There is a verse in the NT about the disciples that says, “They saw Jesus . . . walking on the water; and they were terrified.” Max Lucado says of this verse:
Faith is often the child of fear.
Fear propelled Peter out of the boat. He’d ridden these waves before. He knew what these storms could do. He’d heard the stories. He’d seen the wreckage. He knew the widows. He knew the storm could kill. And he wanted out.
All night he wanted out. For nine hours he’d tugged on sails, wrestled with oars, and searched every shadow on the horizon for hope. He was soaked to the soul and bone weary of the wind’s banshee wail.
Look into Peter’s eyes and you won’t see a man of conviction. Search his face and you won’t find a gutsy grimace. Later on, you will. You’ll see his courage in the garden. You’ll witness his devotion at Pentecost. You’ll behold his faith in his epistles.
But not tonight. Look into his eyes tonight and see fear—a suffocating, heart-racing fear of a man who has no way out.
But out of this fear would be born an act of faith, for faith is often the child of fear.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” wrote the wise man.
Peter could have been his sermon illustration.
If Peter had seen Jesus walking on the water during a calm, peaceful day, do you think that he would have walked out to him?
Nor do I.
Had the lake been carpet smooth and the journey pleasant, do you think that Peter would have begged Jesus to take him on a stroll across the top of the water? Doubtful.
But give a man a choice between sure death and a crazy chance, and he’ll take the chance … every time.
Great acts of faith are seldom born out of calm calculation.
It wasn’t logic that caused Moses to raise his staff on the bank of the Red Sea.
It wasn’t medical research that convinced Naaman to dip seven times in the river.
It wasn’t common sense that caused Paul to abandon the Law and embrace grace.
And it wasn’t a confident committee that prayed in a small room in Jerusalem for Peter’s release from prison. It was a fearful, desperate, band of backed-into-a-corner believers. It was a church with no options. A congregation of have-nots pleading for help.
And never were they stronger.
At the beginning of every act of faith, there is often a seed of fear.
Biographies of bold disciples begin with chapters of honest terror. Fear of death. Fear of failure. Fear of loneliness. Fear of a wasted life. Fear of failing to know God.
Faith begins when you see God on the mountain and you are in the valley and you know that you’re too weak to make the climb. You see what you need … you see what you have … and what you have isn’t enough to accomplish anything.
Peter had given it his best. But his best wasn’t enough.
Moses had a sea in front and an enemy behind. The Israelites could swim or they could fight. But neither option was enough.
Naaman had tried the cures and consulted the soothsayers. Traveling a long distance to plunge into a muddy river made little sense when there were clean ones in his backyard. But what option did he have?
Paul had mastered the Law. He had mastered the system. But one glimpse of God convinced him that sacrifices and symbols were not enough.
The Jerusalem church knew that they had no hope of getting Peter out of prison. They had Christians who would fight, but too few. They had clout, but too little. They didn’t need muscle. They needed a miracle.
So does Peter. He is aware of two facts: He is going down, and Jesus is staying up. He knows where he would rather be.