In Matthew 14, there is an incident in the lives of His disciples that underscores the call for believers to step out in faith in the midst of trial. It came just after the disciples had been successfully employed in the work of the ministry with the feeding of the five thousand. No sooner had they launched from shore that they found themselves reeling in their boat on the Sea of Galilee, battered by the wind and the waves.
Coming to their aid
It would not be the only time that they experienced trouble so soon after a high point in ministry (c. p. Luke 9:27-43; Mark 4:35-41). The Lord had constrained them to get into the boat as He does us, placing them in a situation that forced them to practically apply and build upon the elementary principles of their faith.
So with us, as the hymn aptly states: “Every joy or trial cometh from above, Placed upon our dial by the Son of Love”. The Lord had gone up on the mountain to pray and when He saw the difficulty they encountered, He flew to their relief – a wonderful picture of His active intercession on behalf of the heirs of faith, Romans 8:34. Ministry has it rewards but also its dangers, toils and snares. But the Lord certainly knew this in advance and would surely see them through as the passage exemplifies.
The assurance of his presence
When the disciples first saw the Lord approaching their vessel during the fourth watch of the night –the darkest time, they thought they had seen a ghost, v. 26. Perhaps, they were unaccustomed to seeing Him in this way, or at least they had forgotten that He would come to their aid.
He had helped them at other times, why not now? The parallel passage in Mark 6:48 states that when the Lord had come to them, He would have passed them by as if to simply reassure them of His presence and let them know he was aware of their need.
More than comfort
It is always reassuring to know the Lord is there and aware of our plight. “He comes to me with new assurance…” are the words we need to sing, to strengthen our hearts especially in time of trial. But the Lord has more in store than simply our comfort!
As with Peter, He challenges us to step out in faith in response to His call and supernaturally walk in a way that we had never walked before as we rise to the occasion that corresponds to our need.
Be not afraid
In considering this event, all of this sounds good, but how does this apply to us in the crucible of life? The passage lays it out clearly. Prior to the call was the affirmation: “Be of good cheer, It is I, Be not afraid”. This was indeed the Lord’s comforting words to His frightened disciples. How needed for us also! Characteristically, it is Peter who calls out to the Lord and requesting that He call him out of the boat onto the troubled seas.
Peter ventures out
How we admire Peter! Troubled like the rest, he was nevertheless willing to take the Lord at His word and venture out into the unknown darkness. With the pointed invitation to “Come”, he did, regardless of his reservations—and fear. This flies in the face of modern-day positive thinkers.
True, believers are encouraged to boldly come to the throne of grace (and we should, Heb. 4:16); and not doubt the Lord (and we should not, James 1:6), but realistically speaking, the facts are in – we are prone to the frailties of the human condition, fraught with worry, doubt and fear. It was what Peter was exhibiting, despite the fact that he desired to move from a more “secure” environment to one that was less secure.
Distracted by the storm
Even then he almost sank when the realization of his predicament fully gripped him. Would the Lord fail him, even though He had called him out of the boat? Will the Lord fail you, if He has called you out of the boat to trust Him more completely than you ever had before, enough to rise above the level of your circumstances? Not at all!
He would not let Peter sink amidst the waves and neither will He let you sink beneath the storm that threatens you! The feet go down, the prayer goes up and the Hand comes out – to catch the sinking soul, in the middle of the sea, in the middle of the night, amid the wind and the waves. What mercy and help to buoy the one who is of little faith, vv. 30-31. How clear it is – the keeping power of the Lord (1 Peter 1:5). It is a powerful lesson for us all!
What’s the purpose?
What was the consequence of all these events? Vv. 32-33 gives us a hint. First of all, the wind ceased as soon as they got into the boat. It did not require that Peter step out of the boat to bring the storm to its conclusion. Rather, it was when Peter stepped back into the boat, that the wind ceased. What then was the purpose of this whole scene.
Could not this whole episode of Peter’s brief walk on the water been conveniently skipped? Why did the Lord allow it to happen? Perhaps it was meant to show Peter and the other disciples what they could do, when they were put to the test – a call to a higher level of understanding and ability with the help of the Lord. Certainly we can stay in the “boat”, but we will never know that He can sustain us unless we take Him at His Word and step out in faith.
A greater knowledge of the Lord
Further, when the event had come to an end, the disciples now had a heightened sense of His power and of His person. They now had a deeper conviction of a truth they had known previously, but now knew experientially when they confidently declared: “Truly, You are the Son of God!”, v. 33.
Heb. 11:6 pointedly reminds us that “they that come to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seeks Him.” Just as we received the Lord Jesus—by faith, so we are to walk in Him, Col. 2:6 and to walk as He walked, 1 John 2:6. Faith should be the ongoing, operative principle in the life of every Christian and not just some.
This call of Christ to those that already knew Him and had already been taught by Him is the same call that is directed toward us – to walk by faith in a way that we never done before even in the face of adversity to prove both the power and promises of the Lord.