One of the classic biblical examples of faith in action is the story of Peter walking on the water. Let’s read his story and see what we can learn from it.
And immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat, and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And after He had sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already many stadia away from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” (Matt. 14:22-33).
It is significant that Jesus’ disciples had been caught in another violent storm in a boat on the Sea of Galilee sometime earlier (see Matt. 8:23-27). During that incident, Jesus had been with them, and after He calmed the storm by His rebuke, He then rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith. Before they had embarked on their journey He had told them that it was His will that they go to the other side of the lake (see Mark 4:35). When the storm arose, however, they were more persuaded by their circumstances, and at one point believed they were all going to die. Jesus expected them to at least not be afraid.
This time, however, Jesus sent them across the Sea of Galilee on their own. Surely He was led by the Spirit to do so, and surely God knew that a contrary wind would arise that night. Thus the Lord allowed them to face a small challenge to their faith. Because of those contrary winds, what would have normally taken just a few hours took all night. We have to credit the disciples for their endurance, but can’t help but wonder if any of them attempted to have faith for the winds to be calmed, something they had seen Jesus do just a few days earlier. Interestingly, Mark’s Gospel reports that when Jesus came walking to them on the water, “He intended to pass by them” (Mark 6:48). He was going to leave them to face their problem alone as He miraculously walked right by! This seems to indicate that they weren’t praying or looking to God. I wonder how many times the Miracle-Worker walks right by us as we strain at the oars of life against the winds of trouble.