Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Clinging to the Safety of the Boat (RP1)


            Many years ago, I was working on a project for a client when I walked into an art gallery and saw this painting hanging on the wall. If you know me, then you know that I am not the least bit artistic. I wouldn’t know good art if it hit me in the head. However, I couldn’t take my eyes of this picture because it spoke directly to me in so many ways. I couldn’t afford it but I couldn’t forget it either. A year later, it was still hanging in his gallery so I gave him a little money I had with me and asked him to hold it for me. It took me a while to save up the rest of the money but I eventually saved enough to buy it and it’s been hanging in my office directly across from me ever since. If you don’t recognize it, it’s a picture of Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a storm while the disciples are in a small fishing boat desperately trying to keep from drowning. Nevertheless, when they recognize that it is Jesus, Peter gets out of the boat and tries to walk to Jesus on the water. Although he manages a few steps on the water, the weight of his doubt causes him to sink like a stone and that’s when Jesus catches him and saves him.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve followed what I believed God was calling me to do, fully confident that God’s plan would succeed, only to be shaken by doubt when the plan didn’t go the way I thought it should have gone. Truthfully, I go through this every week after I post a new lesson. When God leads me through the preparation of a lesson, I am so confident that each lesson will be the one that will light a flame that will spread to every country in the world. By the end of each week, I begin to sink like a stone as I realize that my lessons still haven’t been accessed in every nation in the world like I’ve been praying they would. Yet as I begin writing this lesson, I am once again confident that God might use this lesson, or one of my other lessons, to reach someone in each country.
I can’t be the only one who goes through this. I’m betting that some of you are sinking like a stone right now. You’ve stepped out in faith in something in your life—leaving home for the first time to go to school or to take a new job; or you’ve taken a new job that pays less so you don’t have to travel and be away from your family; or you’ve decided that divorce is no longer an option for your marriage and you begin to do the hard work of restoring your marriage; or you’re finally going to put a stop to the abusive relationship you’ve endured for so long; or you’ve decided that you’re no longer going to associate with the group of kids who are experimenting with sex and drugs; or you’ve decided that you’re no longer going to allow drugs or alcohol to control your life; or you’ve decided that sleeping with someone who isn’t your spouse doesn’t honor God and now you have to have that hard conversation with the person you’ve been sleeping with; or you’ve decided you’re going to share your faith with friends and family regardless of what they think of you. Any one of these events and countless others require significant faith on your part that you’re doing what God is calling you to do but you constantly battle with doubt that you can do it—you’re certain God can do it but you doubt God can do it through you, and you begin to sink like a stone in water. I get it—I know exactly where you’re at; how you’re feeling; how worried you are; how embarrassed you are; how lonely you are; how angry you are; how hurt you are; how frightened you are that you just might drown. I believe it’s a normal dynamic for all those who seek to be faithful followers of Christ.
We’re not robots and I’m sure God’s not overly troubled about our fear and doubt. Here’s what I do think troubles God: I want you to take a close look at that picture again. What else do you see in the picture? That’s right! Eleven other disciples are still sitting in the boat; Clinging to the Safety of the Boat! Eleven disciples who spent just as much time with Jesus and witnessed the same miracles as did Peter, didn’t have enough faith to even try and hang a leg over the side of the boat and dip their toes in the water! It’s true that Peter’s fear and doubt caused him to sink but his faith also compelled him to get out of the boat; his faith gave him the opportunity to take a few steps on the water before he began to sink. Think about it—he had a chance to take a few steps on the water before he sank! That’s the beauty of faith—having the chance to walk on water. There’s definitely a risk but it’s a risk worth taking if it means getting closer to Jesus. Even if Jesus winds up having to save you and you’re scared to death, it’s better than doing nothing and Clinging to the Safety of the Boat far from where Jesus is calling you to come to Him; to follow Him.
Subject Text
Matthew 14:22-33
            22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27But 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. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Context
            If Jesus had performed no other miracles during His earthly ministry, I think this story would have been enough to convince me of who He said He was. But this wasn’t His only miracle. In fact, immediately preceding this event, at the beginning of the chapter, Jesus found Himself surrounded by a very large crowd of people, again, who brought Him their sick, again, and Jesus healed them all, again. When the hour became late, the disciples suggested that Jesus send the people back to the surrounding villages for the evening so the people could get something to eat for themselves. But Jesus wasn’t done with the people or the disciples. Jesus tells the disciples that they need not send the people away. Instead, Jesus tells the disciples that they should feed the people. Keep in mind that the text says there were five thousand men besides women and children. So there could have been ten to fifteen thousand people! How much food do you suppose they would have needed to feed all those people? Thanks to Jesus, probably not as much as you might think. The disciples brought Jesus two fish and five loaves of bread. Jesus gave thanks for the food, broke the bread and began distributing it to the people. All the people ate their fill and the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of leftovers! The text doesn’t tell us how many, if any, of the people knew that Jesus started with two fish and five loaves of bread but the disciples knew and that will be important as the disciples, after they had finished serving the large crowd, got in a boat at Jesus’ instruction and made their way across the Sea of Galilee. This is where we begin our Subject Text.
Text Analysis
            22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
The stage appears to be set in vv. 22-23 as Jesus directs the disciples to cross the lake ahead of him. After the disciples had gone, Jesus dismisses the large crowd of people. He then does something that was not uncommon for Him but is always interesting for me—Jesus goes up the mountainside by Himself to pray. For a long time, I just couldn’t figure out why Jesus needed to pray. What I finally realized was that Jesus didn’t need to pray, He wanted to pray. It had less to do with some sort of religious exercise of communication between superior and subordinate and everything to do with the relationship between Father and Son. I didn’t have a close relationship with my father so it was difficult for me to make the relationship connection between God the Father and the God the Son. But once I had children of my own, that all changed. When my girls were living at home, we were together all the time; we did virtually everything together; we talked about everything. When they went away to college, we obviously couldn’t be together all the time and couldn’t do everything together. However, because of the bond that was forged in the years we spent together, we weren’t going to allow proximity to be an obstacle to our relationship. We communicated on a daily basis, not because we needed to but because we wanted to. Jesus retreats to pray to the Father because of the relationship that was forged between Father, Son, and Spirit during the timeless eternity past and they weren’t going to let proximity be an obstacle to their relationship.
Prayer for Jesus, like prayer for us, is not about religious duty but about relationship. “Ontologically, Jesus’ relationship with God the Father is, of course, absolutely unique, but experientially we are invited into the same intimacy with Father God that he knew while here in the flesh. We are encouraged to crawl into the Father’s lap and receive his love and comfort and healing and strength. We can laugh, and we can weep, freely and openly. We can be hugged and find comfort in his arms. And we can worship deep within our spirit.”[1]
24but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
            There’s something about the geographical location of the Sea of Galilee that makes it susceptible to evening storms especially during the changing seasons. Here’s what I find interesting about the scene that begins to unfold in v. 24, some of the disciples were professional fisherman here on this lake. And even those who weren’t fishermen knew the potential for danger when they got into the boat at that time of day to set sail for the other side. But Jesus instructed them to go so they went. And sure enough, they found themselves fighting a storm at sea that suddenly engulfed them. They knew the dangers and went anyway.
Whether we like it or not, followers of Christ are kind of like reluctant storm-chasers. We obey His instructions only to find ourselves in the midst of some of the worst storms of our life. We know there’s always potential for a storm but we do what Jesus tells us to do, not because of the possibility of a storm but in spite of it. The disciples had experienced this before but Jesus was with them in the boat and was able to quiet the storm when they were frightened about the prospect of drowning (Mt 8:23-27). This time, they were alone and Jesus was far away. The text says that they were a “considerable distance from land.” The Greek actually reads that they were “many stadia” away from land. One stadia is approximately six hundred feet. The Apostle John records this same event and says they rowed twenty-five to thirty stadia which is approximately three to four miles. In other words, Jesus was too far away to help them this time—or was He?
“Note that Jesus sent the disciples out into the storm alone. Even as he was ascending the mountainside, he could feel and hear the gale’s force. Jesus was not ignorant of the storm. He was aware that a torrent was coming that would carpet-bomb the sea’s surface. But he didn’t turn around. The disciples were left to face the storm…alone. The greatest storm that night was not in the sky; it was in the disciples’ hearts. The greatest fear was not from seeing the storm-driven waves; it came from seeing the back of their leader as he left them to face the night with only questions and companions. It was this fury that the disciples were facing that night. Imagine the incredible strain of bouncing from wave to wave in a tiny fishing vessel. One hour would weary you. Two hours would exhaust you. Surely Jesus will help us, they thought. They’d seen him still storms before. On this same sea, they had awakened him during a storm, and he had commanded the skies to be silent. They’d seen him quiet the wind and soothe the waves. Surely he will come off the mountain. But he doesn’t. Their arms begin to ache from rowing. Still no sign of Jesus. Three hours. Four hours. The winds rage. The boat bounces. Still no Jesus. Midnight comes. Their eyes search for God—in vain. By now the disciples have been on the sea for as long as six hours. All this time they have fought the storm and sought the Master. And, so far, the storm is winning. And the Master is nowhere to be found…Peter, Andrew, James, and John have seen storms like this. They are fishermen; the sea is their life. They know the havoc the gale-force winds can wreak. They’ve seen the splintered hulls float to the shore. They’ve attended the funerals. They know, better than anyone, that this night could be their last…
“Maybe you’re riding a storm, searching the coastline for a light, a glimmer of hope. You know that Jesus knows what you are going through. You know that he’s aware of your storm. But as hard as you look to find him, you can’t see him. Maybe your heart, like the disciples’ hearts, has been hardened by unmet expectations. Your pleadings for help are salted with angry questions…Storms attack our faith…Storms destroy…Storms come like a missile…Storms usher in the night…The questions of storms is, ‘Where is God and why would he do this?’”[2]
25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
            Finally, sometime between 3:00am and 6:00am we learn in v. 25 that Jesus comes to the rescue; however, not in the way anyone would have expected. Jesus comes to the disciples walking on the water! During the storms in our lives when we are pleading for God to show up; for God to help; for God to save us, we expect God to act in a certain way. Well I bet the disciples were also expecting Jesus to act in a certain way; either calm the storm or get them to the other side safely. But Jesus does neither—well not yet. Instead, Jesus does the unexpected; Jesus comes to them walking on the water! Come on! If you didn’t know this story, would you have seen that coming? No way! Our ability and perspective is so limited especially in the midst of the storms of our lives compared to God’s ability and perspective at all times in our lives. And it seems clear that it was the last thing the disciples were expecting in v. 26. If you think they couldn’t be more frightened than they already were at the prospect of drowning, you’d be wrong. The text tells us that they were terrified. They thought that Jesus was actually a ghost and they were screaming in fear! Honestly, would you have responded differently? We’re pretty brave on this side of the pages but try to put yourself in that boat at that moment. How would you have responded at seeing Jesus walking toward you on the water? But Jesus doesn’t come to us for the purpose of frightening us, He comes to us for the purpose of being with us; stretching our faith; caring for us; sometimes calming the storms of our lives; but ultimately, to save us. Verse 27 is one of those places where the NIV translation cheats us out of the full impact of the Greek text. The NIV translates Jesus’ response to the disciples’ misunderstanding of who or what was approaching them walking on the water as, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Other English translations render “It is I” as “I am here.” But the Greek actually reads, “Take courage! I AM. Don’t be afraid.” “The literal reading for ‘I am here’ is ‘I am’; it is the same as saying ‘the I AM is here’ or I, Yahweh, am here.’ Jesus, the ‘I AM,’ came with unexpected help and encouragement during the disciples’ time of desperate need. Their need was real; their fear was real. But in the presence of Jesus, fear can be dismissed.”[3]
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.
            Fear suddenly gives way to courage and trust in vv. 28-29, for Peter. While they all saw Jesus and they all had opportunity, it was Peter who had the courage; the faith to pursue Jesus even though it probably didn’t make sense to him. Peter is the one that asks Jesus to summon him and Jesus grants Peter’s request. When Jesus says “Come,” Peter gets out of the boat and steps not into the water but onto the water! Peter actually started walking toward Jesus on the water! Have you ever stood at the edge of the water and wondered…what would it be like to have such faith so as to be able to step out on the water knowing that you wouldn’t sink? Have you ever jumped off a diving board into a pool or off a boat dock into a lake? Did you land on the surface of the water and then walk back to where you jumped or did you plunge deep into the water and have to swim back to where you started? Well that’s our experience with water and it was Peter’s experience with water as well. But seeing Jesus walking on the water and believing that Jesus could help him do the same, Peter got out of the boat.
Notice that Jesus didn’t ask all of them to come to Him. In fact, He didn’t initially ask Peter to come to Him either. They all had the opportunity to take the initiative to pursue Jesus in faith but only Peter seized on the opportunity. “Twelve disciples sat in the boat, and we don’t know how eleven of them responded to that voice. Perhaps with confusion, wonder, disbelief, or a little bit of each. But one of them, Peter, was about to become a water-walker. He recognized that God was present—even in the most unlikely place. He realized that this was an extraordinary opportunity for spiritual adventure and growth. So he got an idea…Peter blurted out to the water-walker, ‘If it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ Why does Matthew include this detail? Why doesn’t Peter just plunge into the water? I think it’s for a very important reason. This is not a story about risk-taking; it is primarily a story about obedience. That means I will have to discern between an authentic call from God and what might simply be a foolish impulse on my part. Courage alone is not enough; it must be accompanied by wisdom and discernment. Matthew is not glorifying risk-taking for its own sake. Jesus is not looking for bungee jumping, hang-gliding, day trading, tornado-chasing Pinto drivers. [For those of you not old enough or not familiar with the reference to “Pinto,” let me explain: The Pinto was a vehicle manufactured by the Ford Motor Company from 1971-1980. It had a somewhat serious manufacturing defect that landed it on the list of the 50 worst vehicles ever manufactured. Specifically, if the vehicle was struck from behind, it had a tendency of exploding and killing its occupants. Not good!]
“Water-walking is not something Peter does for recreational purposes. This is not a story about extreme sports. It’s about extreme discipleship. This means that before Peter gets out of the boat, he had better make sure Jesus thinks it’s a good idea. So he asks for clarity, ‘If it is you, command me….’ And in the darkness, I think Jesus smiled. Maybe he laughed. Because one person in the boat got it. Peter had some inkling of what it is the Master is doing. Not only that, Peter had enough faith to believe that he too could share the adventure. He decided he wanted to be part of history’s water-walk…Before we go any further, I want you to put yourself in the story. Picture in your mind how violent the storm must have been if it was strong enough to keep seasoned professionals struggling just to avoid being capsized. Imagine the size of the waves, the strength of the wind, the darkness of the night—and no Dramamine! These were the conditions under which Peter was going to get out of the boat. It would be tough enough to try to walk on the water when the water is calm, the sun is bright, and the air is still. Imagine trying to do it when the waves are crashing, the wind is at gale force, and it’s three o’clock in the morning—and you’re terrified. Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. You have a sudden insight into what Jesus is doing—the Lord is passing by. He’s inviting you to go on the adventure of your life. But at that same time, you’re scared to death. What would you choose—the water or the boat? The boat is safe, secure, and comfortable. On the other hand, the water is rough. The waves are high. The wind is strong. There’s a storm out there. And if you get out of the boat—whatever your boat might happen to be—there’s a good chance you might sink. But if you don’t get out of the boat, there’s a guaranteed certainty that you will never walk on the water. This is an immutable law of nature. If you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
“I believe there is something—Someone [think Holy Spirit]—inside us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat. You were made for something more than merely avoiding failure. There is something inside that wants you to walk on the water—to leave the comfort of routine existence and abandon yourself to the high adventure of following God. So let me ask you a very important question: What’s your boat? Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself. Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy. Your boat is whatever pulls you from joining Jesus on the waves. Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship. Want to know what your boat is? Your fear will tell you. Just ask yourself this: What is it that most produces fear in me—especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?[4]
30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
            Stepping out in faith is one thing, persevering in faith is quite another, as we see in vv. 30-31. Peter had managed to muster up enough faith to get out of the boat but he took his eyes of Jesus and looked down at the water and waves crashing around him. Suddenly the idea of following Jesus wasn’t nearly as enticing as it was from the edge of the boat. The faith that gave Peter the courage to get out of the boat began to wane and doubt began to take its place. As a result, a walk turned into a swim and Peter began to do what he believed he was destined to do all along—Peter began to fail; he began to sink. You see, Peter had faith in Jesus that buoyed him on top of the waves but ultimately he had greater faith in the laws of nature that began to pull him under.
Isn’t this the way our faith goes as well? God’s calling is sure and clear while you’re at the rail of the boat and you’re still pretty certain when you climb over the edge, you even take a few steps, but then the obstacles begin to rise and you wonder—‘Did I really hear God?’ ‘What was I thinking?’ ‘Why in the world did I leave the boat where I was safe?’ You look down; you look back; you stop looking at Jesus; and your doubts start pulling you down like a stone tied to your feet. You left a good paying job because you believed God called you to a life of service to Him. You were certain you heard God calling and you stepped out in faith but now your days are filled with trying to care for your family and you begin to wonder if you did the right thing; you take your eyes off Jesus and you begin to doubt and pretty soon you feel like your drowning. You’ve recommitted yourself to your marriage after being betrayed and hurt once again because you believe God is calling you to be faithful to your marriage vows. So you redouble your efforts and pour yourself even more fully into your marriage. But then the betrayal and the hurt is repeated and you wonder if you should have left the last time; you take your eyes off Jesus and you begin to doubt and pretty soon you’re under water.
Whenever Jesus calls, we start out with so much enthusiasm and faith but no matter what it is, we are bound to run into the obstacle of sin—either our own or that of someone else—and our faith gets trampled underfoot and we start giving up. But you know what? Jesus never gives up on us; He will never let us drown. Just like Jesus reached out and saved Peter, He reaches out to save us. Jesus knows why Peter is sinking; Jesus knows that Peter’s faith is weak but Jesus still saves him. Jesus doesn’t expect perfect faith from us. Jesus expects us to get out of the boat and stay focused on Him! We focus on Peter’s failure in this story and Jesus’ admonition of his doubt and that should be part of our focus because it describes so many of us. However, let’s remember something else important in this story; something that describes many others, maybe even most others, who call themselves followers of Christ—Eleven of the twelve disciples didn’t even get out of the boat! If Jesus admonished Peter for his lack of faith, what do you suppose He thought about the faith of those who were Clinging to the Safety of the Boat? It is true that Peter sank and had to be saved by Jesus and was admonished by Jesus for his lack of faith, but for just a little while he walked on the water!
Which one of you out there who are reading these words or listening to them wouldn’t give anything for a chance to take a couple of steps on top of the water? I know I would. But “Peter’s attention moved from Jesus to the storm. Matthew says, he saw the wind, which means, of course, that Peter saw the effects of the wind; he perceived the wind; with the movements of the waves and boat, the spray and the feel of the wind, it came home to him that to be on the water in a storm like the one he was experiencing and to be outside the boat was to be in a position of some danger. The result was that Peter became afraid, and the onset of fear was accompanied by the beginning of sinking. Peter’s shifting concentration from Jesus, who could enable him to overcome difficulties, to the difficulties in which he found himself, was disastrous. So he cried out for help…the leading apostle might have been expected to trust more wholeheartedly, more especially since he had already taken some steps in his alien environment. He was learning that problems arise when doubt replaces trust.”[5]
32And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
            Although we don’t know for certain, it is implied in v. 32 that Jesus pulls Peter up onto the top of the water again and they walk together back to the boat. The text does not tell us but it is unlikely they were immediately adjacent to the boat. I suppose Jesus could have carried Peter but that’s assuming far too much especially since the text says they climbed into the boat. It’s only important in that when Jesus comes to our rescue, He doesn’t then take over and do what we were called to do or excuse us from doing what we’ve been called to do but He renews our strength and faith so that we can persevere in the task He has called us to. And the moment Jesus and Peter return to the boat the wind died down and the storm relents. It is a picture of how all those who keep the company of Jesus are blessed. They were all affected by the storm and now they’ve all been blessed by the calm. “In walking on the water and delivering the disciples from the storm, Jesus exercises divine attributes and accomplishes feats that are the prerogative of God alone. It is also significant that Jesus can share his capacity to walk on water with Peter. But authority to walk on water is relatively inconsequential when it is compared with authority to extend God’s kingdom. Peter’s faith (and that of the other disciples collectively) may be weak, but Jesus’ presence will continue to empower and rescue as inevitable future trials are encountered.”[6]
33Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
            The disciples were already witnesses to the calming of one storm (Mt 8:23-27). They have witnessed the feeding of thousands with a few small fish and handful of bread. They’ve been witnesses to countless healings and demon exorcisms. But witnessing Jesus walking on the water and helping Peter walk on the water and finally silencing a crashing storm without words, but simply by his presence, pushed them to worship and make the only confession possible in v. 33—Jesus was the Son of God. It is not possible to read or study the Scriptures without coming to the same conclusion. “In Acts 10:25f; Rev 19:10; 22:8f it is expressly stated that worship is to be offered to God alone, not to an apostle (even such a prominent apostle as Peter!), or even to an angelic being. Hence, whenever obeisance [meaning: To bow in worship and reverence] is made before Jesus, the thought is either explicit or implicit that he is King, Lord, the Son of God, One who can act with divine omnipotence. For that reason obeisance is often linked with a request for help in sore need. On the one hand, it intensifies the request, while, on the other hand, it is a sign of faith in the divine helper and redeemer, a faith certain of being heard…Obeisance is nothing less than the outward reflex of the action of faith: to believe means to adore Jesus, to recognize him as Lord, to render him homage as king.”[7]
Application
            I recently watched a film about a family trying to survive in a very harsh environment. The father was the family’s protector and caretaker. His survival motto was “Remember, never not be afraid!” He was constantly at odds with his daughter who was a free-spirit and a natural explorer. The father and daughter were arguing after she took what he believed was an unnecessary risk. The father said that it was necessary for them to be afraid in order to survive. But his daughter insisted that they couldn’t be afraid of everything. The father said, “Fear has kept us alive to this point.” His daughter replied in a way that applies to our lesson today. She said, “Being afraid of everything is not living, it’s just not dying—there’s a difference.” There is a difference indeed!
Do you ever wonder if the disciples talked about this event later? Do you suppose that some of the disciples recalled the event as, “Hey Peter, remember that time when you thought you could walk on the water but started sinking and Jesus had to save you? That was so crazy!” And I wonder if Peter responded with, “Yeah but I took a couple of steps first. How about you guys? How many steps did you take? Oh that’s right, you were Clinging to the Safety of the Boat. Too bad—it was the most amazing thing ever!” Eleven of the disciples had a perspective of fear and failure while one had the perspective of faith and a chance to take a few steps on the water just like the One who is able to calm the storm with His presence. I want to go back to something I quoted earlier, “What’s your boat? Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself. Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy. Your boat is whatever pulls you from joining Jesus on the waves. Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship. Want to know what your boat is? Your fear will tell you. Just ask yourself this: What is it that most produces fear in me—especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?”[8]
For me, it was when I was first called to ministry more than a decade ago now. My boat was a career as a respected professional in the business community making good money that I believed I needed because I had a family to take care of. I couldn’t possibly leave that and pursue a life of ministry, how would I provide for my family? They depended on me! What about all I had worked for? It took many years and lots of hard work to get where I was on the corporate ladder. Is there really anything wrong with wanting to care for and protect my family? Is there anything wrong with being successful in your profession? You can see how a person can rationalize almost anything. But I was simply Clinging to the Safety of the Boat just like the eleven disciples. And you know what? That wasn’t living, it just wasn’t dying and there’s a difference. I answered God’s call to ministry and much has changed over the years, the prominent career is gone and so is the money. But my family has somehow been protected and cared for. And you know what, I’ve had a chance to walk on the water a few times as I baptized a customer’s dying mother and prayed at the bedside of a child stricken with cancer at the request of his unbelieving mother who was desperate for healing that eventually became reality. Even though you could rightly accuse me of spending most of my time sinking like a stone and crying out to Jesus to save me, I can say: “Yeah, but I took a few steps on the water first—and it was amazing!”
This week, I want you to think about a few things. Is God calling you to come to Him; to pursue something in His name; to change something about the way you are living? What’s your boat? What is it that produces the most fear in you when you think of doing it or leaving it behind and stepping out in faith? Is it your job? Is it a destructive relationship? Is it the drugs or the alcohol? Is it a sexually immoral lifestyle? Is it your money? What fear keeps you Clinging to the Safety of the Boat? Remember, fear is not a lifestyle; it’s not living—it’s just not dying and there’s a difference. Get out of your boat and, in faith, take a few steps on the water toward whatever it is that God may be calling you to do or stop doing. And even though you might get wet at times, you’ll experience the amazing life of extreme discipleship; of being close to Jesus every time He saves you from sinking!




[1] Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992), p. 135.
[2] Max Lucado, In The Eye Of The Storm: A Day in the Life of Jesus, (Word Publishing, Dallas, TX: 1991), pp. 108-111.
[3] Bruce Barton, Philip Comfort, Grant Osborne, Linda K. Taylor, and Dave Veerman, Life Application New Testament Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), p. 69,
[4] John Ortberg, If You Want To Walk On The Water, You’ve God To Get Out Of The Boat, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001), pp. 16-17.
[5] Leon Morris, The Gospel According To Matthew—Pillar New Testament Commentary, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 383-384.
[6] David L. Turner, Matthew—Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p. 373.
[7] Colin Brown, gen. ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), p. 877.
[8] Ortberg, If You Want To Walk On The Water, You’ve God To Get Out Of The Boat, p. 16.






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