Charles Swindoll, in his book "Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back," tells the story of a farmer who wanted to impress his hunting buddies. So, he bought the smartest, most expensive hunting dog he could find and he trained this dog to do things no other dog on earth could do---impossible things that would surely amaze anyone. Then he invited his buddies to go duck hunting with him. After a while a group of ducks flew over and the hunters were able to make a few hits. Several ducks fell in the water and the proud owner shouted to his magnificent dog, "Go get ‘em!" The dog leapt out of the boat, walked on the water, picked up a bird and returned to the boat. As soon as he dropped the duck in the boat he trotted off across the water again and grabbed another duck and brought it back to the boat. The owner beamed with pride as his wonderful dog walked across the water and retrieved each of the birds one by one. Unable to resist the opportunity to brag a little he asked his buddies, "Do you notice anything unusual about my dog?" One of them rubbed his chin and said, "Yes. Come to think of it, I do! That silly dog doesn’t know how to swim does he??"
Most of us are familiar with story of Peter walking on the water out to Jesus, and then sinking, but many people give Peter the same reaction. Instead of recognizing that he was the only disciple to have the faith to even step out of the boat, he is criticized for his lack of faith when he sank in the waves. But in reality, he was the only one with enough faith to go to Christ.
Today we are going to look another lesson from Peter, this will be lesson 2. We are going to look at what Peter did right as well as what Peter did wrong.
Please turn with me to Matt. 14:22-33, that is page 847 in your pew Bibles. There we are told of the event of Peter walking on water, with the Lord Jesus.
“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God."
I want to go through this verse noting some things, then I want to give you three lessons that I believe we can learn from Peter’s experience.
One of the things we will notice about Peter throughout these sermons is that he is an impulsive guy. Many times that impulsiveness gets him in trouble as we shall see. But God uses Peter’s impulsiveness to show us many lessons as we see in our verse today.
Our passage begin with the disciples getting into a boat to go before Jesus. Right before this we see that Jesus as just fed 5000 plus people with five loaves and two fish. In the account of this story in the gospel of John we see that the masses were about to take Jesus by force and make him king.
Knowing that it is not His time, the Bible states that Jesus “makes” his disciples get into the boat. The Greek word there is a strong one, and it indicates that Jesus basically forced His disciples to get into the boat. This was most likely due to the fact that they wanted to make Jesus king and His disciples, not understanding the true reason Jesus had come, that was to die for our sins, probably thought that it was a good idea for Jesus to be king.
At any rate Jesus forces his disciples to get into the boat, heading towards the other end of the lake. Jesus then stays behind to dismiss the crowd, then goes up “on a mountain to pray”, to spent time alone with the Father.
Now the disciples are out on the lake and it’s dark. The Bible states that the “wind is contrary” and the boat is being tossed by the waves.
I am sure that some of the disciples were thinking that being out on this boat at night was not such a good idea. In the account in gospel of Mark we are told that they are having difficulty rowing. So I am certain that these guys are scared.
I am also willing to bet that some of these guys were blaming Jesus in their minds. Now that is speculation but I say that just because that is how I would have reacted. I believe that some of those guys were thinking, boy that Jesus looks what He as done. He made us get into this boat when it was dark, now there a storm, were all going to drown, and it is all His fault. Ever thought like that. You found yourself in a certain situation and you thought, “God, what are doing? It is all your fault that I am in this situation, how am I ever going to get out of this on.” But you know that any situation that God puts us in will work out, and it will work out for His glory, we are about to see that in our story today.
So there they are, in boat being tossed by the waves, the winds a blowin’, when in the fourth watch of the night Jesus approaches them. According to Roman uses of “watches”, (a watch being a period of time), there were four watches. 6 PM, 9 PM, 12 AM, and 3 AM. So when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water it is about 3 in the morning.
Our passage then tells us that they see Jesus walking on the water and “they were troubled, saying “It is a ghost!” and they cried out with fear.”
These guys were terrified. They were so scared that they cried out. I am sure that we would have done the same thing. Here they are in a boat, it’s dark out, the wind is blowing, and this person appears out of now where walking on water. What would you have done? Think of how scared these guys were, out yourself in their position.
Before these guys start diving in the water to get away from the ghost the Word of God states that “...immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
Jesus clams their fears assuring them that it is Him, that He is present with them, and that there is no need fear.
This opens the door of our impulsive Peter, listen to what Peter says, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
I cannot imagine why Peter makes such a request. We cannot say why Peter would have asked such a thing. It does show however just how impulsive Peter is. He is the Lord walking to them on the waves, and Peter’s thought is, “Hey Lord command me to come out to you on the water.” That looks like fun.
So the Lord tells Peter to “come” to Him. The Bible states that Peter obeys the Lord and talks a walk on the water. The Bible does not say how many steps he takes but Peter does walk on the water. As he is going toward Christ he is looking around. He sees the waves and feels the wind, he maybe starts to think that this is no such a good idea after all, and he starts to sink.
Again he is filled with fear, and cries out, “Lord save me!” Jesus immediately stretches out his hand and pulls Peter out saying "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Then the word of God tells us that they get into the boat and the disciples worship Jesus saying “Truly you are the Son of God”. As they recognize the divine power of Jesus.
I stated that there were three lessons that we can learn from Peter’s experience. The first lesson I believe we can learn is “don’t get out of the boat on your own”.
Notice that Peter just doesn’t jump out boat and run to Jesus. He ask Jesus to command him to come to Him. It is not until Jesus says, “come” does Peter get out of the boat.
I find that a lot Christians get out of the boat on their own rather then at the command of Christ. In our service to God there are two ways that we can sin. First is not to serve God, the second is to serve God in a way that He as not called us to.
Some time folks get ahead of God, they jump out of the boat and can’t figure out why they are sinking. It is because God never told them to get out.
Even Peter has impulsive as he was did not get out until the Lord called. There are time when we are simply to presumptuous. We come across a situation that looks like it is from God, it seems to be from God, and we jump at it. Then it fails, and we wonder why? We like to blame other things, we like to blame the devil, we like to blame other people, sometimes we even blame, but sometimes it is just plain us. We got out of the boat when no one told us tom and we can figure our why God did not do what we thought He should do.
Look what Peter stays there, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Now if I asked you should be always go to Jesus no matter what, under any circumstances, you would probably say yes. But before Peter goes to Jesus in this circumstance, He asks Lord command me to come to you.”
My point is is that while some things may seem to be of God on the surface, we need to pray and ask God if He does indeed want us to get out of the boat. We need to look to the Word of God and be sure that we are not being presumptuous, but that we are obeying a command like Peter does in our passage.
Part of the problem I believe some folks have in this area is that they have faith in their faith more then they do in God. How much faith we have cannot determine whether we will do something, what must determine whether we will do it is has God called us to do it. Our faith must be in God, not in the quantity of our faith.
So the lesson we need to learn is don’t get out of the boat until you know that the Lord has told you to get out.
This leads us to the second lesson. That is when Jesus tells you to get out of the boat, get out of the boat! I stated there are two ways that we can sin in what we do for God, the first was getting out of the boat when no one told us to, that is doing thing God has not commanded, the second is not getting out of the boat, not doing those things that God has commanded.
We can see from our passage that there are times what doing what God tells us to is risky. Sometimes we need to step out of a sure thing, stepping out by faith, into something we may not be all that certain about.
Remember stepping out faith is stepping out in obedience, not stepping out in faith in our faith, but stepping out in faith in Christ.
Stepping out in faith comes only when we step out into a situation that the Lord has calls to.
I want to ask you, who do you admire most in this passage. Do admire the other disciples besides Peter? Do you admire those boat potatoes? They just there. They were content to sit in the boat and watch Peter jump out. These were the forefathers of today’s pew warmers. Content with watching others to things. Content with watching others take the risk, content with watching other sink or swim.
I pray that you admire Peter in this story. Peter got our of the boat. He was going to put his faith into practice. Sure we can say the Peter failed, that he almost drowned. But I do not think Peter failed. He did what the Lord commanded him to do. He didn’t drown because he did what Jesus told him do to, and the Lord saved him. And through it all who is glorified? Jesus is. He gets back into the boat and He is worshipped, He is glorified. Glorified through Peter’s little walk on the water. Jesus was glorified through Peter’s obedience. Jesus will be glorified through our obedience as well.
If you admire Peter in this story I pray that you will get out of the boat at the call of the Lord. There are ministries in this church that go unfulfilled because not enough of us are getting out of the boat. To many are contend with being boat potatoes.
The last lesson we can learn from this passage is that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus when we do climb out of the boat. I remember a few year ago we were staying with a friend in Maryland. This women as a nice in the ground pool. I was playing with Bethany, she would get to the side of the pool and jump in as I would catch her.
Well one time I turned to talk to one of the other girls when I heard this slash. Bethany had jumped in, and I had missed her. Two thinks caused that, Bethany had taken her eyes off me and I had taken my eyes off Bethany.
We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, because Jesus will never take His eyes off us. Do you think that as Peter was walking on that water Jesus was looking around? No He was looking at Peter.
Yet Peter he began to look around. He was looking around at the wind and the waves, and when he began to look at the circumstances, rather then the one who controls those circumstances, his faith failed him, and he began to sink.
I am sure that you have heard that expression “keep your eyes on Jesus”. It sounds so spiritual doesn’t it? It is certainly a catch phrase that you hear a lot among Christian, “just keep your eyes on Jesus”. But what the heck does it mean? I don’t know about you but I am troubled when people give me Christian cliques, and they have no idea what it means. I don’t want nice sayings I want things that I can get a hold of.
Many time I believe we give out those cliques because “keeping your eyes on Jesus” sound a lot easier to do then what I am about to tell you. Rather then tell people they have to do something real, we tell them things like “keep your eyes on Jesus”, “just trust in the Lord”.
I want to tell you what I believe “keeping your eyes on Jesus means.” First I believe it means to read your Bible. Listen for a minute to some passages; "It is written, ’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
You want to keep your eyes on Jesus. Read His word, study His word, mediate on His word. You need to be reading the Word of God every day. Again it is a lot easier to be told, “keep your eyes on Jesus” then to be told, Read the Word!
We to not have picture of Jesus that we can carry around to look at. But we do have His word that we can carry around and read.
Another way I believe that we keep our eyes on Jesus is to pray. While I cannot keep my physical eye on Jesus I can keep my heart on him through prayer.
1 Thess 5:17 tell us; “pray without ceasing,”. When we pray we are thinking about Jesus. When we are thinking about Jesus it is the same was “keeping our eyes on Him”.
We need to pray, you need to pray. Everyday. You need to talk to the Lord. Share what is on your heart, pour out yourself to Him. Again it is a lot easier to hear, “keep your eyes on Jesus” then it is to hear, you need to pray without ceasing.
Finally we need to wait on the Lord. Psa 27:14 tell us “Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” I realize that “wait on the Lord” can be another one of those Christian cliques.
What does it mean to wait on the Lord? simply to be patient. When you pray, pray with the attitude of this may not happen today, it may not happen tomorrow, in fact it may not happen at all if it is not God’s will, but whatever happens I will wait on God, I will let God be God, and wait for His timing.
To wait on the Lord means to let God answer your prayer, let Him speak to you before you go out and try to make things happen. Wait on God, have patience, listen to God, let Him speak to you.
Once more hearing the word, keep your eyes on Jesus is easier then being told, wait on the Lord, be patience.
So those are the lesson that we can learn from Pete this morning. I pray that you take those lesson to heart. Don’t get out of the boat until you are told to. And when are told to get out. And keep your eyes on Jesus, not your circumstances.
In closing I just want to say that some of you here this morning are sitting in boat that is sinking. You are sitting in a boat that will lead you to eternal separation with God. It is the boat of self. The boat of self-righteousness. Jesus is calling to you, will you go to him. Well you leave the boat of self behind and step out onto the sea of God’s grace. Trust in Jesus today for your salvation, believe in the cleansing power of His blood. Believe that He died and rose again for you. Will you trust in Him today?
LET US PRAY.