When we find ourselves in a season of waiting, there are some things that happen. One of those being, doubt. It can be hard to keep the faith when you’re waiting for something to happen.
I have been there several times. Gasp – your pastor has had seasons of doubt?!?!?! Absolutely. We all have. Maybe you haven’t yet, but my guess is that most of us have. And if you have, you should know that you find yourselves in good company. I’m not talking about myself either.
There’s a great story in the gospels that many of us would liked to have been a part of. It’s found in Matthew 14, where Peter walks on the water. The disciples had been out on the boat for a while when Jesus strolls alongside them, walking on the water. I love the idea that Jesus is out for a walk on the waves. When you know the one who is the power behind the wind and the waves, what was once scary is now inspiring. Imagine what it would be like to walk on the waves in the midst of the wind! This is an easy thing for Jesus, but what about Peter.
“Lord, if it’s really you, command me to come to you on the water.” Peter shouts to Jesus.
“If it’s really you.” Peter’s tendency to doubt and be swayed by the tossing back and forth of the waves is exposed. Shouting above the sound of the ocean, Peter used the word if. If it’s really you. Not only that, he followed it with a then. If it’s really you, then… Have you ever been there? God, if this is really you, then you need to prove it to me. God if this is really what you want me to do, then you’re going to need to show me some proof. God if you exist, then you’re going to need to show me the evidence.
What was Jesus’ response? “Come.” It’s not the only time Jesus says “come.” It’s a familiar phrase. Jesus has told the children to come to him. He has told the weary to come to him and find rest. He told his disciples to come and follow him and he would make them fishers of men. And he tells Peter to come.
Maybe you missed that. Peter shouts a phrase of disbelief and Jesus’ response was to come to him. Hang on to that.
So, Peter gets out of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus. But then he notices something. First, he probably freaks out a little bit because he’s walking on the water. You can imagine the inner monologue: “What in the name of Sam Hill is going on? How is this happening?” But, then he really panics. He feels the wind thrashing the waves up and down, and comes to the stark realization that there is nothing underneath him anymore. His faith had quickly turned to doubt and he started to sink. As he is sinking into the water he cries out, “Lord, Save me.” And of course, Jesus did.
Jesus reached out his hand, grabbed Peter and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” What changed? Jesus responds to Peter’s first doubt with a call to come to himself. But, this second doubt he gets reprimanded.
This is what I see when I read this story. In the first instance, Peter wasn’t sure if it was Jesus walking on the waves or if it was a ghost. And his calling out to Jesus, and willingness to step out in faith even when he wasn’t entirely sure of what was happening was a good thing.
But, once he has already experienced the benefit of faith and is walking toward Jesus, the overwhelming nature of the known eclipsed his faith in the unknown work Jesus was performing before his very eyes.
And this, I think, is the key. God is doing things that are far greater than the natural order of things. When he uses us to bring someone into the kingdom, He is bringing the dead back to life. That’s not natural or normal. Death is natural and normal. This new life Jesus offers us goes in direct contrast to the way we are used to seeing things. Once we have already stepped out of the boat and put our faith in Jesus…once we’re already walking on the water…the mission is the pursuit of Jesus. We cannot allow the wind and waves of the natural world to sway us from that pursuit.
Jesus is calling each of us out of the boat of the normal onto the waves of the miraculous. The more we follow Jesus, the more the ruler of this world will stir things up to draw our attention away from the one we are pursuing.
So then, what do we do with doubt when we are waiting? We pursue Jesus. When we don’t have anything new to know, we dig deeper into what has been made known to us. We make sure that Jesus is the focus of our attention and not the wind and the waves. We make sure that no matter how much the enemy would stir up chaos around us, we keep pushing toward and reaching out for the hand of our savior.
Pursue Jesus today. More than you did yesterday. Look deeper into who He is. Fight through the distractions to see His face.
You just might find yourself walking on the waves.
This is so true. Waiting for God is so hard because of the doubt that builds and builds. Yet it is the willingness to endure (another word for wait) that brings our spiritual growth to completion (James 1). But as the James passages continues, when we struggle with doubt, we can ask for wisdom and receive it liberally. Of course, when we choose to follow the doubt instead of the wisdom, the wisdom is cancelled out, there is no endurance and there is no spiritual growth.