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To Walk on Water—You Have to Step Out of the Boat

Back in the spring, my son Tyler took my two-year-old grandson Bryant on his first boat ride. He beamed with excitement as he climbed into the boat with his Uncle Tyler.

As with any two-year-old, Bryant soon became restless. After several minutes of an unrelenting: “I want to get out,” Tyler jokingly said, “Okay, Bryant, get out;” not thinking Bryant would take him serious and just step out of the boat—but he did!

If Uncle Tyler said it was okay, it must have been okay, so without hesitation, over he went. Praise the Lord for his new Scooby Doo lifejacket!

Because Uncle Tyler said it was okay, Bryant just stepped right over the side of the boat and into the water without fear or hesitation, expecting to walk on the water to wherever he had on his mind to go.

This illustration, though unnerving at the time, reminds me of what it means to have “real faith.” Sometimes, following our own intuition, we do stupid things and get hurt just because, like Bryant, we did not know any better. Other times, we are led by God to face or to do something we know from experience is impossible for us to do on our own—we are called to step out of the boat into deep, rough, chilling water without a life jacket, knowing, unless the Lord intervenes, we will surely drown.

I am reminded of the story recorded in 1st Samuel of the might King Saul, the little shepherd boy David, and the giant and great Philistine warrior, Goliath. If you will go back and read the history recorded here, you will see Saul was Israel’s first king.

Almighty God had performed many miracles on Israel’s behalf. He had always fought and won all their battles for them. He had miraculously and faithfully met all of their needs. Yet despite the warnings from God through the Prophet Samuel, the people decided to reject the Lord’s Kingship and appoint for themselves an earthly king like all the other nations had. (Chapter 8)

King Saul came from an affluent family and stood out since he was a head taller than any other Israelite. Saul looked like a King and he looked like a warrior. On the outside, he was an opposing figure; he was exactly what Israel was looking for in a king.

As a nation, Israel had rejected the Lordship and Kingship of Almighty God who had always been faithful to them and instead placed their faith in a mere man named Saul, who they could see with their own eyes. Their actions exemplified just the opposite of faith; “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb 11:1)

In 1 Samuel 17, Israel and their mighty King Saul, in whom they now trusted to fight their battles for them, found themselves facing the might army of the Philistines. Among the Philistine army was a champion soldier named Goliath who was over nine feet tall and who had never been defeated by any man. Every day he would come out and taunt Israel’s army. King Saul, who was chosen to fight Israel’s battles, and all of his army were terrified and dismayed (vs. 11). No one had the faith or courage to believe in God and to go out and face the giant. For over 40 days, they had been pinned down in fear. Israel’s army had placed their faith in their new unfaithful King and had taken their eyes off of God and could see only the giant.

But David was just a shepherd boy, untrained in warfare and too small to wear armor. All he had ever done was take care of his father’s sheep, but he had done it faithfully and performed his duties with diligence, courage and faith in the God of Israel. David’s father sent him to the front lines to check on the welfare of his older brothers. When David arrived, he heard the giant Goliath taunting the Israeli army and was dismayed at the King’s and the army’s lack of faith in their God to give them victory over their enemies. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (vs. 26)

David told the King not to be afraid, he would go himself and face this giant. Saul replied: “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man since his youth.” (vs. 32-33) {“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)}.

David explained, while he served as a shepherd over his father’s flock, he had sought out and killed with his hands both lions and bears who attacked his father’s sheep; “When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.” David told King Saul he had wrestled with both wild lions and bears, and with God’s help, he was able to kill them both. David said: “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (vs. 37)

Armed with only a shepherd’s slingshot and five stones, little David marched out to face and kill the giant Goliath. David said to Goliath: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel whom you have defiled.” (vs. 36) “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s and He will give all of you unto our hands.” (vs. 47)

Wow! What a story and what a lesson for each of us today as we face life’s giants. Where did young David get this kind of faith? He had walked with and served God as a young shepherd. He had faced giants before, and God had proven Himself faithful. David has established landmarks in his life where in his eyes things were hopeless, but His God was faithful every time to deliver him.

The more we walk with God, the more opposition and giants we face, the more we see God’s faithfulness and the more our faith grows, and our doubts and fears flee. We may feel and others may tell us the giants are too big, but we learn as we continue to serve and obey Him, we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. (Rom 8)

There has never been a tee-ball player who has gone straight to the major leagues. There are battles to win, battles to lose, lessons to learn, trails to endure, giants to face, and maturity has to take place for us to grow in our faith. But, at some point, we have to step out of the boat and trust God to help us walk on water.

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