There are many things in this life that Christians must encounter in their walk with Jesus. All of them are either handholds or hindrances to faith. That is to say, all of them will either cause us to look to Jesus for help, guidance, reassurance, strength, courage, and a host of other needs that come from living in the midst of untenable circumstances or they will cause doubt, fear, frustration, antipathy, anger, resentment and many other excuses why we can’t go forward with Christ. The choice is ours. We have the opportunity to stay faithful or to abandon faith.
There are some roadblocks to faith that are common to every person who strives to follow Christ. From Matthew 14:22-33 we read the story of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. However, in the midst of this story are clear examples of real roadblocks and the means by which we can overcome.
Roadblock #1 – A Faulty View of Jesus
While the disciples fought through the night against the buffeting winds as they tried to cross the sea, they looked and noticed a figure upon the water. “During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear” (Matthew 14:25-26).
Understandably, they were in the midst of a storm and no one, ever, had walked upon water up to this point! What else were they to think? But to use this as the first example, I want to point out that there are many people in the midst of storms who only see Jesus as some apparition – a ghost like companion who has no power to do much more than walk past and observe. With a faulty view of Jesus we descend into a failed faith.
I wonder what would have happened in the boat if there was one person who, before Jesus mentioned anything, would have said, “Oh, wait! That’s Jesus! We’re going to be just fine.” Jesus, Himself, asks the question: “Who do you say that I am?” (from Matthew 16:15). This is critical—and the most important reality—to have a correct view of Jesus, a view built from His own revelation of Himself.
Solution to Roadblock #1 – A Correct View of Jesus
What did Jesus do? He cried out: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (v. 27). It’s not a ghost; it’s not an apparition; it is the Lord Jesus Christ who walks upon the water. It is impossible to have a view of Jesus that lends itself to accurate faith if that view is only built upon the foolish and failed understanding of human reason.
There is only one place to gain a correct view of Jesus Christ and that is the Word of God. Yet, how many Christians place their faith in their own understanding? Do not trust anyone’s thoughts of Jesus Christ who does not draw their understanding from the Word of God—including your own.
Roadblock #2 – A Fearful View of Circumstances
After they understood it was Jesus on the water, and Peter stepped out of the boat at the Lord’s command, Peter looked around at where he was. “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:29-30).
Again, it’s understandable that Peter would be disquieted by the fact that he was walking upon the water. Who wouldn’t be! But, as the nature of all endeavors that require faith in Jesus Christ, the moment he took his eyes off of the Savior and placed them upon the environment around him, he became afraid and began to sink.
Isn’t that the way most of us go? The life that God has called us to live is not measured by our own skills and expertise, but by the requirements of faith—a faith that rests upon the power and person of Christ Jesus. He does not call us because we are already built for such-and-such a task. Peter was a fisherman, aware of the water and knew how to swim. He did not have the means of his own to walk upon the water! What God is looking for are those who are willing to step out of the boat of personal comfort and security and trust Him by faith in obedience to His commands.
Solution to Roadblock #2 – A Confident Reliance on Jesus
As Peter began sinking into the depths of the sea, his only recourse was to cry out to the one who was still walking on the water. It might seem a bit obvious, but there were other options. He could have tried to rely on his own strength and swim back to the boat. He could have begged for help from the others in the boat. He could have just let himself drown in despair, perhaps even blaming Jesus for calling him onto the water in the first place. He didn’t do any of those things – he simply cried out to the only One who could save him.
Even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances, when God calls you to the impossible, you can have absolute confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. All of us have found ourselves called by God to the impossible, and many of us have tried to do what God has given us in our own strength and wisdom. Then, when the way is rough, the storms are strong and the winds are against us, we tend to turn to human ingenuity to stay above the circumstances. For example, God has called us to evangelize the world through the preaching of the gospel and discipling believers. When the way gets rough and people don’t respond – even becoming hostile – we change tactics. We turn to clever schemes and worldly strategies to do God’s work. Instead, we must simply cry out to Jesus and walk with Him as He holds us up above water.
These two roadblocks are common to everyone. You’re not alone. But the solutions are simple if you’re willing to take them to heart. Walking in faith with Christ Jesus means you must know Him as He has revealed Himself and you will have to trust Him and His word, even when the circumstances around you demand that you abandon all hope.
©2015 Michael Duncan
For further reading on learning to walk by faith in Jesus Christ, pick up the workbook: Starting Out: A Study Guide for New Believers available here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1482694328