Jackson: Alright greetings from the Oʻahu Church of Christ. My name is Jackson Cheng, and I want to thank you for joining me in this podcast series: Refined by Fire, which looks at the Apostle Peter and the journey of his faith. Some of the goals in trying to put this podcast series together that I was thinking about was 1) to help us to look at Peter's spiritual journey and hopefully it inspires us to grow in our faith a little bit. Another goal that I felt we need is 2) to look at character studies as a tool for our own personal Bible study. So, hopefully at the end of the podcast series, you can feel like, “Man, I could do the same thing that we did with Peter on other characters like Paul or Jesus or Phillip, or even some of the Old Testament characters”, because I think God puts different people in our lives or in the Bible to help us to connect with Him and to bring His message to us.
You know, a third goal that I had for this podcast series and even future podcasts for churches - you know there are a lot of podcasts out there. There’s a lot of excellent podcasts that are out there. So what’s going to distinguish the podcast that we do from those that are out there? And one of the things that would be good was to help the church to get to know each other more, right? To connect with each other, so with different guests that I'll be bringing on to the podcast, you get to learn a little bit more about them. So, joining me today is a great friend of mine, Art Owada. He has served as president of the church's Board of Directors for a while. Both he and I just finished serving on the board but he is also serving on the Ministry Advisory Group or the MAG, which is the leadership team of the church, as well as a House Church Leader and he also leads an ʻohana group in town.
So, Art, welcome, thank you for being here. I thought you know maybe you could tell us a little bit about yourself. I know that you've been baptized and have been in the church for a long time, probably the longest in the church here, but yeah maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself.
Art: Thanks, Jackson; well first of all, let me say, it’s great to be part of your podcast. I appreciate you doing it and all the work you're putting into it. I think it's going to be a very encouraging series, and a chance to really dig into the scriptures more, too. So, let me just start off by saying that. But yes, I've been a disciple for quite a while, had the privilege to be around the days of Peter, James, and John.
Art: Actually, not quite that long. Actually, I became a disciple in my junior year of college, at the University of Colorado, and believe it or not, I was actually against the church and disagreed with some of the things on conversion, until I really studied it out. I had a lot of debates with people and did a lot of reading and not only in the scripture, but with other sources. But anyway it's been 40 amazing years, a lot of ups and downs, but one thing I do know that God is faithful, and I know it's all because of God's grace, so it's been an amazing time.
Jackson: Amen, that's awesome. Yeah, I should have had you on the last podcast, because that was when we talked about Peter's conversion, so you must have been right there.
Art: *Laughs* I remember it well.
Jackson: Yeah. Let’s jump into the theme scripture for the series which is 1 Peter 1:3-9. It says: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
And this is a great scripture, I think very fitting for our times. That you know in life we may have to suffer different trials and go through different momentary troubles, but if we persevere, our faith will grow in ultimately, that faith will give us hope of one day receiving salvation of our souls. I really like that scripture in terms of you know all the different things have been going on with us today with the pandemic and the effects of the pandemic. I know here in Hawaii just the unemployment rate and you know a lot of financial difficulties that people have to go through, but even nation-wide with the racial tension and different things are going on, I think we can see that life will have its trials.
So just as a recap, as we said you know last time we looked at how Peter became one of Jesus’ first disciples and how he had to overcome sinfulness in his life to be able to see Jesus clearly. Today we're going to be looking at overcoming doubt. Doubt is what resides in our minds, and you know a lot of times it comes from fears, right? And there are different things that we face in life that will cause us to doubt. So, what do you think about having doubts in your faith, Art?
Art: Well I'd like to say that I'm glad that you're having these questions, because I think it's so important that when we have our times with God and reading the scriptures, that we ask ourselves some deep questions, and how it relates to us, and how we can apply the Bible, and I hope that you know, the questions that you have, we could be thinking about the same things when we study the scriptures and when we meditate on it. So I think that’s a great thing. As far as doubts, I think we all have them; it is something that is part of the journey. And yet to me doubts are neither good or bad. I look at doubts as what do we do with those doubts? Do we really try to get the answers and ask for God's help and seek to understand? Or do we give up and you know, move on to worldly and selfish things? So I think that’s just my first impression when you ask how I feel about doubts.
Jackson: Yeah, what kind of doubts do you have in your life?
Art: Wow, there are a lot of doubts I think that we end up going through. They could range from intellectual doubts, doubting was there an Adam and Eve, how did creation really happen, doubts about God's timing. Sometimes you know I just wonder like why is this happening to me, or why can't God answer me faster, so, you know you doubt if God’s really going to come through or what is God's plan? You know sometimes many of us look at why is there suffering in the world and that may cause us to doubt. But again I think it's all about seeking to find out the answers instead of just letting the doubts overcome us.
Jackson: Yeah and I think for me, I think one of the things is to study the Bible. Before I became a Christian, I was more kind of agnostic so I had a lot of questions about God and religion and it just seemed like, you know.... never got the answers, so it kind of left me on the fence. I had a hard time thinking that there is no God, just because I mean just life itself in the universe was pretty amazing to think that it just kind of happened by chance.
But I couldn't take that full step to just go: ‘Oh I really believe in God”, because I'm like I don't see him and I have all these different questions that doesn’t seem to be answered. And going through that, I think it does help me to view doubt, kind of like what you said, as...something that what you do with it, can help to grow in your faith. Some of the doubts that I have now is more of: should I do this or, you know... who am I to do a podcast series, or who am I to serve in this capacity in the church or that. And there are other different doubts too.
We’ll be looking at that in Peter's life so let's jump into Matthew. We're primarily going to be in the book of Matthew today. In Matthew 14 is the passage that we're going to be looking at. Matthew 14:22 it says: “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.”
So just to give you a little context of what’s going on here, Jesus just heard that John the Baptist was beheaded and so there's a lot of things that kind of was going on in his heart. After hearing the news Jesus was trying to have a little bit of time for himself perhaps to mourn or to pray but the crowds kept coming, and having compassion on them, he stayed with them and healed their sick and ended up feeding the 5000 men.
So when we get to Matthew 14:22 Jesus finally gets a chance to go off by himself and have a little time to pray to God and to really mourn for John the Baptist and what happened to him. In a parallel passage in John chapter 6 we learned that the apostles actually rowed out about 3 to 4 miles. So during all that time Jesus probably spent a good couple of hours praying on the mountainsides to God. What do you think is something you see about Jesus in this?
Art: I think, well number one is that Jesus had feelings. He cared for people. He wanted to help. He was saddened by the death of John the Baptist.
Jackson: Yeah. Sometimes it’s easy for us to look at Jesus as some sort of Superman right? We think of him as the son of God and he can handle anything, but I think one of the things that we can see is, yeah he had emotions; he felt things and he needed time to process them. And the great thing about him is that he went to his prayer. You know, that’s convicting for me because a lot of times when I’m faced with different stresses or different things in life, I don't necessarily turn to God in prayer. I, a lot of times, I turn to myself and go by whatever strength I have but yeah that's a great thing about Jesus. Reading on in Matthew 14:25 it says: “ Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.” So imagine if you were with Peter what would you have thought if you are on that boat?
Art: Well I think, I would be like the rest of them there. That it says they were terrified, and I mean I can't imagine being on a small boat with strong winds and waves for hours and hours, and now we are talking about the wee hours of the morning. And you know they see Jesus walking on the water and they don't even know what it is. They thought it was a ghost at first. But I think that word terrified is a great word; they were just scared out of their minds.
Jackson: So let’s read on; verse 27 it says: “But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid. Lord if it's you, Peter replied, tell me to come to you on the water. Come, he said then Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” So what do we see here? What do you think Art?
Art: Well I guess the first thing that comes to mind is: Why would Peter even say that to begin with? You know it’s kind of like “Wow of all the things to say,” but when you think about it more it’s like I think Peter must have been so afraid and but he knew somehow because maybe before because Jesus calmed the winds and the waves before and had the power to do that, that because he was so afraid and he knew Jesus was the answer that he asked Jesus to command and come out and walk to him as well.
Jackson: Yeah and you know for me I probably be more like one of the other guys like, you know I’m probably thinking “What is he thinking? Is he crazy?” But yeah I would probably be one cowering in the boat terrified like “is it a ghost still? Yeah no, It sounds like Jesus.” But yeah it’s pretty surprising to see Peter's request and part of it is that stepping out on faith and that's something that I think for a lot of us, we probably can apply in our own lives. What are the things that we can do to step out on faith ? But what do you think Art, like in your own life have you ever felt like there was a time where you stepped out on faith and if so what was it like?
Art: Well I think for me personally the two biggest times that I have to step out on faith was making two big moves in my life. So after I graduated from college, a married couple that was in the ministry asked me if I would move out to California with them, so that was a time to definitely step out in faith. I ended up moving to the Los Angeles area, without a job. My major was in math and secondary education, and in California they require you to have another year of college so you have to have a 5-year credential instead of 4 year, so I went knowing that I wouldn't even be teaching. So you know it was going into different professions, starting a new career choice and moving there. And later on ended up moving to Northern California for 7 years and after that Brock and Anne Roby who started the church here, who I met in the Bay Area asked me if I would consider moving to Hawaii. And so again, picking up everything that I had and going halfway across the ocean to a place I've never been before and just starting over. I think those are the two big times I’ve had to step out in faith. God definitely knew what He was doing, and I feel like my life is really blessed for it.
Jackson: Well we are fortunate to have you here in Hawaii. So yeah, I think yeah stepping out on faith is kind of scary at times, I think that’s what it was for Peter. Just to go “Okay, let me step out there.” I think one of the times for me was going into the ministry. You know I felt like it was kind of scary cause I didn’t know what it was going to be like… and you know to to basically give up my job, you know, as an engineer which is something that I went to graduate school for. So one of the things I was thinking about: “like oh my parents are going to hate me.” You know, paying for me to go to graduate school, I got my master's degree in mechanical engineering and actually two master's. And all of a sudden say “Hey, I'm gonna go work in the ministry and get paid half of the salary that I've been getting.”
Art: You probably never forgot the moment you had to break the news to them.
Jackson: Yeah, they were definitely not happy. So that for me was kind of stepping out on faith and you know I’ll share a little bit more later. But you know I think there’s different points of time in our lives where we’re faced with different things and whether we're going to step out in faith or not but let’s read on in matthew 14:30 it says “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat the wind died down. Then those who are in the boat worshiped him saying ‘Truly you are the son of God.’”
You know, did he see the wind? Not really right? He can't really see it but you can feel it for sure So what did he see? The waves that came. So what did Jesus say was his problem?
Art: That he lacked faith.
Jackson: Yeah, you of little faith, right? Why did you doubt? And I think some of the things and kind of tries into my initial first podcast how it talks about spiritual blindness because you know faith is about what we do not see, but sometimes the things that we do see, can you know hinder our faith, can affect our faith. Here, Peter saw the waves. Because of the wind and because of that, it made him doubt; it had an impact on his faith. So did he all of a sudden lose faith in Jesus? Not really, right?
Jackson: So that’s… you know, as we were talking about stepping out in faith, and doubts and stuff, it really brought to mind something that i went through as a young christian. I remember I got converted in the campus ministry, and at that time our church was planting different churches in China, and I remember the lead evangelist was sitting down with me and talking about how exciting it was. Part of me thought “oh man maybe I can be a part of that since I'm Chinese,” and you know he was pretty excited, like yeah you know that could be something that maybe God wants you to do and you can be a part of. I remember he even reached out to the guy who was leading the world sector out there, Scott Green, and he told him, “Hey, maybe I got a brother here who might be a good candidate for being out there.” And as I was thinking about that; I was pretty excited. But all of a sudden I started thinking about my challenges; I was thinking about my student loans, I was thinking how was I going to pay that if I go there? I’m studying engineering and what am I to do out there? I barely speak Chinese. What are my parents going to think? And all these different things right?
Long story short, I didn't go but I think through that, it helped me to think about how I didn't step out in faith. And I think that experience shaped my resolve in my faith. Later on when I was asked to go into the ministry, that later on I made a decision, you know what, I’m going to take that step of faith rather than let the different challenges get in the way.
Art: That's really a great story Jackson. It just shows how God could work through our failures and teach us lessons so that he better prepares us for the next time so that we can focus on Jesus. And a scripture that really encourages me is in Hebrews 12 starting in verse 2 where it says: “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him endured the cross, scoring it to shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jackson: Amen, yeah that is a great scripture and I think that's practical for us, that especially during trials; you know we need to fix our eyes on Jesus. And, you know it kind of reminds me of part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount about the wise and foolish builders right? Matthew 7: 24-27 says: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down the streams rose and the winds blew and beat against the house yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine that does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose and the wind blew and beat against that house and it fell with a great crash.“
And what's true in both cases, both wise and foolish builders, is that you know what, the storms came. So when you think about that, what do you think the rain, the rising streams, and the wind represent in our lives?
Art: Wow, well I think we have a lot of those. I think they represent the trials and the doubts that we have, the storms in our life those could range from I think some of the typical storms that we have in our lives deal with relationships. Whether it’s with a significant other, whether it’s with someone in the family, a coworker, or whatever, those are some very strange times. We could have storms and trials in our finances, especially with this pandemic right now, with a lot of people being unemployed. Health issues seems to be a very big issue and especially as we get older and then lastly death, it's just something that we have to face and again as I get older I see it happening more and more with people that I know.
Jackson: Yes, and I think you know that doubt is something that can sometimes make us falter in our faith. But it’s also an opportunity for us to take that and turn around and trust God.
So you know, overcoming doubt, I was thinking about Jesus when he was tempted in the desert right? Satan's first words to him was “If you are the son of God.” Right? Satan is crafty but he’s basically trying to plant seeds of doubt. So like you said I think how we overcome doubt just as Peter had to overcome doubt. I mean look at what Jesus did in that situation. As Peter began to sink, Jesus immediately reached out and caught him. And sometimes that's what we need to do. Sometimes we have to let Jesus catch us. You know I think there's a phrase that stuck with me after all these years from Gordon Ferguson’s book Victory of Surrender, “Let go and let God.”
And sometimes we are afraid to step out in faith because we're afraid of the consequences or the challenges to be able to take that leap of faith…right? But the comforting thing with what we saw is that Jesus is right there. You know if we fall he'll be there to catch us. And when he does I think it will give us a lot more confidence and more faith to be able to overcome our doubts. So Art, we’re looking at overcoming doubt. What are some practical ways that you think we can do to overcome doubt in our lives?
Art: Oh that's a great question. I think first and foremost it’s like we all know; reading the Bible. Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God. So definitely spending good quality time thinking about the Bible, meditating on it, digging deep. I think these character studies are great to pick different people and look at what they had to deal with and how they overcame it. I've been looking at Joseph in the Old Testament and he’s just an amazing example that faced trials and yet he knew God was with him and it just helps me so much in my life. I think praying, being honest with God and telling God how we really feel. It's amazing how God could work through that. And then you know, talking with other people, it’s great to have friends like yourself. You know where we can share our feelings and get encouragement to work things out and so I think there's a lot of things that we could do to help our doubts and God doesn't leave us hanging and he’s always with us.
Jackson: Yeah that’s great, I mean I think just the basics of having quiet times is reading and praying and you know, I think that God put people in our lives so that we can be open about whatever's going on in our lives and so that’s great. Appreciate just thinking about how we can overcome doubt. And just some reflection questions for us as we close things out. You know...
- What are the storms in your life right now?
- What are the things that make you doubt and bring fear in your life?
- How can you let go and let God catch you?
- What specific things can you do today to help you overcome your doubt?
And remember it's a journey, just like it was for Peter. Everything may not totally get worked out in a day or two or a week or month or even years but I think that’s where we let our relationship with God carry us through whatever doubts we encounter. So thank you for joining us, thank you Art for being a part of this.
Art: It’s great to be here.
Jackson: I hope you enjoyed our podcast. The next one we're going to be looking at is overcoming worldliness, another moment in Peter's life that I think helped him to grow in his faith and in his spiritual journey. Amen, thank you.