This is the fifth message of a series on the sea stories of Jesus.
Crossing the water is a persistent challenge to human adequacy. Is there one of us who doesn’t face some gulf that we can’t span? Some flood that overwhelms us? Some distance greater than our weak faith can seem to close?
The lament of David in Psalm 69:1-3 expresses what this can feel like–
Save me, O God;
for the waters have come up to my
I sink in deep mire,
where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters,
and the flood sweeps over me.
I am weary with my crying;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.
There are two inescapable truths in David’s prayer–we must cross through those waters, but only God can take us through.
Here for your encouragement are three stories of crossings from the Bible that tell us that God will take us through and more.
It is the strangest night of cloud and fire. There was windblown grit in our bread eaten beside the sea–the sea that we have never seen before, a wet, cold roar in the dark.
We came boldly to this place expecting freedom. Instead, we are trapped in shifting sand between the impassable water of our future and the unrelenting pursuers from our past.
Our fear is our prayer. Our panicked cries do not distinguish between our Lord and our leader.”What have you done to us? Didn’t we tell you that it would be better to be a slave than to die in the wilderness?”
Our leader is unfazed. “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and you will see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. You are never going to see your pursuers again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”
Moses stretches out his hand over the sea. The Lord divides the water in response.
Into the dark, against the wind and between the waves, we walk where we have never gone before. We are dry and safe all the way across.
The waters close again at first light erasing the terrors that would drag us back.
JOSHUA 3 and 4
It is harvest time. The land is ripe and inviting on the other side of the river. But the swollen flow is fast and icy from Mt Hermon’s melting snows.
Forty years after crossing the sea, we are camped again beside the water, uncertain of the crossing for we have not passed this way before.
What has the long desert journey done for us?
We are no longer frightened, runaway slaves. We have seen the faithfulness of the Lord, carrying us as a father carries his child, and we believe.
The Lord does not part the waters for believers. He expects us to take the step of faith into the churning froth and stand still there even though the current surges and pulls against us.
So the Lord is lifted high and we follow him into the torrent, believing that he will be faithful to us by parting the waters. With that step of faith, the waters stop and heap up in a wall not seen since the dark passage out of bondage on the way to this place.
We mark the spot so our children will remember this grace. Then we quickly cross.
When all of us are safe on the other side, the river runs again, overflowing its banks and watering our new fields with blessing.
We struggle against the storm all night on the sea below the stretch of river that our ancestors crossed to bring us here. Our boat is battered by the waves and nearly swamped. We are in trouble.
Early in the morning, Jesus strolls toward us–on the water.
The storm has terrified us and in our fear we see a ghost. Do we believe in ghosts or in a Savior?
Jesus speaks to us, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
The challenges keep coming. Are we compelled by our fear of the storm or our trust in the Savior?
Peter wants to believe in the Savior. “Lord,” he says, “if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” Jesus says in a voice that rises above the rush of the wind and the waves.
Peter bravely clambers over the rail and steps out on the water. We have no idea what to expect.
The water does not part, but Peter does not sink either. Faith reveals a new possibility when Peter walks toward Jesus.
Peter begins to dwell in his experience. He looks at the wind and the waves and remembers, “I can’t walk on water.”
Frightened, Peter begins to sink with a sense of futility. His need for a Savior moves from a hypothetical to a reality. In the moment when failure destroys illusions, Peter regains his focus.
“Lord, save me,” is Peter’s desperate cry.
Jesus reaches out and catches Peter. His grip is sure. His word is severe– “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
No human can walk on water. Peter at least had enough faith to attempt the impossible. So why does Jesus call Peter out for failing to make it all the way?
Like the crossing of the sea and the river, our experiences with Jesus are meant to move us toward him. When we forget that, the difficult circumstances of our experience–the wind and the waves and our human inadequacy–overwhelm us.
We aren’t told how Jesus gets Peter back to the boat, whether he carries him there or holds his hand and walks with him. It doesn’t matter because it is Jesus who saves Peter, not some method. It is Jesus’ presence that calms the wind. It is Jesus alone who is worshiped at the end of the story.
The outstretched hand of Moses at the Red Sea, the step of faith of the priests into the flooding Jordan, and the step of Peter out of the boat are all pointing to the Lord himself in a progression from desperate need, to mature faith, to an intimate relationship that dismisses barriers altogether.
In every crossing we face, the Lord does not expect us to perform miracles. The Lord expects us to focus on walking toward him regardless of the enemies that pursue us, the obstacles that block us, the storms that threaten us, and the failures that are sinking us. If we maintain that focus, we will be amazed at what we accomplish and overcome along the way.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.