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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus walking on water’

I can still remember a terrifying ride called ‘Space Mountain’ I went on almost forty years ago while visiting Disneyland. Time and again, our carriage would teeter at some high point, then plunge headlong into the darkness below, suddenly veering this way, then that. I remember holding onto my glasses for dear life, in case they flew in one direction as I flew in the other!

I would never want to repeat the experience—yet, this past week, I realised this is exactly what happens in my faith journey at times. One minute, I can be standing firm, full of trust in God—yet the next, I am tossed around, worrying about everything and wondering whether God can indeed help.

This realisation came while reading again the account of how Jesus—and Peter—walked on water (Matthew 14). At first, the disciples are all terrified, not only because of the huge buffeting their boat is experiencing on the lake, but also because they think Jesus is a ghost (25). Straight away, however, Jesus lovingly reassures them:

But Jesus immediately said to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (27)

Peter boldly speaks up then, even though he doesn’t seem completely sure it is indeed Jesus.

Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said. (28-29)

Peter does just that—yet soon fear takes over and he cries out for Jesus to save him, which Jesus immediately does. One minute, Peter is brave and bold, the next so doubtful and afraid, as he flounders around and begins to sink (30-31).

Yet Peter’s whole journey of faith in Jesus was a similarly huge rollercoaster at times too.  Not long after his walking on water effort, we read how he boldly declares that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God—at which point Jesus commends him for his faith.

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church … Matthew 16:18

A few verses later, however, we read how Peter is rebuked for expressing his horror that Jesus will die.

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me …” Matthew 16:23

On it goes for Peter, up and down. Not long before Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter declares he will never fall away from Jesus, even if everyone else does (Matthew 26:33). But, just as Jesus predicts, that very night, he disowns Jesus three times—and is utterly devastated. I always feel so relieved, however, when I read how Jesus appears to Peter and the other disciples after his resurrection and fully reinstates him (John 21). Despite Peter’s denials, Jesus shows complete trust in him and lovingly commissions him to take care of his sheep, which Peter then does with great courage, as we see throughout the early chapters of Acts.

I wonder if you, like me, can relate all too easily to Peter and his rollercoaster ride. Yet I am so encouraged that Jesus persevered with him and continued to show faith in him. And I am so grateful we too can experience that same undeserved love and grace today and feel that firm grip of Jesus’ hand as he reaches out and rescues us time and time again, aren’t you?

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At the moment, I am making my way yet again through my current novel, checking for errors and tweaking this and that to make it the best I can. It is painstaking work—and it seems to have gone on forever. But each morning, as I open my laptop and go to the relevant document, I am cheered by the polite, little greeting that awaits me there. On the right of my screen, I always see a little box that says happily:

Welcome back! Pick up where you left off.

How encouraging is that? But recently, that little message did more than cheer me up and inspire me to pick up where I left off with even more determination. It also alerted me to open my ears to hear what God might want to say to me. It was as if God highlighted that little box on my screen so that I could not miss a much more important message it contained.

Then it hit me. In an instant, I sensed God saying: ‘That’s exactly what I’ve said to you so many times over the years, Jo-Anne. Whenever you have pulled back from following me for a while and gone your own way, but then turned around and repented, I have always been there waiting for you with open arms. Time and time again, like your laptop does each day, I have said to you, “Welcome back! Pick up where you left off.” What a joy it has been to offer you forgiveness each time—and how good it is to pick you up and help you stand firm again!’

Then my mind went to the Apostle Peter’s story in the bible. I love Peter. He seems such a full-on person—always the leader, opening his mouth on behalf of the other disciples and stepping out when others might well have feared to. I love how he was brave enough to get out of that boat and walk towards Jesus on the water (Matthew 14). I love how he realised early on that Jesus was the only one worth following and the only one who could offer eternal life.

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:68-69

I love too how he declared he would never deny Jesus, fully thinking that was true—and I always feel sad when I read how he did deny him, then wept bitterly over it (Matthew 26:75). But later, when the resurrected Jesus appears on the shore as Peter is fishing with the other disciples and proceeds to provide them with breakfast, I hold my breath at what unfolds. Three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loves him. And three times, Peter replies, Lord, you know that I love you (John 21).

Can you imagine how Peter must have felt, as Jesus treated him in such a loving way and reinstated him to be the strong shepherd and leader he had called him to be? What grace Jesus showed him that day! And what grace Jesus shows each of us today, whenever we turn back to him, as he says with such love: ‘Welcome back! Pick up where you left off.’

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For years I drove my family crazy. At regular intervals, I would come out with statements such as the following:

‘I’d like to write a book one day.’

‘Oh, I could write my Great Australian Novel in that beautiful spot!’

‘You’ll see. One day I’ll write my own novel.’

Eventually, our older daughter got tired of hearing me talk like this. For my birthday, she gave me a pile of books on how to write, plus a bookmark she had made herself, with a picture of a steaming cup of tea on it and a little sticker that said ‘Write your own!’

So I did—although it took me over twenty years to get around to it! I still have that little, handmade bookmark and often take it with me when I speak somewhere. I use it to encourage others not to ignore the dreams God has put in their hearts and to step out with courage and do whatever it is they have longed to do.

Recently, I met someone who wants to write and has even planned out her first novel. But as for actually starting on the writing itself—well, that’s another matter. Somehow it’s all just too scary for her. What if she finds she can’t do it? What if she discovers, after months of effort, that she has been wasting her time?

I understand how she feels—as would many writers, I believe. Even now, with seven books published, I find myself a little reluctant to launch into writing that eight book. I want to write it, with all my heart. I believe I have something worthwhile to say in this book. I fully intend to write it and have even begun, but it’s amazing how many other tasks I decide I have to do first! Yet I know from past experience how wonderfully fulfilling it is to give myself over to writing and allow those words to flow out onto that screen, to see those characters and storyline develop or to be carried along as a non-fiction book takes shape.

So what’s to be done?  You may not intend to write a book in 2014. Perhaps it’s the last thing you could imagine yourself doing! But we all have things in our minds that we would like to do—some day.  Sometimes we even know in our hearts it is what God wants us to do, yet still we are reluctant to rise to the challenge and respond to that call on our lives. Maybe we all need to take to heart more Paul’s words in Colossians 3:23-24 during the coming year:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Will 2014 be the year for you, like Peter in Matthew 14, to step out of that boat that represents safety and familiarity and instead walk on the water towards Jesus? Will you listen when Jesus looks straight at you with such love and speaks that one strong, encouraging word, as he did to Peter—‘Come!’?

I hope you do. I hope I do. God is faithful. May we be equally so.

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