It would be so much more comfortable if God would keep us in our “strength zone,” wouldn’t it? But God keeps thrusting us into our “weakness zone” because it is only in our weakness that He is made strong.
[Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. — 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
God is never limited by our limitations. Whenever He calls us to step out of our comfort zone and into the exchange zone, it is because He wants to do something in and through our lives.
Now, here is the critical question: How do we increase our willingness to trust in God’s strength when our own weakness is so glaring that it captures all our focus? Let’s turn to Peter’s championship training.
TRAINED TO BE A CHAMPION
The disciples were getting nowhere. When they’d pushed off from shore just a few hours before, the water had been calm and the boat seemed to offer what they needed most — rest and solitude.
They’d just learned that John the Baptist had been executed. Jesus had led the disciples to withdraw to a quiet place to rest. But the locals — about five thousand men plus women and children — had discovered Jesus’s location and soon swarmed them. Jesus miraculously fed everyone in the crowd with no more than five loaves and two fish. When that miracle was complete, Jesus told His disciples to “immediately” get into the boat and go to Capernaum on the other side of the lake while Jesus stayed behind to dismiss the crowd and then go off by Himself to pray.
Let’s focus in on Peter. Peter was no novice in witnessing miracles. Straining against the oars with every muscle, Peter must have longed to have Jesus there in the boat with him. If only the Lord were here, he must have thought, He would calm this windstorm before our eyes, like He did before.
And then they saw Him. Let’s pick up the story in Matthew 14:25-29.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s You,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.”
“Come,” He said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
I love it! That’s Peter. He was all in.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did
you doubt?” — Matthew 14:30-31
Why did he doubt? Yesterday’s miracles didn’t yet outweigh his fear of today’s dangers.
Can you relate? I believe we all can.
The danger of drowning was real. In a surge of ecstatic faith, he’d climbed out of the boat with his eyes fixed on Jesus, when it suddenly occurred to him that there was nothing under his feet but water.
And this is exactly why we need storms and trials in our lives if our faith is to grow.
UNTESTED FAITH IS FRAGILE
It’s no coincidence that the windstorm “just happened” to occur on the heels of the miracle of the loaves and fish. Jesus is omniscient. He chose to be on land, a distance from His disciples, when the storm hit. And He chose His words carefully when He said to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Jesus used Peter’s moment of weakness as a teaching moment.
In Mark 6:51-52, a parallel rendering of the Matthew 14 account, we catch on to what Jesus was showing them in the middle of that storm.
Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
They had not understood about the loaves. They had not grasped how that act had revealed the deity of Jesus — His identity as being one with God, and thus His omnipotent power over the physical world.
A few hours of fear must have softened those hardened hearts, because when Jesus came strolling along walking on top of the water, they got it.
And when [Peter and Jesus] climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” — Matthew 14:32-33
The storm had done its work!
TRIALS ARE THE ULTIMATE STRENGTH-TRAINING EXERCISE
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4
The powerful message of this verse is clear — bad news can be faced with great hope. Whether your trials came as a result of your own brokenness or poor choices, or because of the choices of someone else, or by an act of nature such as a flood or an earthquake or a tornado, or as a consequence of living in a fallen world, you have reason, even while grieving and hurting, to be joyful.
Why? Because trials test your faith. Is it bad news when your weaknesses are revealed? No! Better to have them revealed so we can acknowledge them and, with God’s work inside us, see our weakness rooted out.
But notice this in the James 1 verses: It is not God’s work alone.
God gives us two commands: consider and let. We are to “consider it” pure joy. This requires us to make a deliberate decision about how we view the trial. We must “let” perseverance do its work by working with God, not against him, in the face of our trials.
We, like Peter, have choices to make in the face of life’s trials. Peter reached for Jesus. He could have sunk to his armpits and then, spitting mad, swum back to the side of the boat, cursing Jesus for allowing him to sink. But he didn’t. He cried out to Jesus, and Jesus reached for him. And do you know what happened next?
More tests. More trials. Obstacles. Hurdles. Of course! What else would we expect?
YOUR WALK-ON-WATER MOMENTS
Champions understand that God uses every trial to build our strength and endurance. This is why Jesus, knowing that within hours He would be arrested, flogged, paraded through the streets, and crucified, said the following words to us:
All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or Me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them… 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. — John 16:1-4, John 16:33
Do you hear Him? Take heart! Be of good cheer! Consider it all joy! Such times are when you will experience firsthand that greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world.
Between the disciples and Jesus that windy night, there was darkness, danger, and distance. Ever been there? Your storm is raging “here” and Jesus seems to be over “there.” Jesus knows when you are in trouble, when you have had enough, when you need strength and courage. He knows when to calm the storm and when to ride it out with you.
Climb out of that boat with your eyes fixed on Jesus. And if you falter, cry out to Him, reach out to Him, knowing He will catch you and climb into your boat. He will calm the storm. Then He will step into your weakness with His strength.
With this confidence, we can say, with Peter,
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. — 1 Peter 1:6-9
Excerpted with permission from Run the Race! by Christine Caine, copyright Christine Caine.
* * *
Has God thrust you back into your weakness zone? Are you willing to trust that He has the strength for your situation? Don’t be of little faith! Believe! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily