Wow, that’s a huge wave – I’m going to take it!”
“Jamie, I wouldn’t recommend it” – These were the last words I remember before paddling as hard as I could to catch the big one. I was with a group of Vineyard pastors at a leadership retreat in Acapulco with some guys who were old surfer dudes from California. I myself had never even been able to stand up on a surf board, but today we were body-surfing. It made no sense to me to pass up such a huge wave, and what did these old surfers know anyway! I felt this incredible rush as I rode the wave for a few seconds, hearing the theme music from Hawaii Five O. Suddenly the giant wave broke over top of me like a powerful hand crushing me down. I was tossed around like a limp rag, deeper and deeper until finally I was slammed to a halt. What little air I had left in my lungs was driven out, leaving me pressed to the bottom without oxygen. I had to wait for what seemed like forever for the pressure of the wave to let up so I could attempt to swim back to the surface. I prayed all the way up, and finally made it out, spewing water and gasping for air. I looked for help from my pastor buddies as they surfed by, only to hear, “we tried to tell you!” No mercy!
Even worse than my near death experience and humiliation was the Montezuma’s revenge I got from swallowing so much of that nasty water. I have never attempted surfing again, and remain what John Wimber referred to himself as: “a ground hugger”. The problem with finding security as a ground hugger is that the Lord often requires us to learn how to surf the waves if we are going to walk by faith!
Jesus sent his disciples in a small boat to go across the lake in Matthew 14:22-33. He needed some time alone with the Father, so he went up on a mountain to pray. During the night a storm arose on the Lake and the disciples were in trouble. I am sure they were feeling lost without having Jesus with them. I think with supernatural vision Jesus saw them in trouble, and I am sure he prayed for the Father to keep them safe and to calm the storm, but the Father had a different plan than just calming the storm, He wanted to reveal Jesus to them in a new way.
There are attributes of Jesus we can never know unless we meet Him in a major storm. The myth that faith keeps us from going through storms is both false and dangerous. Storms are opportunities to discover both the depth of our ugly weaknesses and the beauty of His grace. Faith does not exempt us from storms, actually it often leads us into them. In the darkness of a storm it can feel like Jesus is a million miles away and unconcerned about our troubles. The truth is “He sees us straining at the oars” (Mark 6:48) and comes to our rescue. I love the fact that Jesus “walks on the very waves that are threatening to destroy the disciples. He could have just rebuked the waves as he did at another time but he wanted to reveal himself as the Lord of all creation.
Peter seeing Jesus walking on the water, and cries out for permission to walk on the water to come to Jesus. I am sure at this point every other disciple in the boat is thinking Peter is crazy or a show off. But Jesus is pleased by his willingness to take a risk and responds with the word “Come”. When Jesus says “come” it is far more that permission, it is His life giving word that both invites and enables Peter to do the impossible. There is nothing more solid to stand on than the rock of His word.
I love this guy! He is bold, courageous and willing to risk it all. Out of all the disciples only Peter gets out of the boat to walk on the water to come to Jesus. Yes, I know he fails in his attempt, but he did make it several steps, which no other human has ever done. What a rush of joy must have filled his heart: “I am walking on water, it’s a miracle!” This ugly surfing by Peter is a beautiful picture of the Christian walk of faith.
Walking on the water is the only way you can come to Jesus! There is no other way to come to Jesus than a miracle of faith. There is no religious bridge we can walk on that will take us to Jesus. As the words of the great old hymn “Christ the Solid Rock” says “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”. Peter was not walking on the water; he was walking on the word of Jesus. The only thing that can support our faith is His word. Jesus calling to us to “Come”, is not asking us to perform the impossible but to believe in Him to do it. As when Jesus commanded the crippled man to “rise and walk”, it was impossible for him to do, unless the command came with the power to perform it. The Lord’s invitation to follow him by faith saying “come” both exposes our inability to do it, and reveals the power of His grace to enable us to walk on the waves.
Peter taking his eyes off of Jesus and seeing the threatening waves caused him to sink and nearly drown. But one gasp for help brought the hand of mercy immediately to pull him out of the water. Peter was learning to “walk by faith not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Learning to walk by faith is filled with bruises and scars from our many falls but He holds our hands like a loving Father.
Here are a few lessons from Ugly Surfing
1.Storms are essential to grow our faith in the Lord of all storms.Faith brings us through storms not exempts us from them.
2.It may be too dark to see Him at times in storms but He is coming! He sees you and the very things that are causing you to fear, He is walking on top of them. All our enemies are under His feet.
3.As John Wimber taught us you spell faith: RISK. Playing it safe can become a lethal trap to walking by faith. We must at his word leave the safety of our boats and walk to Him on the water.
4.We will fail at times in our faith walk but we must let Him pull us up and put our eyes back on Him. He has great mercy on us when we fail attempting to step out in faith but He is never pleased with us for playing it safe. It can become a very dangerous place to be seeking only our security.
5.Pay attention to old faith surfers when they advise you on which waves to take, pride goes before a fall or drowning!
Listen for His voice in the next storm you are in, and hear Him say “come”, take the risk, get out of the boat and do some Ugly Surfing.
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