The account of Peter walking on the water to Jesus is very popular. It is used by many Christian ministers to teach why we must keep our eyes fixed on God. I would like to spend some time on it today, to see if there are other lessons we can draw from it to apply to our lives.
v28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.
v29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
v30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
v31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
v32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.
Let’s take it verse by verse… Verse 28. Peter shows some insight here, by asking Christ to permit him, or call him to join Him on the waters. He showed an understanding of God’s power and authourity, by recognising that if God doesn’t call him to this feat, he would be doing it in his own strength and would surely fail. But if God calls or commands him, then God will guarantee his success by making what is impossible to man possible. Jesus also points out to us that no one can come to Him unless God calls them (John 6:44), and so by God’s appointment and empowerment, we are able to stand and walk by faith where ever He leads us.
Verse 29. Peter started to walk on the water by the calling and commandment of Jesus Christ, and he was able to do so by the faith he placed in Jesus. Peter was not acting in pride or presumption, but by direction and spiritual empowerment. He was also acting in obedience, because Jesus had given the order to “Come”. If he decided to give in to fear after that, and refused to step out in faith, it would have been disobedient.
Verse 30. This is where it becomes problematic. So far, Peter has done well! He has shown an understanding and respect for God’s authority. He has shown wisdom and humility in not trusting in his own ability. He has also shown that he truly believed that Jesus was who He said He was. And he has shown a willingness to step out of his comfort zone and walk in the power of God. But now, his humanity kicks in. He begins to doubt. He considers his circumstances, being that the wind was harsh and, certainly, the waves must have been high. His focus turned from Christ to his circumstances in an instant, and he started to walk on water by his own strength and not by the faith he had initially placed in Jesus. Not surprisingly, he starts to sink!
Still on verse 30. He is now overtaken by his fear of his circumstances and the impossibility of the task he had undertaken. Even though Christ is right there with him. Even though he has just been walking on water seconds earlier. The fear of death was strong, and I suppose he might have felt a sense of shame too, at not being able to continue in what he had been doing by the power of God. In panic and desperation, he calls out to Jesus to save him. He really had no choice, because for him to refuse to call out to Jesus for help at this point, would have been purely prideful. He had lost his footing, and only God could save him now, so I reckon he did the humble thing here too, by acknowledging his failing and calling on God for help.
Verse 31. Jesus immediately reaches out to him and delivers him from the situation. In an instant, he is standing on the water again, next to Jesus, by the power of Jesus. As he is now, he is standing by grace alone! Before, he was walking by faith, but in the absence of his faith to stand, God gave him the grace to stand on the waters, and to walk back to the ship with Jesus. Jesus chastises him for doubting, showing him that if he had not doubted; if he had not considered the greatness (or impossibility) of what he was doing, and he had not considered his circumstances (being that the wind was threatening), but only trusted in God, and focused on Jesus, he would have surely made it all the way without sinking.
Verse 32. There are some lessons to be learned from this final verse. Note that while Jesus walked on the water, He didn’t still the wind or the waters. Even when Peter joined Him, He didn’t decide to still the wind nor the waters to make it easier to Peter to walk on the water. Peter walked on the water, without God changing the nature of the water or the wind, even though He had the power to do so all along! Jesus wanted Peter to walk by faith in Him and Him alone, and to think NOTHING of his circumstances. In the midst of turbulence, Peter’s faith would be proven.
Still on verse 32. When they both entered the ship, Jesus did what many would have expected Him to do before…He subdued the wind. I would say He wasn’t a minute too late either. No doubt, this experience prepared Peter for the years that would follow, when he would have to walk by faith and not by sight. Likewise, Jesus doesn’t shield us from everything that would test our faith, because such trials build our faith. If our focus remains on Him who gave the command, we can literally do anything He wills and tells us to – yes, even cast a mountain to the sea (Matt 17:20).
It is written: “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38).
Doubt is the antithesis of faith…because it seeks logic and reason, where faith knows that there is nothing impossible for God. Doubt is borne from pride and not humility, and as such, a doubtful person cannot please God, nor receive wisdom from Him (Jam 1:6-7). They are self-focused, whereas people of faith are God-focused. The Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).
Many of us think we have faith, because we believe in Jesus, having never seen Him. That is good. A great and commendable start (John 20:29). But that is not exactly faith. Peter showed faith when he obeyed Jesus, by stepping out to do the impossible… When he doubted, he still had faith, in that he still believed in Jesus! But doubt eroded his ability to TRUST Jesus. Without trust, can you really say you have a real faith that works? The kind of faith we need is the one that works!!! James tells us that a faith that does not work is as good as dead (Jam 2:17).
When we doubt Jesus, when we don’t trust Jesus in preference for focusing on our circumstances and trusting in logic and reason, we act like unbelievers! Ultimately, this results in DISOBEDIENCE. We reason our way out of obeying Jesus, because we don’t think what He is asking of us is realistic, reasonable or even wise… We don’t trust that He will protect us and empower us to do what He has told us to do. If we are operating like this, we are saying one thing with our lips, “Lord, Lord”, and doing another thing in our mind…and in our heart! This is actually idolatrous treason, because we are saying with our actions that God is a fool and a liar.
Jesus asked: “…why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). He could have been talking to the Church as it exists today. Jesus never asked for lip-service. He hates it! He didn’t come to save people who pay lip service to Him…(Matt 15:8-9), who claim to believe in Him but act contrary. He came for those who truly believe…enough to obey.
There are many things Jesus has told us to do that we reason ourselves out of doing! We say “He didn’t mean for us to take Him literally….”. We reason that “He only told that person to do it because of so so…”. We wonder “what would happen if everyone did that?” By all our logical reasoning, we declare ourselves wiser than the Wisdom of God! How can we step out in faith, when we have already made Jesus out to be a lunatic who keeps saying for us to do what He doesn’t really expect or want or wish that we would do?! If He’s not a lunatic, maybe He meant what He said.
The difference between our situation and Peter’s on the ship is that Peter first showed a willingness to step out and do the impossible. Peter saw a challenge, and he believed that if Jesus would simply ask Him to join Him, he would be able to walk on water. However, Jesus’ commands to us as recorded in the Bible are already given to all who desire to follow Him…with the expectation that if we love Him, we will obey them (John 14:15)! Note also that it is only on the basis of this OBEDIENCE that we are promised the Holy Spirit (John 14:16)! This is because, our obedience is evidence of our faith…it shows we have a faith that works!
Since He has already commanded us, we don’t need to ask Him again…”Lord, do you really mean for me to forsake all?” (Luke 14:33). He has already said it! Or “Lord, do you really mean for me to give to all who asks?” (Luke 6:30) Or “Lord, do you really mean for me to love ALL my enemies?” (Matt 5:44).
It may seem illogical, unnecessary, impractical…but when we submit to the wisdom of God, when we obey Jesus, we will learn why He gave us such instructions! It is for good reason that Jesus said: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). If we do not honour His word with obedience, how can we say we believe in Him? We would have rejected as foolishness His wisdom, just like the great multitudes who followed after Him, seeking miracles, receiving the word and going home unchanged! The truth will always evade us, because when we heard it, we rejected it. But if we show our faith in Him by doing what He says, He makes this promise to us:
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Let’s take Jesus teaching in Luke 12:22-34 for instance. Jesus was teaching His disciples how to live by faith. He first talked about how God is the one who provides for the flowers and the birds, and promised that God would provide for them too if they follow Him. This is the “Fear not” part of the sermon, where He recognises that what He is about to say will be hard to hear and accept. He says repeatedly, “don’t worry”, because He knows that instinctively, that is what they will do, when He finally gives His instruction to “Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth” (verse 33). He didn’t want to be misunderstood.
The evidence from Scripture shows that He wasn’t misunderstood. The disciples believed Him on this, and obeyed Him (Matt 19:27-30). And what happened? Many thousands were added to their number – daily (Acts 2:44-47, Acts 4:32-37)!!! That is what real faith does…it attracts real sincere people who believe in the power of God! When we take a step of faith and obey Jesus, we are preaching through our actions the Gospel, and will change the world much faster than if we disobey and change His wisdom to suit our preference or our circumstances! In fact, such disobedience and folly can’t change the world for better.
If we look at our circumstances, the state of the world we live in, while considering our Lord’s commands, we would naturally worry and think…how will I survive? What about my family? Others before us faced this conflict when desiring to follow Jesus, and Jesus told them that they must count the cost (Luke 14:28-33, Luke 9:57-62). If we keep focusing on our circumstances, wondering about what people will say, worrying about how we will live, we won’t even step out in faith, though Christ has called us to come. We will be frozen in fear and doubt, and live in disobedience.
On a practical note, have you considered what you might do when the Mark of the Beast becomes a reality? When no one can buy or sell without it (Rev 13:17)? Of course, you wouldn’t be able to keep a job without taking the Mark! Have you considered how you will be able to live then? We all should be aware that everything is already in place for this new monetary system to take global effect. If you have not been able to trust Jesus in this regard, and learn how to live by faith…what will stop you from taking the Mark? Especially since your circumstances wouldn’t have improved! You will still have dependents, who need to be fed and clothed. If you are concerned about your life, you certainly will take the Mark (Luke 14:26). And you will not be exempt from the wrath of God (Rev 14:9-10), seeing as your faith has proved lacking.
If you lack the faith that works, the faith that obeys, pray for more grace to stand. Ask God to help your unbelief…believing that He will give you more grace, that you may have the kind of faith that walks on water…the kind that saves (Eph 2:8)… I pray for more grace for myself and for everyone who reads my post to consider the seriousness and relevance of Jesus’ teachings and to respond in faith! He didn’t come to rubber stamp the Bible as our manual for life… He came to reveal Himself, that we may have direct access to His wisdom…that we may know the Way, the Truth and the Life (Luke 14:6)!
So, do you think Peter could have walked on water? I say “Absolutely!” And I also believe we can live by faith today, following the example of the early Church, in obedience to Christ! I believe that is the kind of faith that will unite us as a Body, and result in the great multitude who “overcame [the antiChrist] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and…loved not their lives unto the death” (Rev 12:11). May you and I be counted worthy to be in their number.
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