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If You Want To Walk On Water, You Have to get Out of The Boat

'If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat'. This was the title of a book I read several years ago, based on the Bible passage from Matthew that we have heard today. (Mathew 14, 22-33.)

Of the twelve disciples in the boat, eleven of them did not get out of the boat. Only Peter did. And for a short time, Peter did what was impossible without great faith in Jesus - he started walking on the water.

Peter then got into trouble, because he did what a man of faith should never do. He allowed his attention to be distracted from Jesus. Peter permitted the circumstances around him to take control of his awareness and thoughts and fear then overtook him. He became afraid of the strong wind and began to sink.

The lesson that we can learn from this Bible passage is: 

  • "Keep your eyes on Jesus. Focus on Jesus."

Now, this is not easy for us in a world full of distractions, many of which are important. Helping to hold the family together, whenever possible, is very important. Work, careers, study and property all demand time and attention. Wealth is not bad in itself, providing we give what God calls us to give to His Church and to others. Some entertainment may also be beneficial, so long as it does not become an obsession and the focus of our lives.

We can also easily be distracted through fear of what is happening in our society nowadays, including fear of Islamic terrorists, criminals, and gangs of teenage hooligans. But outweighing all these fears ought to be, what is called in the Bible, 

  • "The fear of the LORD."

As Proverbs 1:7 tells us:

  • "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge."

God is eternal. The present difficulties in our society are not.

We might also be distracted and worried by the decline in Christianity in this country. In the reading from 1 Kings today (verses 9 - 18) we heard how Elijah complained that he was the only one of God's prophets left:

  • "I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away"- he moaned. 

Yet Elijah was not alone of God's people, nor are we. However, life is much harder for Christians in many other countries, than it is for us in Britain. A recent article in The Church of England Newspaper reported that:

  • "Churches are being forced to close down in Sri Lanka as Christians face a new onslaught of violence and intimidation" (Friday June 17, 2005). 

In comparison, the churches in Britain have relative freedom to live out their faith publicly.

Jesus never told his followers to propagate the Christian faith through violence and intimidation. But neither did he call us to be cowards, denying or suppressing the truth in order not to upset those who do not believe in him. Jesus warned his followers about this when he said:

  • "If anyone is ashamed, of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38).

Jesus claimed of himself: 

  • "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). 

Jesus did not say "I am one of many ways to God". The way of Jesus is to love God and to love ones' neighbours as oneself. One day everyone will be judged by Jesus. 

  • "The Father judges no-one, but has entrusted all judgements to the Son" (John 5:22).

Jesus is the truth. So why don't people believe the truth? Paul wrote:

  • "The god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Cor.4:4). 

This statement from Paul does not give us permission to quickly write-off non-believers. Many people come to believe over a period of time. So we must always be prepared to tell of the truth about Jesus, and live lives that demonstrate that truth. Jesus is the truth. Satan is a devout liar.

Jesus is the way to eternal life. 

  • "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). 

No matter what a person's religious upbringing, this offer of eternal life is available to all. Non-Christians need to know about it. And it is down to Christians to tell them. We need not be afraid to speak about Jesus. God will help. As the Psalmist wrote: 

  • "If the Lord delights in a man's way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with His hand" (Psalm 37:2324).

Elijah was afraid for his life. Peter was afraid of drowning. Today Christians face threats of violence in many places. So we must put our trust in God. For God is love (1 John 4:16), and perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). We can shield ourselves from debilitating fear by focussing our attention on Jesus, with the help of God's Holy Spirit. We can follow Jesus' example of constant prayer and regularly speaking God-inspired words. My Aunt Rose often used to quote Psalm 118 v24: 

  • "This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."

We can take comfort in the knowledge that even in times when the world is growing spiritually darker, the Christian light will shine brighter. 

Amen.

Michael Allen
7th August 2005

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