Monday, March 25, 2013

A Walk on a Stormy Sea

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 
You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”
Matthew 14:31

When I was a volunteer youth worker, both students and parents asked me questions about doubt. When a parent asked me, they were often in a state of panic because their child who had trusted God was all of a sudden questioning Him. Some parents who called were angry because they believed doubt was sin and their child was rebelling. When teenage girls asked me about doubt they expressed a lot of emotion which indicated they were carrying shame over the doubts they were experiencing. However, I found the students who expressed their doubts to be the ones growing the most. It is those that wouldn’t acknowledge doubt that stayed stuck in the doubt who ended up going through the motions of being a Christian, but in reality were relying mostly on their parent’s faith rather than their own. It's important to understand doubt is not a sin; it's an emotion. It's a barometer telling us we need to wrestle with God’s truth and make it our own so that His truth is driven to the core of our being. Doubt can be a response to circumstances, a limited point of view, or to lies the enemy constantly whispers in our ears.    

The above verse is from the account of Jesus walking on water. His disciples were in a boat in the middle of the night and were enveloped by a huge storm that hindered their travel. The wind blew so hard waves were crashing over the boat, frightening even the disciples who were seasoned fishermen. When the disciples see Christ walking on water, they think He is a ghost and become even more terrified. So, He calls to them, telling them not to be afraid. Peter, who had spent many years fishing, calls out to Him, “Lord, since it is You order me to come to you on the water.” Christ told Peter to come and he immediately responded to the Lord by climbing out of the boat and began to take steps on the stormy sea. His was a response of trust to something the Lord said. I like Peter’s impulsiveness in obeying Christ. Me, I tend to analyze God’s commands to see if they make sense and if they are safe. I can relate to Peter because after the first few steps, he began to look around and the storm loomed big and his doubt grew. Yet, even as he was sinking and doubting, he called to the Lord. I find it hard to cry out to God when I'm doubting because of shame. Yet, that is exactly what He would like me to do.

Did Peter have faith? Yes, Christ acknowledged his faith. When Christ called Peter to come, Peter didn't pause, he climbed right out of the "safety" of the boat and began walking toward Christ. As the wind grew stronger and the waves got bigger, he glanced at his circumstances, realizing walking on water didn't make sense and maybe the enemy stirred the waves and whispered louder in his ear causing his fear to grow and as doubt began to grow began to sink. When Peter stepped out, he knew the power to walk on water would come from Christ. After all we aren't made to be water walkers. We aren't told that Peter was afraid when he stepped out of the boat, but if he did his faith was stronger than his fear. As the waves grew bigger, Peter took his eyes off the Lord, causing his fear to intensify. But, his faith did not completely diminish. For in his moment of sinking doubt, he called to Jesus! I love that! He did not beat himself up for doubting, he didn't give up on his relationship with God, and he didn't claim God had failed him. He simply allowed his doubt and his desperate situation to remind him to call on Christ! 

The Lord did not say, “Whoops, too late, Buddy, you are on your own.” He reached out and He lifted Peter up. Wow! Faith always grows as we keep our eyes on Christ in the midst of storms. Faith grows as we face doubt, crying out to God who is bigger than our circumstance, fear, and doubt. Peter got out of the boat alone. I wonder if at least one disciple had gotten out with him, if they could have encouraged each other to keep their eyes on the Lord. I wonder if they didn’t end up feeling a bit jealous of Peter’s walk on that sea! 

I feel sad for the disciples remaining in the boat. They never had the thrill of walking on stormy water with Jesus. They never had the experience of having Jesus pluck them from the sea like Peter did. When I was a new Christian I thought the disciples who stayed in the boat were safer, and that Peter had a crazy wild streak in him. Now my perspective is so different. For, the safest person in the violent storm was Peter who was moving toward Jesus. The other disciples who thought they were safe had a false sense of security in a boat which could sink. It would be safe to say in the midst of the serious storm the disciples had the same doubts and emotions Peter had as he sank. Yet in the face of the troubling storm Peter was the only one who asked Jesus to invite him out, demonstrating that he truly knew Jesus was his only real refuge. 

I have had several friends who have gone though really rough storms--storms that would rock any of our worlds! I hope in the midst of the storms that have blind sided them, they will be able to see the Savior and that they will be able to cry out to Him, asking to walk on the stormy sea with Him rather than sinking in doubt. For during the storms that shake security to the core, it is in the moving toward the Savior that each of us will find security. It is in walking hand in hand with Him that we will rise above storms, developing a core of faith that will not be shaken. Peter's faith may have seen impetuous faith, but it was always in response to what Jesus said. I want to be a person who has the courage to step out of things that provide false security and to move toward Jesus, my true refuge and my real safety.     

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!