Sometimes staying in the boat requires more faith

If you've only listened to Christian radio for 15 minutes in your entire life, you have undoubtedly heard the song by Casting Crowns entitle The voice of Truth:
 Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in, onto the crashing waves.
It is one of an encyclopedic number of songs that laud the faith that it must have taken for Peter to step out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus when a storm was raging all around him. Sure, when he took his eyes off of Jesus, Peter began to sink but it was Jesus who gripped him by the hand and allowed him to stand in the midst of the storm. (Matthew 14:22-33)

Not only is this story recounted in music but I've also heard it preach countless times in sermons. If we could just have enough faith to get out of the boat and trust Jesus, our faith would be stronger and our lives would be richer.

So what about the other 11 guys that stayed in the boat? Were they just a bunch of weak dudes who could not trust Jesus enough? These guys really don't get a bad rap - they don't get much further treatment at all in Matthew's account. But in defense of them, I want to make a bold statement:
The 11 guys who stayed in the boat actually demonstrated more faith than Peter.
In order to show you why this is so, let's walk through the story together (Matthew 14:22-33). As our story begins, we see that Jesus sends His disciples ahead in the boat while He stays behind to send the crowds that He has just been teaching home. After some time in prayer, Jesus decides to go catch up with the guys by walking on the water. Sounds crazy to you and me but not for Jesus. At the same time, they were fighting a pretty big storm and the boat was being battered by the waves. Suddenly, they see someone walking on the water and they all freak out. I probably would too. They cry out in fear, "It's a ghost!" and I can imagine them trying their hardest to steer the boat in the other direction. 

What happens next is that Jesus steps in. He responds to their fearful cries with, "Have courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Jesus immediately identifies Himself to His disciples in the midst of the storm. You can relate to that, right? Right in the middle of all of the chaos that is your life, God reminds you that He is there and that you don't have to be afraid. This is really where the story should end but it's actually where Peter decides to veer a little off course.

You see, Peter's response wasn't, "Whew! I'm glad it was you, Jesus. You had me scared half to death!" Instead, here is what Peter said: "Lord, if it's You, command me to come to You on the water." In other words, Peter shouted back to Jesus the equivalent of "Prove it!"  What happens next is the substance for all of the songs that we sing and sermons that are written. Jesus invites Peter to walk on the water toward Him, which he does until he becomes scared again and begins to sink, only to have Jesus reach out to him to save him from drowning.

Do you see what has gone on thus far? We have Peter doubting Jesus not once but twice. Not only did he ask Jesus to prove that it was him but then he took his eyes off of Him while on the water and almost went under. 

And do you know where the other guys were? They were still in the boat. And they were there not because of a lack of faith but rather because of an abundance of it. They took Jesus at His word when He told them that is was Him and not a ghost. These 11 did not ask Jesus to prove anything. They took Him at His word.

Jesus' next words to Peter firm up this perspective. "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Jesus says these words not to all 12 disciples but to Peter alone. That's because Peter was the one who demonstrated a lack of faith for not trusting to begin with.

Granted, Peter did show courage by walking on the water and trusting that He could just because Jesus had invited him to do so. That makes for better songs than singing about 11 guys just sitting in a boat. And I'm sure that some of the other 11 would have loved to have been able to do that as well. But what kept them in the boat was the same thing that took Peter lacked and cause him to step of out of the boat and almost under water: Faith. 

Kudos to Peter for walking on water. In that we have an amazing example of how God reaches down to rescue us in the midst of our mess. But mad props to the other 11 disciples for not having to test the waters to begin with because they took Jesus as His word. Sometimes it takes more faith to stay in the boat and trust that God has got you secure in the midst of the storm.

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