Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 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.” When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
This is a story that so overflows with lessons, there is no shortage of things we can choose to reflect upon. Let us look at what Peter says in today’s story. When Peter saw Jesus walking on water, he, like the other apostles, thought it was a ghost and felt afraid. Then, when the “ghost” said: “Take heart, it is I, Jesus, do not be afraid,” Peter was suddenly filled with this desire to do what Jesus was doing, and he said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Three things implicit in this single statement he makes offer some tremendous life lessons, especially for us today. Lesson one: make sure it is the Lord. Jesus has warned us several times to beware of counterfeit messiahs. In the last days, Jesus said, “if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:23-24). So, how can we recognize them? By their fruit, not by the miracles they work, and by the things they say. Please read Matthew 7:15-20 and Acts 17:11 to gain a deeper understanding.
Lesson two: make sure it is the Lord talking to you. As you are probably aware, there are three spirits vying for our attention: the Holy Spirit, the evil spirit, and the human spirit. All three speak to us, and it can sometimes be hard to discern whose voice it is. The human spirit wants what it wants. And the evil spirit can do a pretty good job pretending to be holy; remember, he was the angel of light (see 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). So, how do we tell the difference? A simple rule of thumb I use is asking myself whether what the voice is telling me to do will bring me closer to God. An ancillary rule I apply is ensuring it doesn’t break any command in Scripture, which means we need to know it.
Lesson three: make sure the Lord commands you to do what you want to do. We may want to do many things, even good things, for good purposes, but if it isn’t what the Lord wants, we could be in for a rough time. There were a couple of times in the early days of my ministry when I enthusiastically jumped into things without checking them with God first. It was such a struggle that I was determined never to do anything again without getting the go-ahead from God, and things have worked out beautifully.
And here is a bonus lesson: Make sure that God is with you, even if he gives you the go-ahead. In Exodus 33 — please read the entire chapter; it’s a short one — God tells Moses to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. After an extended conversation, “Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). Moses goes on to say that the people needed to know that he came from God and that God’s favor rested upon him. Even though Peter was still apprenticing, he instinctively understood these truths. As he began to practice them in everything he did, he began to do the impossible.
If we keep these things in mind, we will make the impossible possible.
May the Spirit be with you.