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Doubt in the Midst of Great Faith

The story we’re about to consider is amazing. It is literally one of those stories where you could say no one has ever done this before and be stating the truth. It’s a story of great faith shrinking in the face of the impossible to a small faith that cries out for rescue.

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This blog post is part 54 of the series Seven Invisible Barriers to Spiritual Growth

A Miracle in the Making

We need to take a moment to set the stage in order to better understand our story. It begins with massive crowds following Jesus into a secluded place. He was ministering to them and healing the sick.

They have been with Him for three days and they are running out of food to eat. Jesus tells the disciples to give them something to eat. All they can find is five loaves and two fish. He orders the people to sit down in groups and the disciples begin to pass out the food.

The crowd consists of 5,000 men and who knows how many women and children. A miracle took place as Jesus multiplied the food to feed everyone and also have twelve baskets full of leftovers for the disciples.

Jesus, who knew that the crowd wanted to forcibly make Him king, withdrew from them to the mountain to be alone and pray (John 6:15). When evening came, the disciples got in a boat intending to go to Capernaum.

A Fierce Storm

This is where the story begins in earnest. The twelve disciples are in the boat expecting a nice ninety-minute boat ride home. After traveling about three miles a strong wind begins to blow. The sea becomes rough and starts battering the boat.

The storm was so rough and the wind was so strong that they could make little or no progress. They were stuck in the middle of the lake and could not move.

They are tired and wet and struggling to keep their boat afloat. The wind is shrieking and the waves are tossing their little boat around like it was a toy. I can imagine the fear that some of the disciples felt. Not all of them were fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John.

I remember being caught in one of those surprise storms. One minute you are focused on catching some Walleye and the next moment your only concern is getting to shore as fast as you can.

I remember the fear that started to grip my heart as the rain began to fall and the winds began to blow. As the waves grew higher and higher my stomach began to lurch. My hands gripped the side of the boat so I wouldn’t be thrown to the floor and I prayed that I wouldn't be sick.

My ordeal only lasted about half an hour and I could see the shore getting closer and closer. The disciples were stuck in the middle of the lake for over eight hours. They were literally battling for their lives throughout the night and unable to gain any momentum toward shore.

A Storm Without Jesus

This wasn’t the first time the disciples were caught in a storm. The other time they were leaving Capernaum and going to the other side of the sea. This time Jesus is with them. He is so exhausted from ministering to the crowds that constantly sought Him out that He is sleeping.

A terrible storm breaks out. The waves are so high that they are breaking over the boat. The disciples believe that the storm is too great for them to survive. They wake Jesus out of His sleep and cry out, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”

Jesus then asks them a shocking question. He says, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”

I wonder if the disciples are like me? The answer that would instantly come to my mind is, “Can’t  you hear the wind? Can’t you see the waves? Can’t you see the boat is full of water and we are going to die?

Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea and they instantly become perfectly calm. No wind. No waves. Just perfect peace.

The disciples are amazed. I would be too. They had seen it with their own eyes. One moment the wind is howling and the waves are crashing over the boat and then the next moment there is perfect peace.

The only problem is that Jesus wasn't in the boat. They were there by themselves without Jesus. The wind just kept blowing and the waves just kept on coming.

Then the disciples see a figure walking on the water. They're greatly frightened and scream that it is a ghost. But it’s not a ghost. It’s Jesus.

Peter Goes for a Walk

Jesus tells His disciples to take courage and to not be afraid. Then Peter says, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

I am not sure why Peter said what did, but he said it. He asked Jesus to command him to come to Him on the water.

I wish that the Bible would let us in on the thought process that was taking place in Peter’s mind. What made him think of asking Jesus to walk on the water? Jesus is standing there. The wind is still blowing and the waves are still pounding against the boat, but Peter asks to come to Jesus on the water.

I know that many people see Peter as impulsive and brash. I see him differently. I see him as a man filled with a passionate faith in Jesus. He believes in Jesus with all his heart. It is Peter’s faith that sometimes gets him into trouble.

He didn't have to say what he said. He could have hung out in the boat with all the other disciples waiting for Jesus to come and save them, but he didn’t. I am not sure why he asked Jesus to let him come to Him on the water, but it certainly does not show me a person who lacks faith.

The amazing thing is that Jesus tells Peter to come.

Peter climbs over the side of the rocking boat and puts his feet upon the tossing waves and begins to walk. Peter is walking on water. Peter is walking on water.

This is incredible. This is amazing. This is a miracle that I can safely say I have never heard happening before or since. Peter walked on the water in the midst of a terrible storm. What a man of faith.

Peter has Second Thoughts

Step by step Peter was making his way to Jesus. Then it happened. He started feeling the wind that was whipping at his face and clothes. He started to feel the size of the waves that were rising and falling beneath his feet. He began to have doubts.

He had an incredible faith in Jesus to ask to come to Him on the water, but he began to have second thoughts. He was so sure when he was on the boat. He was so certain when he climbed over the side. He didn’t doubt as he walked those first steps toward the Lord.

In the back of his mind, he started to think about what was taking place. He was walking on the water. But the wind is so strong. He was getting closer to Jesus. But the waves are so high. What on earth was he thinking? Why did he ask Jesus to do this?

Fear began to rise up from his heart. His faith began to dwindle. As he felt his faith leave he felt the water closing in around him. He started to sink. He was going to drown. He was going to die.

Peter went from mountaintop faith to valley-floor doubt in a matter of minutes. It just proves how easy it is to move forward in great faith and struggle in the midst of faith with doubt.

Yet even in the midst of his doubt, Peter believed. As he began to sink He cried out, “Lord, save me.” He still believed in Jesus. He still cried out in the midst of his doubt and Jesus saved him.

Jesus reached out His hand and took hold of him. He said to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

As Jesus and Peter reached the boat, the wind stopped. Everyone in the boat worshipped Him. They made the first group declaration that Jesus was the Son of God.

Ask God for the Miraculous

One great lesson we can learn from Peter is to ask God for the miraculous. Peter was not acting rashly or impulsively in the sense that he saw Jesus, jumped over the side of the boat without thought, and began to sink.

He was not acting presumptuously and expecting Jesus to provide a miracle for him. Peter asked Jesus to command him to come. Once Jesus told him to come, He stepped out of the boat and began to walk on the water.

Ask God for the miraculous. Ask Him for big things. He may just say yes.

Jesus isn’t stingy. He is not holding back on you. He has given you everything you need for life and godliness. If you need a miracle, ask.

Begin to ask and believe God for the miraculous and you may begin to see more things happening through your life as Jesus says yes.

Keep Your Eyes on Jesus

Another great lesson about faith is to keep your eyes on Jesus. Peter started losing his faith when he looked at the wind and the waves. Remember the wind and the waves were there when he asked to come to Jesus and when he stepped over the side of the boat and started to walk.

The wind and the waves did not stop prior to Peter beginning his walk on the water. They were there all the time. Once he began walking and he shifted his attention from Jesus onto the waves. That is when he began to sink.

I am not saying that we ignore the circumstances that we face. Faith is not walking in denial. Faith is trusting in Jesus despite the circumstances.

A perfect example of this is Abraham. Romans 4:16-23 says:

16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. 18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” 19 Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; 20 yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.

Did you notice how Abraham contemplated his body at age ninety-nine and looked at deadness Sarah’s womb, yet he continued to believe? He was not ignoring the facts of human limitations. He saw how old they were and still believed God.

Peter looked at the waves and allowed fear to rise up and begin to control his faith. He could have looked at the waves and trusted in Jesus and kept walking.

Facts are not the enemy of faith. Faith can look at the facts and still believe in the God who can change those facts. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. He saw his son Isaac with his own eyes.

Even a Little Faith in Jesus Goes a Long Way

Peter had great faith when he stepped out of the boat, but little faith when he returned. Peter’s faith shrunk the closer He got to Jesus. Jesus rebuked him for his little faith. But it was that little faith that cried out to Jesus when he was sinking into the water. It was that little faith that allowed Jesus to grab Peter and walk him back to the boat.

While I want each and every one of us to have great faith. There are times we may struggle with little faith. It is still amazing what can happen when we have a little faith in a great God.

Jesus said to the disciples:

For truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)

Whatever size your faith is, put it all in Jesus. He is the one in whom you can trust.

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About the Author

Terry Tuinder is the co-founder of Experiencing His Victory. His experience includes thirty-one years of pastoral ministry, an earned Doctor of Ministry degree from The King’s University, and nineteen years involvement in deliverance ministry. He helps people grow in their relationship with God.

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