Matthew 14:22-33 is a lesson on faith from Jesus. He teaches Peter about real faith in the face of danger.
Source: Why Did You Doubt?
This article is my most recent post for Grace Centered Magazine. It addresses issues of fear and doubt, something that I sometimes struggle with.
Why Did You Doubt?
Fear is the enemy of faith. We’ve heard it said a hundred times and it is so very true. I can feel God speak something into me during my quiet time with Him in the morning and I am fired up and ready to tackle whatever it is that He has for me. As the day goes on, and life’s troubles come at me, fear sets in, and my resolve wavers.
Have you been there in that moment when fear starts to creep in and dissolve away your commitment? I know I have and I also know I am not the only one. No doubt, you have been there. Peter has been there too.
The story of Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the water to Jesus is one of my very favorite passages in the New Testament. I just really love Peter. He’s a little rash and bold. He is a little impetuous and reckless. Maybe that is why I like him. I can relate to him. He loves Jesus in a way that is beautiful and powerful, but he tends to act a little irrationally. Yep. That hits close to home. I also think there are a lot of practical applications that we can make about fear, our response to it, and Jesus’ response to it. Let’s take a look at Matthew 14:22-33 and see what we can learn.
I’m going to summarize that passage from Matthew. This is the Bobbie revised version.
Peter is in the boat with the other disciples while Jesus is alone praying. The waves and the wind have kicked up enough that the boat has drifted far from the land and is being tossed about. It is late and it is dark. I’m sure the disciples were getting a little nervous out there on the sea just waiting for Jesus. They may have even been squinting out into the distance wondering how on earth he could get to them.
Then they see a little movement and rub their blurry, sleepy eyes. They may have even wondered if their eyes were playing tricks on them due to the hour and the conditions. They look again and realize they were right. Someone or something is walking across the sea, right to them. They tremble in fear because they are sure it is a ghost. They were scared enough that Jesus had to tell them not to be and to calm down because it was only him.
Then, Peter acts in true Peter fashion. “Prove it Lord! If that really is you, call me out to walk on the water too!” Jesus obliged and called to him. So, out of the boat jumped Peter.
I can just picture it in my mind. He hops out and begins confidently walking towards Jesus and he is thinking, “This is awesome! I would follow Jesus anywhere and do anything that he told me to do.” But then a big wave crashes close to his feet, distracting him for a second. As he watches that wave, he notices the other waves around him. His ears become alert and he hears the waves crashing against the boat behind him. He hears the wind howling around him. He shakily looks down at his feet and fear over takes him. The more afraid he gets, the quicker his feet begin to sink into the sea. Sheer panic sets in as the fear of all that is going on around him overtakes him. Then he remembers Jesus. Out of desperation he cries out to him.
He raises his eyes from his situation and looks. There is Jesus right beside him. Jesus is close enough that all he has to do is reach out and take hold of Peter. Peter is pulled back up above the water and Jesus just gives him that tender look and says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Jesus is basically telling Peter, ‘I’ve got you. Don’t worry. Just trust me. You don’t have to be strong because I’m strong enough for the both of us.’ Then hand in hand, they walk together to the boat where all of the other disciples are just standing there in sheer amazement of the mighty power and sovereignty of Jesus.
Obviously, I have taken a little liberty in the retelling of this section of scripture. I do that on purpose. I think we sometimes look at these disciples and think that they must have been holy and perfect men of God. We make them unrelatable and think we can’t learn from them. That is far from the truth. These men were everyday people and they often had to be corrected and taught by a patient and loving Jesus. That is exactly what happened here. Peter needed to be taught about fear and faith. His story is one that can serve as a model for us.
Here are some things that this passage of scripture can teach us about fear and faith.
Life is going to get crazy. It’s pretty much a given.
When we are trusting in Jesus, we don’t have to fear. We can just jump out of the boat.
When we take our eyes off of him and start to look at all that is going on around us and our inability to fix it, we get distracted and fear sets in.
If we give fear a foot hold, it can sink us pretty quickly.
When we get overwhelmed, our best bet to get out of our mess, is to cry out to him.
He can pull us out, no matter how desperate the situation.
He is strong enough to hold us and keep us steady.
He is capable of walking us through the trial.
Trusting him in spite of our fear not only builds our faith, but it builds the faith of others and brings glory to God.
Jesus doesn’t get mad at us when fear creeps in and we stumble a little. He gently reminds us that He’s got a hold of us and will bring us through.
I am so very thankful for this lesson. It is one that I need to remind myself of often. I tend to be a little like Peter. I dive into things with full faith. Sometimes, though, the troubles of this world distract me and for a moment and I take my eyes off of him and focus on my own incapability to fix things. It isn’t long before I cry out to Him because I can feel myself starting to sink. Every time, he is faithful to reach out his hand, hold me close, and walk me through.
I pray that if you are facing something that has you feeling like you are sinking in fear and helplessness, that you will focus your eyes on the one who can save you.
Love and blessings,