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If You Want To Walk On Water

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If You Want to Walk on the Water,

You’ve got to Get Out of the Boat

November 10 & 11, 2001

Speaker: Pastor Steven Peschke

Last week Pastor Paul talked about COURAGE. He told us that courage is the ability to control fear and deal with the situation. Then he talked about the courage to follow Christ, courage to make good moral decisions, courage to build healthy relationships, and finally courage to serve. I didn’t know what Pastor Paul was preaching on until I had already started working on this week’s message. I just love the way the Holy Spirit orchestrates things. Today’s message is the other bookend to Pastor Paul’s message. He talked about courage and today we’re going to talk about failure.

I want to start with the text for the message. It’s found in Matthew chapter 14, verses 22 to 33. It’s a story about fear and courage, faith and doubt, failure and hope, and the power of our God.

This story takes place right after Jesus has miraculously feed the 5000 on the mountainside. There was talk in the crowd of making Jesus their king. They had all not only seen the miracle but they had eaten it and they had their fill.

(Mat 14:22-33 NIV)  Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. {23} After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, {24} but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. {25} During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. {26} When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. {27} But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." {28} "Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." {29} "Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. {30} But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!" {31} Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" {32} And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. {33} Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

A story about fear and courage, faith and doubt, failure and hope, and the power of our God.

A couple years ago Sue and I took our kids on a driving vacation out west. I love the outdoors, wilderness areas and the majestic mountains and the fabulous vistas they afford. We went west through the Bad Lands, then south through Yellowstone Park and the Grand Tetons, to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon before returning through the Rockies of Colorado. It was a wonderful vacation.

Some of you might remember that we had a blue extended full size Dodge van, affectionately known in our family as the Tuna Boat. Don’t ask me what that means. Anyway to save money for our trip, I was playing auto mechanic. I got the old girl all spiffed up and tuned up for our trip. I changed all the fluids and filters, replaced all the belts, put on new brakes and tires front and back. The Tuna Boat was ready!

Now many of you know I love the outdoors, but most of you probably don’t know that I’m afraid of heights. Always have been. So I have this very strange attraction to mountains. I love them. They’re inspiring and awesome but they also scare the stuffing out of me. So what did I do? Plan a trip of thousands of miles of driving in the, you guessed it, the MOUNTAINS.

I knew it would be hard but I thought it would probably get better as it went on. I had calculated the risk and determined the payoff was worth it. And it was, but even with all my mental preparation, there were some emotions and things within myself that surprised me. I realized that I have a Flat-Lander’s mind and an eagle’s heart.

I was OK with Sue, Stacy and Katie helping with the driving at first. I was even OK when Katie asked what the speed limit in Montana meant where it said, “Reasonable and Prudent”. I didn’t think the old boat could go that fast.

But when we hit the serious mountains something clicked in my brain or more accurately in the pit of my stomach. And it didn’t get better as the trip went on. It was kinda like the love/fear thing with the mountains. I didn’t want to drive but I was absolutely sure I didn’t want any one else to drive.

The task of driving in the mountains for me was consuming. Every muscle in my body had simultaneously contracted and was in a state of high alert. The steering wheel probably still has the impressions of my fingers. It was physically exhausting. It required my total attention. When Sue or the kids would say look at that view. I was lucky to give it a quick glance. Being in this survival mode had cheated the very thing I longed to enjoy. It was so consuming that I told them not to talk to me. Then one day the drive was on narrow roads with lots of switch backs and sheer drop-offs, and Sue was trying to relax me by rubbing my shoulder and I rather sharply said, “Don’t touch me!” I was on sensory overload. It was like the van and I had become one. I could feel the tires gripping the road. The task had totally consumed me.

Sue and the kids still tease me to this day about the day Dad freaked out. The whole thing was a very spiritual experience, every day I prayed almost non-stop and I said the name of Jesus so many times I half expected to single handedly usher in His second coming.

I had expected the feelings of fear but two additional feelings that I hadn’t planned for, took me by surprise. The first was how my personal fear was projected on to those I love and value most, my wife and kids. Not only was my life seemingly hanging by a thread but in my mind their lives were in jeopardy too. Even though they were fine, laughing and having a grand old time. This was my fear multiplied by six. Then on top of that, a very disturbing thought kept haunting me. Our very lives are dependant on this old van and most particularly the brakes. My mind then went immediately to the mechanic who prepared the vehicle, who was a computer analyst turned pastor. And the question that had to be answered was, “Could this man be trusted?”

You might wonder why I shared this, but every day billions of people wake up in the morning and ask themselves simple questions like, “How’s my journey going to turn out? Is this a safe route?”

Today our society is full of people trying to conger up a positive mental attitude. Who hope that if they repeat an affirmation often enough, like saying to each other, “Everything is going to be OK!” or “God Bless America” or “There’s no place like home”. But that doesn’t mean everything is going to be OK.

Every once in a while there is a moment in time, as there is in this time, when people’s eyes are opened a bit and we realize that there are very basic questions to life that cry out for an answer, like -- “Who’s driving this thing?” and “Can I trust him?”

Or to put it in spiritual terms, “Is there a God?” “If so, is He in control?” “Does He have my interests, my future in mind?” “Is this life a journey to someplace else?” “If so, how am I going to get there?” “Can I without fear put my life and my destiny in His hands?” “Can I trust Him?” These are the questions in people’s minds and hearts and the answers have been entrusted to us. God has made us (you and I) stewards of the Gospel, His Good News. And this brings us back to this story of Peter.

The story happens right after Jesus has feed the 5000. It says in the Gospel of John that the crowd intended to make Him their king, by force. But Jesus refused and He sent the disciples across the Lake of Galilee by boat. The text says, “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat …”

Do you have the picture? The crowd wants to make Jesus their king. I can imagine the disciples were in favor of this. But Jesus refuses and sends the disciples to the other side of the lake. I’m sure they were not happy about this since the scripture says that Jesus made them go. You can almost hear the questions in the disciples’ minds. I thought He was the Messiah, why doesn’t He want to be king? Why is He sending us away? If we take the boats and leave Him alone, how is He going to join us?

Now it was daylight when the disciples started out and Jesus went up on the mountain to pray. While they are in the middle of the lake a great storm comes up. Sometime in the “fourth watch”, after 3 o’clock in the morning, Jesus comes near the boat walking on the water. They are exhausted physically and emotionally. They’re terrified. The waves were high and the wind was strong. And even though many of them were seasoned fishermen, this storm was bad. They weren’t happy about leaving in the first place. Can you imagine what they were thinking and saying now that they had been fighting the storm all night, all the time in fear of drowning?  “I told him this was a bad idea.” “Did he know this storm was coming?” “Did he send us out here to die?” “Where is he when you need him?”

So here they are in the middle of the lake, in the middle of a storm, and probably in a really lousy mood. And now Jesus says, “Get out of the boat.” And Peter gets out and sinks and doesn’t make it.  And the question is -- Is this a story about failure?

Before we get into that, I want to get you all involved in a simple exercise – A Mass Confession of Failure. I’m going to run through a few categories to help jog your memory. And then I’m going to ask you if you’ve ever failed in your life, to raise your hand. Don’t worry about what someone might think if you raise your hand Some of you might identify so strongly you might want to stand up. That’s OK – confession is good for the soul. Here we go:

1.      If you’ve ever failed a test.

2.      If you ever got cut from a team

3.      If you ever didn’t get a job you wanted

4.      If you ever didn’t get the promotion or raise you deserved

5.      If you’ve ever been inappropriately impatient with a three year old

6.      If you’ve ever lost your cool with your teenager

7.      If you’ve ever criticized someone inappropriately or if you’ve discovered that criticism is your spiritual gift.

8.      If in the middle of witnessing to someone you forgot John 3:16 and the Bridge illustration.

9.      If you’ve ever experienced moral, academic, athletic, social, financial, vocational, relational, evangelistic failure of any kind

Would you please raise your hand high right now and look around.

OK, now how many of you have never failed personally but the person sitting next to you looks like they’ve missed the boat a couple of times?

Here’s what I want you to do. We’ll level the playing field. I want each of you to turn to the persons sitting next to you and real quick say, “Welcome to the failure club.”

Here’s the truth about us. We are all wanna be water walkers.

An author by the name of Aileen Guder wrote,

You can live on bland foods so as to avoid an ulcer, drink no tea, coffee or other stimulants in the name of health, go to bed early, stay away from night life, avoid all controversial subjects so as to never give offense, mind you own business, avoid involvement in other people’s problems, spend money only on necessities and save all you can.

You can still break your neck in the bath tub, and it will serve you right.”


Now listen to me. God did not intend for your life to be about failure avoidance!


Your life is about something more than failure avoidance. You see the boat is safe. The boat is secure. The boat is quite comfortable in comparison. And the water is rough. And the waves are high. And the wind is strong. And if you happen to get out of your boat, whatever your boat happens to be, there’s a real good chance you might sink. Cause there’s a storm raging out there in this world.

But if you don’t get out of the boat, there’s an iron-clad guaranteed certainty that you will never walk on the water. Cuz here it is – If you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.

In the story, Jesus comes to his disciples and they are all afraid - afraid of the storm, afraid of Jesus. In verse 26 they call him a ghost. But verse 27 says, “But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."”

“It is I.” It’s like he’s saying, “Remember the last time we were in a boat in a storm, when I calmed the sea and stilled the wind? You know me. You know who I am. You can trust me.” And one of them does.

Peter says, “All right, Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you.” Now this request of Peter’s is a very important detail in the story. Peter is not just taking a risk for its own sake. He wants this to be at the initiative of Christ. And it’s a real important thing when we get out of our boats, that we be very discerning and listen carefully to what the Spirit is saying.

So Jesus responds, “All right Peter, come.” Peter takes a deep breath and heads for the side of the boat. All the disciples are watching him because you know Peter shoots his mouth off with out thinking, a lot. And they’re wondering, “How far is he prepared to go this time.”

Peter holds on to the side of the boat, put one foot over and then the other. Now he’s standing next to the boat and then he lets go. … He’s totally focused on Jesus and for a few minutes it’s like there is only Peter and Jesus in the whole world. And Peter is walking on the water. Upheld by the power of God. Like Master, like disciple.

Then Peter does what so many of us do, he looks around and notices that there is a storm raging. The wind is strong, the waves are high, and Peter says to himself, “What in the world was I thinking? Why did I get out of the boat?” And he’s afraid again. And he sinks. And the question is, “Did Peter Fail?”

Before we answer that, let’s talk about what is failure. Failure is not so much an event but rather the way we think about the stuff that happens to us. Failure is not some label we attach to certain outcomes. It’s more a judgment about an event. Failure is the way we think about a particular outcome and then how we then respond to it.

Before Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio that finally worked, he tried two hundred unsuccessful ones. Somebody asked him, “How did it feel to fail two hundred times?”

“I never failed”, Salk replied. “I just discovered two hundred ways how not to vaccinate for polio.”

Someone once asked Winston Churchill what prepared him to risk political suicide by speaking out against Hitler during the years of appeasement in the mid-1930’s and then to lead England against Nazi Germany. Churchill said it was the time he had to repeat a grade in elementary school.

“You mean you failed a year in grade school?” he was asked. “I never failed anything in my life. I was given a second opportunity to get it right.”

Thomas Edison holds the record for US Patents at over 1000 inventions. But Edison and his assistants tried thousands of materials before they tried a carbonized cotton thread as the filament for the first practical incandescent light bulb. Edison, when questioned about his genius and success, said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."

Help me out here. We’re going to have a little quiz and I need you to respond out loud.

1.      Jonas Salk made two hundred unsuccessful attempts to create a polio vaccine. Was Jonas Salk a failure?

2.      Winston Churchill had to repeat a grade in elementary school. Was Winston Churchill a failure?

3.      Thomas Edison made thousands of unsuccessful light bulbs. Was Thomas Edison a failure?

4.      I grew up just north of Chicago and as a boy I was a Cub fan. I even had an baseball autographed by Ernie Banks. The Cubs have not been in the World Series since 1945. They have not won the World Series since 1909, that’s 92 years. Are the Chicago Cubs a failure? 

Okay, bad example. But the question is, “Did Peter Fail?”

Well, I suppose in a way he did. His faith wasn’t strong enough. His doubts were stronger. He took his eyes off of his objective. He sank. He failed.

But here’s what I think. I think there were eleven bigger failures sitting in the boat. It’s really interesting to me that no one really talks about their failure. Their failure was real safe. They failed privately. Their failure went unnoticed, unobserved and uncriticized.

Only Peter knew the shame and humiliation of open public failure. That’s a painful thing. But only Peter knew two other things as well. Only Peter knew the glory of walking on the water. Only Peter knew what it was like to attempt to do, what he was not capable of doing on his own, and the feeling of being empowered by the Spirit of God to actually do it. Once you walk on the water, I don’t think you ever forget it. I think it impacts your entire life.

The other thing that only Peter knew was the glory of being lifted up by Jesus in a moment of desperate need. Peter knew, in a way the others could not, that when he sank, Jesus would be totally adequate to save him.

Peter knew these things in a way the other eleven disciples didn’t. They couldn’t have known it, because they never got out of the boat. The worst failure is not to sink in the waves. The worst failure is to never get out of the boat. The boat, that they thought provided safety and comfort, had actually become an obstacle, a hindrance to their faith and life.

I’m going to take a moment right now to give some of you an opportunity to respond to Jesus’ call to you. In the story, Jesus was not walking to the boat. He was walking near enough for the disciples to see him and hear his voice.

The reality for some of you is that you have been sitting in the pews of churches within earshot of Christ. You have probably heard Him calling you. But you’ve never gotten out of the boat. You’ve never come to Him.

In Luke 13:24-27 Jesus talking about the way to heaven says,   "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. {25} Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' {26} "Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' {27} "But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'

I know some have sat here for years and have never responded to His call. Last week Pastor Paul said it required courage to accept Christ as your Savior. So, I’m going to repeat Christ’s call and then I want all of you who have never responded to his invitation or have turned away from him and now are willing to step out of the boat, to stand to your feet or if you can’t stand to raise your hand. And then we’ll pray together.

This is it. Jesus is passing by. He’s calling out to you and He says, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid. Come to me." Are there any here today who will respond?

[Prayer & Celebration]

Now I want to turn a corner as we come to the second part of the message today. I would like to look at the application of Peter’s story to all of our lives, particularly in the areas of evangelism and ministry leadership. This is the part of the message you may not like very much. I don’t much care for it myself. The choice to follow Jesus -- is the choice for the constant recurrence of fear every time we get out of the boat. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you. You don’t just climb out once and you’re done. It’s the lifestyle of a disciple.

You see Jesus is still calling men and women, teens and kids who love him enough and are concerned enough for a world that is lost in a storm. That they’ll say, “I’ll get out of the boat.

You see any time you engage in an act of evangelism or take up leadership in the kingdom, it is always risk taking, you are always putting part of yourself on the line. It’s always risky. It’s always a getting out the boat experience. But you never do it by yourself. He’s already there. Out of the boat in the water waiting to help you.

I recently came across a great evangelistic story of how the Spirit works through ordinary folks like us. There was this guy by the name of Jeffery Cotter who tells about a plane ride when he took a risk, got out of the boat evangelistically.

He was coming back from a job interview dressed in blue jeans. Found himself sitting next to a pin stripe wearing, brief case toting, Wall Street Journal reading business type. His initial impulse was to avoid all conversation especially about jobs. But this businessman started talking with him explaining what his job was. That he worked in what he called the figure salon business. Talked about how he could change a woman’s self-concept by changing her body and appearance. He was very excited about the power and significance of what he did. Cotter was struck with his man’s pride in his work. And wondered why can’t Christians be more like that. Why are we many times apologetic about our faith and the Gospel?

Cotter realized that he had been in avoidance mode because of fear. And then this business type looked over at Cotter’s clothing, looked at him kind of skeptically and asked him, “What do you do?”

This is what Jeffery had to say, “The Spirit began to brood over the face of the deep, order and power emerged from chaos, a voice within me reminded me, ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”

“It’s interesting that we have similar business interests,” I said. “You are in the body changing business. I am in the personality changing business. We apply basic theocratic principles to accomplish indigence personality modification.”

He was hooked but I knew he’d never admit it. Pride is powerful. “You know I’ve heard of that,” he replied hesitantly.

“But do you have an office here in the city?” “Oh, we have many offices. We have office all over the state. In fact we’re national. We at least one office in most cities in every state including Alaska and Hawaii.”

He had this puzzled look on his face as he was searching his mind to identify this huge company that he must have read or heard about in the Wall Street Journal.

“As a matter of fact we’ve gone international and management has a plan to put at least one office in every city in every of country of the world by the end of this business era”

I paused. “Do you have that in your business?”

“Well no not yet.” He answered. “You mentioned management. How do they make it work?” “It’s a family concern. There’s a father and a son. They run everything.”

“It must take a lot of capital?” he asked skeptically. “Oh, you mean money?” I asked. “I suppose so. No one knows just how much it takes. But we never worry about money because there’s never a shortage. The boss always seems to have enough. He’s a very creative guy. The money is, well just there. As a matter of fact, those of us in the organization have a saying about him. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.”

“Oh, he’s into ranching too.” Asked my captive friend. “No it’s just a saying we use to indicate his wealth.”

My friend sat back in his chair and asked, “What about with you? The employees?” “They are something to see.” I said. “They have a spirit that pervades the organization. It works like this. The father and son love each other so much their love filters down through the organization so we all find ourselves loving one another too. I know this sounds old fashioned in a world like ours but I have people in the organization that are willing to die for me. Do you have that in your business?” I’m almost shouting now.

People were starting to shift noticeably in their seats to hear what was being said. “Not yet,” he said. Quickly changing strategies he asked, “But do you have good benefits?”

“They’re substantial,” I said with a gleam. “I have complete health insurance, life insurance and fire insurance, all the basics. You might not believe it but it’s true I have holdings in a mansion that is being built for me when I retire. Do you have that in your business?”

“Not yet.” He said but the light was starting to go on. “One thing bothers me. I read a lot of journals and if your business is all you say it is why haven’t I heard about it before now?”

“That’s a good question. After all we have a 2000 year tradition. Wanna sign up?”

Isn’t that a great story about a guy who was willing to take a risk and willing to get out of the boat. But the question that must be asked is why don’t we all have stories like that to tell.

I’m going to tell you what I think is the primary barrier to evangelism and the responding to God’s call to leadership within the church. Do you know what the most frequent command in scripture is? How many would say to love? How many would say to obey? How many would say to evangelize? Nope! The most common command in scripture by far is – Fear Not! Don’t be afraid! 366 times, one for every day of the year and one for leap year. Don’t be afraid.

So if you’re like me, you ask, “Why is this the most frequent command?” I think the reason for is that not God wants our lives to be easy or placid all the time. I think the reason is that fear is the number one barrier that will keep us from doing what God calls us to do.

I heard a story of a man who was talking with his wife about a spiritual conversation that he knew God wanted him to have with a friend. His wife listened as he described the anxiety and conflict that was within him. He knew it was one of those “get out of the boat” situations. He told her that every time he even thought about talking to his friend, he would get sweaty palms and just talking to her about it made his mouth dry.

And then this wise, kind, sympathetic, understanding wife said, “Why don’t you lick your palms.”

Bottom line? For most of us it’s just “palm licking time”. There are people in our neighborhoods, our offices, and our schools who are just one conversation away from a significant step in their spiritual lives. And there’s a believer they know whose got sweaty palms and a dry mouth.

And there’s no other way to get to the task of evangelism than to take action – to get out of the boat. There’s no other way. Things like preparation, training and motivation are good and necessary but the time comes when you gotta act. Because if you don’t you’ll never see God at work.

It’s just palm licking time.

I’m going to give you a question that I think can be real helpful in facing the fear of evangelism. Here it is – If I take this step, what’s the worse thing that can happen?

Because people whose lives are controlled by fear often have difficulty identifying the fear or the cause. Often it is quite vague in their minds. Good therapists and counselors work hard to get a lot of clarity on exactly is it that you’re afraid of. Because until then, you can’t defeat fear. So this is a good question for us to ask ourselves as we wrestle with our evangelistic fears. What’s the worse thing that can happen?

Let’s remember some of the times in scripture that God had asked someone to do something and consider their cost of obedience. God calls Moses to go tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” What the worse thing that can happen to Moses if he obeys? … He could die.

God calls Esther to go to the king. Her uncle says, “Who knows what you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” And she is to tell the king about the plot to kill the God’s people. What’s the worse thing that can happen to Esther? … She could die.

God calls Paul in a Roman prison to proclaim the Gospel without fear. What’s the worse thing that could happen to Paul? … He could die.

There are numerous countries in our time that are openly hostile to Christians like Egypt, India, Tibet and Sudan. What is the worse that can happen to these people if they are obedient to God’s call. … They could die.

You and I in our country in our society, if we were to engage a neighbor, co-worker or classmate in a spiritual conversation, what is the worse that can happen to us? … They might say No.

They might say, No. Doesn’t that strike you that there is kind of a gap there?

You know, that the stakes are not quite as high. The consequences we face are a little different. Yet those in the Bible that I mentioned and so many more have said “OK, I’ll go. OK, I’ll talk to them. If I perish, I perish.”

What’s the worse that can happen? For most of us and most circumstances in our country the worse that can happen, is somebody saying, “No thanks. Not interested”

You see we live in a culture where the fear of failure has got to be dealt with!

The truth of the matter is that failure is an indispensable learning tool. Absolutely indispensable! Especially when it comes to evangelism and leadership. We’ve got to expect it, we’ve got to share it, we’ve got to learn from it, we’ve got to learn how to support people in the midst of it, we’ve got to learn how to celebrate it. Yes, I said celebrate it? Why celebrate failure? Because it means that somebody got out of the boat. We’ve got to get a whole lot better about dealing with this issue of failure.

Jesus in one of his foundational parables tells us a story of a farmer who is sowing seed. We understand that the sower who is initially connected to the parable is Jesus and the seed is the Gospel.

In the story the sower is sowing seed everywhere. Some falls on the path that is packed down hard. This represents people whose heart is hard. Some of the seed falls on rocky ground that has a very little topsoil to support growth. This soil represents people whose hearts are shallow. Some of the seed gets sown in areas where there are weeds and thorns. This soil represent people whose hearts are cluttered with stuff and the seed gets choked out. But some seed falls on good soil or receptive hearts. There it takes root and thrives.

One of the things that’s interesting to me in this parable is that he talks about a ratio of  1 out of 4 soils where the seed can take root and grow. There are lots of other applications of this parable but I wonder if some of what Jesus was trying to encourage his disciples in was, that if you bat 250 don’t be surprised.

So often we in the church have one failure and we say, “It doesn’t work” or “I’m not gifted in this area I’ll let someone else do it.” One of the things we’ve discovered in our study of Jesus’ life on Sunday nights, is that many who heard Jesus teach, rejected him and his teachings. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, didn’t bat 1000 and He says not all the seed is going to grow. Just keep sowing. Just keep sowing.

And that’s the picture we’ve seen of Jesus. Just like the farmer in the parable. He just kept sowing, even on the cross when he said, “This day you will be with me in paradise” and then His Great Commission to all believers, “Go and make disciples of all nations” just before He ascended to heaven.

The worst thing that can happen to us is someone saying, “No thanks – Not interested”.

Let them say it. Never say NO for anybody. You don’t want to have to answer for that.

You never know who will respond, You never know, someone who you think is about a million miles away from God, might be one relationship, a few conversations, perhaps a book or tape away from new life. Never say NO for anybody!

The worst thing that can happen is someone says, “No thanks – I don’t think so”. But the best thing that can happen is that someone will cross that line and go from death to life. To witness someone crossing that line of faith is simply the best.

We all have to answer this question both as individuals and as a church. Am I and is my church sitting in the boat when it comes to evangelism? What percentage of time, money, energy, passion, resources, and training are devoted to evangelism? Where are you honestly? Where are we as a church?

Are our hearts for the lost going larger or are they focused inward on ourselves? The natural entropy mode, the drift mode, for us as humans and for the church as a whole is for us to become self-focus and self-absorbed and our hearts for people who are far from God gets a little smaller, harder and cooler. That’s the problem with the church in the United States. That’s why churches who have plateaued or are in decline slip into a survivor mode of thinking, they go onto life support and they are consumed with putting off death as long as possible. That’s why mainline denominations close more churches every year than they open.

It’s like gravity that pulls us inward. And we must all make a conscious deliberate effort to push out of our self-satisfied comfort zone and reach out to people. Because there is a storm out there. And this is an individual challenge to all of us and a huge challenge for all who are in leadership. Because when we stop getting out of the boat, we start to die. The day that we stop taking risks for the sake of the Gospel is the day we start to die.

That’s part of the irony of the story, that the boat, which initially appears to be the safest place, turns out to be the most dangerous place to be. You’ll die there!

This brings us back to a characteristic of the life of a true disciple of Jesus, that most folks don’t like and I’m not always nuts about it myself.

A commitment to a life of following Christ is a commitment to the constant recurrence of the experience of fear. (repeat) Isn’t that good news?

You see a disciple, one who follows Christ, is a learner, a student, one who seeks to grow and obey. And to grow means that we are constantly pushing out, entering new territory, stretching ourselves, getting out of the boat. And every time we do, we experience fear. That means that fear will never go away. Never – not if you follow him. Not if you keep taking evangelistic and ministry risks. The fear will never go away. It will be your companion your whole life long – your little friend fear.

You’ll be in palm licking mode the rest of your life.

The alternative is to start dying.

Discipleship always involves a choice between comfort and fear. To be a disciple means to renounce comfort as the ultimate goal of our lives. And that’s bad news in our culture, because we are into comfort.

What would you guess is the name of the number one selling chair in America?


            Not Risky-Boy

            Not Work-R-Boy

            Not Witness-Boy

La-Z-Boy. We want to come home and immerse ourselves in comfort. And we have a term for that too. People say, “I just want to go home and _______ (veg-out)” Or make oneself as much like a form of plant life as humanly possible.

We have a name for people who do this in front of their TVs. We call them _______ (coach potatoes). Couch potatoes in their La-Z-Boys.

The eleven disciples, who stayed in the boat, could be called “boat potatoes” They didn’t mind watching, but they didn’t want to actually do anything themselves.

Millions of people come on Sunday mornings and fill the churches to get some sort of spiritual comfort but never get involved in the life of the church or in the work of the Lord. They could be called “pew potatoes”. They don’t want the risk of actually following Christ.

Yet Jesus is still looking for men and women, teens and kids, who will get out of the boat. He’s looking for people who will say, “Lord, I may be small potatoes, but this spud’s for you.”

And you know, there are other risks in staying in the boat. Every time you choose to stay in the boat rather than heed his call, it’s harder for you to hear his voice. It gets a little quieter within you. Until at last, you don’t hear the call at all.

(Song – “You Said”)

I want to close with a story about a man who got out of the boat.  His name is Bob and he’s an insurance salesman who was saved and being discipled by another Christian named Doug. Bob was meeting with Doug on a regular basis to continue growing in his faith.

One day Bob came in all excited about a promise of God he found in the Bible where Jesus says, “Ask whatever you will in my name, and you shall receive it.”

“Is that really true?” Bob asked. Doug explained, “Well, it’s not a blank check. You have to take it in the context of the teachings of the whole Scripture on prayer. But yes – it really is true. God really enjoys answering our prayers.”

“Great!” Bob said. “Then I gotta start praying for something.” He had never prayed in a targeted way for anything before. “I think I’ll pray for Africa.” “That’s kind of a large target. Why don’t you narrow it down to one country?” Doug suggested.

“All right. I’ll pray for Uganda.”

“Do you know anyone in Uganda?” asked Doug.


“Ever been to Uganda?”

“No” He just wanted to pray for Uganda.

So Doug made an unusual arrangement with Bob. He challenged Bob to pray every day for six months for Uganda. If Bob would do that and nothing extraordinary happened, Doug would pay him five hundred dollars. But if something remarkable did happen, Bob would pay Doug five hundred dollars. And if Bob didn’t pray every day the whole deal was off. It was a very unusual prayer program to say the least.

So Bob began to pray and for a long while nothing happened. Then one night Bob was at a benefit dinner. And every one around the table was talking and telling about what they did for a living. Bob was kind of fading in and out of the conversation when one woman at the table said that she helped run the largest orphanage in Uganda.

Bob realized that his five hundred dollars had sprouted wings and was probably flying away, but he could not keep quiet. He roared to life and peppered this lady with question after question.

“You’re obviously very interested in my country,” the woman said, overwhelmed by his sudden barrage of questions. “Have you been to Uganda before?”


“You know someone in Uganda?”


“Then how do you happen to be so curious?”

“Well, this guy is paying me five hundred dollars to pray …”

Well, she ends up inviting Bob to come a visit the orphanage. And he goes and tours the facility. And he’s appalled by the poverty and the lack of basic health care for the children.

Upon his return home, he couldn’t get the place out of his mind. And Bob had not been a Christian long enough to know that you don’t actually do stuff about things that you are concerned about, so he began to write large pharmaceutical companies describing what he had seen. And he asked them if they would be willing to donate some of the medical supplies that they throw away every year. And some of them did. The orphanage received more than a million dollars worth of medical supplies the first year.

The woman Bob had meet call him up and said, “Bob, this is amazing! We’ve had the most phenomenal gifts because of the letters you wrote. We’re going to have a party and we’d like you to come.”

So Bob flew back over to Uganda. Now the President of Uganda came to the celebration because it was the largest orphanage in the country and he offered to take Bob on a tour of the capital. In the course of the tour they saw a prison. Bob asked about a group of prisoners there. And was told that they were political prisoners.

“Oh, that’s not a good idea.” Bob said. “You ought to let them go.”

Bob finished the tour and returned home. Sometime later, Bob received a phone call from the State Department of the United States that went something like this:

“Is this Bob?”


“Were you in Uganda recently?”


“Did you make any statements to their president about political prisoners?”


“What did you say?”

“I told him he should let them out.”

The official went on to explain that his department had been working for years to get these prisoners released, but to no avail. But now the prisoners had been released and they had been told that it was largely because of … Bob. So the government was calling to say thanks.

The several months later the President of Uganda called Bob. He told him that he was going to appoint new cabinet advisors and he would like Bob to come and pray for him for three days while he made his selections. So Bob, who was not politically connected at all, boarded a plane once more and flew back to Uganda. All this because one man got out of the boat.

I want to give you the Bob challenge. You pray every day for the next six months. You pick someone or some kingdom project. Maybe it’s one person, or a group of people. Maybe it’s a family or maybe it’s our church. Maybe it’s that the fires of evangelism would burn hot within all of us. Maybe it’s a ministry that God has placed on your heart. Maybe it’s a place of leadership that He has called you to. You pray every day for six months. You go on this adventure with God. And if nothing happens, if God doesn’t answer your prayers, Pastor Dean will pay you five hundred dollars. That’s a joke. I made that up, it won’t happen. Please, the elders will garnish my paycheck for the rest of my life.

But I do want to make this deal with you. Drop me a note or an e-mail and let me know what you’re praying for so I can pray with you. And then when God does answer your prayers, and He will, send me another note and let me rejoice with you. So that next year as we enter the Thanksgiving season there would be hundreds of Bob stories where somebody got out of the boat.

I don’t know exactly what that means for you. But I do know two things. One is that if you do get out of your boat, when you fail (and you will fail sometimes), Jesus’ arm has not lost any of his strength or power. He is still wholly adequate to save.

And the other thing I know is that every once in a while, you are going to walk on the water. But if you want to walk on the water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.


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