Summary: Too much safety is a "bad" thing... We need guts to grow and growth is what’s demanded by our Lord
Too much comfort is dangerous. Literally. Apparently researchers at the UC Berkeley did an experiment some time ago that involved introducing an amoeba into a perfectly stress-free environment: ideal temperature, optimal concentration of moisture and constant food supply. The amoeba had an environment to which it had to make no adjustment whatsoever. Instead of becoming one happy little amoeba it died.
It seems that even at the most basic level there is a need for that which challenges us and forces us to deal with changing and shifting situations in our environment. Yet it seems that our search so often is for that stress-free place enjoyed by the amoeba. When we wait for God one of the things we will discover is that when He shows up he will demand a response from us. We saw that last week with Elijah who finally listened to God’s voice. And we’re going to find that the response that God calls forth from us takes guts to attempt.
The story we’ve read appears in three of the parables. Matthew’s the only one that records Peter walking on the lake. We’ve seen this episode in our minds eye as a storm railing on the lake and through it walks Jesus. Then Peter in a moment of faith calls to Jesus and as he walks in faith the situation around him overwhelms him and he starts to sink. The fact is there is no storm. At least not in the sense of the one during which the disciples woke Jesus up thinking they were going to drown. At least four of those in the boat were experienced fishermen. They’d rowed and sailed that lake before. It was difficult but not life threatening or even that unusual. Yet as they rowed along they were waiting for Jesus to meet them. The wind was against them as they rowed for the other side of the lake. John alone says the “sea rose” which could mean anything from a rough chop to large swells.
If they had left in the late afternoon or early evening, perhaps around dusk they had managed only three or four miles by 3 a.m. I can imagine they were tired but what caused their fear wasn’t the weather but Jesus who came to them walking on the surface of the lake.
Jesus knows they’re afraid and calls to them and Peter responds that “since” you’re Jesus call me to you. Jesus does, and Peter gets out of the boat. We don’t know how far he got or if he even managed to let go of the side of the boat. What we do know is that the wind was easier to notice than Jesus and so he sank shouting for Jesus who grabs Peter, saves him and calms the winds.
What is it that gives Peter the guts to do something so unthinkable? The first thing is that Peter recognized Christ. He’s afraid but he’s also pretty certain that if this really is Jesus then everything will be okay. In John 21 after Jesus’ resurrection it is Peter who recognizes Jesus on shore as they are fishing. In that passage he dives headlong and swims for shore to his Lord.
If we’re waiting for God and God shows up it’s a good thing to be able to recognize Him. I believe many individual believers as well as congregations have missed Christ because they have not recognized Him when He visited them. Lois Prater was called to be a missionary as a young girl but she ignored it. In 1991 at 76 she sold her Seattle-area home and almost everything else she had and stepped full time into mission work with orphans in the Philippines. She started a place called, “Kings Garden” outside of Orion where the orphanage now contains a school as well as housing. She has “suffered a broken leg, been hospitalized with pneumonia and tuberculosis, and has been ill with intestinal worms during her tenure in the Philippines. The hot weather, the spicy food and the distance from her family add to her hardships….Said Prater (now 85+), ‘My only regret is I didn’t start earlier when I was young.’’
She’s one example of someone who didn’t recognize the Lord for decades yet when she finally did she knew she could step out of the boat for her Lord. Many of you have recognized Christ and heard His call and stepped out in faith into some scary places at times.
A second thing that Peter does is he acts on faith. His comment to Jesus “If you are…then” isn’t a test but a statement of believing that Christ makes everything okay. When we recognize Jesus do we believe that He knows what’s best? When He calls to us and tells us to not be afraid do we believe that He understands what we’re going through? When we see the Lord doing something and our hearts or souls say, “that’s what I’d like to be doing” do we talk ourselves out of it or throw our leg over the gunwale knowing Jesus is there to help?