“The boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” (Matthew 14:24-32)
This singular event in the lives of the disciples teaches us some important lessons about serving the Lord. Lessons for Christians, and otherwise. Here are just three:
Lesson 1: Serving the Lord comes with hardship. Jesus “made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side” (Matthew 14:22). It was obedience to the Lord that put the disciples in the middle of a frightfully choppy sea that night. In the same way, those who choose to follow Jesus will sometimes find themselves in difficult circumstances. Losing an old friend because you won’t go out to the bars like you used to. Experiencing alienation from family members because you changed churches, and no longer endorse an ecumenical worldview. Or just waging war with the lusts of the flesh on a daily basis. Jesus said that “difficult is the way which leads to life” (Matthew 7:14). The greatest of blessings comes with a life in Christ, both here and in eternity, but not without a “price.” (cf. Luke 14:26-33).
Lesson 2: When in distress, one can fail to see the Lord is near to help. There was Jesus, the One able to calm the storm, and the disciples didn’t even recognize Him! Even after He identified Himself, Peter, at least, continued to doubt that it was really Him, that He was in fact among them (vs. 28- “IF it is you”). Sounds all too familiar. When the world is dark, and you’re surrounded by troubled waters, it can be easy to lose sight of the Lord, or forget that He is near to hear and help. But thankfully, human failings don’t change hard facts. And the fact is that “[God] is not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28). God is not far from anyone. And He is near the Christian (James 4:8). He can be called upon, and should be.
Lesson 3: Fear undermines faith. Think of it. Peter was walking on water! He was doing the unsinkable. Because he believed that the Lord could make the impossible possible, and acted on that belief, he was experiencing the power of God in a way no man ever had before. And it lasted as long as “he walked on the water to go to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29). But then Peter did something that we should learn from. He “saw that the wind was boisterous” (Matthew 14:30). In a moment of distraction, he took his eyes from Jesus, lost sight of his Savior, and began to concern himself with the surrounding tempest. Matthew tells us, then, that “he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). Fear supplanted his faith…and sinking soon supplanted his walking. No wonder the Bible contains 366 verses carrying the injunction, “Fear not.” We need the reminders.
So what can be said after all this? That there is a way which leads to eternal life. That it comes with hardship, yes, but also with more than enough help from Him who is “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). That the Lord who called to Peter to “Come” (Matthew 14:29) still calls to souls today to “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28). He calls to every man and woman to put–or continute to put–their faith in Him, and not allow themselves to be sunk by their fears.
The world is dark and stormy. The Savior is near to save. He is calling you to come. Will you come?
* To learn more about how to come to Jesus, see articles listed under the category “Salvation” found here.