Peter Sinks. Jesus Saves.

(I will have many opportunities to preach here in Madagascar.  This is a shortened, “blogified” part of the talk I gave for the English service our the main church in Toliara last night and also at a delightful little church in a poorer part of town this morning.  The gospel reading for the service was the story of Jesus walking on the water, from Matthew 14:22-33.  I welcome any thoughts or critiques.)

Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  And he said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 

Fearlessness.  Courage.  Boldness.  A life defined by these qualities needs only ask one question: “Lord, what is your will?”  The fearless life does not need to worry what that means for safety or reputation or health or relationships.  Courage simply says, as Peter did, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You.”  Christ has the power to break the shackles of fear so we can walk in freedom and follow him into any circumstance, even onto the waters of a raging storm.

But seeing the wind, he became frightened…

But fear is a stubborn weight.  We are free one minute, but the next minute weighed down by anxieties.  The crucial question becomes, what do we do when we start to sink?  What do we do when our faith is small, and doubts overcome us and Jesus looks so far away?  Often we make a horrible mistake; we try to swim.  We try to be strong.  We shove doubts into a dark corner, and ignore the pain of fear like a man who ignores the signs of a heart attack.  We pretend to be skillfully wading water when in reality our faith is weak, and we are gasping for spiritual breath.  Peter teaches us to abandon pretense.

…and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Sometimes, the greatest act of faith we can produce is confessing our doubts and fears.  When doubts overwhelm me, I should not come before the Lord offering up blemished and diseased faith in hopes of approval and praise.  Rather, I must lay my doubt and fear before him, trusting that the healer can breathe the life of pure faith into my dead doubts.  And Christ will not fail to do so.  He saves when we bring him truth, and he does not delay.

Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 

 Our modern mindset is too quick to view this as a harsh rebuke.  “Bad Peter!  What are you thinking?!  You doubter!  Get back in the boat and think about how small your faith is!”  But Christ’s correction is kindness.  You and I and Peter have doubts, but we do not need to have them.  Christ’s love and power ought to lift away all our fears, doubts, and worries.  But if not, he is still strong enough to save.  Our trust and assurance does not rest on the strength of our own faith, but rather on the strength of the Savior.  He does not fail to save those who call out, “Lord, save me!”

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