Pastor Marcus Blair, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Centralia
There was a man who boasted to his friends that he had trained his duck hunting dog to do something really special. “You won’t believe what my dog can do!” he told them all. When duck season arrived, the men took the new dog out to the duck blind and in just a little while, here came a few ducks. The hunters opened fire, managing to drop three large mallards. The man looked to his dog and said, “Go get ‘em, boy!”
The dog bolted from the blind and walked on the water to the first duck, picked it up, and walked on the water back to the blind, dropping the duck at their feet. He returned to the water for the other two ducks and sure enough, he walked on the water again and again. When the dog finally returned, his owner looked over at one of the other hunters and asked, “Well, what do you think?”
The man replied, “I think your dog is stupid! He can’t even swim!”
Simon Peter is a lot like that dog, in that he rarely gets credit for what he COULD do that was amazing, and instead Peter takes flak for sinking. At least he got out of the boat! The other disciples were too worried, too focused on the storm. Peter was focused on Christ. He saw and understood somehow that if Christ wanted him to walk on water, a person could indeed do it.
Peter told Jesus, “If you bid me, I’ll come to you on the water.”
If the Lord draws us to Him out of our comfort zones, often our first reaction is to imagine failure. We imagine failure so easily, so we imagine God failing us so easily. We feel it is foolish to get out of the boat. All human experience tells us to stay where we have it good and easy. But Jesus bids “Come.” Come out of safety. Come out of normalcy. Come out of the usual. Come out of how it’s always been. Come out of comfort.
But when we come out of what is easy and normal, Jesus bids us to come into the storm. Come into the wind. Come into the lashing rain. Come into the rolling waves. Come into the blackness, the harshness of the world. Come into spiritual experience. Come into a new and maybe frightening knowledge of God. Come into adventure.
I look to this scripture and I see my own experiences with God. I see Jesus, a beacon of light, a white spark of holiness, and I see myself, the small, weak wretch in a battered boat. And around us rages the storm of life. Around us howls the wind of doubt. Under us is an abyss of sinking sorrow. And I stare at him and walk, though in my peripheral vision, I can’t help but see the raging storm. It presses in like a vortex of darkness. And I know that I must keep my eyes fixed on Christ or I am doomed.
He draws us out of our complacency and hard heartedness. That’s the boat we have constructed for ourselves in life, and it often serves us well: we cease to feel, and close ourselves off from God, knowing that if we don’t listen, we don’t have to try to walk on the waves, out where it is terrifying.
Peter may have sank, but look what he did: we have no idea how far he made it, but he actually walked on water. How many of the other disciples could say that? Their fear kept them bound to what seemed safe.
Faith is a risk.
In faith, we risk our feelings and we risk our mind. We fear God will drop us. We fear that we are beyond saving. We fear that we will sink. But faith says, “Risk it. Try God. See what He will do.” The risk isn’t that God won’t act. The risk is that WE won’t act. That we will find out how real and powerful God really is and then we will be asked to sell out and take up the cross. And then we won’t have the guts to follow through. We will chicken out on the type of risky faith the Bible teaches.
But imagine being Peter and being in that boat. The storm was raging and there was much fear. Then came Christ across the water and the more Peter stared at Him, the more he understood that Jesus had power over everything else. And if his focus was on Jesus, Peter could also walk in that power.
Today, Jesus is right where he’s always been: standing on the waves of your storm, beckoning you to get out of the boat. Calling to you. Inviting you. And you are gripping the wood of that ship you’ve built yourself and you’re thinking, “Can it work? Is this real? Is this God? Maybe I should stay here.” But to tell the Savior “no” is your greatest failure in life. Your ultimate low point comes the moment you say no to Jesus. Instead, it is time you said with Peter, “Lord, if it’s you, bid me to come to you on the water.” And then you take that first step out of the boat and realize that the sea will indeed hold you.