Nicky and I made big plans when we bought our house. We planned, saved and were able to accomplish several projects before we had any children. (Highly recommended!)
One of those projects was our living room and hallway. There was this really ugly paneling nailed to the walls. We loved to hate it! It was so awful the dog had to hang her head when she walked through the living room!
For the sake of the dog, we pulled it all down, prepped and repaired the drywall, and put a fresh coat of paint on the walls! Both the living room and the hallway had such a better look and feel to them!
The next phase of the project was woodwork and trim. We wanted wainscoting on the bottom of the wall, chair rail on top of the wainscoting, and then a baseboard. No problem! We bought the wood, sealed it, and began installing it. After a solid Saturday of hammering trim to our freshly NON-PANELED walls, the project was done. I sat back in my chair (those were the days when we each had our own chairs and no kids taking over the furniture) and triumphed over how well it all turned out and that it was finished.
Until my lovely bride looked over at me and said, “Um…Honey…It’s not finished”
On most all occasions I love whatever comes from my bride’s mouth! I just do! But this…this was not one of those occasions. This was one of those occasions where I knew WHAT she was going to say and I DIDN’T want to hear it.
“There are still a lot of nail holes that need set and filled with some wood putty. You need to follow through and see the project to the end.”
Ugh! Noooooooo! I’d rather have my toenails pulled out with a pair of pliers! My bride knows that I can easily start a project, and get it ALMOST done, like 99.99%. But I get distracted and never finish it…eventually leading me to start another project BEFORE fully completing the first one.
“It’s done enough…isn’t it?” I said with such a sweet and loving husbandly voice.
“Nope!” she said with a NOT SO SWEET loving voice. The job is not done until it’s done.
“But! But! But!” I whined! “Wouldn’t it be awesome to go ahead and start the bathroom? It really needs attention!”
I so thought I had her! She really didn’t like the bathroom. One word – paneling. And guess what? It was ugly too! Bathroom walls were covered with this bane of my existence!
“Nope!” she replied! This time, it was said in that tone of voice that every man who’s been married long enough recognizes. It sort of strikes an odd fear in you, but you never admit it!
Interestingly enough, this narrative in my life reminds me of the time that Peter walked on the water with Jesus. Peter started out on this faith test well! But he ended up distracted and didn’t finish it like he probably thought he would. As we will find out, though, while he does sink in a moment, it is a sinking success. And the same can be for us as well. Just read on!
Let’s briefly set the scene. Jesus has just finished feeding the 5000 and has sent the disciples away on a boat ride. Meanwhile, Jesus heads up the mountain to spend some time with his Father. During the night, a storm brews and the Bible says that the wind and waves were beating against the boat. The disciples, already likely frightened, see something even more alarming – a ghostly figure coming across the sea. As it gets closer it speaks and says,
“Be encouraged! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27 CEB
It’s Jesus coming across the water toward the disciples! Could you imagine being one of the disciples in that boat?!?! Not only would it be “freak out mode” as a result of the storm, but now I have this ghostly figure coming across the water claiming to be Jesus. I mean, how many of us would have REALLY been all like,
“Oh, it’s ok…It’s just Jesus! He’ll save us!” Be honest now!
Well, Peter IS exactly like that! In fact, he takes it a step further! He responds to Jesus with,
“Lord, if it’s you, order me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28 CEB
Not only does Peter have the faith to believe it’s Jesus, he has the confidence to ask Jesus to order him to come out onto the water! He has full confidence that Jesus will hold him up and enable him to do something humanly impossible!
And Jesus simply says, “Come.” Matthew 14:29 CEB
Peter gets out of the boat, walks toward Jesus, and probably has the biggest smile on his face. I mean, walking on water had to feel amazing! Not only is he doing something humanly impossible, he’s enabled to do it by the Son of God!
Peter is doing great…Until he’s not when distracted by the wind.
“But when Peter saw the strong wind, he became frightened. As he began to sink, he shouted, “Lord, rescue me!” Matthew 14:30 CEB
So if he’s looking at the wind, what’s he NOT looking at? Right! Jesus!
A side observation here. Giving in to temptation works the same way. Our eyes are cannot be looking at Jesus if we are giving into the lusts of our hearts. If they were on Jesus, we wouldn’t be giving into temptation. It’s really super simple!
Back to the story. He takes his eyes off the One who’s enabling him to do this amazing thing and begins to sink in his success. At that moment he cries out for a lifeline from Jesus, and Jesus responds!
“Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him, saying, “You man of weak faith! Why did you begin to have doubts?” Matthew 14:31 CEB
Did you see that word? It was “begin”. It indicates that at some point prior to Peter’s sinking, he did not possess doubt in Jesus. From the time that Peter responded to the ghostly figure to moment right before he moved his eyes away from Jesus, he had full confidence! No doubt! No room for it! It was all Jesus, baby!
I will get all excited about a new adventure that I know is a God thing! And I know it’s all Jesus. There’s no way I can humanly do it without him. Maybe it’s a change he wants to make in my life or something new he wants me to do. It could be giving up an old habit or starting a new one. Whatever it is, I start with enthusiasm only to be distracted and I fail to follow through. Most often it’s doubt. I doubt I can do this thing He’s asking of me. I doubt He can help me do this thing He’s asking of me.
Bottom line? Distractions will give birth to doubt every time when we allow them. It is us that makes room for them in our hearts. They pull our attention from that which enables us to do what is humanly impossible! We stop doing the things that kept us initially focused on and filled with Jesus. And we too notice the wind.
Maybe you’re discouraged. You feel like a failure because you’ve been in this cycle too many times. Somewhere along the way, you’ve noticed the wind. Several times perhaps. You’re distracted. It gets hard. It’s too much that He’s asking of you! You doubt…and you’re fed up with it.
You’re not alone. I’m right there with you!
Well, back in the boat, the wind and the waves immediately respond to Jesus. Everything was calm. Everyone was OK. But most significantly, everybody was changed.
“Then those in the boat worshipped Jesus and said, “You must be God’s Son!” Matthew 14:33 CEB
Everybody was changed. They all had an encounter. Encounters like that change you. You cannot walk away from an encounter with Jesus and not be changed unless you have doubts.
Out of all the disciples, Peter more so than any of the others experienced this change. While Peter had a rising success on the water, he also experienced a sinking success. He failed by being distracted and doubted. But it didn’t keep him discouraged. He grew. God used this opportunity to nurture Peter’s faith and confidence!
And that’s the practical for us. The times when we are distracted and we doubt, we sink. That’s reality. But they are not absolute failures. They are opportunities for us to experience a sinking success!
Peter grew. His level of maturity deepened. His confidence in Jesus was infused with more resolve. And the same applies to us. God demonstrates a nurturing love toward us and desires that we grow deeper in him. And when we do, our confidence increases. And we resolve to stay focused on and filled with Jesus, keeping our eyes on the One that enables us to do what is humanly impossible.
Walking on water was exhilarating for Peter. The illustrative side of this is each time we say yes to Jesus, we get to experience the same. No, we don’t walk on water, but the exhilaration is there when we realize it is Jesus that is enabling us to do what is humanly impossible. But we need to remember there is usually an opportunity for us to be distracted…and to doubt.
It happened to Peter. It happens to me. And I’ll bet it happens to you as well!
And that’s why I’m glad that when we doubt, Jesus rescues. Peter became distracted and doubted after having full confidence in Jesus to enable him to walk on water. And even in the doubts, Jesus rescued Peter. And he does the same with us!
Remember those nail holes. Yea, they are still there. And the bathroom? Did it. Nicky indeed put fear in me with her tone, but it just became easier to deal with that, forget finishing the nail holes, and move forward to start the bathroom.
My point? We can do that with restoration projects in our physical house. But it doesn’t work with our spiritual house.
It is absurd to expect God to take me further and deeper when I haven’t been faithful with the last point of restoration He desires in me. Distractions. Doubts. They hinder that progress. And we can find ourselves stuck at that point of hinderance until we shout “Lord, rescue me!” and believe that He will. That requires a relinquishing of our will and responding obediently…no matter what. It’s scary. So was walking on water for Peter I’m sure. But I’m also sure of this; if you asked Peter if it was worth it, every time he would reply with a resounding “YES!”
So let me leave you with a question. What distracts you and keeps you from walking on the water with Jesus? Your past? Fear of the future? A battle of the wills? Whatever it is, respond obediently to the Holy Spirit no matter what, focusing your eyes on the One that enables you to do what is humanly impossible!
And you too will reply with a resounding “YES!” It was so worth it!