Faith is forged in the fires of trial. It’s in the process of facing our fears and doubts, then finding Jesus, where we really develop our faith. It’s easy to believe when prayers are answered and miracles received, but those don’t build lasting faith as much as going through the struggle.
Peter learned this the night he walked on water. The disciples had just experienced the miracle of feeding 5000 people, seen firsthand how Jesus miraculously made a few pieces of bread and fish multiply into a bounty which fed all these people with twelve baskets of leftovers! What a mountaintop experience for their faith, yet mere hours later they fell into doubt and fear as their boat was overtaken by a great storm while crossing the Sea of Galilee.
Today we’re going to look at Matthew 14:22-33. Give this passage a read – or watch the video below (This clip begins with the feeding of the 5000. Matthew 14:22 begins at 4:25).
[youtube id=”1jsQdhhjjWU?t=4m25s” height=”353″ width=”574″ marginbottom=”15″]
Jesus sees the disciples in distress, so walks across the sea to them. They think he’s a ghost and are afraid, but Peter recognizes him as Jesus. In a moment of boldness, perhaps still on his mountaintop high from the earlier miracles, Peter asks Jesus if he can come out on the water.
[callout]“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31 NIV)[/callout]
Peter jumped out of the boat because he knew Jesus so well. He knew this man walking on the water was Jesus and trusted him with his life. However, it’s one thing to believe after seeing a miracle, but quite another to believe after being saved yourself. It was only after experiencing his own drowning, the effects of focusing on the storm instead of Jesus, when Peter truly learned who Jesus was.
Sometimes we have to experience the storm to truly know the saving power of Jesus.
[callout]Peter needed to sink in order to take the next step of faith in Jesus. Because walking on the water does not ultimately increase our faith, only sinking does! Those who ask for miracles and receive them soon forget. But those who suffer for Christ’s sake never forget. They have their own wounds to remind them. (from “A Fragile Stone: The Emotional Life of Peter” by Michael Card)[/callout]
We will face these storms and we will have our moments of fear and doubt, but we can improve our focus as we walk through them. We can practice keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and remembering that he is right there beside us, just waiting for us to ask for help.
What I love most in this passage is Jesus immediately reached out his hand to help Peter. All Peter had to do was turn his attention back to Jesus and ask.
[callout]The great gift he gave me was that single question with which the episode ended: “Why did you doubt?” It was this question that Jesus wanted me to ask myself, and keep asking until I knew the answer. Why did I doubt? He had already given me proof of his faithfulness. I was already walking on the water. The storm had not intensified. The waves were not increasing in size. My circumstances had not changed. And yet one minute I was walking on the sea, and the next I was being destroyed by it. The twofold answer to the question was obvious. I took my eyes off my Master, and I focused instead on where I was coming from and what was going on around me. The illustration of that night has become a lifelong part of my walk with the King.
I now know where doubt comes from. I know where fear comes from. It does not come from seeing the storm around me; it comes from not seeing who stands beside me.
(from “The Fisherman: A Novel”, by Larry Huntsperger)[/callout]
Are your eyes on Jesus or on the storms around you?
Read this passage for yourself: Matthew 14:22-33.
Reflect on the questions below:
1) What does this passage tell you about Jesus?
2) How does this passage speak to you as you face challenges in your own life?
3) What are some ways you can practice turning your gaze toward Jesus?
If you want to dig deeper into the life and lessons of Peter, I highly recommend two books:
“A Fragile Stone: The Emotional Life of Simon Peter”, by Michael Card and “The Fisherman: A Novel”, by Larry Huntsperger
[callout]This post is part of the “A Better Change” series. For more information on this series and to find related posts, click here: A Better Change Series – Overview[/callout]