Faith is the key to God’s kingdom. It catapults us into believing Christ as Savior and ushers us into eternal life in heaven with Him. It begins and ends with faith, but the in-between of faith becomes more complex as we run this race. The simplicity of our saving faith at the starting line of the Christian walk isn’t meant to stay simple, stagnating and partially paralyzing us as we approach fearful situations.
Jesus quantifies faith Himself when He reaches out His hand to catch Peter as he begins to sink while attempting to walk on water towards Christ; “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). Little faith. So it is safe to assume there is a spectrum with varying levels of faith. We either have faith or we don’t, but when we do, apparently it can waver from little to large. Obviously, Peter had faith, but appeared to be on the light side of it when his fear of seeing the wind while he was walking on water consumed him (Matthew 14:30). A stark contrast between having enough faith to defy physics and walk on top of a body of water, and the lessening of his faith causing him to sink and give in to the gravity of our mortal world.
Relating to Peter isn’t a challenge here. While he, nor we, can literally see the wind around us, the effects of it, on the other hand, do not go unseen. Whether the effects are all in our own minds, while we perpetuate our worries of all unknowns, or we’re overwhelmed by the winds of change that knock us down as we try so desperately to walk towards Christ with increasing faith; whichever winds bind us, the challenge to persevere not just in faith, but to avoid this little faith that Jesus speaks of, is a moment by moment, step by step, progression.
The disciples in the boat that night saw Jesus walking on the water, approaching them, and they were terrified, thinking He was a ghost (Matthew 14:26). Christ calls to them, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Peter’s responds by saying, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water” and Jesus says, “Come” (Matthew 14:28-29).
How many times are we terrified by something we see before us, tempted to take refuge and hide, without the realization that whatever we encounter that causes us to fear always has the Spirit of God surrounding it? Regardless of what prompts us to be discouraged, Christ is in it, in us, as we confront what each day brings. We ask if it is Him out there in the wind, ask Him to tell us to come to Him in faith as we gingerly make our moves, and He tells us to come towards Him, with great faith that He will carry us as we attempt each step. Then our fear sets in, we forget that He is right beside us to catch us if we fail, and the sinking feelings of despair wash over. Oh, us of little faith, why do we doubt?
Faith is fixed when we consider that it is a gift from God, bestowed upon us in spite of our works, but it doesn’t stop there. We can’t lose our faith once it’s given to us, God won’t give out His cards of election and then take them away, but our faith certainly fluctuates. Some days, we have it strong and depend on Him in all things; however, some days, we have it weak and succumb to the windstorm’s effects by being afraid. This fear, this doubt, this discouragement, is an unfruitful result of having only little faith.
When measures of faith are mentioned, knowledge that only God can strengthen and increase ours is true. However, if we call out to Him as Peter did on the lake, begging for Him to reveal Himself by building up our faith to a level that allows us to proverbially walk on water through windstorms, we need to do our part as Peter did by stepping out of the boat after our Lord called him to come. We may witness the waves that the wind cause while we walk, but we can evaluate our level of faith with every step we make. It’ll be clear which end of the faith spectrum we’re on depending on whether we’re walking with our eyes focused on Christ, or our gaze is interrupted, our faith weakens and we begin to sink. Be assured though, even when we have little faith, as in Peter’s case, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him” (Matthew 14:31). Why not strive for a “walk on water” depth of faith when we know He’s there to catch us if, and when, we fall?