Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
When we read the story of Peter walking on the water to Jesus, we root for Peter. He was so brave to get out of the boat! He’s walking on water, toward Jesus, who is standing on water! It’s so exciting!
But what is right around the corner? Peter begins to sink.
Have you experienced this chain of events in your own life? Things are going very well. You’re focused on what Jesus has called you to do, and … it’s all happening! Then the obstacles begin to stake a claim on your consciousness, and you get that sinking feeling that everything is about to end badly.
We will all stumble like Peter from time to time. But here’s what Peter’s story teaches us about our own walking-on-water moments.
- Focus on Jesus. There are any number of places our brain can go when we’re in the midst of something important: our flaws and weaknesses, our own sinful natures, the scariness of the situation we find ourselves in, the obstacles we’re up against, our disbelief that God is truly working through us. And splash—we’re sunk. In walking-on-water moments, our mind can be our worst enemy. We must proactively and incessantly train our mind on Jesus. While Peter’s walk on the water was no less amazing, and certainly would have stuck with him for the rest of his life, imagine how he would have felt if he’d sustained his focus on Jesus until he could have met him out on the water instead of sinking!
- Rely on Jesus. As Peter was a rational, thinking human being, it’s easy to understand why he suddenly began to focus on the impossibility of his circumstances while standing on top of water. Don’t we do this, too? “This is an impossible group of people I’m working with, and I’m no wizard with people. How are we pulling this off so well?” Or, “We don’t have the money in the account for this ministry, nor did we plan far enough in advance, yet here it is taking place nonetheless. It’s bound to come crashing down one of these days.” Like Peter, we may take the first step in pure faith in Jesus. Soon enough, we start to think we’re operating out of our own strengths and knowledge. When we find ourselves “out of our depth,” we need to remember that Jesus is the one who called us there, and we must continue to rely on him to accomplish the impossible.
- Call to Jesus. When we begin to sink, as we will from time to time, we must remember to cry out to Jesus to save us. At least when Peter began to sink, he had the good sense to cry for Jesus’ salvation instead of turning back to the boat, calling to his fellow fishermen, or just going under and hoping he’d come back up. Jesus, still standing on water, pulled Peter up out of the waves, and they climbed back into the boat. This must’ve been the moment Peter began to realize what had gone wrong in steps one and two. Jesus will always reach out to save us when our faith fails and we call to him.
My book, Don’t Look Down, tracks the experiences of ten individuals in my own life who have shown me what it looks like to walk on water.
How have you learned to focus on Jesus in the midst of an impossible situation or a scary adventure? How have you quieted your mind and your tendency to rely on yourself first and foremost? When have you had to cry out for Jesus to save you from your own disbelief?