Individuals who accomplish great things are willing to step into uncertainty rather than sitting back and doing nothing. Most people prefer certainty because their fear is more significant than their faith. People who are open to uncertainty not only walk on the moon but they walk on water too.
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- A Detailed Study in Self-Reliance
It was a dark and stormy night. The winds were howling, and your faith was waning. As you looked out across the waters, you saw this figure coming toward you. You barely recognized Him when He called you to go to Him. You couldn’t believe it.
You want me to come to you? Is that you, Lord?
Then He uttered one monosyllabic word, “Come.” Quite frankly, it was not enough information for what He was asking you to do. He wanted you to do something that was way beyond your ability to accomplish, and it surpassed all human reasoning.
That was it. No email. No fancy lettering in the sky. No more conversation. “Come!” God had spoken. There was only one question for you to answer: Will you obey Him?
Your friends were in the boat with you, and they were doing their best to egg you on. They knew it would not take much for you to kick into your impulsive gear and jump out of that boat, as though you could walk on water. But this time your faith was not in your impulsiveness. You knew your faith had to be in something else, or in this case, someone else.
You held your breath, squinted your eyes and did the impossible. You stepped out of the boat. Then the unthinkable happened. You did what no other person had ever done–other than the one who was asking you to get out of the boat. You were walking on water, toward your Master.
Feeling pretty good about the situation, you began to lose focus. In that moment of wrongly focused faith, you started to sink. But in an instant, you regained your sensibilities and did the only thing that you knew to do in a crisis. You yelled, “Lord, save me!”
And at that moment, your Master reached out His hand and pulled you back up on top of the water. From there, you and your Master walked to the boat and boarded. Your friends were stunned.
Thirty Years Later
You were walking alongside the seashore where you had stepped on top of that sea three decades earlier. You looked out upon those restless waters, and a tear came to your eye as you reflected on that eventful night when you demonstrated impossible faith with your Savior.
As you were reflecting on that dark and stormy night where your life changed, a few children saw you from a nearby village. They came running toward you, yelling,
Mr. Peter, Mr. Peter! Will you tell us that story again? That story that grandpa told us so many times before about the night when you walked on water with Jesus. Will you tell us, Mr. Peter?
You found a nearby rock to sit on and went back to the beginning, telling the story about that transformative night when you took a risk in faith. You stepped into the uncertainty because you understood the necessity and danger of wise risk-taking.
What if we made a few practical applications from Peter’s night out with Jesus. What were some of the things that he had to work through to have such a transformative experience with the Lord? Here are a few things that come to mind.
One of the more common struggles that we have in our walk with Christ is the tension between our perceived self-reliance and our faith in Christ. I say “perceived” because no one is truly self-sufficient. Relying on ourselves is a mirage that we pretend exists. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we are not only in control of our world, but that we can accomplish what we set our minds to do.
This attitude is the humanistic spirit that has bled into our religion, and if we are not careful, we can gradually grow toward more faith in ourselves than in God. This sin is called self-sufficiency, and it is prevalent in our churches. If you look underneath this desire to rely on ourselves, you will see a cluster of other sins.
Control and Comfort
Peter was on a boat, quite comfortable and feeling in control, which are two sin issues associated with self-sufficiency. A self-reliant person loves to be in control because it keeps them in their comfort zone. These three sins–self-reliance, control, and comfort–work in tandem. And as long as nothing interferes with these idols, the individual believes that everything will be okay because they are operating within their tightly controlled universe.
From the outside looking in, it could appear as though this kind of person is omnicompetent, having it all together and seemingly, there is nothing they cannot do. This perceived illusion is real, as long as they can manage all things within their universe.
The problem with this worldview is that God is a jealous God and the person who struggles with these sins is a practicing idolator (Exodus 20:3). This self-reliant posture motivates God to come along and challenge their faith in themselves by starting a process of teaching them to place biblical faith in Christ.
Let’s make it personal. God, in His mercy to you, will put you in spots where you cannot control the circumstances, and you have no choice but to cry out to Him for help. As you’re pleading with Him to save you at that moment, you’re repenting of these false gods of self-reliance, control, and comfort.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
A Detailed Study in Self-Reliance
I’m Okay Until Challenged
Peter’s boat provided him with the ability to rest in his self-sufficiency. He was comfortable, safe and in control but he was not exercising faith in God. To help him see the fallacy of false assurance, the Savior called him out. Christ had bigger plans for Peter on that dark and stormy night.
And God has bigger plans for you too, which He accomplishes by helping you to relinquish the hold that your way has on you while and embracing His way. Are you willing to exchange your understanding and enjoyment of what you believe the right way to be for God’s definition and provision of a path forward? Sometimes the answer to this question seems counterintuitive to our finite minds.
- How can an attempt at water walking be better than staying on a boat? Ask Peter.
- How can a man dying on a cross be better than that man saving his life? Ask Christ.
- How can rejecting the world be better than enjoying the world’s fruits? Ask a mature Christian.
The next time you are in what appears to be an impossible situation, think less about powerful sins of self-reliance, control, and comfort and more about God and what you gain by trusting and resting in Him.
As you poke more at the self-reliant construct, you will also find fear. Fearfulness is the second all-time counseling problem. The first is unbelief, which feeds a person’s fears. You see the crippling effect of fear in the Garden of Eden: whenever you choose to believe a lie instead of the truth, the inevitable “sin consequence” is fear. Read their story:
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. -Genesis 3:6-7
Adam and Eve knew they chose a lie and the consequence of their unbelief was fear. Fear is the opposite of faith (or belief, trust or God-centered confidence). The solution for a person who is struggling with fearfulness is to exercise faith in God.
Peter’s Sin Network
I talked about a “cluster of sin issues” that interfere with a person’s walk with God. They were self-sufficiency, control, comfort, fear, and unbelief. Peter was in control, which brought comfort. It was his fear that created a desire for comfort. And underneath all those sins was unbelief.
To break up Peter’s cluster of idols, Christ called him out of his boat of self-sufficiency to show him something better. Shortly after, Peter believed the Savior by stepping out of the boat. He was exercising biblical faith in God.
It’s instructive to know that when you do show faith in God, the temptation to fear will resurface as you realize that you are no longer in ultimate control of the situation. This truth is why you want to emulate Peter at his moment of crisis by asking the most critical question that you could ask. He said, “Lord, save me?”
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” – Matthew 14:30-31
Biblical faith is in a person, not your circumstances or hopeful outcomes. You must know that it is the Lord calling you to do the impossible.
Application: Is God’s Word Enough?
It is interesting to me that Christ gave Peter a monosyllabic answer to his question, “Lord is that you?” Christ said, “Come.” That was it. Nothing more. One word. One syllable.
Sadly, God’s children require more from Him than something akin to a teenager’s grunt. Rather than having faith in God and His Word, we want to “have faith in our faith.” To have faith in our faith, we need more information; we need to know the outcome before we move forward. But God did not budge that night on the sea. He said nothing more than “come.”
When discipling folks, I suggest to them that the gospel is the solution to their struggles, and many times they have a similar response: “The gospel is not enough. I need more.” They want more than the gospel. They want real answers. In Paul’s day, he encountered the same thing.
We preach Christ crucified (the gospel), a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. – 1 Corinthians 1:23-25
Application: Is God’s Gospel Enough?
I understand the struggle. The gospel does not seem like it’s enough to solve our problems. I mean, it might be the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16), but let’s be realistic. I need something practical.
Yes, I know. We must be practical, but may I suggest that you begin with trusting the goodness of God, which is a vital aspect of the gospel; only a good God would give so much (His Son) for our benefit. And if He is willing to give His only Son for your salvation, don’t you believe that He will take care of you?
Call to Action
- How does the goodness of God inform and control your thoughts daily?
- How does the gospel settle your soul as you prepare to step out of your boat to walk with Jesus?
- Do you see the necessity and danger of wise risk-taking? And because the gospel manages you in the practical matters of life, you’re able to rest even when it’s a dark and stormy night?
- How do you need to respond to this article as it pertains to the idols of self-reliance, control, comfort, fear, and unbelief?
Also published on Medium.