I was 10 years old and my Dad thought it was a good idea to send me to an overnight Boys Club Camp. I didn’t know a single soul there, but dad thought it might toughen me up. On the second day of camp we went to lake to swim. There was a cliff that we could jump off that was about 20 feet. From the top and through the eyes of a 10 year old, it look the cliff divers I saw on Wide World of Sports. It looked like 120 feet. When it was turn to take the plunge, I stood there frozen in my tracks. It was only when the rest of the boys, especially the older dudes that had been there before started making fun of me. I must have been more terrified of their picking on me than I was to jump So away I went…feet first and no holding of the nose. I DIDN’T DIE!
I learned a super lesson that day. Sometimes we have to face our fears, embrace the adventure, and take the plunge. But what holds us back from risking it all? How do we overcome our fears? What do we do when we doubt that the new chapter of life God is writing is for us? How do we keep our eyes focused on the goal when everything is trying to distract us?
Peter breaks it down for us as he jumps – not off a cliff, but out of a boat. In Matthew we read about Peter walking on the water, and if we look closely enough we may just discover the courage to follow his example. You really have to love Peter. He reminds me of myself. He is quick to act, often without thinking. Peter is a ready-fire-aim kinda guy. He shoots off his mouth when shutting up may be the better choice. Peter understands failure. After all, he denied Jesus three times. But he also experiences the grace of forgiveness, and he has the joy of being used mightily by the Divine on the day of Pentecost. Peter preaches the sermon that leads about 5,000 people to join the church.
I think Peter gets a bad rap for walking on the water and then losing faith and sinking. Jesus does call Peter a man of little faith, but what about the other 11 Disciple Dudes? None of them got out of the boat. If Peter had little faith, then they had none. It’s really easy to criticize others like a Monday-morning quarterback. It’s something else to stand in the pocket and take the hits.
When it comes to trusting Jesus, what keeps us from getting out of the boat? What keeps you from daring to trust Jesus? Today, I want to look at the reasons we are afraid to leave the boat, and the way Peter overcame them. This morning I want us to dare to trust Jesus completely.
When the disciples first see Jesus coming at them they mistake Him for a ghost. They have spent the whole night afraid the storm would drown them, and now a ghost shows up.Things were going from bad, to worse, to worser. The first thing that must happen to get out of the boat is that our disillusionment must be discouraged. Have you ever noticed that we make the problems of life worse in our head than they really are? We often make our fears greater than they are. But how do we handle real fears?
We must know the person of Jesus. Do you know how they train Federal agents to spot counterfeit money? They put them in a room for days and have them count real money. Then after several days of counting real money, they slip a phony bill in. More often than not, the agent will catch the fake dollar. Why? Not because they know so much about counterfeit money, but because they are so familiar with the original. That’s how we must become. We must become so familiar with Jesus, that when false promises show up, we spot them for who they are. We must know Jesus, in the deepest most personal sense. Only when Peter is sure that it is Jesus walking on the water does he dare think about getting out of the boat. How is your relationship with Jesus?
Peter leaves the boat when he knows that it is Jesus on the water and not a ghost, and for a little while he walks on the water. Peter does the impossible, but then things change. Peter took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the storm. When Peter got out of the boat he was focused on Jesus, on the source of his power. Then Peter shifted his focus from the source of his power to the problems that surrounded him. We will sink when we get distracted from Jesus, our source of power? Distractions can come in two forms, the obvious and the subtle. We get scared by things that look like they will overtake us, and we turn from Jesus, the source of our power and peace. When we choose to focus on the problems rather than the power, we sacrifice our connection with Jesus. Jesus is a power greater than the problems we face.
When our problems distract us from Jesus, we turn from the greatest power there is to a lesser power. John writes in I John 4:4, “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” If we focus on the problems then we will loose sight of the one greater than anything.
When Peter got into the boat, the disciples worshiped Jesus. We get the feeling that this worship of Him was different. Amazingly this is not a first-time event for the disciples. Earlier in Matthew chapter 8, the disciples are in the boat when a storm comes up. So bad is the storm that they think they will die. Sound familiar? Only instead of walking on the water, Jesus is asleep in the boat. The disciples wake Jesus, and He speaks to the winds and the waves and the storm calms. The disciples look at one another and say, “What kind of man is this? – even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Compare that with what they confess here. Now they say that Jesus is the Son of God.How did they get from “What kind of man is this?” to “You are the Son of God.”? Something about the whole experience opened their eyes to the power and ability of Jesus. Before this encounter Jesus was just an amazing man, but now the disciples saw Him as the Messiah and Son of God.
So how can we see Jesus for who He really is? How can we move from seeing Jesus as just a great man, to the only one who
can change our lives? We must spend time with Him. It is simple, but sometimes it is the most obvious things that we fail to see. To know Jesus we must spend time with Jesus. When the storms of life come, how long will you wait till you call on Jesus? Don’t we often try to think our way out of problems and search for others who can get us out of our problems, before we look to Jesus? Why is Jesus not our first refuge in difficult times? Not only must Jesus be our first choice, He must become our only choice.
Following Jesus is a leap of faith, like jumping off the cliff. We can’t play it safe and follow Jesus. But, we must be willing to risk it all. Could it be that you have allowed fears to become greater than they really are? Are problems distracting you from the source of your power? Do doubts nag at you and keep you from running to Jesus?
Whatever it is, Jesus is greater than your fears, problems, and doubts. Jesus is waiting on you to believe in Him and risk it all.Come on, leave the boat and walk on the water. Jesus says you can do it.