Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about Peter walking on the water. It seems there are very unique moments in that story that apply to everybody’s life. It starts with a storm and ends with Christ saving Peter. Every element of the story holds a lesson for us to learn. In a way we should be more like Peter and we can also learn from his mistake, but first we have to start at the beginning of the story.
DON’T BE AFRAID
Matthew 14:26-27 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, It is a ghost! And they screamed out with fright. But instantly He spoke to them, saying, Take courage! I Am! Stop being afraid!
I think sometimes we can’t recognize God right away. He can appear immediately in front of us, but since we weren’t expecting him it takes us off guard. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost. In our own lives we probably see God working miracles and are terrified because we don’t understand.
But Jesus instantly says, “Take courage! I Am! Stop being afraid.” We forget all too often that we should not fear. We should have a holy reverence of God and fear him, but nothing else should ever scare us. It reminds me of the verse from 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” So, we need to stop seeing “ghosts” and recognize that God appears in ways we do not expect. That should not scare us or take us off guard, but prepare us for what he wants to do in our lives.
Matthew 14:28-29 And Peter answered Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water. He said, Come! So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and he came toward Jesus.
I remember an old Popeye cartoon where Popeye sees a giant mountain. The mountain has all kinds of monsters and creatures coming out it. A sign reads “BEWARE” in big block letters. Popeye’s response was priceless. Shrugging his shoulders he mumbles, “Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
I think Peter had a similar mindset here. He wasn’t going to let a moment like this pass him by and he stepped out of the boat. Despite his fear, he began to walk on water just like Jesus. His faith carried him, but we know this story all to well and his doubt takes over. Peter begins to sink, but at least he stepped out of the boat. The rest of the disciples stayed back, trembling in fear. If Peter never stepped out he would have never walked on water at all.
I think we need to be aware of the challenges that Christ presents to us so we can step out, too. How many missed opportunities are there in life that passed by because we were scared or comfortable where we were? Sometimes we need to take a risk and step out of the boat.
DON’T SEE THE STORM
Matthew 14:30-31 But when he perceived and felt the strong wind, he was frightened, and as he began to sink, he cried out, Lord, save me [from death]! Instantly Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him, saying to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?
Popeye doesn’t doubt in the cartoon. He didn’t make it halfway through the mountain and then panic. He didn’t see all the monsters and obstacles and say, “What did I get myself into?”. Of course no. He did get his butt kicked for a while, though, but then he ate some spinach. We all know how that story ends.
Maybe Peter needed some spinach. Jesus knew he really needed faith, though. I wish I was more like Popeye and didn’t lean on knowing my circumstances. Peter looked around and “perceived” the storm around him. That is when he began to sink because Christ didn’t want him looking at the storm. He wanted Peter focused on him.
If Peter had faith he would have kept on walking on water, but he doubted and began to sink. Jesus still saved him, though. Jesus won’t abandon us when we lack faith. In those moments we can call out to him and he will be there to save us, but he’ll always ask “why did you doubt?”
Peter was the only disciple to ask Jesus if he could walk on the water. I fact his exact phrase was, “command me to come to you on the water”. I think we get scared to ask God sometimes because we are afraid he’ll say “no” and we’ll be disappointed. That thought doesn’t line up with scripture, though. We are commanded to ask.
In James 4:1, “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it.”
In Luke 11:10, “For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened.”
In Matthew 21:20, “And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive.”
In Philippians 4:6, “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
The list goes on. We should always ask God and he’ll surprise us with the results. We shouldn’t be focused on the storm, but the miracle that can take place because of the storm. Whatever your circumstances may be, it is only a way God can give you a chance to walk on water.