I think to the conversations I’ve had this past week alone and have to wonder how many times are we in the middle of the storm – feeling as if we are battered and warn – like the waves of life are crashing around us, out of our control – carrying us farther and farther out. We feel just like we can imagine the disciples may have felt – scared, unsure, out of control. — Rev. Dawn Livingston
Stepping out on faith, as Peter once did
Oct. 27, 2017
I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve heard from this week that say they’re overwhelmed or stressed. I even found myself thinking those very words.
Maybe you feel that way right now too.
It’s caused me to reflect on a particular scripture passage from Matthew 14:22-33. You likely know it: it’s where Jesus walks on water and Peter, good ol’ Peter, steps out in faith… until he gets overwhelmed by the waves and the reality of his situation and starts to sink.
This passage comes right after the miraculous multiplication of loaves and fish – this wonderful, amazing thing that Jesus does. We find that the disciples went down from the hillside to the Sea of Galilee and we need to remember that at least four of them were fishermen, so they were skilled with being out on the sea. But we find that as they were on the sea and it was getting dark, the waters were getting rough from a strong wind.
When the Bible says that the waters were getting rough, it’s a little more than a slightly rocking boat. I learned that the hard way when I had the opportunity to take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee… and it was a windy, cloudy, storms-a-brewin’ type of day. Because of the location of the Sea of Galilee, storms and strong winds can oftentimes whip up suddenly, without much warning. And when the waves rock, they rock the boat. Add into that the fact that the disciples were likely in a simple fishing boat and it was dark out, there was real reason for concern. They were at the mercy of the waves and the wind – the impending storm.
I think to the conversations I’ve had this past week alone and have to wonder how many times are we in the middle of the storm – feeling as if we are battered and warn – like the waves of life are crashing around us, out of our control – carrying us farther and farther out. We feel just like we can imagine the disciples may have felt – scared, unsure, out of control.
But then, the disciples see Jesus. Can you imagine what must have been going on in their minds? Scripture tells us that the disciples were afraid, thinking they were seeing a ghost (and not a cute child dressed up for Halloween as Casper, either). Jesus puts their minds at ease when he tells them not to be afraid because it is he.
They see Jesus, and everything changes. How I needed this reminder. Maybe you do, too. When we find ourselves in the middle of a storm or on the fringes of one, we too can see Jesus and everything can change.
But Peter takes it even further; he steps out – literally – with faith. Peter begins walking toward Jesus until his faith starts to waiver and the circumstances he’s facing overwhelm him and make him afraid once again.
I think at times we begin to step out with that type of faith just like Peter did, but then we too get a little overwhelmed by the waves around us (fear begins to set in and our doubts overtake us), causing our focus on Jesus to falter as we get caught up in the stuff we’re going through.
There’s something to be said for the kind of faith that just trusts God. It’s almost like that childlike faith, one that isn’t jaded, critical or skeptical. One that knows God is bigger than even the biggest giant we might be facing at that moment.
It wasn’t exactly a walking on water type moment, but I remember having an answered prayer to a seemingly impossible request – a step out in faith –when I was about 6 years old. It was one of those things that I kinda tucked away for years and really hadn’t thought much about.
It was a summer when we weren’t having rain. It was a drought or at least approaching drought-like proportions. I had this pastor who I thought the world of, who was like a grandpa to me. He was one of the people who showed me what it means to share the love of Christ, even at an early age of five or six years old. I don’t really remember how this was all set up, but I think it was in a sermon Pastor Gordon gave about faith. He used the example of the lack of rain and having the faith that God would provide the rain needed. I think he pretty much challenged us to have faith that makes you trust Jesus enough to step out of the boat and attempt to walk to him on the water. He challenged us to have the type of faith that would cause us to go outside and open an umbrella in preparation for the rain that we believed God would send.
I’m not sure if he challenged us to literally go outside with an umbrella and expect rain, but as a six year old, that’s what I did. I went home and dug out an umbrella, and with all the faith in the world, I just KNEW if I walked outside and opened it, it would begin to rain.
So without a single doubt or question in my mind, with the faith of Peter stepping out of the boat, I walked outside, opened the umbrella and waited for God to send rain …
And guess what? God did!
Within minutes, it began to sprinkle. And those raindrops made me feel like I had a direct line to the Creator of the Universe! I stepped out of the boat in faith and God responded. I still held up the umbrella, but I relished in the sweet rain that came down, and I don’t think a raindrop has EVER felt soooo good!!
I wish I could say that there was absolutely no rain predicted in the forecast, but honestly, I was six so I really don’t know. All I remember is that I trusted in God and something big happened.
Oh, how I wish I had not tucked that little experience away, forgotten. Somehow over the years, that memory slipped and reason got in the way and muddied my childlike faith. I grew up and I stopped asking God for the impossible… I stopped opening the umbrella before the rain. I started focusing on the waves and not on Jesus in the midst of the storm.
I want to reclaim the sort of faith that looks at the situation and trusts God to make a way. Not that I’ll idly just wait for it to happen, but that I can prepare myself for the next steps, knowing if I get out my umbrella it will indeed rain. I want to focus on God with faith that doesn’t waiver. Don’t you?
I may not know what you’re facing, what the waves in your life or the impending storm may be, but I do know that God is bigger than the waves. I don’t say that flippantly because I know how tumultuous some storms are and I’m not discounting them. I’m saying that even in the darkest, worst times of our life, God is there.
God is there in the midst of heartache and pain, our failures and regrets, in the midst of bills piling up, schedules that are too full, in the midst of illness that robs us of our loved ones, tragedies that we can’t even begin to fathom. God is there.
Let’s have the faith that Peter had when he stepped out of the boat.
Let’s open our umbrellas and wait for the rain that we know will come.
Let’s trust in God when we’re overwhelmed and stressed.
Let’s have that sort of faith.