“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
(Matthew 14:28-32 ESV)
In the Bible, Peter is well-known for acting and speaking impulsively and, as a result, making mistakes. He impulsively denied Jesus three times after Jesus was arrested. He made an ill-advised suggestion after Jesus’ transfiguration. He cut off the ear of one of the soldiers arresting Jesus. But Peter’s actions and words were almost always motivated by His love for Jesus.
In today’s passage, though, we cannot say that Peter acted impulsively. He doesn’t simply get out of the boat. Being an experienced fisherman, he knew that was suicide. Instead he asks Jesus to invite him out of the boat and onto the water, which He does. Peter became the second (and final) person to ever walk on water.
Certainly Peter could not be accused of any type of sin here because Jesus would never invite someone to sin. Rather, Jesus’ invitation was a confirmation of Peter’s faith, little as it was. Peter’s faith was enough to get out of the boat, but was not enough to take him across the water.
And even though he didn’t make it very far, Peter should not be faulted. There were twelve men in that boat. The other eleven stayed put. Peter at least got out of the boat. His weak faith was better than no faith.
Faith is increased when it is exercised. And the best time to exercise it is when we are in the middle of storm in our life. We exercise the faith we have until we start to doubt. Then we falter. But it is at that moment that Jesus faithfully and immediately comes to our rescue and the storm abates.
When Jesus asks Peter why he doubted I envision Him putting His arm around Peter, giving him a big smile, and speaking very encouragingly as if to say “you were doing great!”. God is rooting for us. He wants us to succeed. But our doubt holds us back. From Jesus’ words we get the very strong impression that Peter could have walked much further.
It was not the wind or the waves that stopped Peter. It was the fact that Peter noticed them that tripped him up. Similarly, we can’t achieve anything in life if we listen to the naysayers and those who don’t have the guts to take even the first step themselves toward self-improvement.
Spiritual growth is the major goal God has for us. He wants us to have more faith in Him tomorrow than we do today. With great faith we can do things that we never thought we could do [Matthew 17:20]. But, as the title of the book by John Ortberg states, if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.
We can’t expect to grow if we stay put. We have to be willing to exercise the little faith we have today in order to develop bigger faith for tomorrow.
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