Here’s a scenario I would like for you to consider, you just left the doctor’s office and was given a list of foods to avoid and then you go to a family dinner only to discover that the entire list is on the table-you know you shouldn’t eat it but you’re enjoying the evening with your family something you seldom get to do, an evening with your loved ones who you don’t see everyday and so with this in mind you go ahead and go against the doctor’s directions. Later, you go back to the doctor’s office as a follow-up and he or she admonishes you for not doing what was instructed and causing a delay in your treatment. Why? Because you were distracted.
You go to church on Sunday morning instead of you being blessed and listening to the message you lose focus because you are listening to a baby cry, watching others walking during the sermon, etc., and the moment you focus on them you miss out on what the man of God has prepared to preach. You leave church saying to youself that it was a good service– you did get something out of it but you just cannot say exactly what it was that you got out of it. Why? Because you were distracted. Have you ever considered just how big a menace distractions are in our lives?
Distractions have caused people to lose their jobs, strained relationships, and has even caused a few divorces. When we are distracted we are here, but really not here. Now days there are so many us vigorously staring at our smart phones; checking our email, our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts. Our bodies are present, but are minds are on the other side of town; absent from the now. We are absent because we are distracted. How often have we read those horrible and heart drenching accounts in the news about a child being injured oftem fatally because his or her parent was focusing on something else rather then their child if but for brief moment?
It tears me apart every time the commercial on TV is shown of a dear mother holding a picture of her daughter and pleading to our young people to not do what her child did by texting and driving which resulted in a fatal accident on the freeway. One of the worst and most serious of all distractions is our fears. If there is something that we are afraid of, it more than often takes up most of our thought process. We tuned into our fear or fears and can hardly concentrate on anything else. Have you noticed that the world is much different than it used to be, we are faced with threats all around us these day. My heart goes out to the families of the victims of Boston marathon bombing just last week and to all the violent actions that has taken place in America prior to this tragic incident. America has become a very different nation since September 11, 2001, because of the constant threat we are under by people who resent our belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. We look around and see many frightening things: gang violence, rape, child abuse and abduction, weapons of mass destruction, et cetera.
We face the fear of losing a job in a shaky economy, the threat of illness, the haunting fear of death, and the uncertainty of life. And all too often we allow these life distractions to succeed in taking our eyes off of Jesus, to the point we become just like Peter here in text, his faith faltered and he almost drowned. There are three reasons why Peter’s faith faltered:
1. HE GLANCED AT THE STORM
Just after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus sent the disciples away in a boat to the other side of the sea of Galilee because He wanted some time alone for prayer and rest. While Jesus was on the mountain, the disciples were already a pretty good distance away because the strong wind and waves buffeted (tossed about with great force) the boat. Can I paint a picture for you? The boat was tossed about so ferociously until they felt much pain and anguish, and to top it all off the storm came while the disciples were working, in other words the storm came while they were doing exactly what Jesus told them to do. Storms are impartial; they are not selective; they come to the rich and the poor, men and women, black or white; and storms do not care whether or not you are doing what you are called to do, they come just the same.
All of a sudden they saw someone walking toward them across the waves, they saw someone actually walking on the water and quite understandedly they were frightened out of their wits. They thought they were seeing a ghost, Bishop Paul Morton asked a great question concerning this, “Why is it we always imagine the worst?” maybe it was because they were already physically exhausted; they have been struggling against the storm for hours now. They’re lives have been threatened, and they were struggling for survival. The storms of life has a way of making us struggle and leaving us mentally drained doesn’t it? The storms of life has a way of overwhelming us too. Here’s a thought for us to ponder for a moment. Most of us know that life is full of difficulties and distractions and if we know that life is full of difficulties and distractions, why are we sometimes almost overwhelmed by them? All of a sudden out of the clear blue sky they saw what they thought was ghost.
They were extremely frightened and on the brink of total shock, it could have been the death angel as far as they were concerned because the storm had them believing that this was absolutely their last day on earth, during this horrible but brief moment in their lives Jesus was not even being considered by them. We should not turn back when storms come, no matter how terrible the trial because Jesus Christ is able to take the trials of life and make opportunities out of them. All of a sudden a voice, a familiar voice shouted out: “It is I; don’t be afraid”, wonderful words, words that we ourselves want to hear on a daily basis.
Words that gives us the reassurance of His presense in our lives. Words that are being expressed by Him to us right now, but unfortunately many of us either refuse or just cannot here these Words coming from our Lord because we are distracted by the storms of life and for a few of us at least, Jesus is not even being considered. However, here in the text, Jesus gave assurance of His presence in the midst of the storm and it was a great encouragement to the disciples. And here’s your shout, whatever you’re going through today, Jesus is still giving the assurance of His presence in the midst of your storm and as soon as you take your eyes off of the storm you will indeed be able to see His presence for yourself. But as long as your glance is on the storm, you will run the risk of overemphazing the situation.
This is exactly why Peter’s faith faltered, because he overemphasized the situation. Eventhough the disciples were encouraged, they still were not quite sure. Some of us are like this, we are greatly encouraged when we here a Word from God on Sunday mornings but as soon as we leave the church, we get a sense of not being too sure, we know what the preacher said was correct and it was from the Word of God, but we think that it just doesn’t apply to our life. How often do we forget that true worship really begins after the benediction? After the benediction, when we leave the church building and prepare to go a few more rounds with the devil. Peter’s hope was stirred up: he knew could be saved simply by the presence of Jesus Christ. He requested permission to join Jesus but Peter was not asking to join Christ because he loved Him, although he did love Him. Peter at the moment was more interested in being saved from death; Peter knew that Jesus had the power to save him.
2. HE BEGAN TO SINK
Jesus said, “Come” He was not merely granting permission, He was commanding Peter to come. Let’s not miss this, because this is a picture of salvation—when our hope is stirred up and we come to the realization that it is Jesus who can save us, it is then that He commands us to come and as we begin to walk towards Him we have to pass over the turbulent winds of life; these winds serves as a constant distraction to us and if we are not careful they can cause us to take our eyes off of Jesus and place our eyes on the circumstances and situations that are besetting us at the moment. So often we take our eyes off the Lord, because of a troublesome supervisor or co-worker, marital difficulties, rude and judgmental people—some of them sitting next to you in the pews or even looking at you from the pulpit, unfair situations, life’s problems, et cetera. The lesson here is quite simple— just keep your eyes on the Lord and you won’t go under!
Notice what it says in the passage: “But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid” Peter became possessed with the problem of walking on the water but in the midst of the wind and the waves he failed. Peter had his eyes on Jesus and it was only when he took his eyes off of Jesus and glanced at the storm did he start to sink—Peter almost drowned! I want to emphasize this point clearly and over again, as long as he kept his eyes of Jesus and did not concentrate on the problem everything was alright. When the ten unfaithful spies reported to Moses that the Promised Land could not be taken they were possessed with the problem. They did see that it was in fact a land flowing with milk and honey. And they did know that it was God Himself who promised it to them, but they were so possessed with the problem that they referred to themselves as grasshoppers with no ability to complete their task. The late great Rev. C. L. Franklin once said, “If you think you’re a grasshopper then you are a grasshopper!” if you think that all things are not possible to those who love the Lord, then your realm of possibilities will be greatly diminish.
Caleb and Joshua, however, saw the problem and refused to be possessed by it. They gave an optimistic report, knowing with all assurance that they had the greatest known help to mankind being God Almighty Himself! Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and looked instead at the winds and the waves and he begins to sink. As long as he looked to Jesus in faith he was able to succeed in walking on the water. Now you may not be interested in walking on the water, but if you are facing many of life’s distractions, now is a good time to look beyond them and look to Jesus Christ in faith.
3. HE CRIED: LORD, SAVE ME
In our way of thinking, we might wonder what in the world was Peter thinking when he inquired to walk on the water? We wonder why he even said, “If it’s really you, tell me to come across the water to you?” Why did Peter do this? What inspired him to want to leave the relative safety of the boat eventhough it rocked back and forth, and get out there in the waves with Jesus? What made him believe the voice that said, simply, “Come”? What in the world led him to believe that he could join Jesus when he knew very well that he was made of flesh and bones with absolutely no spiritual abilities whatsoever? What was he thinking?
Here it is, when Peter heard that voice, the voice that first said, Take heart, and then, gently, Come, he knew without a doubt to whom he was listening. He had learned to know that voice. He might not trust his eyes because the waves was most likely splashing vigorously upon his face and clouding up his vision; but he trusted his ears, and more importantly, he trusted his heart. That was the voice of his Lord and he knew it; loved it and trusted it. And so when the voice said “Come” Peter went. Let’s think about this for a moment: Peter is the only disciple sure enough of Jesus’ voice to speak to him in the storm. Peter is the only one bold enough to go out of the boat to Jesus. Peter is the one humble enough to cry out for help when his own strength fails him. That’s right, it takes humility to cry out to Jesus for help.
Peter, a man made of flesh and blood just like you and I, begins to walk on the very surface of the water. How spectacular can this be? Well actually, it is indeed spectacular but there are some people who love the Lord and trust Him so much that they accomplish this on a daily basis. No they don’t walk physically on the surface of the water but spiritually they pass over the turbulent waves of life; they are able to keep their eyes on the Lord always, and to not give a glance to life’s distractions that inevitably could drown them. However, here in the text Peter has a momentary lapse in faith, all of a sudden, he turns his attention away from Christ, he becomes distracted by the storm around him, he begins to sink. He cries out in complete desperation, “Lord, save me!”
Did you know that there are many people around you who are crying out these very words? They may be someone sitting next to you in Church, a co-worker, a friend, a relative, or even your own self. Lord save me! It might not be an audible cry; you might not see it by looking at the expression on their faces but they have a constant cry for the help of God in their life. There is a time in almost everyone’s life when their heart cries out to God. When life’s distractions manages to get the better of them and without the Lord they just don’t know what to do. And so as a result, they cry out to Him. One of my favorite preachers of all time is Dr. Charles Stanley and he said, “The pressures of life can get to us all at times, and in those moments, it’s key that we cry out to God for help.” He said, “Whatever draws me to God it’s got to be for my good”, in Psalms 34: 17 says, “The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.” A simple application of this verse is if I am child of God all I have to do is call Him and He will answer.
When Peter cried, “Lord, save me…” immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and saved him.
Did you know that there is power in crying out to God? He may allow crises in the lives of people so that He can fulfill the promise of Psalm 50:15 which says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” He is anxious to deliver those who call upon Him. Not only should we call on Christ, we MUST call on Him! Why? Only He has the power to save us from ANY difficulty, but we cannot experience that power until we actually call on Him. There are times when life’s distractions seem so great that they almost drown us. But when we remember to simply keep on our fixed on Jesus, when we remember the old spiritual, “Woke up this morning with my eyes stayed of Jesus”; when lean and depend solely upon Him, this is when He comes to give us new strength and fresh blessings, and we come to fully realize that He is for sure a help in times of trouble. Amen.