Our Christmas holiday has passed, and this weekend we are all scrambling to come up with the resolutions that will help us begin a New Year early next week. For what has past and for what is yet to come, I am sure there were as many wishes seemingly unfulfilled as there are lights and pretties on this period-decorated Christmas tree.
Are unfulfilled wishes God’s way of saying “no,” a sign that what we wished for wasn’t exactly in line with God’s truth or an indication of our own lack of faith? Surely there are as many answers to that question as there are people asking the question, but let’s address the latter possibility.
I love what we can learn from the people who bless the pages of scripture. Some of them, as Hebrews tells us, are heroes of the faith. Others are obvious villains. All of them, with the exception of Christ, are utterly human.
Peter is one of these oh-so-human heroes. He is chosen to be the cornerstone of Christ’s church, and yet he denies he even knows Christ three times on the night that the Messiah is taken into custody.
One of Peter’s earlier moments of heroism-made-relatable occurs when he reaches out in faith and yet still stumbles. Oh, the lessons we can learn from patterns such as this.
The setting is Matthew 14. Jesus has just fed the five thousand and sent His disciples out on their boat while He stays behind for some quiet time with God. When He is ready to re-join the others, He begins walking on the water.
Of all the disciples, stuck on a boat in the middle of a sea, Peter alone cries out a challenge of faith that he doesn’t even realize he is not yet ready to fulfill. He asks of Jesus, if He be the Christ, then let Peter walk out on the water to join Him. Even though Christ already knows what is going to happen, He tells Peter to come and join Him.
Peter takes a few proving steps, but then the wind picks up and carries away the bit of belief that is keeping him above the waves. He begins to sink and cries out. Jesus IMMEDIATELY reaches out and lifts Peter up, asking His disciple, “Why do you doubt?”
When I read this interlude, a story I’ve read many times before, for yet another time this week, I was struck by two things. One, that even Peter, who had the initial courage to take Christ at His word and risk himself to walk on water based on that belief could not yet sustain his own faith in order to stay above water. Walking by faith obviously takes practice.
The second thing that stands out for me is that Christ IMMEDIATELY reached out to lift Peter up, even as He pointed out to Peter exactly what was causing him to stumble, “Why do you doubt?” Even though I have evidence in my life over and over of situations and difficult times that God has seen me through, why do I still doubt? At the same time, shouldn’t I be able to take even more water-walking steps of faith when I remember that Christ is there to IMMEDIATELY catch me?
I pray that my New Year’s resolutions be prayers based on faith and that they are in line with God’s will. May your resolutions be equally blessed, even water-walking challenges. May 2013 be the year where faith helps us love God first and everyone else with the love we hold for our innermost selves.