Yesterday, the president of the hospital where Ryan is having cancer surgery this morning emailed me David’s prayer: “Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me” (Psalm 31:3). Not long afterwards, a dear friend pointed my attention to this divine promise: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
For more than 30 years I’ve studied and taught from Matthew 14, where Jesus walked on the stormy Sea of Galilee. While leading study tours in Israel, I’ve recited this miracle at the very place where it occurred. But when I read the biblical texts sent to me by these friends, I was given an insight I’d never considered before.
When Jesus came to his terrified disciples, Peter responded: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). At Jesus’ invitation, “Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus” (v. 29). Note that he didn’t ask Jesus if he could “come on the water,” but if he could “come to you on the water.” He didn’t just walk miraculously on the stormy sea–he “walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”
I’ve always focused on the fact that the fisherman walked on the Sea of Galilee. Today I realize the larger point of the text: he walked toward Jesus. No matter how high the waves or how strong the winds that are battering my boat and yours, we can triumph over them if we will use them to come to our Lord.
Hudson Taylor was one of the pioneer missionaries to China. Everything was hard for him–he got sick, conflicted with other missionaries, and grew more and more depressed. One day he received a letter from his friend John McCarthy, who told him to try “abiding, not striving or struggling.” Christ himself is “the only power for service; the only ground for unchanging joy,” McCarthy wrote.
Taylor said, “As I read, I saw it all. I looked to Jesus, and when I saw, oh, how the joy flowed. As to work, mine was never so plentiful or so difficult; but the weight and strain are gone.” By the time Hudson Taylor died, his organization had 800 missionaries in China.
One of my favorite hymns invites us to “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.” Whatever storms we face today, we can walk on the water if we’ll come to Jesus.