What confession shall I share today, dear readers? One that is true, the truth is always best. So, I confess, I am drowning. I took my eye off the ball and I am drowning. I am mixing my sports metaphors here, I know. The best sports advice is always “keep your eye on the ball.” That’s what they tell the batter in baseball, the wide receiver in football, the tennis player, the golfer, the pickleball player, -if you are playing a sport that includes a ball of any kind – keep your eye on it!
So where does the drowning enter in? Well, when the batter doesn’t keep his eye on the ball, he strikes out. Likewise for the other sports, when you shift your gaze from the ball, bad things happen.
It’s like what happened to Peter in Matthew 14. He was walking on the water toward Jesus. He took his eyes off of Jesus for just a moment and in that moment Peter began to sink into the stormy sea. It only took a split second. One minute he was walking on the water, the next he was sinking into it and crying out, “Lord, save me!”
Here’s how this story went down. ” ‘Lord, if it’s You,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ He (Jesus) said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he (Peter) saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’ ” (Matthew 14:28-31)
Today Jesus is asking me that same question – “Why do you doubt Me?” As I follow after Him through this COVID-19 storm – He’s asking me – “Do you trust Me?” Now I don’t know that this storm in which we all find ourselves today is all that different from the storm in which those disciples found themselves that night in the boat.
“When evening came, . . . the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” (Matthew 14:24)
Circumstances beyond their control – sound familiar? Who would rescue them from this storm? Help was on the way.
“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.” (that’s me and that’s you, crying out in fear) But Someone hears our cries and answers us out of the noise of this storm . . .
“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ . . . And when they (Peter and Jesus) climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped Him saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’ ” (Matthew 14:25-27,32-33)
They had been in storms before with Jesus. Apparently they had forgotten this little incident no so long ago.
“Then He (Jesus) got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!’ ” (Matthew 8:23-27)
Today, in this world wide COVID-19 storm, Jesus says the same thing to me and to you that He said to His disciples in that boat – “don’t be afraid!” He was with them in their boat, He is with each one of us in this storm. Jesus was able to calm the wind and the waves because He created the wind and the waves and because He is Lord over them, as He is Lord over all of creation.
Jesus also asks the same question of me and of you that He asked of His disciples caught in the storm on the lake – “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
It is in trying to answer this question that I realize like Peter, I am only afraid when I take my eyes off of Jesus. When I focus on my circumstances, like Peter did, when he looked at the wind swirling around him as he walked toward Jesus on the water and lost sight of Jesus in that moment – if I take my eyes off of Jesus, I too will panic and cry out in fear.
Peter’s story reminds me that I need to keep my eye on the ball, metaphorically speaking or on Jesus, literally speaking. That makes the difference between sinking or swimming. (or walking on water, actually) When I take my eyes off the ball, lose my focus, start to flounder and to sink like Peter did, it is Jesus’ strong hand that reaches out and rescues me.
He brings me safely back into the boat once again. In these uncertain times, it is this sure knowledge that is my hope and my comfort. Now that everything I have counted on has been stripped away from me, what better time to learn all over again how to trust my Heavenly Father.
I love His promises to me in Isaiah 26:3-4 and in Isaiah 28:16 –
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal.”
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.”
and so as the winds of this world wide storm swirl around me again today, I pray with the father in Mark 9:24 when he cried out to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
sincerely, Grace Day