The story of Peter stepping out of the boat and walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33) is not only very familiar, but it’s extremely relevant in the life of every Christian. Whether we realize it or not, Jesus is constantly asking us to step out of our comfortable boat and follow him more closely.
Sometimes he asks us to do something very big. Other times his invitation is so subtle that we miss it entirely.
Make no mistake about it, any dedicated disciple of Jesus will be asked to step out of the boat on a regular basis. Knowing what to expect makes it much easier. We sometimes expect everything to go smoothly once we step out in faith and say “yes” to the Lord.
As we see so often in the Bible, however, that is rarely the case. Peter’s walking on the water is a great example. Based on that story, here are five things to expect when you step out of the boat.
- Risk — Anything that Jesus asks you to do will involve some degree of risk. As an experienced fisherman, Peter knew that getting out of the boat could cause him to drown. Volunteering to be a lector or religious education teacher, inviting someone to Mass or giving more money to your parish all involve some degree of risk. Success is not guaranteed. Something could go wrong. Without risk it is not possible to step out in faith.
- Fear – When Peter first got out of the boat, the Bible tells us that he walked on the water. Once he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves, however, he became frightened. Don’t be surprised when this happens to you. While the intensity of the fear may vary, it is typically present whenever God asks you to do something. The Bible documents that Abraham, Moses, Mary, Joseph, Paul and Peter were all afraid, but they moved forward and trusted God. You can’t stop yourself from being afraid, but you can control how you respond to fear.
- Storms – Note that the storm didn’t stop once Peter stepped out of the boat. This didn’t mean that he made the wrong decision. Rather, it meant that Jesus wanted Peter to trust him in the storm. After praying about homeschooling our daughters and feeling confident that God was calling us to do it, my wife and I decided to move forward with the plan. We immediately encountered some very rough seas. A few months later, I got laid off from my software job and moved into full-time ministry. Shortly thereafter, my wife got sick and had to be hospitalized. Just because you’re doing God’s will doesn’t mean you won’t have storms. Jesus told Peter to come to him on the water, but the storm didn’t die down until they were back in the boat. The storms will pop up for you too. Don’t panic!
- Setbacks – After successfully walking on the water, Peter began to sink. My wife and I experienced many setbacks in homeschooling and ministry, but the Lord got us through. Once you step out of the boat, don’t be surprised if you too encounter setbacks. The key is to imitate Peter and stay close to Jesus. When he began to sink and cried out, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30), Peter was so close to Jesus that he was able to grab his outstretched hand.
- Jesus — Whenever you follow Jesus and step out in faith, you can count on him being with you. He isn’t going to invite you to follow him and then disappear. We often criticize Peter for not trusting, but he should be commended for moving toward Jesus instead of swimming back to the boat. While it’s true that he panicked, Peter ultimately turned to the Lord in prayer. That’s exactly what Jesus wants us to do.
By the way, take note of where Jesus was when all of this was going on. He wasn’t in the boat with the other disciples. He was in the middle of the storm. By leaving the security of the boat, Peter actually moved closer to Jesus.
Stepping out of the boat can be frightening, but it becomes less frightening once we realize that the crazy things happening to us are actually very typical. Before stepping out of the boat, Peter was careful in discerning that Jesus was truly calling him. He then responded to the call and learned that, with the Lord’s assistance, it truly is possible for a man to walk on water.
That’s something he never would have learned if he played it safe and stayed in the boat. In the same way, our faith is strengthened when we say “yes” and get to experience the thrill of walking on the water!
Gary Zimak is a best-selling author, speaker and radio host based in South Jersey. Connect with him online at FollowingTheTruth.com.
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