If You Want To Walk On Water...
October 24th 2018
Recently I have been observing increased fervor over an old Christian adage, “if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to step out of the boat.” The intent of that little quip is grounded in some truth and it relies on Matthew 14:22-32 in order to paint an illustration in our minds that one can easily relate to.
Realize that none of us is going to walk on water in this lifetime – to think otherwise would only betray one’s poor theology. I did, however, find myself reflecting for a number of days upon the intent behind this catchy phrase and I thought I would offer a perspective for your consideration.
If one were to spend just minutes researching this catchy tag-line - “if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to step out of the boat” - they would quickly cross paths with 21st-century Christianese that sounds something like the following:
“Out on the risky waters of faith, Jesus is waiting to meet you in ways that will change you forever, deepening your character and your trust in God.”
“As unlikely as it may seem, real security comes when we step out of the boat and learn that God can be trusted fully.”
“To experience the power of God in your life, you've got to take a step of faith.”
“The choice is yours to know him as only a water-walker can, aligning yourself with God’s purpose for your life in the process.”
Again, there’s an ounce of truth in each of those examples provided above, but before you go calling yourself a “water-walker,” take a moment to reflect upon some simple truths that are outside of yourself, focused upon the attributes of God, and stunning in their conclusions.
What we, as human beings created in the image of God, know in our every day experience is that we can’t have knowledge without a constant. Think about that for a moment… Knowledge demands a constant. We, as sin-stained human beings, enjoy building up edifices. For example, within science we develop mathematical models and the truth of the matter is that we can’t have science today without having some form of mathematical modeling. What we often forget, however, is that mathematical modeling presupposes constancy. Scientists and engineers work in this space all day long. Whether it is building a skyscraper, programming a computer, or mixing chemicals in a lab, there is a dependency upon a constant at every turn. The problem is that that scientist or engineer never once gives any attention to the most obvious fact of what they are doing, and that is their reliance upon constants.
As we place that understanding side-by-side against Scripture, the student of the Bible eventually realizes that the problem that Scripture presents finite man with is that his or her constants will sometimes be interrupted. Did the worldwide flood interrupt some constants? Did a virgin birth interrupt a few constants? Will Christ’s Second Coming interrupt a number of constants that we, as human beings, rely upon each day of our lives?
The Bible demands that constants have and will be interrupted and that fact destroys the basis of all human knowledge. One of the most fundamental equations of all time is the equation for gravity - (g = F/m) – known as Newtonian gravitation, speaking to a gravitational field or acceleration. There is an equation for you – g = F/m. There is an example of a constant. As students of the Bible, the question we must ask is, “what happened to “g” when Peter asked the Lord to command him to step out of the boat?” Where was “g” during that whole incident? The Lord commands Peter to step out of the boat, and we need to appreciate that Peter had a tremendous understanding of “g” within that moment. Peter had grown up on that lake. Peter was a fisherman. Through the business that he ran upon it, his entire way of life focused upon that lake.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that Jesus did not command a tax collector or a political activist (a zealot), men without “sea legs,” to walk on the lake. He commanded a fisherman, someone who was native to the lake, to walk on the water. That was the type of person Jesus told to walk on the lake, but what we really need to recognize is that at the moment Christ commanded Peter to walk on the water, a major problem was presented within that precise moment of time.
There is a tension that is forced in a split-second that we need to recognize and we need to appreciate. All of Peter’s life, his knowledge structure had been built on constants. At the moment Christ said “Come” to Peter, He was in effect saying that He was going to tell Peter to do something that cut across every one of Peter’s constants. We must appreciate the transaction that happened at this point.
As students of the Bible, we must visualize Peter in that moment. Peter has all his decades of various experiences. They are experiences that confirm his constants. Then, in one brief moment in time, there is One who calls him to step out of the boat, and at that point where Peter takes his first step, we have to ask the question, “where has Peter relocated his constant?” At that very moment in time, with the waves crashing and the wind blowing, there is a crucial transaction that happens and it is a transaction that goes far beyond anyone’s willingness to minimize that Biblical account by calling Peter a “water-walker”.
In the account provided in Matthew 14:22-32 something has shifted within Peter. Peter has shifted to trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as more than his constants. These are constants that dictate the order and balance of our universe and Peter, in that split-second, has recognized that those constants can and will be interrupted. At that moment in time, a critical transaction occurred that is an elementary particle of faith. There is a giving away of finite baggage and all of a sudden a person casts themselves into the hands of God. That’s what “stepping out of the boat” is all about - it’s to break down the confidence of finite man and his own finite production, and to transfer his faith onto the character and attributes of God. That is what is promised in Scripture, and it’s a tremendous transaction that takes place in a Believer.
As long as you believe, as an autonomous being, that a constant must be under your control, you will never, ever step out of the boat. You cannot step out of that boat without trusting the immutability, the omniscience, the omnipotence of God as being more constant than your constants. He is more stable than your elements of stability. He is the archetype of true stability and what He has recorded for us in His word has and will come to pass. I for one am looking forward to the next “interruption”. Where do you stand?