On our first vacation while living in Indonesia, we went for a short boat ride to view the beautiful coastline. My son was eighteen months old and I was pregnant. As we rounded a peninsula, the small craft began to rock harder and the once gentle waves grew larger and larger until water crashed on top of us. Soon we shivered in our soaked clothing despite the clear blue skies. The pleasant site-seeing jaunt had become a harrowing countdown until we reached shore. My poor husband, certain he had exposed his young family to mortal danger, was filled with relief (as was I) when we finally disembarked.
Jesus’s disciples were also in a boat and certain they were going to die (Matthew 14:22–33). However, for them it was the middle of the night and raining. Although they were experienced fisherman, the vessel was out of control. To make matters worse, a figure came toward them, walking on top of the water. They freaked out, thinking it was a ghost. But Jesus identified himself and told them not to be afraid. Impulsive Peter then yelled:
“Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.”Matthew 14:28
Did he think about what he was saying? Was he unfazed by the huge waves? Did he want proof the shadowy figure was Jesus? Did he really have that much faith? Or perhaps he simply wanted to perform Jesus’s amazing “trick.”
Jesus replied, “Come,” and Peter got out of the boat and began walking toward his rabbi. The text doesn’t record how many steps he took, but at some point, he noticed the strong wind and became afraid. Immediately he began to sink and cried out to Jesus for help. And of course Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Then he asked, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” The passage ends with Jesus calming the winds and the disciples worshipping him as God.
I’ve heard all the familiar lessons from this passage: We need to take that first step of faith to get out of the boat. We sink when we take our eyes off Jesus and look at our circumstances. Don’t doubt but have faith. Jesus, as the Son of God, has power over nature.
But today, I am facing an uncertain future, big decisions, and new opportunities. My journey through life is wrought with waves and dark skies. I need to attempt things I am incapable of doing in my own strength. Today, it’s Peter’s words that I apply: “Lord, if it’s you. Tell me to come to you.”1
Do I hear my Savior’s voice calling me? Or just another good option? Or even a legitimate need? Am I walking toward Jesus or a shadow of him that seems attractive? Can I recognize my rabbi? I determine to slow down, pray, and wait for him to identify himself so that I will know it is the Lord calling me.
Once I have recognized the voice as truly his, then I will ask him to tell me to come. I don’t want to step out or start walking until he has ordered me to do so. I need this assurance because I just might have to exercise faith and “walk on water.” If Jesus is saying, “Come, have courage, do not be afraid,” he’ll enable me to do whatever it is he’s inviting me into.
Are you facing difficult choices, hidden paths, or stormy circumstances? Ask Jesus, “Is it you? If so, tell me to come to you.” If he says, “Come,” walk toward him in faith. He will reach out and catch you.
Jesus, my Savior, teach me to listen, recognize your call. When you say so, I’ll walk in faith toward your voice.