“Excuse me God, you want me to do what?!?” It was one of those moments where, during your time of prayer, you know you heard God’s voice, yet you can’t believe it was really Him. I was left scared out of my mind. Sure I had spent years asking God to do the very thing He was now telling me to do. Of course it was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. But now that I was face to face with the possibility of it happening, I was scared to death. There was no way I could do this!
At this moment, God took me to the word and reminded me of the story of one of my favorite men in the Bible, Peter. I love Peter. I GET Peter. Too many times I am a lot like Peter. Today, we are going to look at the passage God took me to and we are going to see what all of God’s men can learn when we feel scared and faithless to do what God called us to do.
I am a firm believer that we all are too hard on Peter. Christians are so quick to jump all over Peter’s mistakes and weaknesses and declare how we can’t understand how someone who walked with God could mess up like Peter would mess up. But in reality, we walk with the same God in our lives and make the same mistakes as Peter. Instead of picking on Peter, I think we should look at His life and learn from His mistakes. That’s what we are going to do today. We are going to look at a time in Peter’s life when he stood up and followed God somewhere no one else would go. We will look at his story and see what lesson we can learn from Him and apply to our own lives.
We are going to be looking at one of the more popular stories of Peter’s life. It happens right after a tough few days of ministry for Jesus and his disciples. They had been travelling throughout Galilee doing mighty works and amazing miracles. Large crowds thronged around Jesus, eager to hear what He had to say. Then they made a stop in Jesus’ hometown.
You would expect that the people would have welcomed the Hometown Boy with open arms. But they didn’t. They wanted nothing to do with Jesus. They basically rejected Him and His disciples. Not being welcome, Jesus and His boys decide to move on.
Next, Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus received news that John the Baptist, His cousin and close friend, was murdered in prison by Herod. This news must have come as a blow to Jesus and His disciples, some of who were disciples of John’s before being called by Jesus. They tried to find a secluded spot to get away and face their emotions. They needed time to mourn. But they weren’t given a chance to mourn.
Matthew 14:13 When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus and the disciples had to not only put aside their grief and minister to the people, but now they had to find food to feed them all! Jesus stepped in and miraculously turned 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish into a buffet for over 5000 people. Not only that, but then they got put on cleanup patrol. They finally were able to send all the people home and send them home.
The bad day for the disciples only got worse. 22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. 23 After He had dismissed them, He went up on a mountainside by Himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
So far today, the disciples had learned of the death of a good friend and close ministry partner, played waiter to a massive crowd of people, then played busboy afterwards, all this on the heels of practically being run out of Jesus’ hometown. Now they found themselves in a boat fighting for survival against a mighty storm! Not exactly a moment you would expect any of them to have a great amount of faith. Yet, even in the middle of it all, Peter found some morsel of faith deep inside of himself.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.”
29 “Come,” He said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught Him. “You of little faith,” He said, “why did you doubt?”
“Wait a minute Jamie! How can you say Peter found faith? It clearly says here that he had little faith and doubted.”
While it is true that Peter doubted when walking on water and sank, one other thing is also clear. HE WALKED ON WATER! And as far as I know, it is only possible to walk on water when you step out of the boat. And it takes amazing faith to take that step and leave the boat.
This is exactly what I felt God speak to me when I was at a loss of faith that I could do what He was calling me to do. Like Peter, I wanted it. Like Peter, I asked God for it. Then, like with Peter, God said, “Ok Jamie, step out of that boat and walk over to me.” However, like the other 11 disciples and unlike Peter, I was too scared to step out of the boat. Then God reminded me of this story and showed me four lessons that gave me strength to stand up and step out. I want to share these 4 lessons with you.
1. You can’t walk on water until you step outside of the boat
Just like Peter, none of us can do the thing God has called us to do and accomplish what He wants us to accomplish until we gather the guts and strength to stand up, climb over the side of the boat and walk. For me, it meant starting a brand new area of ministry and trusting it was God’s will to do it, and depending on Him to make it work. For you it will be something totally different. But you can’t walk where God is leading if you’re still sitting in the comfortable boat. You have to stand up and go where He calls you to go.
2. You will succeed as long as you keep your focus on what Jesus called you to do.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Peter was the only human being in all of history besides the Son of God to walk on water! He changed history because he did what God told him to do. He focused on Jesus and doing what He commanded, and he did something no one thought was possible of had ever done before or since.
The same is true for us. There is nothing we can’t do for God or accomplish for His kingdom as long as we do it relying fully on Him for strength and courage and the ability to do it. Peter defied logic when He was focused on Jesus, and so can we.
3. You will fail the second you take your eyes off of Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink…
Peter defied gravity and nature when He focused on Jesus, but as soon as he took His eyes off of Jesus, he dropped faster than a fat kid cannon-balling off of a high dive. Peter saw the waves, and for a second thought “what in the world am I doing”, and in that moment he sank.
His fatal error was in thinking what He was doing was in His power, not God’s. Then he saw everything around him and thought “I can’t do this.” We cannot make the same mistake. We cannot step out of the boat, accomplish what God calls us to do, and then take our eyes off Jesus. This means we can not only get scared while doing the work and think “I can’t do this anymore”, but it also means we can’t think we are doing what we are doing in our own power. Both will result in the same thing, a quick and sudden sinking. It is only when we rely totally and completely on God and realize that no matter what we do or accomplish, it is only through His might and power that we can continue to tread water and walk where God is leading.
4. If we do sink, we can cry out to God and He will save us.
30 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.
Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and immediately sank. However, Peter had enough sense to cry out to God on the way under, knowing Jesus would save him.
Many read this as the low point of the story, but in reality it is very encouraging. As a matter of fact it should give us the strength to get out of the boat and walk where God is leading. Why? Because we have the assurance that even if we step out of the boat and sink, God will be there to rescue us. Jesus could have said to Peter, “Hey you didn’t cut it, so swim or sink”, but He didn’t. He rescued Him. He will do the same for us!
I have learned that there is no risk to stepping out of the boat. You will more than likely walk on water and accomplish what God called you to do, but worst case scenario, you fail doing something no one else had the guts to do. Either way, God is there for you to carry you, either forward or upward. Peter demonstrated this lesson to us all.
I hope these lessons are as encouraging to you as they were to me. We need to be men who boldly go where God is leading. We need the guts to stand up, walk on the water, focusing intently on Jesus as we do it. If we fail, we fail, God still loves us and will pick us up again. But we won’t fail as long as we stay focused on God and do what He commands and go where he leads, and acknowledge anything we do is done despite us, not because of us. It is done by the power of God working through us. God is calling His men to step out of the boat. The question we must answer is this; will we stand up and step out? I have made my decision, and now is the time for you to do the same.