the desert around Damascus. Enter that city. There pour olive oil on Hazael to make him king over Aram. 16 Then pour oil on Jehu son of Nimshi to make him king over Israel. Next, pour oil on Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah. He will be a prophet in your place. 17 Jehu will kill anyone who escapes from Hazael’s sword. And Elisha will kill anyone who escapes from Jehu’s sword. 18 But I have left 7,000 people living in Israel. Those 7,000 have never bowed down before Baal. Their mouths have never kissed his idol.”
5 Moses writes about being made right by following the law. He says, “A person who does these things will have life forever because of them.”[a] 6 But this is what the Scripture says about being made right through faith: “Don’t say to yourself, ‘Who will go up into heaven?’” (That means, “Who will go up to heaven to get Christ and bring him down to earth?”) 7 “And do not say, ‘Who will go down into the world below?’” (That means, “Who will go down to get Christ and bring him up from death?”) 8 This is what the Scripture says: “God’s teaching is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.”[b] That is the teaching of faith that we tell. 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from death, then you will be saved. 10 We believe with our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we declare with our mouths to say that we believe, and so we are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.”[c] 12 That Scripture says “anyone” because there is no difference between Jew and non-Jew. The same Lord is the Lord of all and gives many blessings to all who trust in him. 13 The Scripture says, “Anyone who asks the Lord for help will be saved.”[d]
14 But before people can trust in the Lord for help, they must believe in him. And before they can believe in the Lord, they must hear about him. And for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them. 15 And before someone can go and tell them, he must be sent. It is written, “How beautiful is the person who comes to bring good news.”[e]
Jesus Walks on the Water
22 Then Jesus made his followers get into the boat. He told them to go ahead of him to the other side of the lake. Jesus stayed there to tell the people they could go home. 23 After he said good-bye to them, he went alone up into the hills to pray. It was late, and Jesus was there alone. 24 By this time, the boat was already far away on the lake. The boat was having trouble because of the waves, and the wind was blowing against it.
25 Between three and six o’clock in the morning, Jesus’ followers were still in the boat. Jesus came to them. He was walking on the water. 26 When the followers saw him walking on the water, they were afraid. They said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus quickly spoke to them. He said, “Have courage! It is I! Don’t be afraid.”
28 Peter said, “Lord, if that is really you, then tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 Jesus said, “Come.”
And Peter left the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. 30 But when Peter saw the wind and the waves, he became afraid and began to sink. He shouted, “Lord, save me!”
31 Then Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. Jesus said, “Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?”
32 After Peter and Jesus were in the boat, the wind became calm. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped Jesus and said, “Truly you are the Son of God!”
Take a minute and think about your favorite board game. Think about the way the board is laid out, how the pieces move, how it is decided who goes first. Think about the rules of the game. Now I want you to ask yourself a question, is it important to follow the rules of the game? Of course it is, but is following the rules the reason you play the game? You play to have fun, to enjoy some time with friends. Think about this while I talk about a very popular but very complicated game. Has anyone played the game Monopoly? It is a game that has probably more rules than any other games I have ever played. It also has the most rules the people ignore when playing and the most extra rules that people make up. A lot of people play this game, but most games never get finished because the rules make things very complicated and there tend to be a lot of fights. In fact, this game is often called, “The best way to end friendships”. Now the basic rules of the game, most people agree on. How to move around the board, how to gain and lose money, but there are a lot of rules the most people ignore. This can cause trouble when someone wants to enforce the rules that everyone is ignoring. The person who wants to follow the rules is usually right, and the rules are written out so they can be shown to the group. The problem comes when people don’t want to follow the actual rules, they want to follow their rules, or the rules that they like. This is a lot like what is happening in the reading from 1 Kings. The people of Israel had stopped following the rules God gave them, they decided to worship another god. They wanted to use their own rules. The prophets were like the person who has the rule book out and wants to use the actual rules, so the people of Israel were killing them. Now I don’t think anyone has been killed over a game of Monopoly, but I know it has ended friendships, and led to a lot of anger and fighting. I come back to my question, why do we play these games? It’s not just to follow the rules, it’s not to get angry and fight. What is the reason?
I said that the person who wanted to follow the rules is usually right, but that is not entirely true. They may be correct about what the rules are and how to follow them, but if insisting on following the rules causes a whole group of people to get angry and fight, that is the opposite of the reason to play the games. We certainly are not enjoying time with friends and having fun if we are yelling and fighting over rules. This is kind of what Paul is talking about in his letter to the Romans. “Moses writes about being made right by following the law.” That is the old way; you have to follow every rule to the letter to be saved. Jesus brought a new way, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and if you believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from death, then you will be saved.” We are saved by our Faith in God, whether we follow the rules as printed, or if we use our own rules. This is not without limits, but that is a longer discussion. We still need to agree to play the same game, and truly want to have fun and enjoy it, even if we are not sticklers about every part of the rulebook.
Just as the key to enjoying a game is remembering why we are playing and truly wanting to enjoy the time and have fun, the we need to always remember that the key to life if our Faith in God, and to acting in that faith with love towards “anyone”, as Paul say, and everyone. This can be incredibly hard. Doubt and fear are always just around the corner, even if you are an Apostle. Peter had the faith to walk on water to Jesus, but he got scared by the wind and waves and began to sink. “Jesus said, ‘Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?’” Like a mustard seed, our faith is small, but it can be enough.