I’ve been reading John Ortberg’s book: If you Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat and the Lord has been speaking to me about the state of the American church. In Romans 13:11 (NIV), the Apostle Paul writes “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” The American church is slumbering when it should be up and active. That means that those of us who are part of the American church need to WAKE UP!
We can learn a great deal about this by studying the account of Jesus walking on water in Mark 6:45-51 and Matthew 14:28-32. Let’s first look at Mark’s account in the New Living Translation:
Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.
Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed…
First, Jesus insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead of him. Since he was insisting, it must have meant that the disciples objected to this plan and wanted to stay with him or go together. However, Jesus had a plan of his own. God has a plan for your life and it’s probably different than the plan you think you have. If you insist on your own plan, you won’t receive the full blessing that God intends for your life. However, if you do as the disciples did and go with God’s plan, you will see miraculous things.
Next, we see that Jesus went up into the hills by himself to pray. He went to have time with the Father, to get the game plan. Jesus needed to see what the Father was doing and hear what the Father was saying, before he moved on. He was having an intimate time with his Father until 3:00 in the morning, when he saw the disciples struggling in the middle of the lake. Obviously, Jesus wasn’t seeing them with his physical eyes; he was seeing them in the spirit. When we have intimate time with Father God, He opens our spiritual eyes to see things we normally couldn’t see.
Jesus, seeing the disciples struggling, came walking toward them. Then the Bible says something strange: “He intended to go past them…” I was curious about this and began seeking the Lord for understanding. He brought to mind when Moses was on the mountain and asked God to see His Face. God told Moses that He would shield him and pass on by, so that Moses could see the remnant of God’s glory. Jesus had been with the Father, which means that the glory of God would have been all over him (as it was on Moses when he came down off the mountain) and so he intended to pass by, letting the disciples experience the remnant of His glory. When we seek the Lord, He goes on ahead of us and leaves a glory trail for us to follow.
However, the disciples cried out in fear (probably because Jesus was glowing), but Jesus responded with “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!” Whenever an angel showed up, usually the first words spoken were something like “Don’t be afraid”, because the glory of God can be scary. But, then Jesus goes on to say something very important, “Take courage! I am here!” When Moses was called to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God told him to tell the people that I AM had sent him. Here, Jesus was telling the disciples not to be afraid because I AM was there with them. When we are in the middle of the storm, God can always see us and is right there with us, so we need not be afraid.
Now let’s shift to Matthew’s version in 14:28-32 (NLT):
Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.
Peter did something miraculous, he walked on water. To my knowledge, Peter is the only person other than Jesus who has ever walked on water (except of course frozen water). For a few seconds or minutes, Peter did the impossible. He defied the natural laws. All this happened because he was willing to get out of the boat. Now, keep in mind that Peter was a career fisherman. He knew that in the middle of a storm, staying in the boat was safe and getting out of the boat was sure death. Yet, because he trusted Jesus, Peter was willing to get out of the boat.
Unfortunately, after a few steps, Peter shifted his focus from Jesus to the storm and immediately began to sink. When we are in the middle of a life storm, it’s critical that we keep our eyes on Jesus and if we do, the miraculous will happen. However, if we take our eyes off Him and start looking at the circumstances all around us - if we start believing the circumstances instead of the promises of God, then we will sink.
This incident has always given me great hope, because Jesus says to Peter that he had so little faith. Imagine that, with a little bit of faith, Peter walked on water. Imagine what we could do with great faith.
Now, let’s go back to the boat for a moment. As I said, the boat meant safety to the disciples. They were holding on for dear life. It was a comfort zone. They were more comfortable in the boat than out in the cold churning water. So, what is your boat? What is your comfort zone? Is it your job or business? Your financial portfolio? Your addiction? A relationship? Is it complacency – never taking any risks? We all have our comfort zones and God is saying “come” out of the boat and experience the miraculous.
What seemingly impossible thing is God calling you to do? Is He calling you into full-time ministry, like He did with Moses, Noah, and the disciples? Has He given you an idea for a business or an invention? If He has, then you have received a water walking invitation. The question is, will you get out of your comfort zone, so that God can do something really big in your life?
It’s important to know that there are three things that will keep you in the boat. The first is fear – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of what people will say or think, fear of how it will look. Fear and faith are polar opposites. Fear is what Satan uses to keep you from fulfilling your God-given purpose here on earth. Faith is what God has given us to access the spirit realm to do the impossible. With little faith, Peter slid over the edge and out of the boat. Imagine what you might accomplish with a little faith – perhaps faith the size of a mustard seed.
The second thing that will keep you in the boat is comfort. If you feel you have too much to lose, you’ll stay in the boat. The disciples didn’t want to lose their lives. The rich young ruler in Matthew 19:20 had great wealth and didn’t want to lose it. Is your comfort level or material wealth keeping you from accomplishing some great thing for God?
Doubt or unbelief is the final thing that will keep you in the boat. Peter was sure that if Jesus said “come” that he could walk on water. The disciples probably thought he was crazy. Peter was operating in faith and the disciples in unbelief. Peter walked on water and the disciples just watched in amazement. Unbelief destroys more of God’s plans than anything else. Do you really believe God? If so, then move into faith by moving out of your comfort zone. Take some steps toward what God is calling you to do and watch what God does with that little faith.
Why would you want to get out of the boat? Well, first of all, that’s where Jesus is. Peter just wanted to be where the Master was; don’t you? Second, if you get out of the boat, you can do impossible things. Peter walked on water. What might you do? Third, if you fall, which you likely will, Jesus is always right there to pick you up.
Throughout life, you will be faced with the choice to stay in the boat – your comfort zone – where it’s safe and comfortable and miss out on a water walking experience or take a chance, risk it all and get out of the boat. That one decision changed Peter’s life and it will your’s as well.
Rod Nichols is a co-founder of Truth and Grace Foursquare Church in Tacoma, WA, where he served as the Associate Pastor for a number of years. He is currently the founder and President of For the Lord Ministries, a traveling teaching ministry (www.4theLord.com). Rod is also a published author of six books and hundreds of articles. You can view his writing at www.RodNichols.com. He is married to Karen and had five children and five grandchildren.