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Rescued Me From Danger

Wandering Heart, Week Two

Matthew 14:22-33

February 25, 2024

Megan Collins



A fascinating statistic made the rounds on the internet recently. A survey was done where they asked one question. “Could you safely land a passenger airplane in an emergency situation, relying only on the assistance of air traffic control?”


This is what they found: Nearly half of all men surveyed believed that, if they had to, they could land the plane.


The survey population wasn’t men with flight training or some limited experience with planes. These are just regular men. The survey wasn’t talking about a small plane, or a simulator. The men believed they could land a full size passenger plane.


Half of all men believed they could do this. Imagine, you are on a plane, nestled comfortably in your seat at an altitude of 40,000 feet, cruising towards your travel destination when a flight attendant’s voice breaks through the silence:


“Ladies and gentlemen, both pilots are incapacitated. Are there any passengers who could land this plane with assistance from air traffic control?”


You look around, and one out of every two men on the plane is raising his hand. 


Now, to be fair, it’s not just men. When you include women in the data from the survey, ⅓ of all people believe they could land the plane. So some women, in this hypothetical plane scenario, would raise their hands too. 


But despite their startling confidence, the experts have weighed in. The general consensus is, if this were to happen, you might want to look for a parachute. It turns out we may be a little overconfident in our abilities as humans. 


That’s not new. This has been a problem for us since the very beginning.One of the very first Bible stories about the very first humans tells us these two humans were hanging out in a garden. God had given them everything they needed - food, safety, companionship. But there was one thing they couldn’t do, eat from this one tree. Then the talking snake shows up and tells them if they eat from that tree they will be like God. That was all it took. Being like God sounded just about right to them. That was something they could definitely handle. 


Overconfidence is not new for us.


Maybe only one third of us think we could land a plane. But most of us flirt with this idea that we could be a little like God, that we could handle that kind of responsibility. 

We act like we are in control. We think we know more than we do.


We believe we can do things on our own. We ignore our own limitations.


We strive to be perfect.


Who needs God? I’ve got this! 


God, just give me a little more courage and I’ll take care of it.


God, let me pray and tell you exactly what you should do. I’ve got it all figured out. 


We don’t just think we can land an airplane without any training.

We think we can navigate our lives, and really the problems of the whole world, without any help.


Sometimes that works out okay for us. Sometimes in our overconfidence we luck out and are wildly successful. Or we at least give perfect advice to someone and it all works out. Then we look around and think “I am crushing this.” 


Sometimes things work out. Last year, a pilot did become incapacitated on a small plane from the Bahamas. A passenger named Darren Harrison was able to land the plane with the help of Air Traffic Control. 


But this is the exception. 


The most likely scenario when someone who is not a pilot tries to land the plane is, at best, a semi-controlled crash. 


Sometimes you can do things in your life without God, and be amazing. 

But what about when you take over the controls and you end up with a semi-controlled crash?


What do you do when you find yourself in over your head, when you get overcommitted or stressed out?


What do you do when your plans don’t work out? 


How do you get through it when everything falls apart, or when you give advice that messes things up for someone else?


We are in a series during Lent called Wandering Heart that follows the story of Peter’s life. Peter is far from perfect (which is why we can relate to him so much). Let’s read today’s story about Peter from the gospel of Matthew:


22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.25And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake.26But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

So the disciples are out in a boat. The wind is really strong and it has been kicking up these large waves that have thrown their boat far away from the shore. All night long they could feel their boat being tossed back and forth. They couldn’t see the waves in the dark, and they had no idea how far they had drifted. Then just as the morning light starts to break into the night sky, they see this figure walking out toward them on the water. Their immediate response is “It’s a ghost!”


I would like to cut the disciples some slack here. They have been up all night in a boat, terrified, in the pitch dark. Of course they go with ghost. They’re delirious. 


As Jesus gets closer, there is this whole scene with Peter. Peter tries to walk on the water like Jesus. He takes a few steps but then the wind picks up, he gets afraid, and he starts to sink. Jesus reaches out a hand and catches him and then says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”


The traditional explanation of this passage goes something like this: Jesus has given Peter a test of his faith. Peter does well at first, but then his faith falters so he sinks. Jesus chastises his doubt. Moral of the story, you need to have more faith. This traditional understanding feels good to us at first because it puts our success in our hands. If you have enough faith, you can walk on the water. You can do anything if you just believe you can. You just have to believe you can land the plane. 


But let’s take a closer look. Because it’s not Jesus’ idea for Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water like he was, it’s Peter’s. 


28 Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.


It was Peter’s idea. Peter sees Jesus walking on the water and he wants to do it too. 

Adam and Eve ate the apple to be like God. Peter wants to walk on the water to be like Jesus.

He does take a few steps out of the boat. It’s pretty amazing. But then the wind picks up, and he starts to sink. It’s a semi-controlled crash into the waves. 


Then Jesus says “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”


But what if Jesus isn’t talking about Peter’s lack of faith that he could walk on the water? What if Jesus’ question isn’t about what Peter could do? 


What if it is about what Jesus has already done? What if Jesus is chastising Peter’s doubt in who Jesus is? 


Peter wanted to do what Jesus could do. Lord, if it really is you, make me able to do exactly what you are doing. Let me have control. Tell me to come out of the boat, and then give me the power to walk on water. Let me take over. I’ll take care of these waves. 


So Jesus tells Peter to come. Sure kid, get out of the boat. Try to be like God. Peter tries, then he sinks, because of course he can’t do what Jesus can do. He’s not God. He’s human.


“You of little faith. Don’t try to be God. Trust me to be God instead. Why would you doubt me to be able to handle this for you?”


Peter doesn't fail because he doesn’t have enough faith. If our success as disciples is limited by our own human ability to have faith, we’re sunk before we get out of the boat. Peter doesn’t fail trying to be a faithful human. Peter fails because he is a human trying to be God.  He doesn’t trust that he can be just Peter, and let Jesus be Jesus. 


God doesn’t want you to be God.

God wants you to be you


And this is especially true when things are hard and the waves kick up in your life. It’s hard enough to do things on your own when it’s easy. We especially need God to take the lead when things are hard. 


God wants to help you, even when you are too stubborn to admit you need help. 

Peter tries to walk on the water, and he sinks. But before he goes under, Jesus reaches out a hand, and rescues him. 


Sometimes you’ll need to be rescued, even if you’re too stubborn to admit it. Things went well for a while, and maybe you get a little overconfident. Maybe you start to think “Let me take the wheel God. Move over, I’ve got this.” More likely you’ll simply forget God is there at all, because things are going well on your own. 


But then the wind picks up. Something happens, life gets complicated, and you are suddenly in a controlled crash into the water. 


We can do this pattern over and over again. Riding the high of things going well, believing we can do it on our own. Then the winds pick up and we are sinking into the water, reaching out for God to rescue us and pull us back into the boat. The winds die down and soon we forget about God and think we are in control again. We take a few more steps out of the boat. 

But there’s an alternative to being caught in this cycle of overconfidence and drowning. You can live a life of surrender to God.


Surrender

When you surrender, you trust God to be God, and you let yourself be human. And it’s such a relief, especially if you have been carrying too much for too long. 


So let’s talk about how we get started with surrender. Ready?


First step to surrendering: 

  1. Acknowledge Your Humanity: Acknowledge that you aren’t God. You are just a messy, broken human, trying your best. You’ll never be perfect. You’ll always have limitations. There is a lot you will never understand. There is a lot you can’t control, and that is okay. Take a breath. No one is asking you to be God, and everytime you try to be, you are going to sink. Surrender starts with remembering that you’re human. And then: 


  1. Embrace your limitations: I know many of us want to be in control. We are much more comfortable with both hands on the wheel, and we truly believe we can do it. Maybe I could land a plane. But part of surrendering is not only acknowledging your limitations, but embracing them. Now embracing your limitations is not embracing failure. It’s choosing freedom. You don’t have to carry the whole weight of the world. You don’t have to fix everything and everyone. You don’t have to be like God. It’s not all up to you. You have limits. Then, having acknowledged and embraced that we have limits as humans, you

  2. Trust in God's Presence: This is where the rubber meets the road on surrender. Trust God to be God, for you. Believe that God is there, not just when things are good, but when things are difficult. Trust that God knows what is best for you because God loves you. You guys, God does not need your help. God lets you be a part of the plan. Sometimes God pulls back the curtain and shows you a little bit. But God doesn’t need you to take over. And this also means:

  3. Let God be God in other people’s lives too. As much as we are tempted to be God in our own lives, we love attempting to be God in other people’s lives. We try to fix other people’s problems instead of letting God work. We interfere where we have no business giving advice. We think it is up to us to control the world and control other people. But surrendering to God means surrendering the people in your life too. So listen to them instead of trying to solve every problem. Trust that if you can hear God in your life, they can too. Don’t assume that you know what’s best.  Then finally - 

  4. Reach out for help. When you do go back to trying to walk on the water, and you start to sink, reach out for help. Sinking isn’t a failure. When you are overwhelmed, when you lose control, when doing things your way stops working, reach out to God. Because God will grab your hand, everytime. Even if you get a little chastised for trying to be God. 

Surrender is a choice to put your faith in God. 


You might not walk on the water, but you’ll be with the one who does. 


It was enough for Peter. It’s enough for us too. 





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