25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.Matthew 14:25-32 (NLT)
Today we are in the 2nd week of our series on being a Water-Walker. Last week we discovered that the first step is to get out of the boat. And the way to do this is to recognize God’s presence, live in extreme discipleship, and actually step out of the boat. Remember, your fears will tell you what you boat is.
I hope you didn’t walk away last week thinking that being a Water-Walker is a Cake-Walk. It’s not easy. And here is the One Thing You Need To Remember: We Must Be Stretched And Challenged To Walk With The Original Water-Walker. It’s not about living with the absence of fear. Water-Walking is about confronting our fears, not to be controlled by our fears, and above everything else, it is about not missing our own personal Encounter With God.
This is a great story, but we’ve mistreated Peter’s part, especially us preachers, me included. We tend to focus on Peter’s sinking a bit too much sometimes. But it really hit me as I was preparing for this series, that phrase In The Boat.
Those guys in the boat praised Jesus, for calming the storm, Because They Missed The Point. The Theophany Wasn’t In The Calming Of The Storm; It Was In The Walking On The Water! We criticize Peter for sinking, but don’t forget that the rest of them were still In The Boat.
Water-Walkers sometimes sink. Occasionally we fall flat on our faces. Listen, I am convinced that our greatest obstacle to Extreme Discipleship is found in our fear of failure. If you never want to fail at anything, then do nothing at all. But even at that, you’re still a failure because you’re not living up to the potential God sees in your life.
There is an element of risk and danger in Water-Walking. I want us to look at Having The Attitude Of A Water-Walker. Attitude is so important, Because Your Altitude In Life Is Connected To Your Attitude In Life.
For example, think about the person you love the least. Name that person—it may be a family member, in-law, ex-spouse, your boss, neighbor, co-worker; probably someone who wounded you. That’s how much you love God, and you will never love God any more than you do that person. Your Attitude towards God, and attitude toward others are connected and you cannot disconnect the two.
As I said last week, Water-Walking is risky business, and we had better make sure we enter this journey with both eyes open. Let’s look at the Attitude Of Water-Walkers. First of all:
1. Water-Walkers Expect Problems!
So, Peter goes to the side of the boat. The other disciples are watching closely, In The Boat. They’ve seen Peter shoot off at the mouth before. They wonder how far he’ll take this thing. He puts 1 foot over the side. I imagine he’s gripping the side of the boat with white knuckles. Then he slides the other foot over. Now what?
Peter Does Something Spiritual. He Lets Go Of The Boat. He completely gives himself up to the power of Jesus. For a moment, it seems like there’s no one there but Peter and Jesus. Peter is delighted! Jesus is thrilled with his disciple: Like Master, Like Disciple. Then it happens.
Peter saw the wind and the waves. Reality sets in, and Peter asks himself, “What was I thinking?” He realized he was on the water in the middle of the storm without a boat—it terrified him! But nothing has really changed. The storm should have come as no surprise. It’s been there all along.
What happened was, Peter’s focus shifted from the Savior to the Storm. But we all understand that, don’t we? We set out with high expectations, but them wham! The storm comes. Opposition, setbacks, obstacles—they should have been expected because face it, this world’s a pretty stormy place. When Peter started sinking, who did he call out to? The guys in the boat or Jesus? We Can Get Out On The Water Because We Know That If We Start Sinking, Jesus Is There To Help Us.
Some people will never get out of the boat because of the storm. But if we know ahead of time there will be a storm, we can brace ourselves for it. Prepare for it by keeping our focus on the Savior and not the Storm! If you get out of the boat, you will face the Storm. But we have to remember: We Never Face The Storm Alone!
There’s always another Water-Walker with us, the Original Water-Walker! Everything worthwhile in life is risky! But if you don’t take the risk, you slowly die of boredom and stagnation.
2. Water-Walkers Accept Challenges As The Price For Growth!
Now we come to a part of the story you may not like very much; I don’t care for it much myself. The Choice To Follow Jesus—The Choice To Grow—Is The Choice For The Constant Recurrence Of Challenges—Difficult Challenges. You’ve got to get out of the boat a little every day. Let me explain.
The disciples get into the boat, face the storm, see the Water-Walker, and are afraid. Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.” Peter braces himself, asks permission to go overboard, sees the wind, and is afraid all over again. Do you think that’s the last time in Peter’s life that he will experience a challenge?
Here is a deep truth about Water-Walking: The Challenges Will Never Go Away. Why? Because Each Time I Want To Grow, It Will Involve Going Into New Territory, Taking On New Challenges. Each Time I Do That, I Am Going To Be Stretched, And So Will You. The challenges will never go away as long as we continue to grow. That’s great news, right?
You don’t have to worry about those challenges. Challenges and growth go together like macaroni and cheese. It’s a package deal. The Decision To Grow Always Involves A Choice Between Risk Or Comfort. This means to be a follower of Jesus you have to renounce comfort as the ultimate value in your life. It’s human nature to value comfort over risk. Do you know the name of the bestselling chair in America? La-Z-Boy!
Not Risk-E-Boy, not Work-R-Boy, but La-Z-Boy. We have a name for people who vegetate in front of the TV: Couch Potatoes. The other disciples could be called “Boat Potatoes.” They didn’t mind watching, but they didn’t want to actually do anything.
And today, Millions Of People Could Be Called “Pew Potatoes.” They want the comfort associated with a shallow spirituality, but they don’t want the risk and challenge that go along with truly following Jesus. Jesus is still looking for people who will get out of the boat.
Our Choices Between Risk Or Comfort Grow Into A Habit. Every time you get out of the boat, you become a little more likely to get out the next time. It’s not that the fear goes away. You realize that it does not have the power to destroy you. And finally:
3. Water-Walkers Master Failure Management!
As a result of seeing the wind and giving in to fear, Peter began to sink into the water. So here is the question: Did Peter Fail? Before you answer that question, allow me to share some insights I have been discovering about failure, because we will be talking a lot about that in the coming weeks.
Failure Is Not An Event, But Rather A Judgment About An Event. Failure is NOT something that happens to us, or a label we attach to things. It Is A Way We Think About Outcomes. Here’s good example. Jonas Salk is credited with discovering the polio vaccine. Are you aware that it took him over 200 attempts before he successfully discovered the polio vaccine? 200 attempts without success, would you dare call Dr. Jonas Salk a failure? Would you say he failed 200 times? I think not.
OK, back to Peter: Did Peter Fail? OK, maybe his faith wasn’t strong enough—wait, his faith was strong enough; he was walking on the water. OK, then, he took his eyes off of Jesus to look at the storm, and he sank. But did he really fail? Here’s what I think:
I Think There Were 11 Bigger Failures Sitting In The Boat. They Failed Quietly, Privately, Unnoticed, Unobserved, And Uncriticized. Only Peter knew the shame of public failure. But Peter knew two other things, things the 11 did not experience:
One: Only Peter Knew The Glory Of Actually Walking On The Water. Be it ever so brief a moment—but he knew what it felt like to do something that was made possible only by the power of God. Peter Knew He Didn’t Do; It Was A God Moment. It was a defining moment that went with him for the rest of his life.
Number Two: Only Peter Knew Glory Of Being Lifted Up By Jesus In A Moment Of Desperate Need. Peter knew in a way that the others could never have known, that when he sank, Jesus would be there and was completely adequate to save him.
Notice carefully in the story, Jesus spoke to Peter BEFORE they go back into the boat. His words to Peter were between just the 2 of them (and if that’s the way Jesus handled it, who are we to criticize someone in front of others?). They couldn’t know that, because they never got out of the boat! Failure Occurs When We Choose To Stay In The Boat—To Choose Our Comfort Over The Risk!
Now, let’s tie all this together. It was Peter’s attitude to risk failure that helped him to grow. When he was out of the boat, as long as he looked at Jesus, he was a Water-Walker. When he looked at the storm, he was a water-sinker.
But Peter learned an invaluable lesson—He Understood His Dependence On Faith Much More Deeply Than He Would Have If He Had Never Left The Boat. This is what those In The Boat missed.
Jesus is still looking for people who will get out of the boat. Why risk it? Here’s why:
- It Is The Only Way To Real Growth.
- It Is The Way True Faith Develops.
- It Is The Only Alternative To Boredom And Stagnation That Causes People To Wither Up And Die.
- The Water Is Where Jesus Is At!
The water may be dark, wet, and dangerous. But Jesus is not in the boat. What about you? When was the last time you got out of your boat? God uses real-world challenges to develop our ability to trust in Him, not reading great books or listening to awesome sermons.
We tend to seek a world of comfort where we can maintain the illusion of control. But then, God passes us by, and shakes up everything. The call to get out of the boat involves crisis; at times failure; that call is made in the presence of fear; and sometimes it leads to suffering—but that calling is always to a task too big for us. But there is no other way to grow faith and to partner with God.
It’s risky getting out of the boat, and you can do it with the right attitude. But to have this right attitude, You Have To Take These Next Steps.
- Pray Right Now, This Prayer: “Jesus, I Have Complete and Unconditional Confidence In You And None In Me.” Pray this prayer right now. Don’t close your eyes. Look up and imagine you are looking God right in His eyes as you pray it. Now make this your attitude. If you fail, then you’re not worried because you will count on Jesus, just like Peter. Jesus will always be in the water with you.
- Do Something Spiritual—Get Out Of Your Boat And Help Another Person See Jesus In You. This is the only way you will ever be known like Peter—and like Jesus—A Water Walker.