As we talked Anita reminded me of a sermon I shared at Taylors First Baptist over eight years ago entitled, "If you want to walk on water get out of the boat." I based much of that sermon on John Ortberg's book that greatly influenced me. We are all visual creatures and I used a kayak on stage that night to emphasize my point. Anita shared with me that because of that sermon challenge she stepped out of her boat and went on an overseas mission trip for the first time. That was incredibly encouraging for me to hear!
Let me ask you a question. What is your boat? I will tell you that your boat represents safety and security to you apart from God himself. It is what you put your trust in, especially when life gets a bit stormy. It is what keeps you so comfortable that you don't want to give it up, especially if it means joining Jesus on the waves. It is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship. You can identify your boat by looking at your fears. Ask yourself, "What is it that produces the most fear in me, especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?"
Starting a church eight years ago was my step out of the boat. I'd like to share some points on how you can step out of your boat and be used by God mightily. I have personally experienced every one of these principles in my journey.
1. Express to God your willingness to take a step.
In Matthew 14:28 Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you...tell me to come to you on the water." Peter was willing to take a step. He had made up his mind that if it was who he thought it was (Jesus), then he was heading that way.
Jesus told Peter in verse 29, "Come." Peter didn't need to pray a little more, fast, go to a retreat, memorize some verses, etc. He had a clear command and so he stepped out. In his stepping out, he experienced some things we all must be prepared for as well.
Verses 29-30 state, "Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind..." Have you ever seen the wind? You were trying to serve God in a new way and you experienced setbacks, obstacles, and opposition. Some people never step out of the boat because they know the problems they will face. Thomas Aquinas wrote, "If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in the port forever." If you step out of the boat you may start to sink, but if you don't step out you will never know the joy of walking on water. Staying in the boat is risky, too.
*Expect fear as the price of growth.
The choice to follow Jesus and to grow is a choice for constantly facing fear. Peter steps out of the boat and becomes afraid when the wind came. There will be other times in Peter's life where he becomes afraid.
When stepping out in faith, accept the fact that the fear will never go away. Because once you face your fear and tackle it, God will challenge you to take on a new challenge. He will constantly stretch you and that will cause fear in you again. There will always be a battle between risk and comfort. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you will have to renounce comfort and expect fear as the price of growth.
*Master failure management.
Verse 30 states, "But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!'" Peter began to sink in the water and we may rush to quick judgment and point out his failure. It is true he sank. He did fail in a way. But you know what? There were eleven bigger failures sitting in the boat. They failed quietly. Peter was the one who knew public failure. But Peter also knew the thrill of walking on water and being rescued by Jesus in a time of need.
When you step out of the boat there will be people who criticize you and bail on you the moment you start to sink. But you have to live your life for an audience of One. Teddy Roosevelt said, "It's not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of great achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly so that his place will never be with those cold timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." John Maxwell said, "Failure is not trying something and it not succeeding. Failure is never trying anything at all." Stepping out of the boat means dealing with failure management.
*Wait on the Lord.
In the Matthew 14 story the disciples had to wait until the fourth watch of the night before Jesus showed up. Why didn't Jesus make the wind die down before Peter got out of the boat? Maybe Peter and all the disciples, like us, needed to learn something about waiting. Waiting on the Lord is the hardest part of trusting!
Life is so short. I don't want at the end of my life to view a video Jesus put together for me on his Apple Macbook Pro entitled, "What could have been." So, what about you? Imagine what God could do through you if were willing to trust Him more with your time, your talents, your finances, and your relationships. Imagine what God could have done through you if you had only stepped out of the boat. Guess what? It's never too late as long as you are alive. Today is the present; it is God's present to you. Don't play it safe. Step out of your boat and live it for God's glory!