When You Get Out of the Boat

~by Jeff Redding.

A church member once asked how I was feeling on what was my last Sunday to lead worship at the church I was serving. I thought about it for a second. “I think I know how Peter felt when he was about to jump out of the boat onto the water,” I replied. “Frankly, I’m terrified.”

I was preparing to leave a church and step out on faith into a very great unknown. Now, to be completely honest, this church provided only half my income, so it wasn’t a complete stepping out in faith. Still, living on half income means you won’t sink immediately, but unless the Lord provides, you will still sink under the financial waves eventually.

Much like Simon Peter, I peered into the darkness of my future and saw massive billows rolling around and crashing into the boat. Frightening waves of “You won’t be able to provide for your family” sprayed their salty foam on my face and I could almost feel the chill of the wind that howled “You’ll never get to do what you love again.” As I figuratively stared into the tempest of the unknown, I was engulfed with a fear of what may or may not happen once I swung my feet out over the edge of the boat. But I was also strengthened by the knowledge that I had heard my Savior calling me to get out of the boat and join Him on the waters.

When reading about this account in the Bible, I always imagine my Lord standing on the water with His hair and robes being blown about by the tempestuous wind. I can picture the water splash against His legs and maybe spray water on His face. I imagine Jesus, completely soaked, but also completely in control of the surrounding elements, smile at Peter as He invites him to join in the adventure of a lifetime. I also imagine that the disciples in the boat were probably offering a mixed chorus of encouragement and discouragement.

“Do it,” said the other Simon, zealously.

“Your two feet certainly are big enough,” joked Andrew, Peter’s brother. “But what good is that on so much water?”

“I suppose you can make it,” echoed John.

“I doubt it,” retorted Thomas.

“Can anything good come of this?” asked Nathaniel nervously.

I imagine it was a mix of cheers and jeers, but the one voice that counted belonged to the Master who had said, “Come.”

 

With that promise-packed word of assurance Peter stepped out of the boat and the unthinkable happened. He walked on the water!  We don’t know how long he walked or how far he got. The Bible never tells us that. It just says he walked on the water!  Then Peter saw the wind and the waves, and he doubted the very word of Jesus. Once doubt set in, Peter started to sink. Was it a sudden plunge like a rock or was it a gentle lowering of Peter’s body into the chilly waters? Again, we don’t know. But we do know the Bible tells us Peter cried out to the Lord and Jesus immediately saved him. Then Jesus said to Peter, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Oftentimes, you or I may go to a church and listen to a sermon by the preacher on what Peter did wrong. This is all well and good I guess because we can learn some important lessons from Peter’s failure to walk the waters. But how about we give an encouraging word on what Peter did right? Simply put, he obeyed and GOT OUT OF THE BOAT! And his reward is he is only one of two persons in the history of humanity who have ever walked on water, even if it was for a very short time. Since I’m not the other person who has walked on water, I’ll leave the critiquing to the Master, but remember the Lord only corrected Peter on one thing. He said, “why did you doubt?” Again, what did Peter doubt? He doubted the promise of the Master.

“Come.” That is all Jesus said to Peter. Just one little word, yet there was so much promise in this spoken command because the word “come,” when spoken by the Lord, implied Peter was going to safely make it to Him.

Some 2,000 years later I too, was standing on the edge of the unknown and I knew the Lord was also bidding me to step out by faith. But whenever I looked out on the choppy waters of the life circumstances around me, all I could see was the very frightening waves of uncertainty. I also knew the Lord was calling me out from the church and from the security of the steady income. So, reluctantly, I swung my legs over the side and began my own journey towards the Master.

I wish I could say that, since that day, it has been an easy journey stepping out of the boat. It hasn’t.       It has been a difficult walk … financially, physically, emotionally, relationally, vocationally, and spiritually. To put it in the same language of the Bible story, the figurative walk on the water sure did last a lot longer than I thought possible and we got wind-blown and positively soaked on the way. However, we didn’t sink! This is the most important part of the story.

I am happy to report that our long “faith” walk on the choppy waters has almost come to an end! The Lord led us to a healthy, doctrinally sound church where we can “dry off” in good company with other like-minded believers and heal. The Lord has also opened doors for ministry and provision that I did not see coming.

Four Important lessons for you and me if you are called to figuratively jump out of the boat.

  1. The Lord leads us through the valleys, or out on the waters because He has something better in mind for us. It may not be what we want, but it is what we need. Psalm 23 reminds us the Lord is a good Shepherd. I learned once a good shepherd will often lead his sheep to new pastures because the old field is chewed down. The sheep usually don’t want to leave the old pasture, but a good shepherd says. “No, follow me, I know a better place I’ve prepared for you.” It is a place with lush green grass, but to get there the sheep must walk paths that may be fraught with danger. But fear not little sheep!
  2. The Shepherd traverses the dark valleys and stands on the waters with us. I don’t know about you, but I would rather walk on choppy waters with Jesus than stay in a sinking boat without Him and I’d rather walk the dark valley with Jesus than stay in the sheepfold without Him!
  3. The Lord never breaks His promises. He will never leave you and He will never forsake you. You will get to the other side! When Jesus says, “Come,” it means you will get to Him. And when he says, “Go to the other side,” you will get there!
  4. You’re probably going to get a little wet on the water, but that’s okay. Let the Good Shepherd wash you and work in you what He desires. It’s for your good. Besides, we all could use a good bath every once-in-a-while.

Conclusion – so my friend, if you hear the call of the Lord or sense He might be calling you to step out into the unknown … DO IT! But be sure that it is the Lord doing the calling. And once you get to where the Lord wants to take you, remember to thank Him for staying by your side.

About the author:

Jeff Redding is a Sales Rep at Brentwood Benson. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from Samford University and has been a worship pastor in both established churches and in new church starts for over twenty-six years.  He currently lives near Fairview, Tennessee with his wife and three children.

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