Once in a Lifetime
Ever since I first heard the story of Jesus walking on the water, I wished I could have been in the place of Peter. I pictured myself getting out of the boat and walking on the water toward Jesus. I wondered what it would be like to settle your foot down and find firm footing underneath. No doubt, it would have been an amazing experience, a once in a lifetime experience. Would you want to walk on water if you had the chance? Would you want to experience something only two people ever have?
Jesus told Peter he was of “little faith,” but what does that say about the eleven disciples who remained in the boat? I wonder if they ever looked back on that event with the thought, “If only?” Did they have moments of regret knowing that the one opportunity to walk on water had passed them by while they were cowering and afraid? They could have done something extraordinary, and they let fear and doubt stop them. The opportunity only came once, and then it was gone forever.
From an outsider’s perspective, it may be hard to spot the difference between an action that is foolish, and an action that is profoundly wise. The willingness to push on in spite of fear is almost counter to our nature. A desire to find out where something may lead even if you don’t know all of the specifics can seem rushed and immature. What wise man would recommend stepping out of a perfectly good boat? In the middle of a storm no less! And yet, it seems to be what Jesus is desiring from Peter, and by extension all of us.
In life there are many “once in a lifetime” decisions to make. One moment is all it takes to separate you from cowering in a boat to walking on water. It’s not always clear which of those decisions might lead to something significant. It’s almost by the nature of the decision that defines if you should. If you know it is something good that you ought to do (even if no one else is doing it), but the only thing holding you back is fear or anxiety, then that may mean you’re letting something pass you by that you may regret later.
This isn’t a new thing that God wanted either. Noah was ordered to build an ark well before the forty days of rain came. Abraham was told to leave his home without being told where he was going. The Israelites were saved from Egyptian slavery by first trapping themselves between an ocean and the Egyptian army. In each case the “wise man” would call such actions foolish. In each case these people experienced wonderful things they would not have otherwise.
The same Israelites who had crossed the Red Sea had an opportunity to take the Promised Land fairly soon after they left Egypt. However, the report of the ten spies frightened the people and God instead made them wander in the wilderness for forty years. In Numbers 14:40-45, there was a group of Israelites that decided to go ahead and try and take the land after God declared his decision, but it was too late. The opportunity had passed. They failed to take the Promised Land early.
There was a Jewish woman, Esther, who had happened to become the queen of the Persian Empire. Haman had set into motion a plan to destroy all of the Jews, and Esther was placed in the position of using her position to try and save her people, but at the risk of her own life. Her cousin Mordecai told her in Esther 4:13-14: "Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
Mordecai was telling her that she had an opportunity, and a very limited one at that. God’s plan for his people would work out one way or the other, but Esther’s part in that plan was in her hands. She could either retreat in fear, or rise to the occasion. She took her opportunity and saved her people.
Just like Peter actually stepped out of the boat and actually walked on water. He took his opportunity to face fear and do something that no one else could do except by the power of God.
Faith may seem foolish to the outside observer. But when you know that your God is the Creator of both the heavens and the earth, when you know your God loves and cares for you, when you know that God works all things out for good for those who love him—When you know those things, what is keeping you from stepping out onto the water? Even if you begin to sink, Jesus is there to take your hand. What have you to fear?