Thursday, April 28, 2016

Losing Faith

 Submitted by Kerry Patton
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?  Matthew 14:28-31
Water Walking by Sight
I’ve never had a problem with the concept of Peter walking on the water with Jesus.  Not to sound silly, but anyone can walk on water if they choose…they just have to let the water get cold enough.  Right?  I had also witnessed little water bugs skating across the top of water when I was a kid.  The relatively low weight of the bug allowed it to effectively walk and run upon the water without breaking through the surface tension of the water.  So, in my mind, walking on the water was certainly miraculous in the biblical account, but completely within the realm of possibility. 
The miracle for me was in whatever it was that Jesus did by the power of God; either to the surface of the water, or the relative mass of Peter, enabling him to walk upon the surface of the water that day.  Key to this process however was the faith Peter had in his Savior.  “…tell me to come to you on the water” he said.  Jesus said “Come” and Peter got down out of the boat, walking on the water…until, that is…he took his eyes off of Jesus and became concerned by the wind acting upon the waves.  Peter saw the wind, as it were, and became afraid.  He began to sink and had to be rescued by the Lord.
I don’t want to over-play the concept, but it does seem very clear to me that had Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he would have in all likelihood, walked all the way to Jesus with no problems at all!  But he didn’t.  He did not keep his eyes on Jesus.  His focus instead fell to what was happening away from Jesus…the wind, and the waves.  He lost sight of Jesus, became distracted by the world, and the miracle that God was accomplishing in him came to an end.  I do find it interesting that there are no further accounts of Peter ever walking, or trying to walk…on water, ever again.  When I get to heaven, I do intend on asking Peter about this.
Barry’s Dilemma
While I was in college, I was blessed to have many dear friends.  One such friend was named Barry.  Barry was not in my freshman class, but upon his arrival two years later, he was immediately adopted by the circle of friends I ran with.  He was by all accounts a good guy.  Barry was highly intelligent and very charismatic as a personality.  He had been raised by Christian parents, and had been involved in his local church and youth group before deciding to attend a Christian college.  Barry was by all indications, a follower of Christ Jesus.
Following college, Barry and the rest of our group graduated and went in different directions in life.  I had my life path and they had theirs.  Through the medium of Facebook, I’ve reconnected with many of my college friends in recent years…Barry included, and recently, he made a startling confession.  He announced that he really hadn’t pursued his faith as a Christian in many years, and he had reached the point that he wasn’t sure he even believed in God anymore.  That confession shocked me.  My immediate thought was to quickly post to his page on Facebook and “convince him” that the Christian path was worth his attention and that God did indeed exist!
But I didn’t.  What happened instead, is an entire community of friends, many of whom I don’t even know came to him and began to encourage him.  Some of them were aware of the struggle that Barry had been through across the years.  They encouraged him to not become discouraged and to weather the storm of his doubt.  He thanked them for their gentle concern and encouraged them to pray for him, even if he wasn’t sure of what it would accomplish.  As I waited in the weeds, so to speak, for my opportunity to reach out to my friend, it occurred to me that over time, my friend Barry had taken his eyes off of Jesus and had become distracted by, if you will, the wind and the waves of all that had been going on in his life. 
It is not my belief that Barry has lost his salvation, nor that God has left him because of some sin or neglect.  Rather, that God is waiting for his child to cry out and renew that relationship of faith.  Barry has effectively taken his eyes off of Jesus, and as days have now become years, he has become unsure of the relationship that he once had.  His confidence in what he had years ago has eroded to the point that he is not sure that any of it was real.  As I consider how to communicate this to my friend, I’m reminded of that great hymn written by Helen H. Lemmel: “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” which counsels:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.


Almighty God, When Peter doubted he fell in the waters, but he cried out and you saved him.  When Thomas doubted, you appeared and comforted, and restored his faith…and on both occasions, you did so by restoring the faith of those who had doubted.  Reach out to my friend Barry, and minister to these reader friends of mine as well.  When we suffer doubt, O Lord, catch our eyes and renew our faith in you once again.  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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