I was eleven-years-old when I came home with my first pair of glasses. For months, I refused to wear them. I hated that clunky nineties-styled frame! I remember praying that God would give me perfect vision like my brother. Clearly, that didn’t happen. And grown-up me is okay with that, because I know that my disabilities don’t limit God. However, even as an adult, I sometimes focus too hard on my situation that I lose sight of the unshakable God I serve.
The blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby penned the words to “Blessed Assurance” back in 1873 , and through them, she reveals a clearer vision than we often have. She didn’t find her confidence in her situation but in the unchangeable truth that “Jesus is mine.” Her assurance was in the presence of God, despite any problems she faced.
How can we choose worship over worry and consistently find assurance in God’s presence? The disciple Peter’s experience in a storm reveals much about the “worry” cycle and how to overcome it.
Our storms never take God by surprise.
Before we get into this story from Matthew 14, let’s not miss its context. Jesus had just fed the five thousand. Since that number represented only the men present, we can safely assume He actually fed thousands more (Matthew 14:21).
Immediately afterward, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of Him on the sea of Galilee and found a quiet place to pray. (Side note: If Jesus sought out time in God’s presence to pray, how much more should we!) But all was not quiet on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples were stuck in the middle of a vicious storm.
This storm wasn’t news to Jesus, though. As the Son of God, He has complete foreknowledge and is all-knowing (omniscient). That said, He knew he was sending His disciples into a storm, perhaps so He could reveal more of His power (omnipotence) to them.
Into the “fourth watch of the night,” Jesus came to them, walking on the water (NKJV Matthew 14:25). Bible teacher James Vernon McGee explains that the fourth watch took place from three in the morning until daylight.1 The disciples must have been exhausted and about to give up hope. And that’s when Jesus showed up.
We never need an invitation to be in God’s presence.
The disciples first response seems laughable: They thought Jesus was a ghost! Before we shake our heads at their lack of faith, let’s be honest: If we saw someone walking on the water, we might be spooked too.
Ever gracious and patient, Jesus offered them the assurance of His presence. He said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (NKJV Matthew 14:27b).
And ever his impetuous self, Peter spoke up before anyone else could and demanded proof. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (NKJV Matthew 14:28b).
Ever patient with Peter, Jesus replied, “Come” (NKJV Matthew 14:29a).
I’m not faulting Peter. In fact, I probably would have been tongue-tied like the other disciples. But here’s the thing: Peter didn’t need to wait for Jesus to invite him to come. He had already seen Jesus perform miracles. He’d even heard Jesus personally invite any and all to “Come unto me” (NKJV Matthew 11:28). The only possible explanation for this ghost-like phenomenon was that Jesus had come to calm their fears with His presence.
But in the storms, we’re sometimes so blinded by our worries that we ask if God is there and if He can perform miracles for us. Like Peter, we doubt and want “signs” or evidence. Sometimes, God graciously gives us affirmations, and other times, He seems silent. Regardless, He is ever present (omnipresent) with the open invitation to come to Him.
We may lose sight of God, but He never loses sight of us.
Recently, I went to the eye doctor to get an updated contact prescription. I’m just as near-sighted as ever! Sometimes, I’m also spiritually near-sighted and can’t see past the tip of my nose.
After Jesus invited Peter to “come,” Peter literally stepped out of the boat and walked on water. Walked. On. Water.
But no sooner had he taken a few steps toward Jesus than the wind howled even louder than before, and he suddenly realized, “Oh man! I’m not in the boat anymore!” (That’s my paraphrase.) Guess what? He started to sink, and as he was going down, he cried, “Lord, save me!” (NKJV Matthew 14:29b).
Peter couldn’t see past the rain pelting his nose. He went near-sighted and took his eyes off Jesus. The second he did, he started to sink.
However, just because Peter lost sight of Jesus didn’t mean Jesus left him. He was still right there, inviting Peter to come to Him. Likewise, just because we take our eyes off Jesus doesn’t mean He loses sight of us.
We may lose sight of God, but He never loses sight of us. @khogrefeparnellTweet
Our response to God’s presence should always be worship.
This incident ended happily for the disciples. Jesus rebuked the storm (and their lack of faith), and the raging wind ceased. Only then did the disciples respond rightly by worshiping Jesus.
My challenge is not to wait until the end but to worship Jesus in the storm. Worshiping in the howling wind of disappointment or gusting gale of hurt does not come naturally. My gut reaction is to question and to cry out in fear.
If only I could remember that the focal point of worship is not my predicament but God’s presence. It’s not about if God responds the way I want Him to but that He is God.
Like Peter, I need a vision check-up: Because if my attention is on something other than God Himself, it’s out of focus. However, when I find my security in His presence and worship His unchangeable nature, I can’t be fearful.
How can you practice worship right where you are? Which attribute of God’s nature is most encouraging to you today?
I’m grateful this post first appeared on my friend Jerusha Agen’s beautiful blog. For more encouragement and advice for fighting fear, visit the Fear Warrior Blog.
1. McGee, J. Vernon (1982). Matthew Chapter 14. In Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee (Vol. III, p. 529). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.
Worry Checkup: How the Right Focus Can Beat Your Fears. @khogrefeparnellTweet