Staying the Course
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” John 6:18-20
Matthew adds some detail to this event in his gospel. He includes Peter’s response in Matthew 14:28-33:
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”
Before we are too hard on Peter here, don’t miss the fact that he is the only one who got out of the boat. He followed Christ’s command to “come” and, considering the tempest, that act alone is worthy of commendation.
That being said, there are three aspects of Peter’s failure that I believe often relate to our own.
First, Peter failed in familiar territory. Peter was a fisherman. He knew the Sea of Galilee well. So Jesus tested him in the place where he had the most confidence.
That teaches us to be on guard in those places where we feel most comfortable. At home, at work, at church; whatever your “sea” is, keep your eyes on Jesus.
Secondly, Peter failed after extensive training. He, along with the other disciples, had spent two years with Jesus, seeing His power and hearing His teaching. Yet, they still needed continual reassurance.
That teaches us that we’ll never come to a point where we arrive spiritually. We’ll never get faith down to a science. The moment we think we have, our feet will slip.
Thirdly, Peter failed to complete the explicit task Christ had given him. Peter didn’t have to question God’s will. He didn’t need to pray for direction. Christ’s command to “come” was clear. He started out boldly, but circumstances took him under.
This is convicting when we think of all the explicit commands Christ has given us in Scripture. Take these for example:
Love your enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:44b)
Take up your cross (Mathew 16:24)
Make disciples (Matthew 28:19)
How are you doing with those commands? Are you enduring on a daily basis or regularly throwing in the towel? We, like Peter, so often fail to follow through. We have enough faith to step out . . . but not enough faith to stay the course.
So, be on guard in familiar territory. Rely on the Spirit rather than on your own understanding. And obey the explicit commands of Christ given to us in Scripture.
But remember as you go that the almighty hands of God are there to catch you whenever your feet slip. As King David reminds us in Psalm 37:24,
When he [a righteous man] falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
Thank God for that precious truth today.