How To Be A Water-Walker: Use Leverage

God’s Power Works Best In Our Weaknesses.

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Today we’re going to talk about Leverage.  But before we do, let’s look at our theme passage again from Matthew 14:25-32, but this time I want to share it with you from The Passion Translation:

25 At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came to them, walking on the waves! 26 When the disciples saw him walking on top of the water, they were terrified and screamed, “A ghost!”  27 Then Jesus said, “Be brave and don’t be afraid. I am here!”

28 Peter shouted out, “Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!”  29 “Come and join me,”  Jesus replied.  So Peter stepped out onto the water and began to walk toward Jesus. 30 But when he realized how high the waves were, he became frightened and started to sink.  “Save me, Lord!” he cried out.

31 Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and lifted him up and said, “What little faith you have!  Why would you let doubt win?”  32 And the very moment they both stepped into the boat, the raging wind ceased.

Before we dive into looking at the principle of Leverage, let’s back up and do a quick review from last week.  We talked about that process of discovering and uncovering your giftedness for the Mission of The Kingdom.  Here’s what the process looks like:

  • God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.
  • God’s Gift Requires Gritty Determination To Use It.God’s Gift Produces Great Joy.
  • Your Gift Will Far Exceed Your Abilities.
  • Surround Yourself With People Who Have Godly Wisdom.
  • Align Yourself With People Who Pray.
  • Start Using The Scientific Method of Trial And Error

OK, on to Leverage.  I know I just heard some of you thinking, “What does Leverage have to do with being a Water-Walker?”  Good for you thinking like this—I’m glad you asked because it’s the next step in overcoming fear and getting out on the water with Jesus.

Let’s start with a definition of Leverage.  This word is used in a lot of different contexts, but let’s go back to the scientific principle of Leverage and move from here:  “Leverage changes the amount of force needed to move an object.  It reduces the strength required to move a much heavier object.”  This principle is applied in finance, business and politics.  But there is a spiritual application to the concept of leverage that needs to be explored.

Like most things in The Kingdom Of God, spiritual applications and principles work in Backwards Logic.  Here’s a few: 

  • In Order To Live, You Must Die;
  • In Order To Find, You Must Lose;
  • In Order To Receive, You Must Give;
  • In Order To Rise Above The Crowd, You Must Serve The Crowd.

Now let’s apply the Backwards Logic of The Kingdom to Leverage.  Spiritual Leverage Reduces The Influence Of The Stronger Object.  Think about moving a rock that weighs 3 times more than you.  You take a lever, find the right pivot point and even though you weigh 3 times less, you can move that rock.  Your weight and the weight of the rock remains the same.

In Spiritual Leverage, the weaker you become, the weaker the object becomes, until you are stronger.  What I’m trying to say is that whatever is in the way of you stepping out of the boat to become a Water-Walker, becomes weaker as you become weaker.  Insane!  Am I right?  Does this really make Logical Sense to us?

And this leads me to The One Thing You Need To Remember From This Message, And It’s Not My Idea, But the Apostle Paul’s:  God’s Power Works Best In Our Weaknesses. 

In case you forgot, Paul had been pleading with God to take away some unknown “thorn in the flesh”.  It didn’t happen—instead God revealed something more powerful that Paul needed—and so do we.  2 Corinthians 12:9— “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”  This was God’s answer—3 times.

Most people love the hear stories about the powerful God we serve.  But herein lies the problem:  That information alone is not enough to create courageous human beings.  I can receive tons of information designed to assure me that God’s power is sufficient.  But the information alone does not transform my human heart. 

In order for such a transformation to take place, we need to learn how to apply Leverage—using one force to move what seems to be an immovable object.  If you want to know if you are living outside the boat, then ask yourself this question, and ask it often:  What am I doing now that I could not do apart from the power of God?  It’s clear, the only way Peter could stay afloat was if God took over.   

When we risk using our Spiritual Giftedness, we can know the joy of being used by God.  But we have to trust before we act.  We see this over and over again in scripture.  Moses had to trust that God would part the Red Sea.  Gideon had to reduce his army from 32,000 to 300 before God would bring the victory.  Naaman had to wash 7 times in the water before he was cured of leprosy.  The loaves and fish had to be relinquished before they were multiplied.  The seed has to be planted in the soil and die before the harvest can happen.

Most of us have an area that might be called our “Spiritual Comfort Zone,” which is the area we feel most comfortable trusting God.  When God calls us to go beyond our spiritual comfort zone, we begin to feel nervous or uncomfortable.  We would prefer not to go outside that zone until we feel better about it.   

You have to follow the Path of God, which requires us to admit our weaknesses and inabilities.  Pay close attention to Peter’s Statement:  “Lord, if it’s really you, then have me join you on the water!”  It’s those 5 words:  “have me join you”—it’s the words of weakness and inability.  Most folks don’t have the problem of being too weak—though that is what they say.

The problem is many are often Too Strong.  What God told Paul is the same thing He wants us to hear:  “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”  Where do we need to Leverage our weaknesses so that God’s Power works the best?  There are a lot of points and places, but think about these as a start in your life.

1.  Leverage Our Points Of Our Fear!

Step out of the boat at the point of your fears.  Why?  Because He wants us to overcome them through His Power, and not be intimidated and defeated by them. 

For example, one of the most exciting adventures in life is helping another person find God.  What keeps us from getting out of the boat evangelistically?  Fear!  But on the other hand, look at the upside potential.  We might actually be part of God’s redemptive purpose on earth.  But if I wait until I feel like I’ll be 100% effective, I will never step out of the boat to help someone surrender to Jesus. 

What, exactly are you afraid of, spiritually?  Bring those fears to God and God will provide His Power.  But, if you never admit your weakness of fear, you will never know His Power.  Secondly,

2.  Leverage Our Points Of Frustration!

Sometimes people in Scripture get motivated to trust God in remarkable ways when they become frustrated with the brokenness of a fallen world.  We see it in David when he couldn’t stand any longer the insults of Goliath.  We see it in Elijah when he could stand the idolatry of Ahab and Jezebel. 

In the world today, it is at the point where we are frustrated by the mess our culture is in and that sense of what God desires.  To fix that gap between what is and what God desires should motivate us to action for a cause that is greater than ourselves.  It may be your frustration with political systems that abuse people.  It may be your sense of frustration that there are so many homeless people.  It may be your frustration with the loneliness the elderly often feel when placed in a skilled nursing facility.  Whatever it is that makes you feel frustrated, take your weaknesses to bring about change and allow Him to fill you with His Power.  Thirdly,

3.  Leverage Our Points Of Compassion!

Being A Water-Walker Means We Move Towards What Breaks Our Heart.  Compassion is expressed in our actions.  Jesus certainly modeled this for us.  Scripture says that many times when Jesus looked at the crowds, seeing their deepest needs, He was filled with compassion. 

When was the last time you took a serious compassion risk?  Jesus did it all the time.  He touched lepers, ate with tax collectors, associated with prostitutes; all these were a part of His calling—they were why He came!  For you it is working with Christian Center of Concern, Delivering meals on the Third Saturday, or coming up with an idea that Shows Compassion To Those Who Need It, Not Those We Think Deserve It.  Finally,

4.  Leverage Our Points Of Prayer!

Real-life stories of Water-Walkers are always stories about prayer.  There is something about getting out of the boat that turns people into Intense Pray-Ers.  They live each moment of each day with the conviction that they cannot accomplish things without God’s help.

Paul prayed—3 times—about his thorn in the flesh.  And all 3 times, God’s answer was the same—“My strength works through your weaknesses.”  Peter’s Prayer Request Was To Join Jesus On The Water.  So tell me this:  What’s Your Prayer Request For Yourself?  Is it about yourself?  Is it complaining about the shape of our culture?  Is it wanting Jesus to come back now to get you out of this miserable culture? 

Water-Walking is not about the great thing you will do.  It is about the great thing God longs to do with you through his powerful grace in you.  But first you have to Leverage Your Weaknesses!  It’s more than getting your feet wet.  Those in the boat had wet feet—Peter had wet feet—the difference was Peter Leveraged His Weakness By Bringing It To Jesus AS He Walked On Water.

Well, I’m down to your Next Step.  For some of you, this Next Step may well be the most painful moment of your life.  It’s a moment you’ve been putting off—or you’ve been living in denial. 

Tell God Your Weakness. 

  1. It could be pride that is keeping you from getting out of the boat and into a relationship with Jesus.  You’ve been playing the church game, and you don’t want anyone else to know.
  2. It may be fear that is holding you in the boat—fear of failure—or just maybe your fear is the fear of Truth—that if the truth of your life becomes public knowledge, you’re afraid that those closest to you will be ashamed of you and turn away from you.
  3. It may be shame that’s keeping you in the boat.  It may be a private shame of something you once did—or a public shame that everyone knows about.  It may be a lifetime of shame—of doing the wrong thing—making the wrong choices.
  4. It may be doubt that keeps you off of the water.  You don’t want to admit it, but you seriously doubt you could ever be a Water-Walker because, well because Jesus couldn’t help you be that Water-Walker you’ve been hearing about.
  5. Or it may be the worst weakness of all—You Have No Weaknesses.  Arrogance is your weakness and you don’t even know it.

Here is what I’m asking you to do this morning.  Leverage Your Weakness.  If one of these, or any of an infinite number of weaknesses is yours—take that weakness to the right place. 

Bring it to The Father—tell Him all about it.  Then listen…listen to what HE says about your weaknesses—“My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.”

I’ve asked you not to focus on Peter’s sinking—but think about it now.  When Peter started sinking what did he do?  He Leveraged His Weakness By Crying Out To Jesus.  And Immediately—Immediately Jesus Saved Him!  Leverage Your Weakness By Bringing It To God, And The Grace Of God Becomes Stronger Than That Thing That Is Keeping YOU In The Boat

How To Be A Water-Walker: Have The Right Attitude!

We Must Be Stretched And Challenged To Walk With The Original Water-Walker.

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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 PointThe 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:

  1. It Is The Only Way To Real Growth. 
  2. It Is The Way True Faith Develops. 
  3. It Is The Only Alternative To Boredom And Stagnation That Causes People To Wither Up And Die. 
  4. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.