Get Out of the Boat

March 14, 2015

Here we are in Week seven of our old school Sunday
School series and during that time we have see Jesus lost in the temple,
baptized in a river, heal a paralyzed man and a blind man and mediate a sibling
rivalry. 
And that’s what happened when Sunday School was being
taught, each week a new bible story would be taught and explored in a wide
range of classes.  But before the
children went to class they would go to the Assembly, and that was a time of
singing, many of the songs that we have sung over the past seven weeks, and
they would have played games
 
And
not just any games but games like “Sword Drill”.  How many people know what a sword drill
is?  It is based on Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest
two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It
exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 
The kids would hold their bibles and the Sunday School
Superintendent would call out scripture references and the kids would race to
find the reference in their bibles and then they would jump up and read the
verse.  That was how a whole generation
learned to find things in the Bible. 
This was also the time that children would be recognized for memorizing
their memory verses for the week.  And
that was how a whole generation learned to memorize bible verses.
Of course both of those were dependent on the children
bringing their bibles to Sunday School, which was of course dependent on the
children having a bible.  Brilliant
concept!
And in most Sunday Schools having a flannelgraph in
every room just wasn’t in the budget and that was ok because everyone was
learning the same story so a story teller would use the flannel graph in the
opening for all the different ages.
(Tell Flannelgraph Story)
The entire world just disappeared.  One minute it was there and the next minute,
there it was gone.  Well not really but
it seemed like everything else had ceased to exist, and all there was left was Peter,
the sea and Christ.  It had started off
as another boat trip across the Sea of Galilee for the twelve while Jesus
stayed behind, it was a beautiful evening, with a star filled sky and then
bang, a storm blew up from nowhere.  What
was it that Yogi Berra said, “It was like deja vu all
over again.”  Peter remembered
another boat trip across the same stretch of water when a storm had blown up
and threatened to swamp their boat.  The
difference being that this time there was no Jesus to stand in the bow and
rebuke the wind.
And so the disciples desperately struggled against the
storm as they made their way slowly across the lake.  A short trip soon turned into an epic
journey.  The daylight had fled in the
path of the impending night and the sunset had been a crimson slash across the
western sky ushering in a heaven like black velvet studded with chips of
diamond.  But soon the stars were hidden
by an increasing number of clouds and the wind whipped the shallow depths of Galilee
into a boiling cauldron of froth.  They
were bow into the wind and it seemed that every metre had to be fought for and
bought with a price.  But they had been
through worse and survived, after all they made their living on the sea, but it
was a lot more fun without the gale force winds. 
Then it happened they’re struggling at the oars,
they’d had to pull the main sail down to keep it from being torn to shreds, and
somebody said “what is that?”  Well talk
about freak city.  There was somebody
walking out there.  No there couldn’t be
he had to be in a boat, nope there wasn’t any boat, “it’s a ghost” somebody
yelled, and well there wasn’t a great deal of time for consultation it would
appear that was the consensus.  What
next?  First they were battling for their
lives in a storm, now they have a ghost walking on the water?  When Peter had said earlier “cheer up, things
could be worse” he didn’t entirely expect things to get worse.  Well there was only one thing left to
do.  So they did it, they screamed, in
fear. 
But a familiar voice came across the water saying “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” It was Jesus, and I’m sure
that Peter was thinking “I hate it when he does stuff like this”  I kind of like the NKJV translation here because Jesus say’s “be of good cheer”.  Oh,
no problem.  We’ve been in a storm that
been threatening to sink us for the past seven hours, we’re wet and we’re cold,
and now out of nowhere a dude walks across the water and says “hey guys cheer
up”  not a problem.  But then he qualifies his first statement by
adding, “it is I.  Don’t be afraid.”  pretty stiff translation if you ask me,
picture a carpenter saying “take courage! 
It is I. Don’t be afraid”  how
about “hey guys, it’s me and I’ve got everything under control”
Well I don’t know about the rest of the disciples but Peter
believed him because he stands up and shouts into the wind, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the
water.”
Tell you
what that is a Peter statement if I ever heard one.  Well you know the rest of the story don’t
you, Jesus says “Yes, come,” and Peter
crawls over the gunwales of the boat puts one foot on the water, not in the
water but on the water, tests it puts his other foot on the water and starts to
walk toward Jesus.  I wonder what he was
thinking.  There’s spray blowing in his
face, the waves are slapping against his legs and he’s – walking – on – the –
water.  Hot diggity dog, walking on the
water, he can hardly believe it, everything else seems to disappear except for Jesus
and the sea and him. 
Now personally I think the devil showed up about that
time and whispered in Peter’s ear, “hey dummy, you can’t walk on water you’re
going to drown.”  If Peter was like the
majority of commercial fisherman and seaman that I know he couldn’t swim, and
had a fairly healthy respect and fear of the sea and suddenly he realized that
people don’t walk on water,  people walk
under water and so the bible tells us that he began to sink, and that’s where
we come in. 
1) The Storm.  We have to
realize that storms will come in each of our lives whether we are Christians or
not, storms of illness, unemployment, financial set back, martial strife or
death.  Christ never promised us that our
life would be a stroll in the park.
Some of those storms are brought on by ourselves.  If Jonah had of been obedient then he would
never have ended up in his particular storm. 
If you smoke and end up with lung cancer you have no one to blame but
yourself, don’t stand demanding “God, how could you do this to me?”  You cheat on your spouse and they leave you,
that’s a storm of your own making.  You
don’t do your job right and get sacked. 
We need to recognise that some storms are our fault; nobody is to blame
but us.
Some storms are caused by Satan, take for example in Job
1:19 
the storm that killed job’s family was
directly attributable to Satan.  The mobs
that attacked the early church in the book of acts, the crucifixion of Christ
all storms caused by the devil.  But
sometimes we give the devil too much credit and we credit him with things that
just happen.  A family that I grew up
with lost their nine year old son when a mud bank where he was digging a cave
collapsed on him, you lose your job because of a poor economic climate in the
country, you or a loved one gets cancer. 
We need to realize that sometimes bad things just happen and that is
just the way it is.
Some storms come from God or he sends us into
them.  In John’s account of this story he
tells us a little bit about what went on before Jesus sent the disciples out in
their boat.  In John 6:14-15 When the people saw him do
this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been
expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king,
he slipped away into the hills by himself.
Perhaps Jesus knew that the disciples would spend the
night talking about what it would be like if their boss became king, and if
that was the case then just maybe they were being kept busy in the storm to get
their minds off those things.  Sometimes
a storm is our safest place because it demands all of our attention, and
energies, and keeps us from giving into temptation.  My dad told me about being in a little
fishing boat as a teenager with his father when a sudden storm blew up, he was
bemoaning the fact that they had to be at sea and how much nicer it would be on
land and my grandfather told him “oh you wouldn’t want to be ashore now, it’d
be too dangerous a tree could blow over and kill you.  No we are much safer here.”
And sometimes it takes a storm for us to step out of
our comfort zone and do something great.
2) The Rescuer and so
there they are, in the storm, alone and struggling for their very lives.  Their thoughts probably went back to the last
time this happened.  Maybe Andrew said “hey
guys, do you remember back in Matthew 8:23
when this happened and Jesus stopped the storm” and they reminded him that was
fine but where was Jesus now.  And so the
discussion went, made up of little jerks of conversation between waves.  Maybe they decided that they must be out of
the will of God, because that’s the only time that bad things happen to
believers is when they are out of the will of God or when there is unforgiven
sin in their lives right? Hardly.  But
the question must have been in their hearts if not on their lips, “where is he?”
Well when Mark wrote his account of the story he added
this insight, Mark 6:46-48 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to
pray. Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the
lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble,
rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in
the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.
Must have been one of those God things, because it was
dark and they were in the middle of the lake. 
I mean the sea of Galilee isn’t that big but it’s still between four and
seven miles to the middle depending on where you stand, not many people have
that kind of eyesight.  They may have
thought that they were alone but he was there all along.  And when the storms come in our life we’re
not alone either.  But sometimes it seems
like Jesus waits until the night is at it’s darkest to show up, and maybe it
is, or maybe we’ll never know how dark the night might have got if he hadn’t
shown up, or maybe it was simply because he doesn’t always follow our timetable
that it seems like he’s not on time.  How
often are we guilty of praying “Lord grant me patience and I want it now.”
Whatever the reason it wasn’t until the fourth watch
and that’s between three and six in the morning that Christ finally got to the
boat.  And were they thankful? No they
freaked.  I’m sure that they wanting
rescuing, but they wanted to be rescued their way.  They saw Christ walking on the water and they
thought it was a ghost.  Now I realize
that it’s very easy for us to laugh and say “a ghost, how silly can you get?”  I don’t know I think I’d have some serious
doubts if I saw somebody walking on the water in the middle of a storm.  
3) The Walker 
Can I ask you a question?  Sure I can, after all I’m up here right?  When was the last time you took a risk?  Any risk, outside of driving in the
city?  When was the last time you took a
business risk?  When was the last time
you took a personal risk?  When was the
last time you took a spiritual risk. 
When was the last time you got out of the comfy little boat that you
call life and took a risk?  You probably
used to do it a lot more when you were younger didn’t you? It seems like the
older we get the more comfortable the boat seems and the more dangerous the
storm looks.  But life is about taking
risks, it shouldn’t be about playing it safe. 
After all the secret is not who gets the most years in their life but
who gets the most life in their years. 
Maybe Charles Lindbergh said it best
when he made this statement, “I
decided that if I could fly for ten years before I was killed in a crash, it
would be a worthwhile trade for an ordinary lifetime. . . Who valued life more
highly, the aviators who spent it on the art they loved, or the misers who
doled it out like pennies through their antlike days”. 
You say “Preacher Peter really didn’t take a risk” oh
really?  Bet the other eleven guys
thought he was taking a risk, notice that they didn’t get out of the boat.
Every noteworthy contribution every made to society
has started out as a risk.  Beginning
with Adam and eve deciding that maybe cooked food might not be so bad and
trying to figure out how to go about harnessing fire, right up to and including
space travel and beyond.  Human progress
entails risk taking.  It’s easy to play
it safe, but it’s not profitable.  Peter
wasn’t the only person in the bible to take a risk.  Think about how different our bible would be if
Abraham had said no when he was asked to leave everything he had to pursue the
vision of a great nation.  That’s a risk
when you are told that you will be the father of a nation when you aren’t even
the father of a child.
What would have happened if Noah had of decided to
play it safe and not become a boat builder in his old age?  And if David decided that tending sheep had a
better future then fighting giants?  What
if Daniel realized that it was safer to obey the king’s command then to
pray?  And if Mary had of told the angel
that she really wasn’t interested in being a teen age mom because she didn’t
want to take the risk?  What if Jesus had
of come to the conclusion that there was a brighter future in being a carpenter
then being a messiah?  Or if he hadn’t
wanted to take the risk of coming to earth at all?
If the apostles had of decided that it was too risky
to leave Jerusalem after the Holy Spirit had come, would we still be painting
our bodies and living in trees?  If Columbus
hadn’t taken a risk on the earth not being flat would England and Europe be
very crowded now, and Australia and the Americas still belong to their original
owners.  If Luther hadn’t taken a chance
would we all still have a pope?  If Wesley
hadn’t taken a chance would we still have an archbishop? 
If Henry Ford hadn’t taken a risk would we still be
riding horses?  If Edison hadn’t taken a
risk would we still be reading by candles? 
If Graham Bell hadn’t taken a risk would we be living without the
telephone?
The face of the earth and the scope of human history
has been changed by those who were willing to get out of the boat.  Now I know that we can’t all be Fords and Edison’s
but everyone of us has the ability to change our world.  Every one of us has the ability to leave a
mark with our life.  I remember reading
once “if you want to put your life into perspective put your finger into a
bucket of water and then pull it out, that is the difference that your being
here will make” and I am here to say that is wrong, wrong, wrong.  The world is what it is today not because of
what society has done but because of what individual people have done.  And in doing it they have had to get out of
their boat and walk on water.
4) The Sinker  it was only
when Peter took his eyes off Jesus that things got out of hand.  The tight rope walker Tino Wallenda said “when I walk the wire I must concentrate definitely on the other
side.  I keep my eyes straight
ahead.  If I start to look over to the
audience or watch somebody  underneath me
there is a good possibility I could lose my balance.”  In life we need to keep our eyes on the goal
and in our Christian walk we need to keep our eyes on Christ.  It’s when we start watching people that we lose
the balance we need to keep going.  And
so Peter starts to sink and I love what he says, “Lord save me” no fancy prayer
there.  “Oh great and awesome lord,
creator of all things, that which is in the sea and that which is above the
sea, I beseech thee to reach forth thy almighty hand and save this unworthy yet
needful sinker” the man would have drown if he had of prayed like that.
Now notice that Jesus took time to save the sinker
before he rebuked the doubter.  Didn’t
point a finger of accusation instead he extended a hand of assistance.  Take that as an example and when a brother or
sister in our congregation began to sink for whatever reasons don’t stand there
and criticize, help them.
When Jesus said “o you of little faith” he was
acknowledging that Peter had some faith. 
Peter was ready to do something great with Jesus.  And he did he walked on water.  I don’t know how far he walked on water but
it doesn’t matter what matters is that he walked on water. 
Before he sank he did what no other man had done
before and that no other man has done since he walked on the water.  And after Jesus reached out his hand, well he
had to get back to the boat somehow so I suspect that he walked back.  And all in all I think that if I had my
druthers I’d druther be a wet believing Peter, then a dry doubting Thomas.  And Peter was never rebuked for trying.
Are you ready to
take a risk? To live life the way that Christ intended it?  Remember in John 10:10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose
is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Can you honestly
say that you have been living your life to the fullest?  You need to take life by the throat and make
an impact.  Your goal isn’t to live long
it’s to live, it’s not how many years you get in your life but how much life
you get in your years.  Don’t listen to
the whines of those who have settled for a second rate life and want you to do
the same.  It is up to you to make the
choice, will you choose to act or to stand still and watch life go by?  Let me close with a quote by Thomas
Jefferson who said “I’m a great believer in luck; and I find the harder I
work, the more I have of it.”
.