Bethany Hamilton didn’t just pray that she could surf again and then did nothing; she spent countless hours proactively learning how to get up on the board with one arm. When she did, God answered her prayer to reveal His purpose for her life: for her to be an inspiration to people throughout the world.
What does this principle look like in your life? Where do you need to just “get out of the boat” and take a step of faith? It’s less than one verse in the passage, but we know for certain that Peter actually walks on water. Can you just imagine what was going through his head as he tiptoed out of the boat? “Oooh, the water is cold. Don’t fall over. Don’t fall over. You’re doing it. You are actually walking on water. Whoa, a fish. Stay focused on Jesus…” No matter how long it lasted, this one experience was one that Peter would remember for the rest of his life. How many times must he have shared that story with people? You wonder if he embellished the scene over time to include him tap-dancing and doing cartwheels on water, too.
There is nothing like a walk-on-water experience. You can see people all over the Bible who prayed and proactively moved and then got to experience firsthand God’s power moving through them.
Moses prayed and then saw the Red Sea open up as he jammed his staff into the sand.
Elijah prayed and then saw his water-drenched sacrifice get consumed by fire in front
of 800 angry Baal-worshipers.
Gideon prayed and then invaded the 135,000 member Midianite army with a 300-
member marching band.
Daniel prayed and then got down into the lion’s den for a sleepover.
For all of these guys, they first needed to take a radical step of faith before they saw God’s power show up.
Moses left his comfortable life in the desert to take on Pharaoh, the most powerful man
on earth at the time.
Elijah picked a fight with the whole nation of Israel.
Gideon told 99% of his army to go home just before going to battle.
Daniel refused to stop praying in public, even though it was against the law.
In our passage, it would have been nice for Peter if the event ended with him walking on water, but then verse 30 comes. “But when he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” The moment Peter took his eyes off his Savior and focused on the storm, he began to sink. Remember, Peter was already walking on water when he became overwhelmed by the storm. He should have known better, but fear is not something that will ever leave you. That’s why the most frequent command in all of scripture is the two simple words, “Fear not!” Almost every time God uses this command, it’s to lead people into something even scarier. The truth is, fear will sink us faster than anything else in life.
2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” If you’re a Christian, then it’s not a matter of psyching yourself up, but simply reminding yourself that He who is in you is scarier than any circumstance you’re facing.
The text says, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” I don’t know how far away Jesus was from Peter when he began to drown. Maybe Jesus pulled a second miracle here and did the first-ever water sprint. At any rate, Jesus didn’t let Peter go under for even a few seconds. He let Peter know He was with him the moment he began to drown.
This verse should be extremely comforting to you. Even when Peter took his eyes off Jesus, Jesus never took His eyes off Peter. The same is true for you. Even when you allow fears from inside your brain or from outside circumstances to overwhelm you…Jesus is near. He won’t let you drown. I wonder if, for Peter, the feeling of Jesus pulling him up out of the water was just as powerful as the feeling of walking on it.
The next words out of Jesus’ mouth seem like a scolding: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” It makes you want to ask the question, “Did Peter fail?” It would be easy to point the finger at Peter for taking his focus off Jesus, but I don’t think Jesus saw it that way. Peter was the only one who had the faith and courage to get out and try.
The other eleven disciples never even overcame their fear to leave their seats in the boat. Their fear so overwhelmed them that they are hardly even mentioned in the event. Peter was the only one who got to experience the joy of walking on water. Peter was the only one who experienced the glory of being lifted up by Jesus in his desperate time of need. If you get one thing from our time together, memorize this: If you are going to walk on water, you have to first step out of the boat. Think about that.
Failure is not an event but a judgment about an event. It’s the way we think about an outcome. Failure doesn’t shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you. For example, in Soul Surfer, no matter how many times Bethany fell off the board, she would not give up. Failure was not falling off the board; failure would have been giving up. And because she persevered, she grew incredibly as a person.
The same is true with you. The more you get out of the boat in life and face your fears, the better the chance of falling. But don’t see each fall as a failure; see it as an opportunity to grow. I promise you, at some point in your life you will actually look back at the moments you had been unsuccessful and realize that those were the same moments you grew the most and were closest to Jesus. No one is more concerned with you growing into the person you were meant to be than Him.
It was Peter’s willingness to risk failure that helped him grow. In Hebrews 11:6, the author says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This statement makes sense: We can’t please God unless we have a level of faith.
So the reverse of this statement true as well: “With faith, it is impossible to disappoint God”? We can so easily stress over what is and isn’t the will of God for our lives that it freezes us from actually ever doing anything. What if God is always pleased with our steps of faith, even when they are different from what He planned? But you have to take the step out of the boat.
I wonder if sometimes God looks down at some of the things we are doing and laughs to Himself, “No, that wasn’t really what I had in mind, but I’m just so proud of you for trying.”
So, what are the fears that keep you in the boat? Maybe it’s the fear of being rejected. Maybe it’s the fear of not being good enough. Maybe it’s the fear of failure. Maybe it’s the fear of getting hurt or being betrayed. Let me remind you that God has not given you a spirit of fear but of power, love, and self-discipline. Get used to saying prayers like these:
o “God, I can’t take this risk…but you can through me.”
o “God, I can’t share my faith on campus…but you can through me.”
o “God, I can’t stand up for someone getting picked on…but you can through me.”
o “God, I can’t get through this stressful situation…but you can through me.”
o “God, I can’t _______...but you can through me.”
God wants to live a hero's story through you. In order for that to happen, you will have to take the risk, move out of the boat, and trust Jesus every step of the way. I know it’s scary, but I promise you there is no greater feeling.