This weekend, I took a trip with three close friends to a little place called Cannon Beach on the Oregon coast. One of the places where I feel closest to God is when I’m near the ocean. I don’t know what it is, but something about being near it makes me realize how big God is and how small I am. Sitting on the sandy, rocky coast of Oregon and watching the tide come in and out always makes me feel connected to the Lord in a special way. I think that’s why I love Hillsong United’s song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” so much. It reminds me that life is like an ocean. Sometimes it’s calm, and sometimes it’s stormy… And sometimes Jesus will call us out to walk on it anyway. “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” was inspired by the story of Peter walking on the water, which is a story that I think is really awesome. Pause reading this for a minute and go refresh your memory in Matthew 14:22-33. It’s worth reading again no matter how many times you’ve heard it, in my opinion.
A quick recap is that Jesus has just gotten done teaching a crowd, and he goes to be alone and pray. He tells the disciples to go on ahead of him, but a storm takes their boat far from the shore. When Jesus is done praying, he walks on the stormy water to get to the disciples. They’re all afraid because they think they’re seeing a ghost, but Jesus tells them not to be scared. Peter says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Jesus does, and Peter walks on the water to him. However, Peter gets scared and begins to sink. Jesus saves him immediately, though, and they get back on the boat. All of the disciples are amazed and worship Jesus after this. There are several things in this story that I think are absolutely amazing and useful for our lives, so I wanted to share some of them with you.
The first thing I’ve noticed in this story is that when Jesus is present, fear is out of place. The disciples are being tossed around on a stormy sea. They are afraid for their lives, and they are even more afraid when they think a ghost is coming toward them. The circumstance they are in says that they have every right to be afraid. The first thing that Jesus says to them, though, is, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (ESV). Notice that he doesn’t say, “Take heart; I’m going to calm the storm. Do not be afraid,” or “Take heart; you’re all going to be fine. Do not be afraid.” He simply says, “Take heart; it is I.” In other words, he doesn’t tell them that they don’t have to be afraid because he’s going to save them. He tells them not to be afraid simply because he is there. The disciples were expected to find strength and peace in the presence of Jesus, and so are we. 1 John 4:18 says that perfect love casts out fear. In the presence of Jesus’s perfect love, there is no need for us to be afraid. He doesn’t have to tell us his methods or promise that the storm is going to calm down right away, and we shouldn’t demand him to do so before complying with what he says. His presence alone should be enough for us to not be afraid and trust that things will turn out okay.
Secondly, Jesus sometimes calls us to do things that make no earthly sense. Think about it. Peter stepping out of that boat didn’t make any earthly sense at all, did it? Everything pointed to him stepping out and sinking like a stone. But he had an idea – he wanted to walk to Jesus. Sometimes God places desires on our hearts that don’t make any earthly sense, either. All human signs point to us failing miserably if we take the leap. You may be afraid of the things you feel God pressing on your heart to do. You may think that they’re impossible, that you could never accomplish them. Trust me, we all feel like that sometimes! If we’ve been called, though, we have to have enough faith to take the step out anyway.
Lastly, when the Lord calls us to do the impossible, he empowers us to do the impossible. I think when people talk about the story of Peter walking on water, they usually focus on the fact that he doubted and sank. But you know what? I just think it’s amazing that he walked on the water at all! How many of us can say we’ve been able to do that? The desire was on Peter’s heart to walk out to Jesus on the water. He called out to Jesus for confirmation and received it. Jesus called him. So when Peter stepped out of the boat, he was able to walk on the water. He made sure that he was really being called before he did anything, which is important for us to do, as well. As soon as he received that affirmation, he stepped out and was successful. Isn’t that encouraging? I don’t know what desires God has placed on your heart, but I do know that they might seem impossible and scary. Let me reassure you, though, that if God has called you to do something, he will make it possible for you to do. There’s a saying that I’ve heard and love: God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
I would encourage you today to listen to Hillsong United’s song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” and remind yourself of this story whenever you feel you’re being called to something. If Jesus has called you, you will never fail by obeying him. He will never call you into something unless he is going to make it possible for you to accomplish it. Be encouraged that you are an important part of God’s plan, and he has things in mind for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Don’t miss an opportunity to advance God’s kingdom because you’re too scared to get out of the boat. With Jesus, you won’t fail. Take the step out. Walk on the water.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters.
Your sovereign hand will be my guide where feet may fail and fear surrounds me.
You’ve never failed, and you won’t start now.
So I will call upon your name and keep my eyes above the waves.
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace, for I am yours, and you are mine.
Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.
Hillsong United, “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”