This morning I preached on the gospel text from Matt. 14:22-31. In this storyJesus has his disciples get in a boat to go across to the other side of the sea of Galilee, while He goes up on a mountainside by himself to pray. John tells us that “they had rowed about three or four miles.” Mark tells us that, “he saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” So at about four in the morning Jesus comes walking to them on the water. Mark mentions that “he was about to pass by them.” They thought it was a ghost, which, of course, made them terrified. Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Only Matthew tells the account of Peter wanting to come out to Jesus on the waves. Jesus invites him to come. His walk on water is going just fine, until he begins to take his eye off of Jesus and unto the waves. He begins to sink. Matt tells us: “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?'” As I worked on this sermon, I recalled some of the stuff I read in John Ortberg’s book “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.” He makes this statement regarding Peter’s failure in continuing to walk on water. “Failure is not an event, but rather a judgement about an event. Failure is not something that happens to us or a label we attach to things. It is a way we think about outcomes.”
Yes, Peter seemed to be failing as he sank. Think of the others in the boat. They were playing it safe, not wanting to risk being out of control. Those in the boat never learned the new level of trust that Peter did, when he was rescued by Jesus. Listen again to Ortberg: “The worst failure is not to sink in the waves. The worst failure is to never get out of the boat….Whether Peter sank or water walked depended on whether he focused on the storm or on Jesus. But now he understood his dependence on faith much more deeply than he would have if he had never left the boat. It was his willingness to risk failure that helped him to grow…Failure does not shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you.”
So, men, I ask you, “Are you willing to get out of the boat and become a water-walker?” I know there have been times when I stayed in the safety of the boat and other times when I was willing to get out of the boat. Remember in the story Jesus is not in the boat but on the water. It is out on the water that we grow in faith and trust. To be sure, you and I will fail. But the fear of failure is what we have to come to grips with in walk with Jesus. I love these words from Ortberg: “Let water-walking be a picture of doing with God’s help what you could never do on your own.” Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from getting out of the boat. Just as with Peter, Jesus will be there to rescue you. He will not let you sink. Don’t be like the guys back in the boat, playing it cool and safe. They did not come to know Jesus in the new ways that Peter was experiencing Jesus, even in his failure.