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WALKING ON WATER


Most people are familiar with the story of Jesus walking on the water and of Peter’s attempt to do the same, but let us just review that story for the moment from Matthew 14:22-33.

The story is quite simple. It is basically about faith.

The first part of the story doesn’t really need to be looked at as most people are familiar with that side of the story and is something we would expect Jesus to be able to do anyway. I mean, He was the Son of God and to God nothing is impossible, therefore with Jesus nothing is impossible.

But let us look at the human side of this story. We take a look at Peter’s role in this incident and how he reacted.

The first reaction is that of fear: here was something never seen before - a man walking on the stormy sea (let’s not lose track of that point). The disciples had been with Jesus quite some time by now and yet they still did not understand His totally awesome power. So, understandably, they were quite frightened at what they could see.

Isn’t this typical of our walk in life. Something out of the ordinary happens and we go into a total panic about it. Not waiting to see theexplanation, just reacting to the incident.

Jesus speaks to the disciples and reassures them that it really is Him and that they should not be frightened. Calm, of a sort, descends on the disciples and the reaction is characterised by Peter’s response. Some have even said his response is that of doubt (just like Thomas). He almost challenges Jesus to prove it by letting him walk on the water as well. Well we might say that this is putting God to the foolish test, but I certainly don’t see it that way. Peter needed to be sure in his own heart that such a thing really could happen.

No doubt by this time Jesus had already taught His disciples that they only had to ask for something and it was theirs. However, they had never put this to the test in any way (at least not that we have been told about). So it is quite understandable that Peter should make this request, being the one who we know to have always rushed in to things.

Again, liken it to things we understand. Offered such a chance to prove a point, human nature generally has a habit of jumping in first before we check the reality of the event or the request.

Jesus, knowing what was going on in Peter’s thoughts, responds as we would expect. "Come on then." He says.

Peter steps out of the boat, onto the water and heads towards Jesus. At first everything is okay.

Then Peter stops to think about where he is and looks around at the  storm, the boat (now some short distance away from him) and the fact that he is actually standing on something that scientifically (though Peter would probably not have thought of it in such clear terms) could notsupport him.

He panics and then starts to think. Fortunately, he has the sense to reach out to Jesus and asks for help. Help that is given immediately.

This is just like us. We start to move forward in faith and then we let the reality of the situation cloud our faith judgement. As a result, we falter and stumble at what we are doing. As soon as our focus is taken of the faith we stepped out in we only have one option - to start to sink, just as Peter did.

Now at this point, we are given two choices. The first is to react as Peter did and cry out to Jesus for help. The help is always there but we must ask for it. It is not given without asking. This choice means we get rescued and maybe are even able to complete the task we originally set out to do.

The second choice is that we throw in the towel and quit. That choice means that we sink. Often this is the cause of many a Christian fallingaway from the faith.

We must be sure that we remain aware that Jesus can help us at anytime with any problem - no exceptions.

But why should we reach the point of having to make that choice in the first place. It is because we do not allow our faith to have completecontrol of our life.

Take the prayer of Jabez.

There was a man named Jabez, who was the most respected member of his family. His mother had given him the name Jabez, because his birth had been very painful. But Jabez prayed to the God of Israel, "Bless me, God, and give me much land. Be with me and keep me from anything evil that might cause me pain." And God gave him what he  prayed for.
1 Chronicles 4:9-10

This is a most amazing passage of Scripture. If we look at these two verses they are slotted inside a very large section of genealogical dialogue about the tribes of Israel. The author suddenly sees fit to digress and mention this man of faith. Such was his faith that we could probably put him in the same category as others of faith so often talked about (such as Abraham, Moses and Elijah). No further mention is made of Jabez, and there doesn’t need to be because his story of faith is totally complete in these two verses.

Let’s put this in context. Jabez lived in a time when your name dictated your future. With a name like "Causes Pain", he would certainly be handicapped right from the start. Jabez, however, rises above this and asks God, in complete faith, to change the circumstances. His faith is rewarded by him being granted what he asked for.

We do the same in our lives. We burden ourselves with "names' that immediately restrict what we can do. How often have we said that we can’t do something because we are not skilled enough or not smart enough or not tall enough or not....... And the list goes on.

But this "name giving" goes beyond the physical. We apply the same restrictions to our faith. "Oh God, I can’t do that, my faith isn’t strong enough."

What a load of rubbish. Who is the provider of our faith? Who is it that enables us to do these things? We are not talking about another person who has failings in themselves, we are talking here about God, through whom all things are possible.

When we are asked to step out in faith it is because God has provided the means to do it. To say we can’t do it is to say "Sorry God, but you not capable of doing that". Now we would never say those words like that. I mean, God can do anything. But the reality is that when we falter in a faith task, we are saying just that.

We have not because we ask not, says the Bible. Let’s look at what Jesus has to say in Luke 11:9-10

And so I say to you: Ask , and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks will receive, and he who seeks will find, and the door will be opened to anyone who knocks.

Notice that Jesus does not say "you might be lucky and get what you ask". No, He says "You will" meaning it is a guarantee.

This is just what Jabez did. He asked and God gave it to him. Notice that there were no conditions attached to the deal.

So we must step out in faith and see the results.

Immediately you say this, people will come back and say, "Oh yes, but that was just for the disciples and wasn’t meant for us."

I say, rubbish. Where in the Bible (near that passage in Luke or anywhere else for that matter) does it say "Now please remember this is only for my chosen twelve - the rest of you have to miss out and be jealous and envious about what I have given them." You will not find such a statement because the promises are to ALL his disciples, including those who have not yet been born.

Those promises are just as much for us as they were for Peter and company. In fact, I believe that they are more so for us because they had the experience of Christ walking and talking with them in the physical realm. We don’t have that pleasure so we are given greater promises to compensate, if only we would lay claim to them.

What use is a birthday present to us if we leave it wrapped up and on the shelf. None what so ever. Yet we do exactly the same thing to the promise of God for our lives.

"Sorry God, I can’t accept that promise because it might not work."

I say that the reason we are not moving forward is that we won’t ask for the promises of God to be fulfilled in our lives. Let’s take a return to those promises of Luke 11. Were there restrictions put on what we could ask for? No, it just tells us to ask.

To those who say it is selfish to ask for things for yourself, I say take a good look at the prayer of Jabez. He asked only for himself and God
gave it to him.

I believe that this is because if we are blessed, those around us must also be blessed, because a blessing is not something that can be contained.

Let’s not be guilty of not having because we don’t ask. Let each one of us start to "walk on the water", or as I once heard someone say, why limit it to walking on water, let’s walk on steam.



R.J. Burling