Many years ago, a bold disciple dared to step out of the boat.
Sound familiar? This story of the apostle Peter is talked about quite a lot. I can’t count the number of sermons, lessons, and devotions I’ve heard or read about it. Various teachers have focused on everything from Peter’s boldness in stepping out to his error in taking his eyes off of Jesus.
But, what if we’ve all missed the point?
Oh, not that those lessons we’ve heard aren’t good ones. We should cultivate the faith and discover the courage to get out of the boat when Jesus calls. And we need to keep our eyes on Jesus as we journey through this life, particularly when we are following his lead in places outside our abilities.
But, imagine for just a moment, we’ve all missed a much more basic lesson. A more important truth.
The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. ~C.S. Lewis
This past fall was a season of trials and obstacles for me.
In my personal life, we had two kids struggling to find jobs, two cars required new tires, our rental house needed a new roof, one pet needed put down while another faced a health issue that requires daily medication. Do you see the money flying out our front door?
My professional life also faced difficulties. Hailey, my assistant, and I had numerous problems releasing my newest nonfiction, I’ve Got Jesus … Now What? And I encountered some stern criticism on a couple of topics—nothing outright ugly, but with people who were not seeking understanding or filled with grace.
To top it all off, as I began planning my calendar for this year, I had to take the time to consider if God wanted me to continue serving in two ministries that I love. Was it time to bow out and trust Him to raise someone up to take my place? Or did I need to find more discipline and hold my course?
Sinking, Possibly In Over My Head
More than once, I felt like I was losing ground. Like the problems were bigger than I could sludge my way through.
I was out of the boat—or I thought I was. The waves were certainly big, and it seemed like I was sinking. I strained to focus on Jesus, reminded myself to keep my eyes on Him.
And that’s when something in this story jumped out at me.
Matthew’s Account of Peter
The story is found in Matthew 14:22-33, but the verses I’m focusing on are 28-31.
“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, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 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?”
1. Yes, Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and put them on the storm.
It’s our natural, human inclination. For whatever reason, we tend to see negative things easily.
2. Yes, Jesus asked Peter about his doubt.
Faith is a critical element on accomplishing everything God wants us to do in this life. But, there’s at least one more lesson to see here.
3. Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.
Jesus never took his eyes off of Peter. Jesus knew the wind and the waves would draw his disciple’s attention, so He stayed close—close enough to reach out and touch Peter.
What if this third lesson was the main point Jesus wanted to drill into Peter’s heart and mind? What if Jesus wanted Peter to try, to stretch his faith, to reach for the impossible, and in the process realize that when doubts and fears attacked, Jesus would still be there, ready to rescue him.
Fight fear with truth. ~Carrie Daws, Crossing’s Redemption
I believe this lesson gave Peter strength to do some of the feats that we admire him for today. From preaching to a crowd on the Day of Pentecost to his final moments before martyrdom, Peter knew better than anyone else in the boat that stormy day that Jesus stood ready to help him.
As I look at the obstacles around me right now, I realize that I am not failing. While I could probably finetune my focus and kick out a few more doubts, I’m learning the lessons of faith. I’m seeing my Savior’s hand extended, grasping me firmly so the waves do not overpower me.
In my Crossing series, Amber Griffin carries around a lot of baggage from her past, making her doubt herself and keep people away. When she meets the Yagers, she is able to trust God to heal some of those old wounds. Yet God remains close, waiting to do even more healing.
(Crossing Series, book 4)
Many in Crossing, Oregon, would describe long-time resident Patricia Guire as an eclectic force to be reckoned with, one who speaks her mind. Yet something is changing. She seems to be dropping out of her normal activities, becoming scarce around town and less available to her friends.
Amber Yager feels called to check in on Patricia. Yet as she spends time with her and discovers Patricia’s hidden past, she is drawn into a group that brings disquiet to her own soul, ripping open old wounds. Will the love she’s found in Crossing be taken from her? Or could both Amber and Patricia finally find peace as God shines light into the darkest places of their hearts?