One of the most profound assurances that we have as Christians today is the fact of God’s help in living the Christian life. On the one hand, we as creations of God are commanded to walk in God’s ways. “You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you…” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33a ESV).
On the other, once we’ve placed our faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior and allowed His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary to atone for our sins, we are declared to be the children of God (see John 1:12-13). And as children of God, we are given the very resource we need (in fact, the ONLY resource) to give us victory in the holy commandment to walk in all His ways – that is to say, to live righteously.
The provision that He promises us is the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God is the ongoing expression of God’s presence and power to the world as He continually works in the midst of the world, representing the holy authority of the Father/Creator as well as the incredible atonement provided us by the work of the Son’s substitutionary death and glorious resurrection. And, by the way, I am greatly offended that the significance of the word “atonement” is smeared by a movie with the same name. I lament that our culture has so far disconnected itself from the life-saving power of Jesus’ atonement for us that we can trivially attach it to a movie filled with the confusion that our morally bankrupt society constantly generates.
At any rate, we need to recognize that, yes, we are all called to live holy lives. But also that God has made a way for us to live it, lest anyone think that God has called us to something that is impossible and that He is, therefore, unfair.
Both salvation itself and the spiritual life that follows after require a divine strength that is not native to us. Consider the account of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14:22-33. The disciples, Jesus’ closest friends and associates during His earthly ministry, were sailing to the place that Jesus had sent them. While they were on the way, winds stirred up the water into strong waves that beat against their boat. Then Jesus was spotted… walking towards them on the surface of the water. Afraid that some sort of haunting was taking place, they began to cry out until the reassuring voice of the Savior calmed their terror.
And then, wonder of wonder, Peter’s heart was stirred up like the waters around them. When he asked Jesus to call him out onto the water also, the Lord invited him to join Him. Peter took incredible steps of faith, not satisfied with the mediocrity of religion but hungering for a higher life… a life of relationship with the holy Son of God.
Most Christians fall into two categories: the majority of these are like the disciples that remained in the boat, glad that their Lord is Jesus and content that He is in charge (just as long as they can stay in the boat). But some step out of the boat. Some want more and know that, since Jesus is the only One Who can provide that “more”, they have to get out of the routine of religion and go somehow into circumstances with which they’re not comfortable because that’s where Jesus is: comforting and healing, helping and saving.
But for every Christian who dares to really “step out”, there is also the windy-blown sea wave of trouble, grief, or temptation that distracts the eye from the Savior’s face.
For that is, of course, what happened to Peter. The Gospel of Matthew records that although Peter victoriously walked on the water once he courageously stepped out of his boat, he began to be afraid once he started to look at the tempest about him. And having once begun to look at those circumstances, he began to sink.
And here’s the point. We all sink at some point because at some point our eyes deviate from the countenance of the Savior and we are overcome. So don’t be too hard on poor Peter. Jesus alone has the right to lament our human weakness, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” (from Matthew 14:31). At least Peter got out of the boat, and most of us have yet to do so for fear that we too may sink.
But take heart! Don’t be afraid of sinking. Instead, count on it! Because when we finally find ourselves sinking, we also may count on the hand of our Lord reaching out and catching us!
“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…” (Matthew 14:30-31a ESV).
Most people who don’t step out in serving God for fear that they won’t be able to “cut the mustard” are not really making a statement about themselves, but indicate instead a lack of faith in God’s ability to handle us in our weakness. If you are “holding back” in serving God because you’re saying things like, “I am not capable of doing that, Lord” or “I’m not going to try because I’m afraid I’ll fail”, then you’re saying that God really doesn’t know what He’s doing (remember that Moses tried that line of reasoning in Exodus chapter 4).
“… The Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26a). “The Holy Spirit convicts the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment…. The Spirit of Truth will guide you into all truth… and will take what is Mine and make it known to you” (from John 16:8, 13, 14).
Step out onto the water and find that the Lord’s hand is strong and ready enough to catch you in your time of “sinking.”
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of “The Fairy Tale Parables,” “Crimson Harvest,” and “A Heart at Home with God.” He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).