Running on Water…
I have thought a lot lately about the night recorded in the New Testament when Jesus walked upon water in the Sea of Galilee, and beckoned Peter to come to Him. Many have judged Peter for his failure, perhaps without questioning ourselves, “Would I have had the faith under those circumstances, the winds and the waves lapping over my feet and splashing up against my knees, to walk to the Lord upon the water?” Peter had seen miracles, he was a disciple of Jesus Christ, however, he did not know what we do now of the Lord’s full mission, His infinite power, His divine Sonship, His atoning sacrifice and resurrection, and His Godhood.
In the early spring of 2018, shortly before Easter, Monica and I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. It was at the Sea of Galilee where I found the greatest joy and desire to just stay, this place of peace where the fishermen were called into service, and where walking on water Jesus would beckon Peter to come to Him. I could not resist in the early morning to walk barefoot along the shore and swim in the deep where faith was tried, tested and rescued.
It happened long ago on an evening after Jesus had taught and miraculously fed thousands. Seeking time alone to pray, He sent His disciples ahead in a boat onto the sea. “And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land. And He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night He cometh unto them, walking upon the sea,…” (Mark 6:47-48). “And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, ‘It is a spirit;’ and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.’ And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, ‘Lord, save me.’ And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’ And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased” (Matthew 14:26-32).
Fear is the antithesis of faith. It could be said that when we act in faith we have no fear, and when we act in fear we have no faith. When Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water it was an act of faith and therefore he was able to defy gravity. The moment fear took over faith disappeared just as quickly, and because of that loss of faith he would have drowned were it not for the presence of one with perfect faith. Faith and fear cannot occupy the same space, just like light and darkness.
I am reminded of a time when I was afraid, fearing that I would drown. As my overcome body sunk into a depth of water and current, body and spirit in despair, I cried out several times, “Help! Help!” Then, with what I thought was my last breath, “I am drowning!”
All at once in my hopelessness I heard this calm voice speak out distinctly in stillness to me amidst the noise of rapid water, “You are not drowning.” Although my chest had felt as if a whale was sitting upon me, and I had feared to sink into the depths of the water, a certain calm prevailed, my fear disbursed, and I gained the immediate wisdom and strength for delivery. It was the same is if a hand reached into the water and lifted me to safety. I was saved by a voice as audible as one spoken in my own ear, but was not borne on mortal lips.
What are we afraid of that is keeping us from embracing faith? The truth is that there are many things to naturally fear, like falling, getting burned, the absence of one we love, being alone, or even drowning, but even all of these can be overcome with faith as has been illustrated over and over in the Scriptures and in the lives of people of faith.
In contrast the author of fear would have us be afraid of things simply to deprive us of faith. There are many things that are silly to fear, one of the biggest of which is failure. Satan loves it when we are afraid to fail. If we are afraid to fail then he succeeds because we will fail to try. If we are afraid of failing at keeping covenants and commandments then we will not bother to make covenants or obey commandments. Can you see how Satan wins here? Remember, he despises us and wants us to fail and therefore he will do anything to keep us from striving.
The Savior loves us. He wants us to succeed. He is willing to give us every opportunity to prevail against the storms of life. When we fail He is there to pick us up and help us get started again. He does not kick us while we are down. He lifts us. He did not leave Peter to flounder, but He lifted him up and restored his faith. The Savior is here to do that for us. He has even assigned servants here on earth to provide that faithful lift in physical as well as spiritual conditions. We just have to believe in the Savior, we just have to be Christians, and then we will follow Jesus in faith. There is nothing to fear because our Lord descended beneath everything that we might have no need to fear, that we might have faith.
I have long pondered Peter’s momentary lapse in faith. I do not know for certain how I would have responded in that day and in that time under the conditions and experience of that dear apostle Peter. I think that I would have gotten out of the boat, but I probably would have sunk even more quickly to thankfully be saved of our Lord. There is no question in my mind that while today I may have the faith to walk unto Him, seeing His face, and looking for His embrace, there are other areas where I still lack and will be in need of saving. Oh wretched man that I am, would that I had more faith. May we all look unto our Lord, step out of the boat, and not merely walk to our Lord across the waters of doubt, but run to Him, and run to Him always. “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.