Walk of Life

Picture by Garrett Rea

I’d like for you to do a little visual exercise with me. Picture a time you took a walk. 

It could be a walk in the woods, by a lake, or in a park. Perhaps the path led to a waterfall. It could be a walk where you got caught in the rain. Or it could be a walk which led you to a job interview, down the aisle to your future spouse, or down a hospital corridor.  

Throughout my childhood, one of my favorite walks led to the creek. There I would lie on the small wooden bridge and listen to the water flowing. I’d watch the sun filtering through the trees. Many times, I felt God’s presence there. It was a favorite place of mine, to play in the creek, to swim, to fish, but there were many times when I was troubled and needed a place of peace. Even now, being a hundred miles away, I can still vividly picture this place and feel its peace. 

Now consider the bigger picture. What is your life journey thus far? What failures have bogged you down? What successes can you celebrate? What life experiences have taught you valuable lessons? Picture your walk of life. It’s unique to you. 

In the reading of 1 Kings 19:9-18, we see Elijah’s experience. Elijah’s walk took him to a cave on a mountainside. He witnessed a great wind, an earthquake and a fire. Not a walk he would likely forget. But, through all this turmoil, God appeared in the sheer silence. God was there with Elijah.  

Where does your walk take you? Maybe your walk doesn’t take you to a place of peace.  Maybe it takes you through troubled waters. 

Take Peter, for example. Here we have Peter. Bold, brash Peter. The Gospel of Matthew 14: 22-33 sets the stage. Peter and the rest of the disciples were fighting rough seas all alone. 

While Jesus dispersed the great crowd of followers, He also instructed His disciples to get onto the boat and go to the other side.  Jesus needed some time to Himself to pray and rest.

The disciples, though they themselves were probably tired from dealing with the large crowds, obeyed Jesus and set off. Eventually, while on the sea, they found themselves “battered by the waves.”  Because the winds were so much against them, they were far from the land. They found themselves fighting against a storm, doing all they could to keep the boat afloat.

It’s about 3 a.m. when the disciples, exhausted and tired and probably running on empty, see a shadow on the water. An apparition appears to them. They were afraid. Who could really blame them? There were legends of sea monsters and ghostly apparitions. They cried out. But, Jesus, walking on the water toward them said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Imagine Jesus’ walk for a moment. The waves are still battering the boat. The wind is still strong. Yet, Jesus, calmly as you please, walks along the water toward them. 

We see the power of Jesus. He is calm, solid and present in the midst of the chaos, even when we are not. Jesus saw the disciples were in trouble and Jesus came to help them.  Jesus sees and helps us as well. 

Peter responds to Jesus with a strange test. “Lord, if it is you,” Peter says, “command me to come to you on the water.” 

Many of us know the story. Jesus tells Peter to join him. Peter gets out of the boat and begins to walk on the water in the midst of the storm, but loses his focus on Jesus. Instead, Peter starts to focus on the high waves and the strong wind. That’s what the enemy wants us to do. The enemy wants us to be overwhelmed by our circumstances. When we lose our focus on the Lord and focus instead only on our circumstances, we can lose our way. Peter is overwhelmed and begins to sink. He cries out to Jesus and Jesus catches Peter.  

Peter’s path was unique. Pastor John Ortberg says Peter displays MORE faith by getting out of the boat than the other disciples who stayed put and watched. “There is something inside of us who tells us there is more to life than sitting in the boat.” Ortberg says, “You were made for something more than merely avoiding failure.”  Peter “let’s go” and “abandons himself utterly to the power of Jesus.” There is power in this. There are times we should let go and allow Jesus to work something powerful in ordinary us.  

Yet, in a book my husband gave me, Preaching Women: Gender, Power and the Pulpit, the Rev. Liz Shercliff sees the disciples in the boat as the ones having more faith…they didn’t need to test Jesus’ divine gifts.  Sometimes it takes more faith to stay in the boat and stay battered by the storm. She reminds us how “our real time of doubt occurs…when we are unable to trust that [Jesus] is with us in the tough times and so pray to be taken out of them that we most demonstrate our lack of faith.” Maybe Jesus knew Peter needed to take a nosedive to remember who he was, or more importantly, Peter needed a reminder of who Jesus was.  

All of the disciples obeyed God and were willing to deal with the crowds and be battered by the waves. As a result, they all experienced a divine moment. God never promises that following Him will be easy. There are times when God follows us down a difficult pathway. But Jesus didn’t leave Peter to drown. He reached out to Peter and walked with him back to the boat. And as soon as Jesus stepped into the boat the wind ceased and there was peace. Then, amidst the silence, they all worshiped Jesus.  

Where does your walk take you? There are times when, with much self-care and great faith, I want to charge the waters as Peter did. More often than not, though, I find myself waiting and exhausted like the other disciples for Jesus to reach me where I am. I’m staying in my boat. 

We Christians all follow the narrow path to Jesus. Yet, each of us has a unique walk we take to get there. But, no matter how high the waves get, or what fires or earthquakes or silence we find, Jesus is with us on our journey. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the chaos, we forget to meet God in the midst of them. Though Peter doubted and started to sink, he tried to walk on the water like Jesus. We are also called to follow Jesus. 

Where are you in your current walk of life? Are you the one struggling or are you the one who could lend a hand? If you are in a position to help those in need, please reach out a hand to steady someone else.  Whether you are in the chaos or in the calm of silence, think back to Peter’s walk on the water. Keep your focus on Jesus and know God is there. God loves you.  You are not alone.  

May you find peace along your walk with Jesus. Amen.

Where does your walk take you?

Adaptation from sermon on August 9, 2020. 

Ortberg, John. (2001). If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat. pgs.17, 19. Zondervan Publishing House: Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Shercliff, Liz. (2019). Preaching Women: Gender, Power and the Pulpit. pgs. 88-89.


2 responses to “Walk of Life”

  1. Beautiful words!


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