Change is difficult for most of us. It can be scary because we don’t always know the outcome of change. If we try a food that we are unfamiliar with we risk missing out on something we know and love. A new job, a new way of doing things, living in a new community, trying a new ministry, or a new way of worship can take us out of our comfort zone. Leaving our comfort zone can be scary because it usually means that taking a risk.
Sometimes we know that change needs to happen, but there is some uncertainty that surrounds it. Perhaps our ministries are shrinking or our church is in decline. Maybe giving is down or the church is having trouble finding leaders to fill key positions. Or, maybe we aren’t seeing the conversions or baptisms that the church used to see. In these situations, I think that we intuitively know that change is necessary, but change can be a daunting task. We may not know what to change or how to go about making the changes, not to mention that it inevitable involves risk. Most of us spend our lives actively trying to avoid risk.
When I consider the need for change or contemplate taking a risk, I meditate on the story of Jesus walking on the water and then inviting Peter to do likewise. The disciples were afraid of what they were seeing. Peter wasn’t convinced he was seeing Jesus. In the midst of uncertainty, Peter stepped out of the comfort of the boat into something brand new in a moment of faith. He successfully walked on water while his eyes were on Jesus. For a brief moment the miraculous happened. Then Peter took his off of of Jesus and he began to sink. He was the saw the wind instead of keeping his focus on Jesus and he faltered.
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.” – Matthew 14:22-33
Peter took a risk and a truly amazing thing happened. He refused to stay in the boat and for a brief glorious moment, he achieved what no one else had ever done before apart from Jesus. Who knows what may have happened had his eyes had stayed fixed on Jesus. Truthfully, how many of us would have been brave enough to step outside of the boat,? Would you take a radical step of faith that would lead to something truly remarkable in favor of staying where it is safe and comfortable? If we want to see the remarkable hand of God at work, then we must take faith filled steps and embrace the need for change
We must evaluate by asking the question, “What keeps you stuck in the boat?”. Is it sin? Is it our fear? Are you simply unwilling to let go of the comfort and safety of the boat? I would guess that it is probably some combination of these three things that keep us from ever venturing outside of the boat. As I have contemplated this passage over the years, I always find myself focusing on the word “Come” spoken by Jesus. When Jesus calls us to step out in faith are we ready to answer the call, even when it means something in our life must change?
Peter had to step outside the boat in order to take those few miraculous steps. He needed a change of scenery to respond to Jesus’ request to “Come”. What needs to change for you to take a faith filled risk? Do you need to confess a sin or give up a sinful behavior? Do we need more time in prayer or Bible Study? Do you need to put aside your worship preferences to help reach out to others in your community? Is there a declining ministry that you are involved with that should be set aside so that something new can be started that might be more fruitful? Maybe there is an idol in your life that needs to be eliminated. Is God calling you begin a new ministry or asking you to leave an old one behind? Whatever it is, don’t be afraid of change.
Change is inherent in faith. We believe Jesus changes peoples lives. If that is true then change will be a regular part of our lives. As Jesus said in verse 27, Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” When a faith filled risk is before us, let us not be afraid, but step out of the boat in faith.
Questions for reflection?
- What keeps you “stuck in the boat” when you know a faith driven change is needed?
- Do you let fear be at the center of your decision making process?
- What is one are in your life where you can take a faith filled risk today?