Healthy relationships are investments that require our time, effort and commitment. The health of any relationship is contingent upon the degree to which individuals invest in them so, whenever people take more than they give to any relationship, it will die.
Either the relationship will come completely to an end or the intimacy, communication and acceptance needed to feel supported and loved will wane. In other words, the potential for the relationship to grow into and manifest what it is designed for is compromised when individuals do not give of themselves to it.
Similarly, God will allow each of us to live on the level we choose in our relationship with Him. He is always ready to draw near to us, as and when we draw near to Him. However, God respects our free will. If we choose not to submit and obey, God gives us that option, but there will be certain consequences.
The first generation of the children of Israel who walked across The Red Sea with Moses did not experience the fulfillment of God’s Promises in their lives. Numbers 13-14 reminds us that they died in the wilderness because of their refusal to adjust themselves to what God said and obey what He was telling them.
Up to this point, God had provisions for them in the wilderness every step of the way. But this time, God was asking something very different from and of them.
The people were right at the Promised Land. There were enemies in the Land. God told them that victory was guaranteed and He would be with them but they had to fight.
The people had to plant their seed of faith very differently in their relationship with God. The people had to make God’s Word priority above and beyond what they even said to and about themselves and act on God’s Truth in obedience. This was the only way they would grab a hold of the complete fulfilment of God’s Promises in their lives and experience His Miraculous Power.
Unfortunately, the people refused to let go and shift their focus to who God said they were, who God said He was and would be to them, and surrender to what God was telling them above and beyond their independent thoughts.
In order to become all of who God has created and redeemed us to be through Christ and experience the manifestation of His Glory and Power in, with, to, and through us, we are going to be challenged to give to God.
The time will come when He will create, ordain and require something different in our lives. God is going to call us to get out of the boat.
The boat of our comfortable religious platitudes, convenience and independent ways of doing life and sprinkling a little Bible, God-talk on top.
God’s command to get out of the boat is His placing a necessary demand on us, our faith and our obedience. Getting out of the boat is a demand that pushes us into a spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical position. As we move into and stand in this position, we experience God’s Presence, Provision and exceeding and abundant Power that only happens when our faith is stretched in this way.
Bonhoeffer writes, “He who is called must go out of his situation in which he cannot believe, into the situation in which, first and foremost, faith is possible” (1959). I believe the following encounter between Peter and Jesus exemplifies God’s demand on our faith.
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14: 22-31 (NIV)
When God is telling you to get out of the boat and is placing a demand on your faith, we can look to Peter’s exchange with Jesus to apply the following in our lives:
Recall Matthew 14: 24 tells us “the waves and wind” were against the boat. The disciples wanted to do what Jesus told them to do-get in the boat and go to the other side, however the wind made it difficult. If they turned back, that would mean disobeying God. A God who they all professed their love for.
Here, the waves and wind represent the resistance to doing what God tells us. The resistance to obeying God may come in the form of external situations or even our own internal circumstances.
I believe it is the internal circumstances or dialogues -the things that we say to ourselves about what is happening in our lives and what God tells us- that are the most impactful to our obedience. So many will testify to loving God and wanting to live a life that pleases Him, yet Jesus tells His disciples in John 14 the true test of loving God is to keep His commands and obey His Word.
It is easy to assert our love for God when all is going well, but what about when all hell is breaking loose? When life is and has gotten away from you, when God tells you to pray for that person who betrayed you and hurt you like no other, do you still obey what God tells you to do in His Word? What about obeying when you are dealing with grief, loss, heartbreak, disappointment and even feeling angry with God?
One of the most important things to remember during difficulties is God’s Word. If you do not know what God says in His Word about Himself, about you, and about what you are facing, it will be all the more difficult to obey God. It will also be a struggle to prioritise what God tells you as greater than even the things you say to yourself.
If what you are saying disagrees with what God says, you need to adjust not God (Romans 3:4). He isn’t asking you to deny or ignore your circumstances, but instead shift your focus, thoughts, and your mind in praise and worship to the Truth of who God is and His Word as greater than your circumstances.
Get in God’s Word and find key scriptures that are specific to what God says about your situation. Meditate on those and SPEAK that Word out loud with your mouth.
The Bible tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. As you continue to adjust yourself, your will, your thoughts, your behaviour to obeying God’s Word, You will see Him show up in your circumstances.
Notice, Jesus was watching them after He gave them His Word. Jesus went up to the mountain to pray for them. Romans 8:34 reminds us that Christ sits at the right hand of God interceding for us. Christ is praying for our faith to persist, for us to not shrink back.
God knows that we are not perfect. And He does not expect perfection from us, this is why we have Christ. But what God does expect and want from us is that we will keep our eyes on Christ Jesus, what He has overcome, and surrender ourselves under His Lordship and Authority in our lives to keep going.
We press forward in Christ’s Strength and enablement, not our own. I want to caution you though, as you press forward in this way, hold fast to God’s Word but remain very open to how He manifests His Word in your life. In other words, when God shows up in your circumstances, His Presence may not look and feel like what you expect or want. Remember, God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours.
The disciples were frightened when Jesus came to them and you too may have a response of fear to what’s happening, but I want to encourage you that its okay to feel fear. Fear is a natural human response to circumstances and situations, however God does not want you to live in fear or for fear to become part of your personality, influencing your actions in a way that pulls you out of faith.
God has given us a spirit of love, power and a sound mind not fear, and we are reminded of what Jesus did when He saw the disciples respond in fear to His Presence. He calmed them with His Word, His spoken Word.
Jesus told them ‘don’t be afraid, it’s me guys”. In other words, Jesus reminded them that He was right there with them in what He had told them to do. Not only is there the grace to do what God tells us in His command, but when we speak God’s Word it invites Him closely into our circumstances with us.
3. You are going to have an experience with God like you have never had!
Once Jesus told His disciples it was Him drawing near to them, notice what happens. Peter wants to do what he saw Jesus doing: walk on the water. Jesus came to them walking on what was supposed to be stopping them. At His command, Peter gets out of the boat and begins to do the supernatural, the miraculous. Peter is the only human in history to ever have walked on water. Peter walked on the problem that was supposed to be the obstacle. I believe Peter’s walking on water was one of the necessary points of the disciples’ exchange with Jesus in this passage.
When God tells us to get out of the boat, He wants to give us a new experience of Himself. God wants to take us to a different and higher place in our relationships with Him. When God commands us to get out of the boat and obey His Word, in the midst of our circumstances, He is positioning us so that He can show up and do a new thing (Isaiah 43:19).
God’s Glory is revealed in our letting go of our own independent thoughts, shoulds, preferences, etc to His Word. As we do this, we step into an unknown, unfamiliar, uncomfortable space and place like we’ve never seen or experienced with God. There’s a place we need to be in with God, and this placement is a mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical position.
What God wants to do, is often contingent upon us planting our seed of faith, in hope and belief that we can trust what God says through our obedience.
As long as Peter remained in this position with God, he experienced the miraculous. The minute he shifted his attention to the winds and external circumstances, he began to sink. Jesus was right there to stop him from drowning and God does the same thing with you and I.
Peter had an encounter with Jesus that was available to the other disciples as well, but rather than experiencing a miracle for themselves, all the other 11 could do was talk about witnessing Peter’s miracle.
There are times when God allows and orders your steps into circumstances, storms and trials because He wants to give you a fresh encounter with Him. Peter was willing to get out of the boat in a way that the other disciples refused to allow themselves to be stretched.
My hope for you is that as life continues to happen and it most certainly will, that you will give yourself the permission and freedom to surrender and give to God in all things, in all ways.
It is okay to let go of wanting to know it all or have it all figured out prior to obeying God. You will never know or have it all figured out. God does this on purpose and uses the tests, trials, and circumstances to teach us to walk by faith and not by sight. The longer you hold on to wanting to have all the details, the more your relationship with God won’t grow.
You will never get out of the boat.
Bonhoeffer, D. (1959). The Cost of Discipleship. New York, NY: Touchstone.
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