Bible Verse: “Shortly before dawn 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. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”. “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water”. “Come,” he said. 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!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Matthew 14:25-33.
I have a friend in California with whom I often correspond. He, too, occasionally speaks at his church. One day he and I were messaging back and forth about the difficulty of remaining positive during these very uncertain times. As we were texting, I was reminded of one of my favourite TV shows from a few years ago called “Canada’s Worst Driver”. People were nominated by their friends or loved ones to go on the show to help them improve their truly abysmal driving skills. At the start of the show, these drivers would get into a shiny new car to compete in various driving challenges. Before each challenge, they would get help and instructions from professionals in order to help them maneuver through the course. Then I would sit there cringing at the sound of paint scraping on concrete and metal being tortuously bent out of shape. My favourite segment was when they tried to negotiate a tight course between Styrofoam obstacles. Repeatedly, they would plow through foam mannequins and destroy foam archways with dramatic effect.
Then the trainers would explain their problem: we human beings have a tendency to go where we are looking. Our natural instinct is to focus on the problem at hand, in this case the Styrofoam archway, but this results in the car hitting the danger far more often than avoiding it. Once the drivers learned to look away from the obstacles and look for the opening, they repeated the challenge and the difference was stunning. With this simple change in focus, most participants completed the course perfectly.
That was Peter’s problem, too, in the verse from Matthew 14. When he was focused on Jesus, he was able to do what no man had ever done before, which was to walk on top of the water. Out of the fury of the storm, the wind and waves lashing at Peter, Jesus said “Come”. Focusing on Christ alone, Peter stepped out of the boat and walked towards Jesus. But like most of us, his attention eventually strayed to the storm boiling around him, and he took his eyes off Jesus. At that point, Peter began to sink, and he called out to Jesus to rescue him.
Too often, many of us are just like those pitiful drivers or like Peter. We go about our lives dealing with the problems or challenges that we all face daily, trying to do it in our own strength and wisdom. We see the problems pile one on top of the other, and it seems like no matter how hard we struggle to overcome them, there is yet another bill to pay, another argument to settle, another doctor to see. Our anxieties mount, our confidence lags, and we feel overwhelmed by the storms of life.
But Jesus says, “Come”. Never mind the walls and the obstacles. Never mind the wind and the waves. “Come”. Focus your eyes on Him and He will help you deal with the uncertainties, the vagaries, and the challenges of life. When you feel overwhelmed and sinking, call out to Him and He will reach out His hand and land you safely in the boat. Thanks be to our Lord and Saviour!
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.