Rev. Jeff Chapman ~ Faith Presbyterian Church
22Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.
When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.”
So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’
32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ (Matthew 14:22-33, NRSV)
In reflecting on this story, writer John Ortberg reminds us that as soon as children are old enough to speak, one of the first questions parents ask is, “How big are you?” I remember doing this with my kids when they were little. I’d ask Isabel, “How big are you?” She’d always answer the same way, “Soooo big!” As she said that she’s stretch her arms out as far as they could go as if to say, “I’m huge. I’m enormous. There’s no telling how big I may be.”
Ortberg also reminds us that this is, of course, not a scientific answer. Nor is it one that should be used in every context. For example, if your wife were to ask you, “How big do my hips look in this dress?” you do not want to respond by saying, “Soooo big!”
This is the way our story ends. After seeing Jesus walk on the lake in the middle of the storm, then empower Peter to do the same, and then climb into the boat and calm the storm itself, all the disciples can say is “Soooo big”. “Truly,” they say, “you are the Son of God.” Their estimation of Jesus, of his power and his authority, has shot through the roof. There is simply no telling just how great our master might be.
This is how it always works. In fact, this might be how I would summarize the lesson of this whole story. When we have an encounter with Christ and place our faith in him, what begins as a step of faith, even a step of small faith, always ends in worship. Said another way, a step of faith will always eventually lead to the realization that God is big, and powerful, and gracious, and wise, and loving, and worthy of our worship. A step of faith in Christ always leads to the revelation that Christ is faithful.
Think about it this way. Imagine your doctor tells you one day that you have a heart condition which is both inoperable and fatal. Within a year you will be dead. You get a second, a third, a fourth opinion but every medical expert tells you the same story. But then you hear of a surgeon who claims to have developed a highly unorthodox but effective procedure which can treat a condition like the one you have. The rest of the medical world rejects his claims but you, out of options, decide to take a step of faith and place your life, literally, in his hands. And sure enough, though the surgery is long and invasive, you come through it and in spite of what all those other doctors told you was impossible you are cured.
How would you feel about that surgeon after he saved your life? You would sing his praises to anybody who was willing to listen. Your admiration and esteem for him would be sky-high. You might use words like miracle-worker and savior to describe him. And should you ever need more heart surgery in the future, you wouldn’t hesitate to put your trust in him again.
You buy a certain kind of car which lasts you, trouble free, for 20 years. You tie yourself to a rope and step off the edge of a cliff and it holds you as you rappel down to the bottom. You tell a very personal secret to a friend who keeps it in confidence. As long as what you place your faith in turns out in the end to be faithful, your esteem for that which you put your faith in naturally grows.
Peter took a step of faith in Jesus. At Christ’s bidding, he stepped out of the boat onto the surface of the lake in the middle of the storm. And even though his faith faltered, Jesus’ faithfulness did not. And in the end, Peter and the other disciples who watched the whole scene unfold found themselves doing the one thing that came natural. They worshipped Jesus.
The Christian faith is better understood as a verb than a noun. Faith in God is not a one-time event. It’s not something we possess, like knowledge. We don’t get faith at some point and then just hold on to it for the rest of our lives. Faith must be exercised, one step after another. And it doesn’t grow unless it is exercised. But when it is, when we continue to take steps of faith after Christ, we see Christ continue to be faithful and our faith grows. James 2:17 puts it this way, “Faith by itself, if it has no works, [if it has no action], is dead.”
If you are at a point in your life, or you get to a point in your life someday, where you are having a difficult time trusting in the goodness, the grace, the love, even the very existence of God, the likely reason for your lack of trust is that you have not taken enough steps of faith towards Christ. As G.K. Chesterton once put it, “The Christian [faith] has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” If Jesus has called you to come walk on water and you don’t believe that he can make you walk on water the problem is that you’ve never taken a step out of the boat to find out that he can, indeed, do whatever he says he can do. Lots of people don’t trust Jesus, not because he can’t be trusted but because he hasn’t been trusted.
Faith is continuing to pray even when we don’t hear anything back from heaven because Jesus tells us that God always hears us, always answers us, according to his will and according to our best interests.
Faith is being generous with our resources even when it doesn’t make economic sense because Jesus tells us that we will be more blessed when we give than when we receive.
Faith is treating our enemies with love because Jesus tells us that revenge and bitterness will corrupt our souls.
Faith is enduring tragic times in life with hope because Jesus tells us a day is coming when joy and peace and life will have the final say.
Faith is doing things we never thought possible because Jesus tells us that he has the authority to enable us to do whatever it is he asks us to do.
Steps of faith like these always lead to worship. One way or another, they always leave us saying to Jesus, “Truly you are the Son of God”. For in time, in His time, Jesus Christ, the object of our faith, never fails us when we take a step forward.
Blaise Pascal once prayed, “Lord, help me to do great things as though they were little, since I do them with your power; and little things as though they were great, since I do them in your name.”
This would be my prayer. Lord, help us, as individuals and as a church, continue to take one step of faith after another step of faith after another step of faith, knowing that you will always and forever be faithful. Amen.
The Next Step
A resource for Life Groups and/or personal application
Read Matthew 14:22-33. This is our fifth week in this story. Notice anything new this time through?
At the end of this story the disciples worship Jesus and declare, “Truly you are the Son of God.” What do you think it was that convinced them? And did they stay convinced?
Has there been a moment in your life when it all became clear to you that Jesus truly is the Son of God?
Is it possible that your view of God is too small?
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian [faith] has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” Do you agree? Can you relate?
The Bible describes Christian faith in this way in Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” What does this mean to you?
At this point in your life, which word or phrase would you use to describe your faith in Jesus Christ?
Strong as ever Full of doubts Steady
Non-existent Under attack Emerging
What do you imagine Jesus and the disciples talked about on the rest of the journey across the lake that morning?
Further ScriptureReadingsfor the Week:
Monday: Psalm 24 ~ Exodus 20:1-17
Tuesday: Psalm 25 ~ I Corinthians 10:1-13
Wednesday: Psalm 26 ~ John 2:13-22
Thursday: Psalm 27 ~ Luke 13:1-9
Friday: Psalm 28 ~ Isaiah 55:1-7
Saturday: Psalm 29 ~ Romans 5:6-11
Sunday: Psalm 30 ~ Numbers 21:4-9
 John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), p. 191.