Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. —C.S. Lewis
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
PRAYER FOCUS: COURAGE.
Simon Peter uttered mankind’s original prayer: “LORD SAVE ME!!!”
The Apostle known as Cephas “the Rock” was about to sink like one. Matthew records that Peter “cried out…”
As we read this well-known passage of Scripture, three questions come to mind:
The first engages one of the great mysteries of our human condition. Namely, why are we so easily distracted when things are going well? Only a few moments before, Peter was in fear for his life. Suddenly he was walking on water. He was doing great…right up until he became distracted and his faith wavered.
The second question is similar to the first. Why must we be in distress before we cry out to Jesus? We humans, in our frailty, will reliably wait until the storms of life are upon us before we start looking around for the Lord. He is always with us, always loving us, and yet we take our eyes off of Him and follow our own attentions into danger. We, like Peter, are usually in trouble and sinking fast before we start to pray.
But the third question reveals one of our greatest human weaknesses. Why didn’t anyone else get out of the boat? How often do we sit on the sidelines, or even in the bleachers, and critique those on the field? Peter had the courage to stand up and step out onto the water. Sooner or later, Jesus Christ will ask each one of us to look the impossible straight in the eye and depend on God’s supernatural power.
And this leads us to our Prayer Focus this week—COURAGE.
There is no class called “Water-Walking 101.” Jesus didn’t explain the principles first. He didn’t help his disciples practice on puddles. No, He waited for the darkest time of night, in the middle of a storm, in open water, after they had been rowing for hours into an opposing wind. The Teacher arrived at a moment when the students were stressed and tired and scared. He shows up doing some supernatural thing that was quite frightening, and commands them to do the same. Such is the classroom of faith.
Note how the Lord greets them:
• “Take courage.” Faith and courage are inseparable. One requires the other.
• “It is I.” Even though their eyes may deceive them, they know His voice.
• “Don’t be afraid.” Fear is the mind-killer. Bold Peter had this task mastered until fear wormed its way back into his mind.
The lesson was over once Teacher and Pupil climbed into the boat. We DON’T see Jesus congratulating his one brave disciple with silly platitudes like, “Wow, man, you really did it!” The other disciples don’t get T-shirts to commemorate the experience, no one gets trophies for coming out for the water-walking team. Jesus rebukes Peter with, “Why did you doubt?”
Does this seem harsh?
Too often we seek a Savior who, after assuring us of eternal life, leaves us alone until our next crisis. We ask Him to comfort us but never confront us. We ask Him to use us, to bless us, but not to form us for His greater use.
But Jesus is not a Savior who rescues us and then leaves us alone. The same Teacher who calls us to take courage will not indulge either pride in success or self-pity in failure. Jesus will not willingly permit that contamination in His disciples. The discipline we undergo is intended for our good, so that we may be conformed to Him.
God’s goal is not merely to protect us. He intends to perfect us. He accommodates and redeems the conflicts that rage against our souls. He uses these times to build in us the virtues we lack, so that we may perfect our faith.
Maybe you’re going through one of life’s storms. Maybe it’s dark, and you’re rowing against a contrary wind. And, of course, you’re praying. But what are you praying for, Christian? Are you crying out to God, asking for a return to your safe, predictable life, or are you seeking something more—supernatural?
Take courage! Be of good cheer. May you be enabled to live according to God’s Will…
It’s Monday Morning. What will it take to get you out of the boat this week?