Whitewater rafting has given me a new-found respect for Peter. Now, Peter gets a lot of criticism for his act that day on the wind-tossed seas. We tend to go on and on about how he started to doubt and took his eyes off Jesus, then he started to sink. But you know what? Peter was the only one brave enough to get out of the boat in the first place. Peter was the only one with enough faith to give it a try.
And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. - Matthew 14:22-33
I'm sure that the water on the Nantahala River was a babbling brook compared to what the disciples were facing that night. Still, I didn't want to be out of that boat. The water was choppy and VERY cold. I knew how strong the undercurrent was, and I had no desire to get pulled under. Nope! I was content to stay in the boat. If Jesus had come to me that day and asked me to walk on the water with Him, I don't know that I would have had enough faith to get out of the boat. What if I fell? What if I sank? What if the snakes got to me first? What if . . .?
But Peter got out of the boat. Picture this scene. The lightning is flashing so bright that it temporarily blinds all who witness it. The thunder booms. The wind tears at your hair and your clothes. The waves toss your boat up and down, to and fro, reminding you of the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair. The rain beats down so hard that you can barely see the ghost-like form coming closer. At first, you are afraid, but then, above the noise of the storm, you hear a voice that you recognize. It's Jesus . . . or is it? Before you realize it, you speak these words, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. You have no idea where the words came from, but Jesus beckons you, and now there's no turning back.
What would you have done in Peter's place? Would you have gotten out of the boat? Would you have put all your faith into the man that stood before you? Would you have shrugged away your thoughts and fears and instead simply obeyed? Unfortunately, had I been there that stormy night, I probably would have stayed in the boat with all the other disciples. Peter may have lost his faith in the midst of the storm, but at least he had faith to start with.
The next time we want to pick on Peter for his lack of faith, let's stop and examine our own lives. Let's take a good look at our own faith and see if it is where it needs to be. I think we'll find that we have no room to criticize Peter. Peter took the first step. Have we? Peter forsook all safety to get closer to Jesus. Have we done the same? How strong is our faith today? Can it withstand the storms?