Will fear keep you from getting out of the boat?
The summer my oldest son turned one, we sold our house and planned to move into a larger one. Our house sold in 4 days, and we were left scrambling. We began searching for homes and over the next three months, we had found two homes, and both deals fell through. By this time, the closing for our house was upon us, and it was time to move. So, we tried to buy ourselves some time and rented a townhome for 10 months. We only needed 10 months, because by then it would be April, and my husband’s work contract at his current job would be up and it would either be renewed or he would be assigned to another job somewhere in the area. We were sure we could find a house by then. But we kind of needed a break from house hunting. So, we took the fall off, enjoyed our son, and settled into the townhome.
After Christmas that year, my husband said to me, “You know, we only have until April here in this place, we better start looking at houses again.” I flat out refused. We didn’t have any word on his job yet, whether his contract would be renewed or if he would need to find a new company. It made no sense to me to buy a house, when we may not even have an income in April! He was patient with me, and didn’t push me.
I prayed and prayed about the situation asking God for an answer. One day while my son was napping, I was sitting on my bed doing my devotions and praying. I was asking God to please provide the security of a job so that we could begin looking for a place to live. And as soon as I uttered those words, “security of a job”, I heard God say to me, “I am your security.” It was as clear as a bell, as if He was sitting next to me. I heard it with my ears, my heart and my soul. The Bible says that His sheep know His voice. I knew in that moment that it was His voice speaking to me. And I immediately responded. I prayed, “You’re right. You are my security. Forgive me for thinking that a job could be my security. I will place my trust in YOU, and I will begin looking at houses.”
When my husband came home that night, I told him to call the realtor, I was ready to start house hunting again. I was scared; I had no idea how things would work out, but I knew that if I believed God was who He said He was, I could trust Him to be my security.
I love the story of Peter climbing out of the boat and walking on water (Matthew 14:22-36). The disciples were in the boat alone, far out in the sea. It was about 4:00 in the morning. It was dark and the seas were rough. The disciples were tired, cold, and wet from being battered by the waves. Have you ever been there? Just plain worn out and battered from the waves of life? That’s exactly where I was at. I couldn’t look at houses, my worry was taking over, and the ‘what if’s’ were constantly swirling around my mind.
Jesus came toward the boat, walking on water, and the disciples thought He was a ghost and were terrified. Jesus told them, “Take courage, it’s me, don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
Peter, suddenly bold, asked God to confirm that it was really Him. “If it’s really you, command me to come to you on the water.” The ever patient Jesus says, “Come ahead.” (verses 28-29) So Peter, in his temporary boldness, climbed out of the boat.
And so did I. I didn’t want to miss whatever it was God had for me. Be it a lesson, or a blessing, or both – I obediently followed God’s lead and began to look at houses. As we house hunted through the winter, day by day, I trusted that God was my security just as Peter trusted Jesus with his security when he stepped out of the boat. I would pray that phrase back to Him. In my fearful moments, I would pray, “Lord, you said you were my security, I am trusting you for that. I am scared right now, I am trusting that you have a plan and will work this all out.” Sometimes all I would say is “God, you are my security.” Sometimes it was daily, some times it was hourly, sometimes it was minute by minute. But I kept moving forward, doing my part, trusting God and looking at houses with my eyes on Him just as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus.
When Peter stepped out onto the water, his focus was on Jesus. He was believing God was who He said He was. He was obeying, trusting, and acting. He was unafraid, focusing on Jesus and moving. With my focus on God, I stepped out of my boat in obedience and moved forward.
I find it interesting that when Peter obeyed and climbed out of the boat, Jesus didn’t immediately calm the storm. Even though Peter was walking on water, the waves surrounding him were still rough, the wind was still blowing, the skies were still dark and it was still cold. Peter was still in the midst of the storm, but he was obeying. And then Peter began to look around. He saw his reality from his own perspective… and he began to sink. He took his eyes off Jesus and focused instead on the circumstances around him.
Peter’s immediate response was to cry out to God, “Master, save me!” and the Bible says, “Jesus didn’t hesitate.” He was standing next to Peter in the storm, and He reached out His hand to Peter and pulled him up. They climb back into the boat and it was only then that the winds calmed.
Isn’t this just like us? We have highs and lows in our faith. We are courageous for a time. We pray, “Lord, draw me closer to you. Help me be more faithful. Help me be a better servant for you.” These are great things to be praying for because after all, we are called to be transformed into the image of Christ.
Romans 8:29 “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
That’s the goal God has for us, and often times in our boldness, we pray and ask to be transformed.
When you pray to be closer to God, or to hear His voice, or to serve Him better, do you really expect Him to answer? Do you leave your prayer time looking for an answer, or do you pray it and forget it? I have to admit, there have been times when He has answered something I even forgot I had prayed for until I saw the answer. Since I am taken by surprise that he answered my prayer, I have to ask myself, did I really expect an answer in the first place?
He answers. He answers our prayers to be more like Him. He answers our prayers to deepen our faith and trust in Him. He answers. But often times it doesn’t come without a cost. Often, he will ask us to do something we never would have thought of doing before. He will ask us to move out of our comfort zone. He will probably ask you to do something you never saw coming, because remember, His ways are not like our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. We can’t transform ourselves no matter how much we read our Bibles, or go to church or serve others. Only God can transform us.
God can transform us in many ways and through many circumstances, but often he does it by inviting us to join Him in His work. He usually invites us to do something. And again, it’s probably not something you had already thought of.
For me, he asked me to trust Him by purchasing a house. He may be asking you to befriend someone you don’t know very well. He may be asking you to serve at church in a way you haven’t before. He may be asking you to change jobs. The possibilities are endless, but one thing I know is that it is an invitation. And as with all invitations, we have the freedom to either accept or decline the invitation. We can either climb out of the boat (like Peter) or stay in it. We can rest in our schedule and plans, in our comfort and security. Our salvation doesn’t depend on our obedience here… but our relationship with God does.
You see, when God invites you to “step out of the boat” it’s like He is saying to you, ”I am about to do something really cool, wanna be part of it?” Then, when we walk with Him and we experience something only God can do, we are drawn that much closer to Him. We see something about Him we never knew before. We trust Him in a whole new way. Why would we want to miss out on that?
It is a privilege to be invited into the work God is doing. It is a privilege to get a closer glimpse of Him. Obedience leads to a closer relationship with God.
In our obedience, we are on a faith high… just like Peter. We are bold and brave and excited. And then we get distracted. We take our eyes off of Jesus, and we begin to sink. We sink into our thoughts about all of the what-if’s, the doubts, and the back up plans. We sink into our own thoughts and into our fears.
I have a little secret for you, in case you haven’t already figured it out. When God asks us to move, when we trust Him in a way that makes no earthly sense, it is absolutely scary. There is no getting around it. When I decided to buy a house without knowing if my husband would have a job or not, I was scared.
The Bible tells us many, many times not fear. It seems to me that if the God of the universe, who can not lie, tells us even once not be fearful, then we should listen.
Fear does not come from God. 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” Fear is a stronghold the devil uses to stop us from being obedient to God. Satan loves it when our thoughts are consumed with fear, and we allow that fear to paralyze us and make us ineffective and disconnected from God. Satan would love nothing better than to prevent us from getting to know Jesus better.
- We can call on the power and self-discipline the Holy Spirit provides and we need to take every thought captive.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
- We can pray for the transforming of our minds.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2
- We can remind ourselves of this truth in Philippians 4:6-8:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Peter was fearful. When he looked around and saw the stormy seas and the reality of what he was doing he panicked. But what was his response to that fear? He called out to Jesus. And Jesus didn’t hesitate to save him. Jesus himself gives us an example of how we should react in our fear. Time and time again throughout the Bible, we see examples of Jesus withdrawing to pray. Luke 5:16 says But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. When the time of crucifixion was drawing near, Jesus withdrew to the Mount of Olives to pray. He had to be more than a little fearful then, don’t you think? He asked the Father to take the test away from him; to spare Him from the cross. And yet, he also prayed, “Not my will Lord, but yours.” Luke 22 says that at that point, an angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. This is where we should run when we are scared… to God. We should tell Him our fears and confess our worry. We can even question our understanding and ask for peace. God can handle it all. He loves us unconditionally and desperately wants to hear from us. And like Jesus, our goal is to get to a place where we too can say, “Not my will Lord, but yours.”
When we get to the root of it all, the question is, Who Do You Believe God Is? Jesus asks Peter this question as they walked along the road together. “Who do you think I am?” and Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” (Matthew 16:15-16).
Jesus is asking us this same question every time he invites us to move to action. He asks us, “Who do you say I am? Do you believe I am big enough to do this for you? Do you believe that I will carry you through this? Do you believe that you have all you need in Me to do this?” If that is what we truly believe, deep down in our souls; our actions will reflect our beliefs. We will be obedient. We will climb out of the boat when God asks us to.
Peter and Jesus got back into the boat. The other disciples had been watching the whole thing happen, and they immediately bow down and began worshiping God, saying” You really are the Son of God!” (Matthew 14:33)
At first, I thought to myself, “Now, they finally believe He is the Son of God? After everything they have seen and experienced with Jesus, only now do they truly believe he is who he has been saying He is?” How can that be? I mean, they gave up everything to follow Jesus. They saw him heal the sick, calm the storm with a word, cast out demons, do countless miracles like multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish to a feast for 5000 people – just the day before, (Matthew 14:13-21) and none of that convinced them that he was the Son of God?
But then I thought of my own life. I have seen God bless me with a Godly example in my grandparents and a Christian home with my parents. He saved me from my sins as a child. He protected me in my rebellion as a young adult. He drew me back to himself and welcomed me with open arms, forgiving me and restoring me. He blessed me with a godly husband and marriage. He worked out every detail as my husband and I went through In Vitro Fertilization to have two children. And on and on and on. And yet… I still felt the need to ask Him for security in a job? Didn’t I already know that He was my security?
With every new experience with God we will gain a better understanding of who He truly is. Every time we are obedient, He reveals a little bit more of Himself to us.
And when we know Him better, we will Trust Him better.
My husband and I found a house. We put an offer in on it and we were to close on the house in April – The same time my husband’s contract ended. In fact, the day of the closing was his last official day employed. The wind was raging and the waves were crashing around me, but I continued to be obedient to what I believed God had called me to do. It was a Friday. We signed the papers and went to the new house to clean before moving in the next day. Like Peter, I was standing on the water, my eyes were on God. I had to continue to believe that God (not a job) was my security because if I took time to look at my situation (no job or income to pay for this new house), I would surely sink into a new kind of panic.
It just so happened that the contract company had set up a phone interview with my husband with a new prospective company for that same day. So, he sat on the steps of our new, empty house, and did the phone interview as I cleaned. We moved in that weekend.
On Monday morning, the company called with a job offer. We were not one day without a job.
(My story could have gone a different way and had a very different ending. God doesn’t always provide like He did for me in this case. If He doesn’t provide, or His provision is delayed, we have to decide for ourselves how we will respond while we wait. Will we still worship Him and serve Him in the waiting? Will we still trust that He is sovereign and that He wants the best for us while we wait? Will we still believe that He is a loving, generous Father even when His provision is delayed? It is in the waiting that we must fall back on who we know God to be. We have to remember His past faithfulness. We have to be thankful for all that He has done and is doing in our lives while we wait.)
I cry every time I tell this story – or really even when I just think about it.
This experience wasn’t about the job or the house. The God of the Universe took the time to do something just for me, so that through the experience, I would get to know Him better and trust Him more. He invited me to trust Him in the experience so that I would believe not just with my head that He is my security but also deep in my heart and soul that He is my security. God did this so that the next time he called on me to get out of the boat, I would go a little easier, because I knew deep down that I could trust Him. He would not let me sink.
There are times in our lives where God asks us to get out of our comfortable, safe boat, like Peter. Consider it a privilege to receive that invitation. Because it’s not only an invitation to be a part of something God is doing, it is also an opportunity to get to know Him in a way you never knew before. It’s a chance to take the knowledge of Him we have in our heads and move it into our hearts and souls where it changes us.
But the thing of it is, we have a choice. God’s invitations to join him in what he is doing are just that – they are invitations. We can decline them or we can accept them. We can remain in the boat – in our planned, safe, logical life. Or, we can climb out at his invitation, take his hand and experience something we could never have imagined.
I know it’s scary, but the good news is, the more you know Him, the more you will trust Him. The next time He asks you to get out of the boat, it will be just a bit easier because you have been there. You have experienced His faithfulness, and you believe deep down in your soul that He is Who He says He is. That’s what I learned…
So the next time you sense God inviting you to step out of your boat in faith, take the risk. Even though the waves are high and the winds are strong, remember who He is. Remind yourself of His promises, fix your eyes on Him, and climb out. He is so worth getting to know better. He is all powerful. He is wise. He is loving and He is more than capable to see us through.