“[Jesus] said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?‘”
It’s a familiar story. The disciples got into a boat leaving Jesus behind. Late in the night, they look over the bow of the ship to see, what appeared to them, a ghost. However, as we know, it was not a ghost. It was the Lord Jesus!
The rest of the story is even more familiar. As we keep reading, Peter is called to go out on the water to meet Jesus. The bold disciple takes a few steps of confidence and the water holds him up. He doesn’t sink! But, then his gaze shifted away from Christ and onto the circumstances around him. The wind was jostling the water, he was doing something quite unnatural to him (walking on water!), and his safety guard (the boat) was now some ways away. What happened next isn’t shocking to us. He began to sink, just like everything should according to the laws of physics!
Yet, it wasn’t the laws of physics that made Peter begin to sink. It was the fact that he took his eyes of the Lord, worried about his circumstances, became fearful, and doubted Jesus’ power to keep him up above sea level. In short, according to Jesus, Peter had a shortage of faith that resulted in doubt.
Doubt is a hindrance to faith. That’s obvious. Any good Christian knows that doubt and faith don’t go well together (see James 1:6)! But, just in case you don’t believe me, let me tell you about how I experienced something similar to Peter.
No, I wasn’t called by the Son of God to walk on water and meet Him in the middle of the sea. But, I was given a season of life where God called me to faithfulness.
As most of you know, I’m searching for a church of my own. I’m currently an intern and am at the end of my time at the church. So, I put my resume together. I made a profile on a website that connects churches searching for a new pastor with candidates searching for a church (like me). I have a number of interviews. It’s been a least 5 months with no results. Well, at least not the results for which I had hoped.
During those 5 months, the Lord has been calling me to faithfulness, to trust in His plan, to respond to His Word, and walk by faith. Ashamedly, I have to say I acted much like Peter acted. I started out well. I devoted myself to seeking God’s will through prayer and studying His Word. I invested myself in the lives of other believers. I felt closer to God and to His people than I have ever felt before.
However, as time went on, I took my gaze off my hope, Jesus Christ. I began to look around at my circumstances. I saw the “wind” of discouragement everywhere. Sure God had given me hope through a few churches that contacted me, but when I received the “No” I grew doubtful.
This doubt began to kill me, both spiritually and physically. My fervent prayer life and time of devotion dwindled. My interaction with other saints was seldom. The time in my study preparing for sermons, which used to be my favorite part of the week, became a time of hard labor. Not to mention I had trouble sleeping through the night. I’d wake up around 2 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. I felt a lack of motivation during the day, which led to long afternoon naps (sometimes 3 to 4 hours!). So many other things were just off.
Looking back at it now, I see that one of the key contributors to this “sinking” was doubt. I took my eyes off the Lord where I could find comfort, hope, peace, grace, and motivation to keep pressing forward in faith. Instead, I looked at all these things that only filled me with worry, fear, discouragement, maybe even depression, and so much more.
Where had my faith gone? It was being driven out by doubt. A doubt that said God didn’t have a place for me, I wasn’t experienced enough for ministry, I would have to switch vocations, and I should just give up. On and on my doubt would speak things like this to me.
So, how’d I get out? How did I overcome my doubt? Well, the truth is that I don’t think I quite have. At least not completely. But, I know at least that I’m back in the boat. Yet, that wasn’t due to me coming to some grand realization or receiving some special revelation from God. No, I believe it was because Christ took me by the hand and brought me back to where I started, the boat, the beginning of my journey of waiting for a church to call me.
When Peter and Jesus got back to the boat, those in the boat worshipped the Lord and acknowledged He had to be the Son of God. But, they still had to get to where they were going after that. They had to keep rowing or sailing, however, they traveled in that particular boat, back to dry land.
I believe that’s what God has placed me back in the boat. He wants me to worship Him for who He is. He wants me to trust Him when He calls me to “Come.” He wants me to have a faith that drives away my doubt, not the other way around. And if I’m able to do any of that it will only be because of His amazing grace to quiet my fears and calm the winds around me.
Maybe you’re going through that type of experience today. It’s only a matter of time until you do. We can only grow more mature in our faith when our faith is sent through trials to see if it’s sturdy enough to increase. When that season comes to you like it did to me, I can only point you to Jesus and the words of His half-brother James:
“Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, fo you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”