O You of Little Faith, Why Did You Doubt?
Matthew 14:22-33: Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on water is the only one that shows the interaction between Jesus and Peter. By this point, the disciples had seen Jesus heal, feed 5,000+ people, and calm a storm just with his voice. After feeding the 5,000 people, Jesus tells the disciple to get into the boat to go to the other side. Jesus stays behind to pray while the disciples are being beaten by the waves and wind. Jesus decides to go to them… Jesus decides to walk across the sea and meet them in the midst of their struggle. When the disciples see him walking on water, they are scared but Jesus tells them to not be afraid. Then, Peter asks Jesus to let him walk on the water to go where Jesus was. Jesus tells him to come, and Peter starts walking on water. Again… he was walking on WATER! We have read this story so much that the fact that they are both walking on water doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is! Jesus is controlling nature and allowing one of his disciples to share that experience with him. However, Peter gets distracted by the wind around him and starts sinking. He turned his eyes away from Jesus and focused on the struggle and that is when doubt came. He cries out to Jesus, and Jesus, in his mercy, saves him. But Jesus did not pass the opportunity to question Peter and link his doubt to lack of faith.
This exchange between Jesus and Peter teaches us that Jesus wants us to turn our eyes towards him and have doubtless faith. However, this sounds easier than what it actually takes. Here are some thoughts we can learn from this passage to help us fix our eyes on our God and not let our faith drown in doubt.
When we are obedient to God, we have confidence in the middle of hard situations
The disciples were being obedient to Jesus command to go before him to the other side. Now, you may think “they were obedient, but they still faced struggle!” And it’s true! As followers of Christ we are not promised an easy suffering-free life, in fact, we are told that we will face difficulty. John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” And this is the confidence we have. We can face the tribulation with confidence because we have God on our side. But we can only claim this when we are following his will. Sometimes the struggles we face are because of our disobedience to God or consequences of our sins. God is still gracious and merciful to help us grow, learn, and overcome the consequences of our disobedience. But when we know we are being obedient to God, we face difficulties with the confidence that He has a plan, and there is something He wants to teach us through those hard situations. We have the confidence that God is with us because we are in the midst of his will. This is when the words from Paul in Romans 8:26-28 impacts our walk with God in a deeper way. Paul says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The Holy Spirit intercedes for us when all that can come out of our mouth are sounds of mourning and helplessness. The Holy Spirit gives us strength when our souls are weak. And when we are weak and in the midst of struggle, we know that the final product of the trial will be for our good because we love our God and we demonstrate that love through obedience.
Doubt comes when we fix our eyes in the wind, but God is gracious and saves us from sinking
Peter saw Jesus walking on water and asked him to prove himself by letting Peter walk to him. Jesus allows Peter to do so, and there he was WALKING ON WATER to where Jesus was. Peter was experiencing the power of God and following his command. But what happened? Peter looked at the wind and started sinking. He started to doubt if Jesus’s power was enough to overcome the strong wind and waves. Peter fixed his eyes on the wind and filled his mind with doubt. Peter let his faith sink in doubt. Although it is very comfortable to sit back and judge Peter for doubting Jesus, we need to admit that we do the same. We tend to give more power to the hard situations, sicknesses, burdens, financial problems, broken relationships, or loss, and we forget that our God is the source of power. We forget that everything we know comes from God. We forget He is sovereign. We forget his faithfulness and might. But as Jesus heard Peter’s cry, the Lord hears our cry. And as Jesus was gracious and compassionate, our God is gracious and compassionate with us. We see this characteristic of God in many passages throughout Scripture, and one of those instances is in the Psalms. Psalm 116:1-9 says,
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”
That is the God we have. We believe in a God that is faithful even when we are not. We believe in a God that is gracious to us even when we fail. We believe in a God that has saved us from the death of our sins and is continually protecting our lives. This is what we need to remember when we face trials. When you are let go from a job, when there is no food in your home, when a loved one dies, when you don’t see a clear future for your career, when you fail one more time in the sin that you are constantly fighting… This is when you need to remember who your God is, cry out to Him, fix your eyes on Him, and trust that He will answer your cry.
When you face trials, remember…
Fix your eyes on God, not on the wind: don’t give the power to the difficult situations that belongs only to God.
Remember God’s faithfulness: think of how God has worked in the past and hold on to his faithfulness in the middle of the struggle.
Trust that God is in control: trust that his will is good and perfect for your life.
I want to leave you with the words from the hymn "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" that reminds us to not let the things of this world take our eyes away from Jesus.
O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!
Refrain: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.
Thro' death into life everlasting, He passed, and we follow Him there; O’er us sin no more hath dominion-- For more than conqu’rors we are!
His Word shall not fail you--He promised; Believe Him, and all will be well: Then go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!