Yesterday I blogged about my desire to sharpen my ability to actually hear the voice of God. I want to be intentionally, actively keeping my ear tuned to his direction. Today I was reading in my Lent devotional written by N.T.Wright, (and please know that his wisdom sparked these thoughts in my mind – anything that is similar to his own words, please, I attribute to him because I am nowhere near his ability to communicate). The passage that he was commenting on was Matthew 14. In this chapter of the first gospel in the New Testament, there is the familiar story of Peter walking on water. I’ll post the text below: (Matt.14:22-32) NLT
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”
28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.
So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.
31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.
Here are 7 quick thoughts from my reading of this passage this morning:
- Most of the disciples were experienced fishermen and they knew the conditions in which they were in, and they were dealing with it in their own expertise.
- Jesus showed up in an unexpected, unnatural, and unconventional way
- Peter, having experienced some of the miraculous abilities Jesus had granted him previously, wanted desperately to be with his Rabbi and do what He was doing
- Jesus called Peter to do the unconventional, non-traditional, and the humanly impossible
- Peter, “went over the side of the boat” and the other disciples didn’t. Perhaps they didn’t think it wise, maybe they were too busy with their own tasks of trying to keep the boat afloat, perhaps they thought it was simply impossible (after all, it never had been done that way before), or maybe they were convinced that Peter had misunderstood the voice of God.
- Peter did the unconventional, impossible, and seemingly unwise…for a little while. But getting distracted by the elements around him, took things in a bad way, quickly. But Jesus never failed Peter. Get that point: Jesus never failed Peter – not in the calling him out of the boat to do the unconventional and questionable, and he never failed Peter when Peter’s own faith failed himself.
- When Peter & Jesus got back in the boat and Jesus calmed the storm, the disciples recognized Jesus for who he was / is: “You really are the Son of God!“
Here’s my conclusion for my own life, and perhaps it will encourage you too:
- If you are actively listening for God’s voice, there are going to be times in life when you hear it and he’s going to ask you to do something unconventional, impossible and seemingly unwise. And that’s okay. We have had some close friends, acquaintances and even those we don’t know well, speak into our lives that we were mistaken in hearing God’s voice when he called us to Cambodia. We went “too quick”, “unprepared”, “without adequate support”, and “should have thought through it better”. I will tell you that I appreciate their love and concern for us, I really do. My faith informs me that my God is in control of every nuance of life. And if that is true, then hindsight becomes a beautiful masterpiece of God’s handiwork. If that is true, it really was miraculous the way God called us out of complacency and into activity. If that is true, it really was miraculous that we were able to sell all our possessions in less than two and a half months (except the house – and would consider offers on it now). If that is true, then every challenge, every joy, every difficulty, every spiritual battle both in Cambodia and now, happened / are happening for his glory and our growth. If that is true, our time in Southeast Asia, no matter how brief, was not a waste and was not unplanned. If that is true, we truly weren’t acting too quick, ill-prepared or without adequate support. If he really did call us to do what we did in the manner we did, and history always confirms the hand of God, then we heard his voice and we acted upon his direction.
- If you are actively listening for God’s voice, and he tells you to get out of the boat, never hesitate to go “over the side of the boat”. It can be a real challenge to gain the courage to do something so unconventional, non-traditional and seemingly “unwise”. But I guarantee that if you are an active listener and a proactive pursuer of Jesus Christ, you’ve already seen miraculous things done in your life. The knowledge of those things are given to you as gifts – as a gift to propel you forward into whatever God is calling you to next. Others might think you’re mistaken about what God is saying, they may not even realize that you’ve gone over the side because they’re busy in their own tasks, or maybe their not yet to that point where they’re willing to say, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you“. And that, too, is okay. You are responsible to the One calling you out of the boat – only for yourself. If he says “Walk on the water.”, then by all means, get stepping!
- If you are actively listening for God’s voice, and you follow his direction in obedience, you may falter in the path, but it doesn’t mean you’ve failed. This is probably the hardest lesson for me. There are days that I feel I failed my co-workers in Cambodia, the staff at the project, and dozens and dozens of girls who were in our aftercare program. The reality is, that I remained obedient to what Jesus was saying. As clearly as we heard him say, “Go to Cambodia.“, we heard him say, “It’s time to return to the States.“. Yes, the circumstances surrounding it all were stormy and uncomfortable, and we came home having to deal with a lot of issues. But Jesus never left our side. Come what may, Jesus is always beside you and will never let you down. It doesn’t matter what the other disciples thought of Peter when he got back in the boat. Maybe he heard comments like, “We told you not to go!” or “We knew you couldn’t do it!” or maybe even, “Look at you, soaking wet, now what are you going to do?” I don’t think Peter failed in getting out of the boat or walking on water – even when he started to sink. Because what Peter gained from that experience is something all the other disciples learned just as quickly when Jesus calmed the storm: that Jesus really is the Son of God. And if Jesus is the Son of God, and I hear his voice saying “Do this” or “Go there”, I can trust him. He won’t let me down in the middle of the storm, because he has control over the storm.
I know that there is a lot of unknown for our family when it comes to the mission we embarked on a year ago. I know that we will continually be active in listening for the voice of God to direct us in whatever he has for us. And I know that through it all, no matter what happens, Jesus is worthy of worship.
This song became somewhat of an anthem for us while in Cambodia and remains so today: