Jesus made the 12 disciples get into a boat, without Him, to cross the Sea of Galilee at night. Before dawn, He caught up to them by supernaturally walking on the sea. His presence terrified the men, so Jesus said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Peter wanted an invitation from Jesus to come to Him on the water, and Jesus gave it. Consequently, Peter got out of the boat and walked on water toward the Lord.
Why do you suppose the other disciples stayed in the boat? My first response is they weren’t as impulsive as Peter. However true that may be, let’s consider other possible reasons.
Maybe the disciples were afraid of the waves. When Peter took his eyes off Jesus and saw the wind’s effect on the waves, he became afraid and started to sink. If the focus is on ourselves and the negative possibilities instead of on the Lord, we will cower to threatening circumstances. Fearing the “what ifs” of a situation produces all sorts of excuses. Magnifying potential problems instead of God’s power leads to idleness and missed opportunities.
Fearing the unknown is an uneasy feeling that comes from the idea we’ll have to act alone in our own strength and intellect. However, the Lord desires His servants to rely on Him. That’s why He calls those who are not proficient in an area to serve — so they draw close to God and depend on Him to help them through the task. His power is seen best in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The 11 didn’t want to leave the security of the boat. Many Christians are content with their environment. They live comfortably — some in luxury — and are complacent. People don’t want to “rock the boat” and give up their safe zone. Comfy living has a tight grip on many hearts; stepping out in a new way causes anxiety. People like to feel secure and avoid stress at all costs, even if the outcome has great rewards.
Another reason for staying in the boat is the fear of failure. This keeps many people from attempting new things. We are afraid others might think poorly of us and we’ll be embarrassed if our attempts fall short of the goal. We tend to compare ourselves to others in areas of abilities, income, and popularity. We don’t want to look foolish, and if we sink, our reputations do, too. We care too much what others say about us.
Perhaps the other disciples didn’t have enough faith. Even though they had just witnessed Jesus’ miracle of feeding 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish, this setting was risky and took courage because humans cannot walk on water. If a miracle is needed for a situation, one’s faith is tested. Do we believe the Lord will work on our behalf? Will He help us? Protect us? We’re convinced He’s able, but we’re unsure if He will.
When Peter took his eyes off Jesus, Jesus “immediately” reached out to him. At one point in our lives, we may start to sink. We’re not to fear, but to call out to God for help. He won’t let us drown. While we want Him to prevent our problems from happening, God instead allows the storms so He can help us through them. Jesus won’t abandon us when a crisis arises. When we feel the Lord’s presence and strength amid our troubles, our faith develops and matures. God allows our difficulties for a reason, which benefits us later.
Jesus asked Peter, “You of little faith … why did you doubt?” After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Peter’s faith strengthened and his courage was noticed by others. The Lord has repeatedly instructed His servants to “be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Matthew 14:31; Acts 4:13; Joshua 1:9)
Does your faith give you courage?