Simon Peter has been criticized over the years for his brash personality, his denial of Christ on the morning of the crucifixion, and his impetuous actions. And he is often criticized for the lack of faith he showed in this account.
But I'd like to look at Peter's actions more closely. The passage says, "Peter called to him, 'Lord, if it's really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.' 'Yes, come,' Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat."
Yes, I know there's more to come, and I know the next verse talks about Peter's faith faltering, but for now let's focus on what happened first. And let me ask you a question: Would you have gotten out of the boat?
Remember the seas were churning, the winds were howling and contrary, and the boat was rocking from side to side. The disciples were terrified. And then a ghostlike figure appeared on the horizon, a figure that turned out to be Jesus walking on water. Would your first move be to go "over the side of the boat"?
That was Peter's first impulse.
A more rational approach might have been to yell to Jesus, "Come here! Get into the boat. Save us!" I would have stayed hunkered down in the boat, feeling a bit better now that Jesus was walking my way.
But Simon Peter got out of the boat. Let's give him credit.
We refer to this passage as the miracle of Jesus walking on water. We would be do well to recognize this also as the miracle of Peter walking on water. He looked into the eyes of Jesus, and he was the only disciple – by faith – to get out of the boat! Sometimes you have to be willing to be the one to get out of the boat. There are times when you have to step out in faith, and no one else follows, and you feel all alone. That's when God grows your faith more than ever.
So with the other fishermen probably hunkered down in the boat as the perfect storm raged, Peter jumped over the side, looked across at Jesus, and stepped forward in faith. Peter was confronted with a divine moment. Not one that made him divine, of course, but a moment of encounter with the divine God through Jesus Christ.
Our first lesson from this miracle is that we need to move forward in faith. Sometimes that means to jump overboard in faith. Too often we wait for our fears to go away before we move forward. Often we stop to assess the pros and cons, do a pro forma report, and analyze our options. We tend to look for certainty in the midst of our troubles, for the rocks and boulders we can step on to keep us from falling into the water. But when we wait for certainty, we lose our chance at faith.
The feelings of fear won't go away, but when you step out in faith in spite of your fears, God blesses. Peter may have been afraid, but he didn't stop to calculate the odds of his success. Seeing a divine moment, Peter took his leap of faith.
I used to think that great men and women of God, the great heroes of the Bible, never had any fears. Now I know that's not true. Everyone has fears. What the great heroes of the faith teach us is that God blesses when we take that leap of faith in spite of our fears.
My son Josh and his wife, Kelly, have been deepened spiritually by reading the works of the British preacher Charles Spurgeon. In fact, they've talked about Spurgeon at Woodlands Church, quoting his words from a devotional titled Morning and Evening. Spurgeon wrote, "You could not have belief in your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God's strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods." Josh commented on this in one of our church services, observing that "the most important thing about our faith is not just that we rejoice and praise God in the midst of hardship, but we rejoice and praise God because of hardship."
The storm you're facing right now may not be something you just need to survive. Very possibly the troubles in front of you are a remarkable opportunity for you to experience a great miracle.
You'll never find your miracle if you stay hunkered down in the boat.
Kerry and Chris Shook appear on LIFE TODAY this Monday. Excerpted from Find Your Miracle by Kerry and Chris Shook. Copyright ©2016 by Kerry Shook and Chris Shook. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.