Three local ministers decided to go fishing one day. They got into a boat, went a short distance out on the lake, and started fishing. After a few hours, one minister ran out of bait. Since they were close to the shore, he stepped over the side of the boat and walked across the water to the bait shop. He bought some more bait, walked back to the boat and got back into the boat.
A little while later, the second minister ran out of bait. He stepped over the side of the boat and walked to the bait shop. He bought some more bait, walked back to the boat and got back in.
A few minutes later, the third minister, who was new to the area, also ran out of bait. He stepped over the side of the boat, and almost drowned!!!!! The other two ministers pulled him back into the boat. One of them said to the other, “I KNEW we should have shown him where the stepping stones were!!!!!!”
Matthew 14:22-33 is a story about taking a leap of faith. Peter took a leap of faith by literally getting out of the boat when he heard Jesus’ call. This same call goes out to all of us today. We are called to take a leap of faith when Jesus calls us. It means getting out of the boats that we call our comfortable lives. Peter left the safety and security of the boat to face the uncertainty of Jesus’ call. When we leave our boats, we have to keep our focus on Jesus. Peter began to sink when he took his eyes off of Jesus, and like Peter, we will fail in our mission if we lose sight of the reason for our mission-Jesus.
Faith is never constant. It comes and goes with the varying circumstances in our lives. We will have our miraculous moments in life, our mountaintop experiences. But mountaintops prepare us for the valleys of life, and calm waters prepare us for the storms of life. Peter is the all too human representative of us all-daring, then doubting, and finally dependent on the Lord for what we need most, our salvation.
When we ride out the storms of life, we can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is just an arm’s length away. The waves don’t bother him, and he is not shaken by the currents. He will help us conquer the storm if we focus on him instead of the storm. He is our anchor in times of trouble. In the words of the old hymn:
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love
There are times when we might think that we have lost Jesus, but he never loses sight of us. When faith reigns, fear has no place. There is no shame in asking for help from Jesus. When we ask for help from him, we can look back on any tough times and be comforted. We can continue forward with courage knowing that the blessed assurance we have in his presence is unconditional.
We are to build our faith on what the Word of God says. We don’t just step out and say, “By faith, I want this. By faith, I demand that.” Instead, we are to ask ourselves, “What does the Scripture teach? What should I be praying for? What should I be asking for?” Then we must pray accordingly. That’s what Peter did, and as long as he had his eyes on Jesus, he was able to do the impossible.
Faith is the refusal to panic, especially since there is no safety net. Faith is a quiet certainty that God keeps his promises, especially the promise to not leave us or forsake us. When our faith lapses, all we have to do is call out to Jesus through prayer. If Jesus found it necessary to pray, what more motivation do we need to pray, especially when life is difficult? When we walk in faith with the master of the wind and waves, we will survive. When we choose to focus on our cares and worries, we raise our worries to the same status as the promises of Jesus. But, which is more important-the ability of Jesus to care for us or the concerns we have about our circumstances?
The storms of life can be best managed through prayer. Jesus spent a great deal of his time in prayer. He made this a regular practice because he knew he could do nothing apart from his father. We need to have the same mindset. If we are rushing through our days, never taking the time to stop, pray and listen to God, we will become exhausted easily and burned out with life. Our refreshment begins with an intimate relationship with the Lord, and it can only be accomplished through prayer and frequent time spent in his presence.
Jesus’ presence does not result in instant miracles or answers to our prayers. Prayer may seem like a waste of time in the midst of the storm, but prayer shows our faith in God, and that faith gives us the strength we need to face the storms of life. For example, one night several years ago my mother had to be rushed by ambulance to the local hospital because of a medical emergency. I followed behind the ambulance in my own car. The doctor on call diagnosed the problem as a heart attack. After he spoke to the two of us, I went home, knowing that there was nothing more I could do for her at that time. After I called the rest of the family, I got ready for bed. Before I went to sleep, I had a serious talk with the Lord. I don’t remember the exact words I used, but the prayer went something like this.
“Lord, I’m leaving the situation in your hands now. Please bless the doctors and nurses who are caring for her. If it’s your will that Mom gets better, then please heal her. If it’s your will that she not survive, please don’t let her suffer. If her condition gets to the point where I have to make the important decisions that Mom and I have discussed, please give me the strength, wisdom and courage to make the right decision; and please give me the strength and courage to accept the consequences of my decision-especially consequences from other family members”.
Thankfully, God answered my prayer in the way I wanted him to answer it. Medical tests the next day revealed that the doctor made the wrong diagnosis. Mom did not have a heart attack-she had blood clots in both lungs. With proper treatment, Mom slowly got better and stronger, and she was released from the hospital after one week. The unexpected way God often does things may startle us and even frighten us. We may not understand why he works in a certain way. That is why he continually tells us, “Do not be afraid. It is I”.
When we put our faith in Jesus, he will carry our burdens and sooth our hearts. A soft-spoken God is an appropriate companion when life is difficult. Sometimes it is only after a difficult period that we can look back at recent events and realize God was here all the time with us. It is like the story of the footprints in the sand. It goes like this.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he asked the Lord about it. “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.” The Lord replied, “My son, my precious child, I love you, and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you”.
Sometimes we have to take a leap of faith, even when everything is peaceful in our lives. Life comes with plenty of risks, and sometimes we have to take calculated risks to get ahead in life. People who start a business take a risk that the business will not be successful, but this risk can be managed with proper planning. When children leave their parents’ home, they take the risk that they will not be successful in life, but even this risk can be managed with proper planning. In some cities, women are at risk of being a victim of a crime such as rape, especially when walking at night, but this risk can also be managed with proper planning. In each case, risk is a part of life. It can be managed, but it can never be eliminated. Without risk, there is no reward. Our faith must be reckless, but the risks we take must not be reckless.
The same is true in our Christian life. Faith is the willingness to take risks, embrace the unseen and step away from the shore. When we put our faith in God, and keep our eyes on him, there is a risk that the world will reject us. It is better to be rejected by the world and be loved by God than to be loved by the world and rejected by God. Wherever we find ourselves today, and we hear Jesus call us, we must put our faith in action and get out of the boat, especially if we want the greater security that Jesus offers. When we step out with faith and trust Jesus, we take him at his word, put him to the test, and just do it! The result is the thrilling adventure called the Christian life.
Faith and doubt can live in the same heart. After all, they lived in Peter’s heart, especially when he walked on the water and began to sink. That’s what happens when we take our eyes off of Jesus. So it is with us. Many times we sit on the sidelines watching someone do something, and decide to try it ourselves, just like Peter decided to walk on the water after he saw Jesus walking on water. Perhaps it looks like fun. Perhaps we think we could do it better. Perhaps we’re just looking for a challenge. And then we learn that it isn’t as easy as it looked. We feel the wind and the roughness of the waves underfoot and wish that we had kept our comfortable seat in the boat.
Or we feel Christ’s call. It might be a call to feed the hungry. It might be a call to serve as a church officer. It might be a call to tithe. It might be a call to speak on behalf of an issue. We begin to answer the call, and then realize it is tougher than it looked. We feel the wind and the roughness of the waves and wish we had kept our comfortable seat in the pews.
We might be safely perched in our easy chairs in front of the television, but that is not what God has created for us. He has created us to be his hands and his voice in the world-and that is seldom easy. Sometimes, when we answer Christ’s call, we will feel the wind and the roughness of the waves and be afraid. When that happens, we need to remember this story of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking toward Jesus, and the leap of faith he took. If he could do it, so can we.
- Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV
- Dr. Harold Sala, “What God Most Desires”. Retrieved from www.guidelines.org
- Lisa Wingate, “Bad Boats”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Greg Laurie, “A Well-Timed Rescue”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Greg Laurie, “No Place for Fear”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Greg Laurie, “Just Ask for Help”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions: 19th Sunday (A)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org.
- Charles F. Stanley, “God’s Provision”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Greg Laurie, “Muscular Faith”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Greg Laurie, “Spectacular Failure”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Jim Penner, “Time Out”. Retrieved from www.hourofppower.cc
- Mary Southerland, “Faith Believes in God”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Leslie Snyder, “Dancing on the Waves”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- John C. Maxwell, “Stepping-Stones for Success”. Retrieved from www.hourofpower.cc
- Anne Graham Lotz, “A Thrilling Adventure”. Retrieved from www.angelministries.org
- Jon Walker, “God Uses Obedience to Develop Our Faith’. Retrieved from www.newsletter.purposedriven.com
- Jon Walker, “Look at Jesus, Not at the Waves”. Retrieved from www.newsletter.purposedriven.com
- Stan Mast, “Faith and Doubt”. Retrieved from www.backtogod.net
- Mary Southerland, “Step Away from the Shore”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Exegesis for Matthew 14:22-33. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
- Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Wordsearch Bible software package.
- Notes from Peter Anthony’s Bible Study on the Gospel of Matthew.
- John Shearman’s Lectionary Resources, Eighth Sunday after Pentecost. Retrieved from http://seemslikegod.org/lectionary/aarchivess/eighth-sunday-after-pentecost-august-7-2011
- Dr. Lanie LeBlanc, OP, “Volume 2: 19th Sunday (A)”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org