In this sermon, Pastor Neil preaches on getting out of the boat, the story of Jesus’ walking on water and Peter’s attempt to do the same. Here are some excerpts:
The thing about Peter’s faith is this: It was strong enough to get him out of the boat. It was strong enough to enable him to actually walk on the water toward Jesus. But it was not strong enough to withstand the storm, was it? Peter actually walked on the water. In defiance of the laws of nature, he took one step and then another, and walked on the water toward Jesus.
You know what happened next. He took his eyes off Jesus. Peter shifted his focus from Jesus to the storm raging all around him. As long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, he could safely walk on the water. But when he focused instead on the wind and the waves, he began to sink. His faith gave way to panic and fear.
Fear can suck the life out of faith. It was true for Peter. It is true for you and me. We live in frightening times. Danger lurks all around us. There is no shortage of things to be afraid of. Fear can paralyze you. It can keep you from getting out of the boat in which it has trapped you. It could easily have prevented Peter from getting out of the boat. That Peter got out of the boat in the first place says something about the measure of his faith. It was not perfect, not by a long shot, but it was real. He trusted Jesus enough to get out of the boat, and that was enough for Jesus to give him permission to come.
You can let fear defeat you. Writer Dave Barry says: “All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears: of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, of speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words: ‘Some assembly required’” (Quoted in John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, 122). Maybe the fear you live with is one or more of these, especially “some assembly required.” Maybe for you it is the fear of failure. Or the fear of inadequacy. It could be the fear of embarrassment or humiliation. It could be the fear of disappointing someone. Or the fear of being disappointed. Maybe it is the fear of hurting someone. Or the fear of being hurt. It could be the fear of getting stuck. Or the fear of losing someone you love. Maybe it is the fear of COVID or a terrorist attack.
At first, Peter did not let his fear get in the way of his faith. Did he step out of the boat with bold confidence or timid uncertainty? Hard to say. The point is that Peter did get out of the boat. Whatever fear he felt did not prevent him from taking the first step. And then the second…
Even when his faith faltered, when the storm got his attention and he began to sink, Peter did the right thing. He cried out to Jesus for help. And instantly Jesus reached out, grabbed his hand, and brought him to safety.
Is there a boat God may be calling you to get out of? What would that look like for you? Could it be that you have gotten too comfortable in your spiritual life? Or that you are content to be a spiritual consumer, enjoying the benefits of church and fellowship with others, but unwilling to step out of the comfort of your boat to take an active role in ministry? Could it be that God wants you to take a leadership role in the church, knowing it could be challenging and time-consuming? We need some of you to get out of your boat for the sake of Jesus’ name, for the health and well-being of the church, and for the church’s mission in our community and the world. We need you to get out of the boat of your comfort and contentment, instead of depending on too few to carry too much of the ministry load. Could it be that God is calling you to step up to serve?
Getting out of the boat. Pastor Neil has much more to say about this topic. Please click on the link below to hear the sermon in its entirety.