“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” – Matthew 14:27 (NIV)
Poor Peter. The guy gets a bum rap. The gospels are replete with examples of the fisherman-turned-apostle messing up. He says the wrong things, does the wrong things, thinks the wrong thoughts. He zealously does what he thinks is right, only to find himself (sometimes withering) on the wrong end of Jesus’ rebuke. I mean, when Jesus looks you in the eye and says, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” that cannot be a comfortable experience.
But, give Simon Peter this much: he has moxy. Or at least a healthy does of machismo. Far more importantly, he loves the Lord. One cannot deny His devotion to Jesus. (Excepting, of course, the thrice denial of Christ during His trial, but that’s for another time.)
As I prepare to teach a Bible study on the life of the Apostle Peter, I am reminded again of just how much Cephas is like all of us. He is truly “flawed yet chosen,” as are we. One of Peter’s finest moments comes on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has sent the apostles off in a boat – and straight into a storm. The apostles are absolutely panicked. They probably think their boat is going to capsize and they are going to drown.
Suddenly, Jesus appears – standing on the swirling, churning waters. OK… imagine that if you can. It’s the middle of the night. You’re tired. You’re frightened out of your wits. You are fearing for your very life! And then… Jesus appears, walking on the water. Not just walking on water. Walking on swelling waves amidst a terrifying storm. And what does Jesus say to them? “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
And who is the first one to recognize Jesus (although he is having a tough time believing his eyes)? Peter. And who steps out onto the seas when beckoned by Christ? Peter. And who walks on the water toward the Lord? Peter.
And what happens when Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and looks at the storm that is raging around him? He begins to drown.
The lessons to glean from these few verses in Matthew are many. But here are three key points I want us all to take away from this:
1. John Ortberg was right. If you want to walk on water, you have to step out of the boat. You can sit in a fetal position and rock out of fear. Or you can stand up and step out boldly – courageously – into the future God has planned for you.
2. Jesus Christ is your courage. If you are relying solely on your abilities and strength, you may be bitterly disappointed. But, if you follow God – seeking first and foremost His kingdom (His will, His ways) – you will find joy, peace, abundant life! It will take courage. There will be people who don’t understand you or what you’re doing; who will mock you; who, frankly, will not like Who you stand for. Find your courage, strength and acceptance in Christ. Nothing is impossible for God! He will meet your needs. He will light your path. He will guide you along the way. He will never leave you nor abandon you. He is in control. So trust Him.
3. Keep your eyes on Christ! When shooting a bow-and-arrow, one must keep his eyes looking through the sight aimed at the bullseye ahead. Turn your gaze and you will miss the target. Do not focus on your circumstances. Focus on God. Focus on His promises. Focus on His Word. Focus on the love of Christ. Focus on the Creator of All Who is also Truth Himself – Existence Himself.
In short, fear not. You may be facing a storm in life so daunting, so terrible, that the very thought of it makes your stomach queasy. You can’t see a way through, can’t find a way out. You don’t know how you’ll carry on. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Don’t quit. Take your eyes off your situation and focus on God. Seek the Lord and find the courage you need to get up and step out of your boat and into that stormy sea, knowing that Jesus is right there before you – right in the middle of the chaos – and He is saying to you, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
You are not alone. You are greatly loved – more than you can ever measure.