Matt and Deanna Kenyon, our Senior High Youth Leaders, preach a poignant message about Peter and taking risks. They delve into what the act of faith means and how God calls us to rely on Him over ourselves.
Before we read this passage let me just give us some background here. Right before this passage Jesus has just fed a crowd of over 5,000 people and immediately after has told his disciples to get in a boat and go to the other side of the lake and He would meet them over there.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
So we see in this story that Peter is taking a risk, but not just any kind of risk, a faith-filled risk. Peter got to walk on water why, because he is so awesome? No, it’s because he did something none of the other disciples did and that is he responded to Jesus when He called out to them in the middle of the storm and Jesus invited Peter to take a Risk.
1) Don’t forget to respond to Jesus in the midst of a difficult circumstance
The disciples had been in this storm a long time. Most scholars believe it was probably about up to nine hours at this point and when Jesus came to them walking on the water they didn’t even recognize Him. Have you ever thought about this? This is Jesus the guy they spend all of their time with now and just saw the day before and they didn’t recognize Him. I believe that they did not recognize Jesus because they were not looking for Jesus. They probably thought to themselves well if Jesus was going to come to us He would have come to us by now, probably what the majority of us would have thought. But here’s what happens, Jesus CALLS OUT to them in the middle of the storm “do not be afraid” and Peter answers decides to do something, he decides to respond. Instead of being paralyzed by his fear Peter decided to say “God is that you?!”
What if Peter had said, “Hey it’s Jesus, yeah we are really busy right now trying not to drown here! Hey Jesus, listen I’m really busy with school right now and I’m trying not to fail these classes just leave alone until I’m done. Hey Jesus, you know I just I’m overwhelmed with work right now, my car just broke down, and my bank account is low not right now Jesus”. I’m not making light of any of those things. We aren’t called to compartmentalize in any way, but we are called to be dependent on Him every way!
God will always come to us in the midst of our difficult circumstance. But here’s the question, when Jesus calls out to us in our struggle will we answer Him back like Peter did? Maybe the Lord’s voice in your life looks like a friend coming along side you trying to help you in a difficult time, but we push them away as say, “no it’s good, I got this”. Then we wonder, “God why aren’t you coming through for me?” Or maybe it’s just that Jesus wants us to take 20 minutes out of our morning to sit and hear from Him in our devotional time. The Lord is always trying to speak to us. Will we take the time to answer back and say “Lord, is that you?” Our Christianity is not always going to be convenient.
God might lead us into a storm not to defeat us there, but so He can show His glory to us there.
2) Make space for grace
When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water his faith rose up within him that caused him to want to take action. It was in Peter’s doing or stepping out that made the space for God’s grace to be revealed. How is God’s grace going to be revealed in our life if we don’t step out and do anything? Faith and action go together. Faith is a verb my friends. James 2:17-18 (faith without works is dead. I will show you my faith by my works)
The showing is in the doing and the doing flows from the done. God’s grace is best put on display in our lives when we when we marry both faith and works. Peter not only had faith in this moment but he married it with action. We were not meant just to be pew warmers. People say God is boring; He’s not boring you’re boring. Maybe the reason why many of us do not feel alive is because we are always trying to stay safe. Some of us have set up our lives in such a way where we wouldn’t notice if God doesn’t come through because everything is controlled and nice and perfect and we rarely exercise our muscle of faith.
If there is no action, if there is no stepping out, how are we going to show people God?
Maybe it’s taking a risk and inviting a co-worker to church, maybe it’s joining that small group, maybe it’s asking to pray for someone, these are small ways we can step out. Get awkward with God.
I’m not talking about taking a risk for the sake of it. Sometimes it is the risk that we take that makes the space for God’s grace to be revealed not only in our life but to those around us as well.
3) Trust Jesus more than your problems
One of my favorite aspects about this story is just the child-like faith that Peter exhibits. I imagine he yelled “YOLO” as he stepped out onto the water.
Asking to come out into the water is probably one of the most impractical things he could have suggested at the time if you think about it. Why leave the boat at all? What is to be gained from leaving the safety of the “man made” boat? If it were up to me I might be yell out to Jesus, “Hey, if it is you, why’d you send us across the lake during a storm? Did you simply send me us on a fool’s errand? This really isn’t a very efficient use of my time. This storm is really scary and really inconvenient to my plans”.
But Peter steps out onto the water. Actually, I imagine Peter isn’t just walking on water but more-so running on the water. He was always more of a “ready, fire, aim” kind of guy. As he’s running he begins hearing the sounds of the wind all around him, begins feeling the resistance of the waves at his feet, and he begins to shift his trust from the man in front of him to the waves below him. He takes his eyes off of Jesus and focuses on the strength of the waves and the wind.
I want you to think about the confidence that Peter must have felt as he took those first few steps. I think we all have experienced that from time to time when we feel the Lord is working in our lives. Maybe the Lord has called you into an area of ministry and you can see the dots connecting of how He’s going to bring everything together. Maybe you start seeing financial freedom in your life and you can see the Lord pulling you out of that bondage. Maybe it’s an addiction in your life like alcohol or pornography or healing a broken marriage. You get that moment where you feel the Lord is going to deliver you from the storm that has been raging.
But then you hear the wind. Somebody plants a seed of doubt in your mind. “God doesn’t really speak to you about ministry. You’re just crazy”. Your co-workers start telling you that marriage just another word for prison.
Or maybe you feel the resistance of the waves. You were doing so well getting out of debt but then the car broke down again. Your life just feels like bondage is the only answer.
We very quickly lose that feeling of excitement and strength when the wind and waves enter in. Now all we can think about is saving face when we fail. Hey, you can’t fail if you don’t try so let’s just be “safe”. Nobody makes fun of the safe people. They don’t stand out in a crowd.
We need to learn to discern between fear and wisdom, because fear often masquerades as wisdom.
Faith and Fear are mutually exclusive (they cannot occupy the same space)
Faith cancels fear. Fear cancels faith.
As I keep my focus on Jesus my faith grows.
As I keep my focus on the problem my fear grows.
4) Risk can bring revelation
So what was the point of this whole excursion? I think the point of the whole event can be summed up in Verse 33 “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”. These men lived life with Jesus, but this was the first mention in the Bible of the disciples worshipping Jesus.
Jesus will dare to inconvenience you to bring the revelation into your life that He is the Son of God.
The risk that Peter took in stepping out in faith brought such revelation of who Jesus was to the disciples that they all entered into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Why was this so different than all the other miracles? These men had literally just come from feeding 5,000 with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish.
Observing the works of Jesus and experiencing the works of Jesus will yield different results in your life.
In America it can become so easy for us to conceptually understand Jesus but never experience who Jesus is. We would much rather spending our time building a better, safer, more financially secure boat than trust that Jesus is over all of life’s storms. We often build fences of safety around our lives but we forget to let Jesus through the gate. There’s nothing wrong with being practical and preparing, there is a lot of wisdom in that. But let’s not forget that Jesus should be at the center of our design and that fear can sometimes masquerade around as wisdom.
We spend so much or our time worrying about Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong. We are often waiting for the other shoe to drop. What if instead, we looked around in the midst of the storm for Jesus walking towards us?