When God Lets You Sink

Faith only grows to the level of conflict we face. So we can count on our faith being tested.

By Ben Godwin Published on December 10, 2016

Sometimes God lets us fall flat on our face just so we realize we can’t do it without Him.

Such was the case when Peter momentarily walked on water, then abruptly sank. Jesus had sent His disciples across the Sea of Galilee while He went up into a mountain to pray. Even though they did exactly what He told them to do, they still sailed headlong into a storm.

Remember, Jesus never promised trouble-free living. In fact, He predicted the opposite — “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Since faith only grows to the level of conflict we face, we can count on our faith being tested. If “adversity is God’s university,” then even in the center of His will, we will face occasional storms.

In the Turbulence

Turbulence turned the disciples’ calm Sea of Galilee cruise into chaos. Fierce winds and violent waves tossed their ship like a toy. These normally tough sailors and fishermen fell into panic mode fearing they’d drown. Suddenly, “about four o’clock in the morning Jesus came to them, walking on the water!

They screamed in terror, for they thought He was a ghost.” (Matthew 14:25-26) After Jesus identified Himself, Peter boldly said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” When Jesus said “come,” Peter jumped overboard.

Comfort Zones and Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom says, “Don’t go overboard, especially in a storm,” but Peter had the experience of a lifetime when he dared to go overboard. While it’s easy to criticize him for sinking, don’t forget he did something no one else (besides Jesus) had ever done — walk on water. The other disciples stayed in the security of the ship.

It’s easy to sit in our comfort zone and criticize those who attempt (and sometimes fail) to do great things for God. Fear says it’s too risky to venture beyond the confines of the status quo. Faith says it’s time to step out of the boat of man-made church tradition and walk on the water with Jesus.

Experience, Experiment and Rescue

Imagine Peter literally walking on water as his eleven comrades stared in total shock and disbelief. The Bible doesn’t say how far he went before he took his eyes off Jesus and started sinking. Why did Jesus let him sink? Perhaps Peter thought after taking a few steps, “I’ve got this, I can handle this on my own.” But when he focused on the whipping wind and waves, gravity reclaimed its grip on him.

Peter had been raised on the water as a fisherman and was probably a good swimmer, but now he was in way over his head. “When [Peter] looked around at the high waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted. Instantly Jesus reached out his hand and rescued him” (Matthew 14:30-31).

We Need To Know How Much We Need Him

Jesus allowed Peter to sink so he would realize how much he needed Him. If Jesus hadn’t reached out and rescued him, Peter would have drowned — game over! His simple, three-word prayer changed everything. Peter saw how much he needed a Savior. We should too — we cannot save ourselves. We need Jesus to save our souls from sin and to save us from the negative situations in life. We should all pray periodically, “Save (deliver) me, Lord.”

Spiritually we can’t survive, much less thrive, without staying connected to Christ who is our source.

Jesus provided a vivid analogy of how dependent we are upon Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Being raised on an orange grove in Florida, I’ve seen my share of broken branches. Occasionally, in our orchard, a wind storm, lawn mower or truck would break off a branch from an orange tree. The disconnected branch, in essence, became a dead stick as the fruit and leaves on it withered and dried up.

That’s a picture of us without Christ — a dead, lifeless, fruitless stick. You see, the same life-giving sap that flows through the trunk of a tree also flows through its branches. If a branch is severed from its source, it will die. We must realize that we can’t get saved or stay saved without Jesus. We can’t survive spiritually, much less thrive, without staying connected to Christ who is our source. It is impossible to be a Christian and live a victorious life without God’s help.

Being Rescued and Helping To Rescue Others

Jesus made it very clear, “Without Me you can do nothing.” One of Satan’s biggest lies, and one of man’s biggest deceptions, is to presume that we can make it apart from God. A popular Gospel song dispels that notion: “O Lord, I can’t even walk without You holding my hand, the mountain’s too high and valley’s too wide, down on my knees, that’s where I learned to stand, O Lord, I can’t even walk without you holding my hand.”

Another reason God will let us sink is to prepare us to help rescue others. Jesus told Peter who betrayed Him and then sunk into despair, “I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32). Jesus allowed Peter to fail and, by overcoming that negative experience, he emerged stronger in his faith. Afterward, he was able to relate to others with more compassion and help them overcome by God’s grace.

Not Sunk After All!

Incidentally, both “Peter” and his other name, “Cephas,” mean “a rock.” After sinking like a rock literally and figuratively, Peter became a rock solid leader in the New Testament Church with unshakable faith. Peter is positive proof that even if God lets you sink, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sunk!

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