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Where did this faith come from?

The word faith is silhouetted against an orange and blue sunset. The I in the word is made from a figure with their arms raised up in the air in a successful victory pose.
The word faith is silhouetted against an orange and blue sunset. The I in the word is made from a figure with their arms raised up in the air in a successful victory pose. | iStock/Getty Images Plus/ mattjeacock

Have you ever taken a bold step of faith and had it lead to failure?

If so, let me thank you! I would rather try and fail than never try it all.

It has been said, “If at first you don’t succeed, relax ... you’re just like the rest of us! But what about those times when you take that step of faith and it succeeds?

That reminds me of a Bible story.

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The disciples were crossing over the Sea of Galilee, when a violent wind came up, seemingly out of nowhere.

Most of these men had been around this body of water their whole lives, but that didn’t make the passage easy. Matthew’s account says “the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it” (Matthew 14:24, NIV).

The Greek word used here for “buffeting” actually means to torture or torment. The waves were crazy that night, and the men in the boat may have thought their discipling days were over.

Then, sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., they saw Jesus, robe billowing in the wind, walking toward them out of the darkness on the water.

He called to them, “Don’t be afraid ... Take courage. I am here!” (Matthew 14:27). And that set the stage for one of most dramatic encounters in the New Testament — or anywhere else.

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” (Matthew 14:28-31)

Don’t you love that story? What a stunning step of faith Peter took that stormy night. He did what no one else in that boat would do — or maybe even think of doing.

Sometimes people criticize Peter for being outspoken or putting his foot in his mouth. A lot of ink is given in the Gospels to Peter’s faux pas and shortcomings. But let’s not forget that he was the only one of the disciples who was willing to put it all on the line in the wee hours of the morning and walk on the water toward Jesus.

He had no safety net, he wasn’t wearing water wings, and there was no backup plan. It was either Jesus coming through for him or nothing.

Where did this faith come from? From the word of Jesus. Peter had asked permission, and Jesus said, “Come.” The Scripture tells us that, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV).

And Peter heard the word of God that blustery night, calling to him out of the darkness and across the water.

I can think of many times over the years where I’ve heard the Lord say to me, “Come.” No, I have never heard the audible voice of God — and to be honest, I’m suspicious of people who say they have. But I have had the Lord very clearly direct me. I can think of certain moments in my life where I knew — without a doubt — that it was the will of God for me to do a certain thing. But it was never a slam dunk. There was always risk involved.

So, Peter took a huge step of faith. But it wasn’t impossible for him, because he was looking across that stretch of tortured water at Jesus Himself, the Son of God.

That’s the key. You look to Jesus.

My mind goes back to an incident in the life of King Jehoshaphat, David’s great-great-great grandson. The little nation of Judah was under attack by multiple armies bent on their destruction (sound familiar?). Their enemies were already on the march, Judah was vastly outnumbered and there was no time to plan an adequate defense.

So, the king made the best choice possible. He called for a national prayer meeting. All the nation assembled, men, women, and little ones. Standing up in their midst, Jehoshaphat prayed aloud: “O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12, NIV).

That has to be one of my favorite prayers in the Bible. “Lord, we don’t know where to turn, we don’t know how to escape, we don’t have a plan to defend ourselves, and we don’t know what to do. But our eyes are on You, Lord. We look to You as our only help and hope.”

And as we know God came through in a spectacular, unforgettable way.

The New Testament tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NKJV).

Fixing our eyes on Jesus. That’s what Jehoshaphat did, and that’s what Peter did—for a moment or two. But then “when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink” (Matthew 14:30, Message).

We will all have lapses of faith. You may be walking in faith one day, but then have an attack of fear in the night and not have it the next. You can have faith for an hour, but let it slip away a few minutes later.

You’re believing God, you’re taking risks, you’re applying faith, you’re quoting Scripture, and then all of a sudden the “what if” questions start buzzing around your head like a swarm of bees and you lose the handle on your faith and resolve.

What do you do in a situation like that? You do what Peter did. He immediately called out to Jesus. It’s interesting to me that Scripture says, “he began to sink” or “he started to sink.” It didn’t happen instantaneously. But he felt himself slipping. He felt himself going under. And he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Matthew (who was intently watching all this from the safety of the boat) writes that “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31, NIV).

Don’t you love that word immediately? Jesus didn’t wait while Peter sank. He didn’t say, “I’ll let the water get up to his neck to teach him a lesson.” No, Jesus instantly reached out and pulled him back up.

Did Peter think about that in later years? How was he pulled out of the water by the hand of God — the hand that created the galaxies?

Maybe as you read these words you are experiencing your own lapse of faith. It’s okay. It’s no disgrace. Just call out to Jesus. No matter what other people may tell you, we all all have those moments where we forget what we should remember. As someone has so aptly said, we should never believe our doubts and we should never doubt our beliefs. Instead, we should believe our beliefs and doubt our doubts.

So yes, Peter failed. But what a spectacular failure. I have heard it said, “If at first you don’t succeed, relax. You’re just like the rest of us.”

I would rather take a bold step of faith in my efforts to honor God and fail — falling flat on my face — than tip-toe around all risk and accomplish nothing for Him. Many people do nothing at all with their faith, but then have the audacity to critique others who do apply their faith and venture into the unknown.

Perhaps, at some point in your life, you took a bold step of faith, and it didn’t go as you had hoped. You shared the gospel with someone, and they shut down or took offense. You started a little home Bible study, and no one showed up. Even the dog and cat left.

Maybe you prayed for someone who was sick, and their condition got worse. I remember a friend of mine being really sick and asking me to pray for him. Of course, I said, “Yes, I will!” I did pray for him—and he got violently ill after that. A couple of days later he called me and said, “Do me a favor. Never pray for me again, okay?”

The Church is comprised of so many people who have stepped out — who have crawled over the side of the boat and taken risks for the sake of the Name. Or maybe they have labored tirelessly behind the scenes, doing the work of God and holding up their brothers and sisters in prayer. Our Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Maybe, like Peter on the Sea of Galilee, you stepped over the side of the boat in 141 feet of water and sank like a rock. And maybe you also felt the strong hand of Jesus pull you up again and walk you to safety.

The plunge into cold water would be well worth the remedy.

Holding hands with the Lord of all.

Greg Laurie is the pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and Harvest Crusades. He is an evangelist, best-selling author and movie producer. “Jesus Revolution,” a feature film about Laurie’s life from Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, releases in theaters February 24, 2023.

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