If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat

Matthew 14:22-33

A few years ago Julie, my wife, and I went to see a wonderful movie entitled “We Bought a Zoo.” It starred Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, and it’s the true story of a man named Benjamin Mee and his children who bought a 30-acre zoo. He had all kinds of animals, but was unable to open it because it was so rundown. Faced with a series of challenges, he attempted to get it open again for the community. Rat infestation, finding money to feed the animals, animals escaping – it wasn’t easy. Mee admitted at one point, “There were lots of times when I thought, ‘What have I done?’”

So why did Benjamin Mee buy and remodel the zoo? In the film he says, “Sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it.”

That is about how long it took for the apostle Peter to get out of the boat in our story for today. Jesus has just fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes. They are ecstatic about the great powers Jesus has! The disciples are ecstatic as well. The crowd wants to make Him a king, and the disciples are probably nodding their heads saying, Why not?

So Jesus breaks up the party and makes the disciples immediately get into a boat, pushes them out into the sea, says He’ll meet them later. Then He dismisses the crowds and goes up into the hills to pray. While the disciples are out on the water, a fierce storm comes up. They are afraid they are going to go down. The disciples fought this storm for nine hours! Can you imagine? I can hardly take two hours on rough water when I’m out boating. About 3:00 in the morning, Jesus comes toward them, and they think it’s a ghost. He cries out to them, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Then something really amazing happened – Peter in his impulsiveness opened his mouth and said, “Lord, if it’s you, bid me to come out on the water with you.” Of all things, as if to say, I dare you, Jesus replies, “Come on out!” And before anyone could stop Peter, he got out of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he noticed the threatening waves, he panicked and began to sink like a rock. But give him credit, he had the wherewithal to cry out, “Lord, help me!”

Suddenly a hand grabbed him by the collar and pulled him up out of the water. There was the face of Jesus saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they were back into the boat, the storm stopped and the disciples all worshiped Jesus saying, “You are the Son of God.”

Jesus’ statement – You of little faith, why did you doubt? – is a key statement in the story. I have a picture of Jesus pulling Peter out of the water on my wall. Below it are the words, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” I like it. Why? Because it describes me sometimes – little faith.

We learn something important in this story: Jesus loves it when we exercise daring faith in Him. Remember, Peter did walk on the water. Though it was brief, he stepped out in faith! Eyewitnesses saw it.

Perhaps Jesus was prepping Peter for bigger things ahead, bigger than a little walk on the water that day. One day after the resurrection, Peter would hear Jesus tell him, Feed my sheep and tend my lambs . . . You will be my witness in this world. I wonder if the other disciples were wishing they had walked on water like Peter. How did it feel? Is it possible that the story was saved to not only show us who Jesus really is – the Son of God who came to die on a cross to save us from sin and rise again – but also to encourage us and challenge us to step out in faith as followers of Jesus Christ.

If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat in faith. I think that lesson has been applied in various times in the history of Christianity. One example that comes to mind is Martin Luther. I just finished reading his biography that was recently released by Eric Metaxis. It’s the 500th anniversary of Luther – I imagine that’s the inspiration behind this new book. I recommend this good read.

But I wonder, if there were twenty seconds where Luther thought, Somebody has to speak up here and challenge what’s going on in the church. I guess if it is gonna be someone, it’s gonna have to be me, and so he wrote down the 95 theses to get the conversation started on how the church needed to be changed. Did it take him twenty seconds to say Yes! I think I’ll go and post them publicly with a challenge for a debate. Thus a new movement began and evolved into a full-blown reformation. As you read Martin Luther’s story, you know it wasn’t easy on him or any of his followers, but it was an adventure and it made a big difference for the kingdom of God.

This year my congregation, Shepherd of the Valley, is celebrating our 40th anniversary, and we learned that same truth. If you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat. Our beginnings as a congregation were like that.

Two women, Delores and Merle, believed God wanted a church to be formed in the valley in which we exist, a Lutheran Church. When they went to some of the powers that be in the denomination, they were turned down and told it wasn’t a good idea. However, they were insistent and went after it anyway. Soon there was a little church meeting in the City Hall in Lakeland.

This church began to grow and soon they needed to buy some land. Though they didn’t have a lot of money, they put up a building. The church continued to grow, and they soon needed to add on. Then we needed to relocate, so we picked up all our belongings and bought thirty acres of land a couple miles away so we could expand some more. Every time we took a step of faith, God seemed to bless it.

Now, here we are, years later, with another addition a few years ago, and we’re still being blessed as we take on new challenges for the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When people ask what’s next for our congregation, my response is, Only God knows that, but we have learned a couple things along the way. God loves it when we exercise big faith. We also learned that if you want walk on water, you really do have to get out of the boat.

I love what Martin Luther King, Jr. said one time about faith. Faith is about taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. Again and again I’ve witnessed this kind of faith happening in people’s lives as they step out in faith. When followers of Jesus sense Him calling them to do something.

My friend Amy, left a six-figure salary in the business world and a very promising career to go into ministry. Now she’s making a third of that and she loves it! She is changing lives through her work with outreach for Christ’s cause. When you talk to her, you sense no regret. What you do see is a growing, vibrant faith.

Another friend of mine, Dick, walked away from the teaching profession in which he was comfortably situated and doing excellent work when he sensed God was calling him to accept the challenge I had thrown out to him about leaving teaching to come and work on our staff. He is helping us develop a small groups ministry to change lives. Dick took the challenge and created this program for us. It has changed hundreds of lives. Not a regret does he have that he got out of the boat and walked on the water, and we were blessed because of it.

My friend Jim knows a man who was a really tough nut to crack when it came to spiritual matters. He definitely needed Jesus. Jim, being concerned for him, stewed about that and wondered how he could talk to Jim about Jesus. One day I received a call – it was Jim on the phone! He said, “You won’t believe what happened to me this morning. The door opened!”

I asked, “What door?”

“The door opened for me to share the gospel with Joe, and guess what? He asked Jesus Christ into his life!”

I said, “How do you feel right now?”

He said, “I feel like I’m walking two feet off the ground right now.” He was walking on water. He has had the same experience happen again and again with other people whom God has brought across his pathway.

I think of Julio and Suzette, friends of mine who left Haiti when they were young and came to the United States. They got a good college education and were headed toward a much more comfortable and promising life than they ever had in Haiti. But they sensed God calling them back to set up a ministry to their fellow Haitians. So they got out of the boat and went back to Haiti. Today, hundreds of people are glad they did, young men and women who were getting job training, being discipled, and becoming Christian leaders in their own communities. Lives are being changed in Haiti. When you hear Julio and Suzette talk about this, they have such passion, and they talk with such exhilaration about their experiences

I think of Larry who is skilled with tools and wood. He started volunteering at disaster locations around the United States and in Latin America. He works on teams doing reconstruction work, using his vacation time, spending is own money for travel expenses, and living in uncomfortable situations. When he’s home, he goes down to the gospel mission and serves homeless people. God is taking care of Larry. People’s lives have been touched by the gospel through Larry stepping out. When he’s not on the road, he’s helping somewhere. Now he’s talking retirement so he can spend more time doing what he sensed God is calling him to do – help people in Christ’s name.

If you walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat. We see it happening in lives like these.

I love what Oswald Chambers said one time. He said, “Beware of worshiping Jesus as the Son of God and professing your faith in Him as the Savior of the world while you blaspheme Him by the complete evidence in your daily life that He is powerless to do anything in and through you.” I think every once in while, we need to stop and check our spiritual pulse. Are we stretching ourselves past the boundaries of just being nice and pious?

We have a good reason to live like water walkers. We have a God who is trustworthy. He loves us. He gave His Son to die for us on a cross. Nothing can snatch us from His hand. We are safe in His arms.

Can I ask you a personal question? Have you gotten out of the boat lately with Jesus? Have you answered the calling He’s put out there for you? When was the last time you felt yourself stepping out, being excited, and growing in your walk with Jesus Christ?

By the way, you’re never too old or too young to get out of the boat and keep your faith growing and glowing. For instance, if you’re living in a senior citizen setting, is there someone you’ve notice who perhaps sits alone in the dining room? Someone who needs some attention and Christlike love? Could it be that you’ve noticed Jesus is calling YOU to step out toward that individual?

Maybe you see a need for a Bible study group where you live. You had one when you were in your old church, but now you’re missing that. You know of other people who’ve mentioned they’d like to be in a group like that. Or maybe you know people who are searching for some spiritual answers in their lives. Could it be Jesus is calling YOU to get out of the boat – to form a group, facilitate something in your present setting?

Perhaps you’re tired of listening to people you have coffee with each day gripe and complain and gossip about everything. You know in your heart it’s wrong. Could it be that Jesus is calling you to step out and gently speak up your friends, to be the person who brings some healthy conversation back into that group life? Is there a person in your circle of friends who needs to know Jesus Christ? Is there a ministry opportunity that looks challenging, and you wonder, “Should I get involved? I’m not sure I’m the one that can do that.”

My appeal this day is to have some faith. You are safe in your Father’s arms. He can use you to do some great things for Him and others as He works through you. You need only to exercise some daring faith, and believe this truth – that if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat with Jesus. He’s calling you. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer

How to Say “I Love You”

II Corinthians 8:1-12

A number of years ago, a popular book entitled The Five Love Languages was out on the market – the five love languages being touch, affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and gifts. Millions of these books have been sold to couples who are trying to learn how to say I love you to their mate. Today I thought we’d like to look at God’s love language. His language of love.

As you study Scripture, you learn again and again that when the Bible talks of love, it’s usually more than an emotion, or a feeling, or even a few words. It’s an action, an act of the will to do something for the benefit of another. We see that kind of love shown to us through Jesus Christ. We were lost in our sin but God proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us on the cross as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He went to the cross to pay for our sinfulness and rescue us from sin and death so we could be restored into a relationship with the God who loves us.

I love the way Paul puts it in today’s passage. “He who was rich became poor so that by His poverty we might become rich.” He was living in the majesty of heaven. He had all the benefits of heaven, but He became poor, became one of us. He went all the way to the cross and emptied Himself out so we might become rich in our relationship with our heavenly Father.

Jesus talked about love quite a bit. One time He was asked what is God’s favorite commandment. His answer: “It’s simple: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). We also hear Jesus in the upper room on the night before He was crucified for our sins giving His disciples what He called His new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

There’s the clincher: “. . . as I have loved you.” He had just washed their feet, which was the work of a slave back then, and He was about to sacrifice His life to rescue them. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13). The language of love attached to God is always something you do. It’s an act of giving of self for the sake of another.

In our congregation, the language of love is used every November as we discuss giving (or as some of us were raised to call it – stewardship). Giving is our expression of love to Christ. It’s a matter of the heart. We know God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Over the years I’ve used a statement that sums up what Scripture teaches about the language of love and giving. It goes like this: We give out of love to Christ in the area of our faith. This statement has three parts.

We give to Christ. What we put in an offering plate is a gift to Christ. It’s not to pay the bills to keep the lights on, but a gift to the person of Jesus Himself.

We give because we love Him. We give it out of love in response for what He has done for us. It is our way of saying, I love you. Thank you for loving me.

Finally, we give with faith in God’s promises. As our relationship grows, our faith grows and typically our giving then grows.

This teaching is not something simply made up. It is based upon scriptural passages such as the one we have today. The apostle Paul is describing some folks in Greece called the Macedonians. Their extreme poverty and affliction actually wound up overflowing with joyful generosity toward a mission Paul was trying to fund – to take care of starving people in Jerusalem because of the famine.

In this letter, Paul is writing to the Corinthians, who were also Greeks. He says, You wouldn’t believe these people! They’ve been through so much and yet there was this joyful generosity from them. They voluntarily gave over and above what they could probably afford. In other words, they took an offering and then they took another offering. They pleaded to participate in the mission for the destitute in Jerusalem. They wanted to share what they had.

Those Corinthians, at this point, might have scratched their heads and asked, So, what’s behind this crazy generosity Paul is talking about?

Paul begins by saying, You’d be amazed at what the grace of God is doing! He then says in verse 5, “. . . they gave themselves first to the Lord and . . . (then) to us . . .” What was behind the generosity? These were people who loved Jesus Christ. They’d tasted of His grace and wanted to show love to Him.

We find a principle here when it comes to giving. The relationship always comes first. They gave themselves first to the Lord, then to us – the mission, Paul said. Their giving was in response to the love God poured out on them in Christ. Their hearts were captured by Jesus and what He did for them. If they had known the song, they would have been singing at the offering time, “O, How I love Jesus, because He first loved me.”

When Christ captures your heart, giving becomes a joy, a privilege. We love and want to show it. It’s the language of love to our God. Just think about it. If you’re married and it is your anniversary, you want to get a special gift for your loved one. Think of the joy that comes in finding just the right gift, and then watching their face as they open their gift. It’s almost more fun for you than for them as they receive it.

This is what Paul’s talking about here as he describes giving with love! Until a relationship with Christ happens, talking and thinking about giving of our resources is a very tender subject. It gets fairly uncomfortable for folks.

This is why Paul says near the end, I’m not trying to throw my weight around here with a command to give. I’m trying to teach you that giving is about expressing your love for Christ. This is your opportunity to do just that. He is testing the genuineness of their love. If you love Him, you’ll want to give to Him.

When I came to my congregation back in 1986, I was told they had not had an organized stewardship program their first ten years of existence. They didn’t talk a lot about giving, money, or pledging. They had no stewardship month emphasis. So when I suggested my first year to have a stewardship emphasis during the first three Sundays in November from which we would build our budget, I was told some people were very nervous about doing this and wondered what I was going to clobber them with.

I surprised them, I guess. I used Paul’s words from II Corinthians 8 the first Sunday of stewardship. Our theme was, “It’s a matter of the heart.” Giving is a matter of the heart. We give out of love to Christ in the area of our faith. I said, Giving, you see, is love language. It begins with a relationship with Christ. If you don’t have a relationship with Him, don’t pledge even a penny to this ministry, and don’t give a minute to serving. You’re not yet part of the missionary force, but part of the missionary field. You just keep coming. Jesus doesn’t want your money, He wants you first. The rest can flow naturally from you, because when we love, we want to give.

God blessed our study of Scripture that first year. We had a generous response on the part of the congregation. As it turns out, a lot of people love Jesus. After studying the apostle Paul’s teaching about giving as empowered by the Holy Spirit, it only made sense to them to bring their pledges as a way of saying, I love you, Jesus.

This is how we’ve talked about giving at our church ever since. We give out of love to Christ in the area of our faith. Every Sunday at offering time I tell them, “If you brought a gift for Jesus today, the plate is going to be passed around for you.”

As we talk about “in the area of our faith,” again I remind you we learn to trust God’s promises to provide for us as we are growing in this relationship. We are safe as we trust Him and give ourselves away.

Over the years, we’ve never run into financial difficulties. God blesses those who follow His Word. This’s what we’ve learned, and we have grown in our faith and in our ministry’s impact on people. Because giving to Christ actually brings His love into other people’s lives so they can find out how much they are loved by Jesus. Your giving allows your local church and organizations like Christian Crusaders to keep telling Christ’s love story again and again through words and through loving actions in the name of Christ.

At my own congregation, we support more than twenty-five Christ-centered local, national, and international ministries that we’ve carefully vetted, and they are impacting people’s lives with the gospel. We hear great stories of changed lives from these organizations on a regular basis. Your love gift to Christ makes a difference in the lives of others, which is exactly what Jesus wants to see happen.

We here at Christian Crusaders constantly receive mail from people telling us how this gospel ministry has been such a blessing in people’s lives. It’s great fun to read this mail and know listeners’ lives are being touched by the gospel of Jesus. This is what happens when followers of Jesus Christ give out of love to Christ in the area of their faith.

I am glad to tell you a whole lot of love has been expressed for Jesus over the years toward Christian Crusaders as people have given to this ministry. In fact, it’s been nothing less than inspiring and overwhelming as monthly gifts and memorials – even estate gifts – are given from people who are in love with Jesus. Those gifts have changed other people’s lives as the message is proclaimed all around the globe how our God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This, my friend, is the whole point of what we are called to do as followers of Jesus Christ. We are to get the message out about Christ and what He has done. This message rescues and saves as it gets into other people’s lives.

I hope this message has been illuminating for you today as it has been for me in my congregation. Learning that we give out of love to Christ has been a real blessing to us.

To be honest, I didn’t know much about giving until someone early in my ministry named Homer Larsen shared this truth with me. He picked up this statement – we give out of love to Christ in the area of our faith – from someone else. As we follow this statement based on Scripture, giving has been a joyful, personal experience ever since! My faith in God’s promises to provide for my needs has grown and grown over the years, because I’ve learned God really is faithful, and He takes care of us.

So I invite you, if you have not already understood this great truth, to put it to work in your own life. May it be your guide as you live out your faith in Jesus Christ. We give out of love to Christ in the area of our faith. Amen.

Pastor Steve Kramer