Thursday, February 12, 2015

Fear versus faith

"Lord if it's you...tell me to come to you on the water." (Matthew 14:28)
Those were the words of Peter spoken to Jesus. This exchange occurred while Peter was in a boat with his fellow disciples. They looked out on the water and saw a man approaching by foot, walking atop of the water. Suffice it to say this cowardly group of men were scared silly. They thought they were looking at a ghost. Jesus quickly put their fears to rest with the reassurance, "It is I."
Still apparently Peter was slightly skeptical. He told Jesus that he would come out on the water only if it was really Jesus. Well of course it was Jesus and of course He bid Peter to walk out onto the water.
Peter stepped out of the boat. He got that first part right. He took the first, critical step of faith but then he felt the wind and saw the waves and he was gripped by fear. As one version of this Biblical account states, "his courage caught in his throat." And we know what happened next. He started to sink. In that moment of terror Peter called out to God, "Master, save me!" Peter was all in for a walk on the water while he was in the boat but once he stepped out and felt the ocean's waves and fierce winds he panicked. Although Jesus was right there in front of him, Peter let the his mind's worries and concerns get the best of him.
Jesus reached out a hand and saved Peter. But he had a word for him too, "Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and force between following Me and heeding fear?"
Peter doesn't seem to respond. Maybe that is because he was rendered speechless in humiliation and shame. Jesus was right there in front of him, standing effortlessly on top of the water while the winds whipped around yet He was not sinking. The Lord who Peter had watched heal the sick, drive out demons and feed thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish, was right there, visible and telling Peter to come out of the boat and onto the water. Peter had every reason to trust that Jesus could keep him from sinking. Jesus had already proven that He was capable and willing to perform miracles. Keeping Peter afloat was not a challenge for Jesus. Yet when a gust of wind came Peter's faith was blown away.
When I read about Peter's lack of faith on the water I want to yell out, "Peter, stop flailing around! Get a grip! Jesus is right there, what do you have to worry about?" 
And then I pause and realize how hypocritical it is of me to point a finger at Peter while I have succumbed to the same fear and sunk into an ocean of my own worries and concerns more times than I can count. A little fear, even just a momentary concern, soon becomes an overpowering wave, submerging me in a pool of doubt.
Peter was confident in Jesus until he was confronted with challenges. Then his faith faltered. He could have looked to Jesus and ignored the waves and wind. He could have said to the buffeting forces of nature, "You are no match for the Lord!" But he didn't say any of those things. He started to panic, started to flail and thrash about and before he knew it, he began to sink.
It is so easy to see the error in Peter's ways. He should have remained faithful and trusted that the Lord who called him out of the boat would keep him safe and above the waters. But Peter didn't trust and didn't keep the faith. Peter flailed.
Waves are going to buffet the believer. Anyone who steps out of the boat to follow Jesus is going to come under the siege of wind, rushing waters and foreboding clouds .  But if Jesus has called you,  He will sustain you. The Lord who healed with a touch of His hand, rose from the dead and is coming back again has the power to sustain you and me through the roughest storms of our lives if only we will keep the faith. God will keep us afloat. He will protect us from the winds and the waves. We never need to ask God if He will save us, He has already assured us He can and He will. The question is, will we put our faith in Him and be saved?
Winds will come and waves will hit us, yet with an abiding faith in Jesus Christ we need not fear that we will sink into the abyss. By the power of His mighty hand and everlasting mercy He will keep us afloat if we will keep our trust in Him alone.

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