TEXT: Matthew 14:22-33
Opening Illustration: (Adapted from “Hope For the Troubled heart” by Billy Graham).
Claudia was a newlywed in her twenties when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and given only a fifty percent chance of survival. Quickly, she was operated on and began cobalt treatments that transformed her almost overnight from a young, beautiful woman to a physical wreck.
Her husband was a chaplain’s assistant in a hospital and had seen many sick and dying patients. He said, “In the movies, couples who have fought for years, in the face of danger suddenly forget their differences and come together. But it doesn’t necessarily work that way in real life.”
“When a couple encounters a crisis,” he said, “it magnifies what’s already present in their relationship. Since Claudia and I trust God and love each other deeply, the crisis drove us closer…The crisis of her illness merely…intensified the feelings already present.”
Claudia and her husband had no idea they would ever face such a catastrophe, but when it happened, they found they had already developed the strength to weather the storm.
Many of us will probably never experience the enormity of the crisis that Claudia and her husband faced. But still, there will be some storms, some heartaches, some decisions, some gut-wrenching moments that have the potential for bringing us into a life-changing crisis. What will we do then? Will we be prepared to face it? Will we have the inner resources that we need? And if not, then how can we prepare ourselves for that day?
I believe that the unique experience of a fisherman who walked upon the Sea of Galilee gives us some hope. We can really say that this is an incredible story! And what an awesome demonstration of the power and compassion of Jesus Christ. I’m convinced that if we want to have the resources we’ll need for a time of crisis, then each of us must make our preparations for that day. Every one of us has the ability to rise above the torrents of the winds and waves, and walk safely across the sea. But in order to do so, there are some steps, important principles, that we must take–some lessons that we can learn from a Galilean fisherman named Peter. Peter the Water-Walker. If we desire to do more than struggle or to stay afloat, we must:
1. LISTEN TO JESUS’ CALL
Jesus said, “Come!” And Peter “got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” Before we criticize Peter for sinking, let’s honor him for his magnificent demonstration of faith. He dared to be different. Anybody can sit in the boat and watch, but it takes a person of real faith to leave the boat and walk on the water.
Peter took three steps. Peter wasn’t willing to stay in the boat. Of course the usual comment right here is a commentary on how Peter should have kept his eyes on Jesus, how he didn’t have enough faith, how he failed. Did Peter fail? Kind of. But it was the men still in the boat who were the biggest failures. Only one man got out of the boat. There were eleven more who chose to stay in the relative comfort and safety of the boat instead of walking out in the storm with Jesus.
Peter heard the call and he obeyed. If not for his faithful response to Jesus’ invitation to “Come,” Peter would have plunged immediately beneath the waves. The very first preparation that we need is to make sure of our relationship with God, that Jesus is our Savior, and that we are walking towards Him in times of storms in life.
What do you suppose would have happened if Peter had jumped out of the boat and started running in the opposite direction? He probably wouldn’t have made it one step! He would sunk beneath the waves and drowned in the sea. And yet, that’s exactly what many of us do when life’s thunderstorms start billowing up – that when storms are in your life, instead of running towards God, we run away from Him.
All too often, when crisis occur we withdraw from fellowship, blame God, and turn the other way. We cry out, “How could God let this happen to me!?” Many people have turned their personal struggles into a weapon against God, claiming that either God is not love or God does not even exist. Interestingly, books on the problem of pain divide neatly into two groups.
- The older ones, by people like Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Augustine, ungrudgingly accept pain and suffering as God’s useful agents.
- Modern books on pain make a sharp contrast. Their authors assume that the amount of evil and suffering in the world cannot be matched with the traditional view of a good and loving God.
When you read the two categories of books side by side, the change in tone is quite striking. It’s as if we in modern times think we have a corner on the suffering market. Do we forget that Luther and Calvin lived in a world without ether or penicillin, when life expectancy averaged thirty years? Ironically, the modern authors–who live in princely comfort, toil in climate-controlled offices, and hoard elixirs in their medicine cabinets–are the ones smoldering with rage.
People today are obsessed with comfort. According to John Ortberg, the best selling chair in America today is the La-Z-Boy. Not Risk-E-Boy. Not Work-R-Boy; La-Z-Boy.
And the ones they sell now have convenient little storage compartments for remote controls. Left to ourselves, most of us would like to live life the way we watch basketball games, in our La-Z-Boys with remotes in our hands. I think that the remote control is one of the biggest barriers to commitment ever invented. When I watch TV I have to have my remote control in my hand. That way I can “channel surf”. Without the remote I am ‘stuck’ watching the same channel no matter what’s on. (You don’t expect me to actually get up to change the channel do you?) Of course many of us go through life that way. If we had it our way we would live life with a remote control in our hand. You can see it in the lives of so many people, even Christians. When:
- Job getting a little too demanding? Click – New job.
- Relationship getting a little too close? Afraid the other person might get to know the real you? Click – New friends.
- Preacher used the F-word (finances) too many times? Click –New church.
- Afraid your friends or the church might not accept you if they knew about your past? Click – Hide behind a mask.
- Got burned at the last church? Click – Stop going. Stop trusting. Stop trying.
But here in the passage we have read, we see that Peter opted not to settle for comfort. He opted not to give in to his fear. He put down his remote and Got out of the boat.
Phillip Yancey, in his book Where is God When it Hurts, writes, “For [most people] the problem of pain is not a theoretical problem, a theology game of lining up all of the appropriate syllogisms. It is a problem of relationship. Many suffering people want to love God, but cannot see past their tears. They feel hurt and betrayed.”
The absolute worst thing we can do in times of crisis, is to turn away from God. We will never weather the storm, if we don’t listen to Jesus’ call. Instead, we will become bitter and hardened by life–ill-tempered and unlikable.
When “the wind was contrary” and their boat was “battered by the waves,” Peter was within eyesight and earshot of Jesus, but that wasn’t close enough. When fear and danger was all around, Peter wanted to be closer to his Lord. He launched out onto the sea and drew closer to Jesus. Every one of us has received an invitation similar to the one Peter responded to. Jesus has said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Jesus wants each of us to come to Him, to draw close to Him, to share His peace and comfort with us. But, we must listen and respond to His call. We must come to Jesus. It is a personal decision that each of us has to make. LISTEN TO THIS BROTHERS AND SISTERS, IN TIME OF GREAT STORM IN YOUR LIFE, NOBODY CAN HELP YOU BUT JESUS! This is not the time for you to turn your back away from Him, this is the time for you to run straight towards Him…Why? Because your so called wisdom and strategy will fail you, your resources or finances will fail you, your network, your BFF’s will fail you, but JESUS, JESUS WILL NEVER FAIL YOU, even in the most difficult moment of your life! YOU AND I HAD BEEN THERE, THE REASON WHY WE LAUNCHED OUT IN THE MIGHTY TEMPEST OF LIFE IS NOT BECAUSE OUR FRIENDS TOLD US TO, NOT BECAUSE OUR PASTOR TOLD US TO, BUT BECAUSE WE READ, WE HEARD THE PROMISES OF JESUS THAT HE WILL BE WITH US…THAT NEVER HE WILL LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU…THAT HE WILL BE THERE, TO FIGHT FOR YOU AND TO DELIVER YOU! But as you’ll see, answering the call does not guarantee a safe arrival.
The second step that we must take if we are to walk across the seas of aggravation and anguish, is to:
2. LOOK BEYOND THE STORM.
Brave Peter was the only one to step out onto the water, “but seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ’Lord, save me!’” What caused Peter to sink? His faith began to waver because he took his eyes off the Lord and began to look at the circumstances around him. “Why did you doubt?” Jesus asked him. This word translated “doubt” carries the meaning of “standing uncertainly at two ways.” Peter started out with great faith but ended up with little faith because he saw two ways instead of one!
Isn’t that often the problem? When storms of life are raging and the billows are tossing high, we look around us and see danger, we look within and see fear, but we forget to look up and see Jesus. We as human being suffer from spiritual short-sightedness. We have an amazing inability to see past our immediate circumstances. Whatever trials or troubles engulf us at the moment becomes our focal point. We forget to look beyond the dark clouds of this world to the light of Jesus Christ. We become so focused on the “here and now” we lose sight of our Lord! Our greatest dangers lie within us, not around us.
Did you know that an eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks? The eagle will fly to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it.
The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm. When the storms of life come upon us we can rise above them by setting our minds, our eyes toward God. The storms do not have to overcome us. We can allow God’s power to lift us above them. It is not the burdens of life that weigh us down; it is how we handle them.
Warren Wiersbe writes: My wife and I once visited a world-famous weaver and watched his men and women work on the looms. I noticed that the underside of the rugs were not very beautiful: the patterns were obscure and the loose ends dangled. “Don’t judge the worker or the work by the wrongs side,” our guide told us. In the same way, we are looking at the wrong side of life; only the Lord sees the finished pattern. Let’s not judge Him or His work from what we see today. His work is not yet finished!
We have to realize and accept that this world is just temporary! Nothing here is meant to last. This is just our testing ground. When faced with sickness, death, financial crisis, marital strife, family dysfunction, or whatever else, we must realize that these dark clouds will pass.
I don’t know about you, but I have ever seen a storm that struck around forever. I know that as we see, hear and feel the mighty wind and rain, it feels like the storm may last forever, but what eventually happens? The SUN comes out, the temperature rises, the wet road and land dries up and before we know it, the storm is over. We can always take hope in the fact, that no matter how bad things get, the storms will pass. Storms will come and go–we will have tribulation–but we can take courage that Jesus is our Lord and He is in control!
In His quiet, majestic way, as He’s walking on the water, Jesus is saying, “Guys, the thing that is the greatest storm in your life, I keep under my feet.” If you’re sick, He comes walking on your sickness. If you’re afraid of death, what did He do on Easter? He came walking on the waves of death, “Oh, death where is thy sting? Oh, grave where is thy victory?”
He’s standing on top of the stone. He’s saying, “I’m able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than you can ever ask or think. I can do that which gives you the greatest fear, the thing which causes you to tremble, the thing which causes you to falter. I come walking on it. I stand on that stuff. I’m victor. I’m the one who reigns.” Hallelujah!!! He comes walking on the water. They’re worried about those waves getting in the boat, and He’s just coming right on across. And he says, “Fellas, you may be worried about it but I step on stuff like this.” Do you see it? God is at work in your life – even when you do not recognize it or understand it. He’s in the storm with you. He’s calling you to rise above it…to be a water-walker, not a boat person. Keep your eyes on Him during the storm so it doesn’t get you down!
If we fixate on the problems at hand and dwell on the struggles and sorrows of this world, like Peter we will begin to sink, we’ll begin to doubt, and we’ll be swallowed up by the sea. But “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith,” will enable us to walk on water (Heb 12:2). First, we must listen to Jesus’ call. Second, we must look beyond the dark clouds of this world to the light of heaven. And finally, we must…
3. LEAN ON THE ARMS OF JESUS.
When Peter began to sink, he cried out “Lord save me!” And “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him,” from there the two of them walked together back to the boat. Even though Peter began to sink, he was not crushed by the waves because he knew that he could lean on Jesus. If Jesus says, “Come,” then we can trust in Him to see us through. Whatever He starts, He finishes. We may fail along the way, but in the end, God will succeed. Jesus and Peter walked on the water together and returned to the ship.
The Bible says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you” (Isaiah 43:2). Some of the most encouraging word ever set to music were written by A. Hoffman in 1887:
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Leaning on Jesus, Leaning on Jesus,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning on Jesus, Leaning on Jesus,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
The disciples then had a decision to make. They could see Jesus’ glory, or they could participate in it. Only Peter and Jesus know what it’s like to walk on water. Only Peter knows what it’s like to be lifted out of the water by Jesus Christ. Only Peter knows what it’s like to walk on water side by side with God Almighty, and to know the strength of the Master’s hands…All the others just got to watch.
Peter learned that the water is where Jesus is. Sure failure is a real possibility maybe even likely. But the payoff is worth it. Some may say that Peter failed, but he was picked up by Jesus. FOR PETER THE SAFEST PLACE IN TIMES OF STORM IN NOT IN THE BOAT, BUT WITH JESUS!
While there is a risk associated with getting out of the boat, the risk is greater staying in. The risk of getting out of the boat is just failure. But that’s ok because God is the God of second chances.
The risks of staying in the boat is:
- Unrealized potential
- Living a life controlled by fear
- Looking back and asking what could have been
- Never praying big prayers
- Never making an impact
- Never experiencing the thrill of success
- Never experiencing the comforting hand of a loving God as He reaches down and stops you from sinking and walks on the water with you.
We keep meeting Jesus in new ways as we meet him in new crises and storms in life. We don’t really understand who he is or the power He has until we see Him in action. This is what Peter meant when he said, “Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
- It was terrible to be blind, but the blind man could not see who Jesus was until he was healed.
- The deaf man could not hear Jesus until his ears were opened.
- The affliction of the lame man brought Jesus to his side and he was able to leap and dance so that he loved the Master and wanted to follow him.
- Sin had ruined Mary until Jesus delivered her and she was able to understand who he was.
- Doubting Thomas was devastated by the events that led to the death of Jesus. Everything seemed futile and depressing after that. But Thomas experienced Jesus in a whole new way when he saw him after the resurrection and placed his finger in Jesus’ hands and side. He fell down crying, “My Lord and my God!”
It is in those crisis moments that we really understand who Jesus is. If you place your complete faith and trust in Jesus, you will have a greater understanding of him, a deeper relationship with him, and a new love for him when the storm is over. You will see his power over darkness and the depth of his love for you. Jesus is simply telling us today to live by faith, not by fear.
I like the poem called Footprints. For those of you that have never heard it, it goes like this.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was
walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the
sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he
noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one
belonging to him, and the other to the Lord. When
the last scene of his life flashed before him, he
looked back at the footprints in the sand. He
noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed
that it happened at the very lowest and saddest
times in his life. This really bothered him and he
questioned the Lord about it. “Lord, You said that
once I decided to follow you, You’d walk with me all
the way. But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life, there is only one set
of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed
you most you would leave me.” The Lord replied,
“My son, My precious child, I love you and I would
never leave you. During your times of trial and
suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it
was then that I Carried You.”
A lot of people feel that the greatest phase in this poem is the last one where the Lord says “it was then that I carried you.” And while I agree that it is a wonderful phase, it’s not the best part to me. The best part to me is the simple fact that Jesus is always there! The simple fact that Jesus Always Remains!
What a blessing that at the most terrible and trying times, we can lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus. When nothing else can help, His love will lift us up. If we will carry our cross, He will carry us. The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5). In moments of heartache or hurt, we can trust in Him to see us through. He will give us the strength and wisdom we need to overcome. The Bible say, “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
This experience of Peter and the rest of the apostles in the storm can be an encouragement to us when go through the storms of life. When we find ourselves in the storm, we can…
- Listen to Jesus’ call, making sure of our relationship with the Lord.
- Look beyond our present circumstances, realizing that this world and the troubles therein are only temporary.
- Lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus, who will always see us through.
Peter’s experience turned out to be a blessing to the other disciples as well as himself. When they saw the power of Jesus Christ, in conquering and calming the storm, they could only fall down and worship Him. When Jesus calmed the first storm, the disciples were amazed and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matt. 8:27). But now their understanding was clear: “And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ’You are certainly God’s Son!’” THE JESUS THAT YOU AND I ARE WORSHIPPING AND SERVING IS NOT JUST A GOOD TEACHER, AN ADVOCATE, A SAVIOR, HE IS A MIGHTY GOD ON WHOM YOU CAN ALWAYS COUNT ON!
Do you need help to look beyond the struggles of this world? Are you already sinking deep in sin? Do you need a Savior to lean upon and to see you through? It all begins by obeying His call! Maybe you are ready to listen to Jesus’ call, to respond to His invitation, and begin a relationship with Him by being plunged beneath the waters of baptism. If that is the situation for you, then we offer the invitation of Jesus Himself. He stands ready to receive you with outstretched arms–ready to lift you out of the angry waves, tenderly calling your name. He’s the Master of the sea and He your Savior wants to be! If you are subject to the invitation, please “Come!”