Have you ever started something enthusiastically and partway through doubted whether you should have? Maybe to the point of quitting?
Doubts seem to be a normal part of life on many levels since they are part of the learning process. Sometimes, however, they can be especially debilitating and painful. This has been on my mind a lot lately as I have been wrestling with some of my own doubts.
A picture that really speaks to me lately is from Matthew 14:22-33. This is the passage where Jesus walks on water. It was in the very early dark hours of the morning, and apparently, Jesus crossed the lake to catch up to the disciples as they had sailed off ahead of him. Like most things, though, Jesus had a greater reason for the miracle he did.
It didn’t take long for Peter to realize the potential opportunity. If this was really Jesus, he could possibly join him in walking on water too. A disciple’s goal is to become like his teacher, and in this case, Peter was all for it.
“Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” Jesus said.
And out Peter stepped onto the waves of the Sea of Galilee. But when he saw the wind and became afraid, then he began to sink and Jesus had to rescue him. Jesus’s response to Peter has been ringing in my ears for days.
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I don’t think Jesus was trying to shame Peter or me. I think it is a legitimate question. I am in a season in life where I am realizing that many of my old ways of coping with life are just not going to serve me very well if I am going to move forward into the new places God is leading me. I am realizing how much deep underlying fears have affected my life, my decisions, reactions, and relationships. I know that God is making me aware of this so he can teach me a new way of living. This question is part of this uncomfortable necessary process.
Later in life, Peter would write in 1 Peter 1:7 that faith is more precious than gold and that our trials are given to us to help us develop and prove our faith as genuine.
Hebrews 11:6 says that faith is necessary to please God, starting with believing that he exists and that he rewards those that earnestly seek him.
Faith is necessary not only to please God but to be close to him, which is the greatest reward of all.
Peter’s experience was not just an amazing story to be told around the campfire. This was a powerful learning experience about faith. He started out with faith but was then overcome by doubt. He had seen Jesus calm the waves before and was willing to step out this time. But bam, he was hit again with doubt. Why?
I’d say Peter doubted because he was more impressed with the power of the wind than with the power of Jesus. Even with something so miraculous in front of him, the old habit of fearing the wind was not going to die easily. Peter was a fisherman who knew the sea well. He had likely learned since he was a small child to respect the power and changing moods of the sea. Here Jesus was challenging what seemed completely sensible. And yet, it wasn’t. To join Jesus in this supernatural event, the sensible thing, the thing that would keep him from sinking, was to replace his old way of thinking with a new one. Peter needed a greater awareness of who Jesus was.
It is the same with us when we want to join in what Jesus is doing when we hear him calling us out of our comfort zone into something new. He calls us to get out of the boat. What does this do for us?
Getting out of the boat means more encounters with the waves, but it also means a greater participation in the power of God.
We should expect and not be discouraged by the turbulence from up-close encounters with waves. Doubt and opposition confirm that we are stepping out. We have what our previous experiences have seemingly taught us, but we find God challenging these things, saying there is a whole new set of “rules” when walking out on the water with him. This is uncomfortable but it is so so worth it. We must face the waves in order to walk with Jesus in miraculous ways.
Maybe it isn’t the wind that impresses you, but there is something. Perhaps it is the opinion of others or the need for perfection, control or avoiding conflict. Maybe it is knowledge, material comforts or a relational role you play that you look to for security. Maybe you fear facing pain so you drown yourself in pleasure. We all have something that we tend to allow to dominate us.
Getting out of the boat shows us what we rely on and teaches us to rely on God.
We need to replace our old safety nets with Jesus, through a greater awareness and focus on who Jesus is.
So who is Jesus? He is the Creator of the wind and waves and you and me, and he has power over it all. “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities: all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together….For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things…by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:16-20). He is supreme authority. Even the most powerful “thrones” and “authorities” are no match for him. In the end, this present world will pass away, but his word will last forever (1 Pet. 1:25).
Getting out of the boat shows us that God is the Creator and ruler over everything.
What’s more, this great Creator and ruler, became human to be the peace-making sacrifice, to bring all things in line with God and all who are willing into the family of God. Not only does he have power over the wind, he has the power to resurrect the human spirit and change the human heart.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5). “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27, Acts 15:9).
Jesus gives us all that we need to follow him, starting with spiritual life and a new heart in which his Spirit lives.
Peter found that Jesus was faithful to catch him when he was sinking and that through his faith, Jesus would empower him to walk on the water. Jesus would not have called him and then let him drown. This truth powerfully led Peter in the future when he shared his faith before intimidating crowds, led the rest of Christ’s followers to fellowship with Gentiles, and performed miracles of healing while leading others to faith in Christ. He learned to live by faith and be led by the Spirit.
Getting out of the boat shows us that God is faithful to sustain and equip us in what he calls us to.
Finally, getting out of the boat shows us that God deeply loves us.
First John 4:16 says that God is love.
Speaker Carlos Rodriguez describes “the longest journey” as the journey “between your head and your heart.” We can know in our head that God loves us, but we need to grow in deeply knowing it in our heart. Getting out of the boat allows God to prove his love to us. It is love that compels him to call us and include us in his life and work. And it is love that he shows us as he teaches us what he is like and how to walk with him in faith. No matter how threatening the waves and how small we feel… No matter what anything or anyone else seems to be saying… the truth is that God loves you, truly, truly, loves you. You. Are. Loved.
I pray for myself and for you that these truths will become glued to our hearts and minds so that with time and practice, we respond more and more out of faith and less and less out of our old fears. Getting out of the boat will be worth it. Thank you, Jesus.
LaVonne Foix serves on the lead team at Restore Church, focusing on worship and women’s ministries, as well as being employed in retail. She is married to Pastor David with whom she spent eight years in youth ministry. Her BA from Vennard College is in Bible/Theology and Cross-Cultural Missions.