I don’t like boats.
Let me restate that. I’m not a great swimmer and I have this weird thing where I always fear that any Sea or Lake vessel I’m on will capsized and I’ll drown.
When my wife suggests we go on a cruise vacation, I break into a horrible sweat and exercise one of my three annual veto rights. I know this is even more ridiculous and the chances of it ever happening are slim, but I worry the ship’s captain will go too fast and not heed any warnings before we strike an iceberg and all die in freezing water.
As a result of this totally real fear, I find myself empathizing with twelve men caught in a terrible storm out at sea. I speak here of Jesus’ 12 disciples on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, being beaten and tossed by great waves.
Here’s what we know. Jesus’ had sent them ahead of Him to the other side of the Sea so He could have some alone-time praying and communing with His Father. The twelve men have sailed three miles out into the sea on a fishing boat when a terrible storm hits. It’s somewhere around 3:00 and 6:00 A.M., which means it is nearly pitch black except for the occasional lightning. They genuinely fear for their lives.
You know what’s worse than being caught in a storm in the middle of the sea when it’s totally dark? Seeing someone going for a stroll in the midst of the waves! (Which is exactly what happens next).
One, three or maybe all the disciples (in the middle of trying to steady their medium-sized boat on the rough seas) suddenly spot something…someone walking on the sea. I’ve tried envisioning this, but my creativity fails me. I can picture someone walking on still water, but rough waves? You’d have to have the supernatural ability to defy the laws of gravity, of nature… you’d have to be…God.
The disciples at first think it’s a ghost (of course), and break into a terrifying panic (I feel ya, bros!), but then, the “it” speaks, “Take courage! I Am! Stop being afraid!”
As it turns out, during His time of prayer, Jesus had discerned that His disciples were in trouble at sea, so at some point between 3:00 and 6:00 A.M., He manifests a small piece of His divinity and walks out (on water) to meet them.
The disciples immediately recognize His voice and who it is they’re looking at because this was the second time they’d been in a similar situation with Him. Several weeks earlier, they’d been caught in another storm and Jesus was in the boat with them, sleeping! Waking Him up in a panic, they asked Him to do something before the boat sank. Jesus woke up, rubbed His eyes, told His disciples to stop being faithless sore losers, and then told the storm to, “KNOCK IT OFF!” It immediately became calm and the guys were all like, “Whaaaat?? Who in the world? WHO. IS. THIS. GUY? Even the wind and sea come to heel at His command!”
So naturally, in this second scenario, when Jesus comes walking out to Sea, the unnerved men expect something supernatural to happen, but only one of them has the courage to anticipate it and actually do something about it.
For reasons unknown to anyone but Him, Peter (the lead disciple) decides He wants in on the action. Suddenly feeling bold, he asks Jesus, “Lord, if it’s really you, call me to come out to you on the water.”
While I’m deeply impressed with His level of crazy, I’ve been asking myself why in the world Peter would make such an extraordinary request. I came up with a few possibilities.
- One possible option is that Peter may have surmised in his head that it was safer to be out on the water with Jesus than it was on the boat. After all, the boat was being violently “buffeted” by strong waves. So he may have just done the math, “Jesus is floating. The boat is sinking. Stick with Jesus!”
- A second option is that he may have just been out of his mind. Peter is known for acting before he thinks, and speaking before he’s thought things through. In one account (the transfiguration), in the presence of heavenly royalty, Peter blurts out something ridiculous, and Luke, the author of the account, points out that, “He did not know what he was saying.” Hence, Peter may have been having one of “Peter-moments” on the boat, not pausing long enough to think of what he was asking Jesus for, or its full implication.
- A third option, one that I’ve grown fond off, taps into Peter’s emerging faith. I believe Peter may have thought to himself, “I want to experience the power of Jesus in my life. I’ve never walked on water. You know what? I WANT TO WALK ON WATER!”
Furthermore, I think Peter heard in his head the lyrics of a song that wouldn’t be written for another two thousand years. I think Peter heard Hillsong’s Taya Smith’s voice singing:
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, Let me walk upon the waters, Wherever You would call me, Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, And my faith will be made stronger, In the presence of my Savior.”
You know what the best part of Peter’s faith was? It was the fact that Jesus didn’t consider his request ridiculous, but instead, actually bid him, “COME!”
As a result of this, for the first time in known history, a mere man walked on the sea in the middle of a storm. For those few moments (or however long it took), Peter got the opportunity to experience a taste of the supernatural, a taste of heaven. He got to experience God work in and through His life in a manner that later generations would be contemplating and discussing (on their blog). Sure, he began to sink a few moments later when He took His eyes off Jesus, but allow me to point out the fact that before he dropped deep below the surface of the water, “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.” Also, incredibly enough, (a second miracle that’s often missed in this account) as soon as they both climbed into the boat, the storm stopped, and the boat miraculously and immediately appeared on land.
It’s extraordinary the things that happen when the Holy Spirit leads you to a place where your trust has no borders.
This story struck a chord with me because a friend of mind has recently been called to step out of “her boat.” She’s fearful of what risks the opportunity ahead of her may present, yet, she senses the Lord is calling her to step into something new she’s never experienced. The truth is, God has also been doing a similar work on my heart. While I still have no intention of going out on a boat anytime soon, I too suspect that the Spirit of God may be calling me to go deeper than my feet could ever wander, where my trust in Him is without borders, and where I can truly “walk upon the waters.”
In so doing, God laid FOUR things on my heart about stepping into the great unknown where my feet may fail.
ONE: LISTEN CLEARLY FOR JESUS’ VOICE BEFORE GETTING OUT OF THE BOAT
As Christians, we should be audacious and daring like Peter was. But please note that Peter only got out of the boat after he had clearly heard Jesus tell him, “Come.” When the time comes for you to step into the unknown, be certain that you’ve heard the voice of God calling you to go, and not just the thrill of the experience.
There’s nothing worse than trying to walk on water without Jesus. Just saying!
Concerning hearing His voice, I have found that God will often times give clarity through the people He’s placed in your life that He’s the one calling. These people are the people in your life who love you, love Jesus, and are vested in your spiritual maturity. The same Spirit of God within you calling you to, “Come” will the same one directing them as they give you counsel. This of course implies that you’ve spent some time in prayer and fasting discerning if God is indeed the one calling.
TWO: YOU WILL HAVE TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT
Everything I just said above is true, but I’ve been in ministry long enough to know that people sometimes excuse their passivity with the, “I’m waiting on God to lead” argument.
The “boat” represents our comfort zone, the places and things we’re accustomed to, that we more than likely don’t ever want to change. The truth, however, is that, the next stage of your growth and maturity is most likely OUTSIDE of your current set of routines and experiences. In other words, if you want to experience God’s awesomeness, His extraordinary power and presence in your life, there will come a point when you will have to get out of your boat! It may be scary and it may be unknown, but once you’re clear that Jesus is bidding you, “come”, it’s GO-TIME! In the words of John Ortberg, “If you want to walk on water you have to GET OUT OF THE BOAT!
THREE: JESUS HAS ALREADY GONE AHEAD AND IS WAITING IN THE “WATERS”
The reason it’s scary to get out of the boat and walk on water is because when you try to walk on water, you sink! The reason Peter was able to walk on water (and didn’t sink) is because Jesus was already there! Mathew 14:25 says, “Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” In other words, Jesus Christ was already waiting in the storm and had already supernaturally solidified the water surface Peter would step on.
Here’s what I’m getting at, whatever it is you’re getting out of your boat to step into, no matter how scary it may be, if Jesus is indeed calling you, then know that He has already gone ahead of you to dwell in the “unknown” (waiting for you to come to Him).
The other 11 disciples looked at the figure in the Sea and saw a ghost (something scary and uncertain). Peter looked out at the same figure and saw JESUS, walking on water, defying the odds, in control of nature, in control of the unknown. When the time comes and Jesus bids you, “come”, understand that He’s already present in the unknown and totally in control of it.
FOUR: EVEN IF YOU FALL, YOU WON’T FAIL
Peter is human.
I’m certain many of us would have failed that same test and began to sink just like he did. In fact, if we’re being honest, most of us would probably be found with the other 11 guys crouched in the corner of the boat, thinking, “Oh no! Peter has officially lost his mind!!!”
Yes. Peter took his eyes off Jesus (possibly because the wind was howling at him) and began to sink, but it’s important to point out again that Peter wasn’t drowning. All renderings of the passage indicate that he was “just beginning” to sink. They also point out that, “Immediately (or Instantly) Jesus reached out His hand and caught and held him.”
I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t just calm the storm, but rather, opted for Peter to experience the supernatural, however momentary. I think it was all part of the faith-training Peter needed to go through in order to someday lead the new Church. Keep in mind that Jesus’ statement about Peter lacking faith, wasn’t so much a scolding as much as it was an urging for Him to have greater faith!
So here’s the deal. Stepping out of your boat into the known will be exciting, but you may very well face some difficulties along the way. The promise of God’s word is that even in the strong winds and crashing waves, Christ will uphold you and get you to where He intends for you to be. Jesus Christ will finish the good work He has begun in you!
So, may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit, give you clarity of thought to hear His voice, grant you the boldness to get out of your boat, and grant you His presence to walk on the waters.